WARNING: This post contains graphic imagery of imagined horror. Please be aware that the final photos are not for the squeamish!
We love Parksville, New York! It is full of quirky characters, crazy structures, a unique and distressed ambience and it is quite frankly a rare gem that comes off as a ready made backlot. The area in general has attracted creatives of all sorts for many years and the idiosyncrasies of it's raw, yet simple beauty, palpable history and diamond in the rough potential immediately inspires all that pass through; especially those with the courage and vision to set up shop here. Not surprisingly, these numbers are growing and a renewed reality for the town is just beginning to peep over the horizon. It's literally the dawning of a new era.
When we started Beaverkill Studio, not so long ago, many of these creatives and now new neighbors began to descend from the mountaintops, the backwoods and yes even out from under the proverbial woodwork. John Murphy, the PR film guru came a knocking, Randy Mackiej, Producer and former Tech Director of the Tribeca Film Festival, Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria from Frontline and hell, even Debra Winger and husband Arliss Howard came by for a peek! Many others have followed and the pilgrimage of the curious continues to this day.
Exciting days indeed; but the time soon came to separate the Curious from the Creators, the Interested from the Instigators and to actually realize the visions of those who were truly motivated to get the job done! Enter Todd Perlmutter, former Creative Director of The Blueman Group for some twenty years. Todd is both an East Villager and a Parksvillian, a Producer, Engineer and Musician. In fact, his rocking Surf band the Cameramen played at our soft opening and recently rocked it hard at our live event space / bar / restaurant called Cabernet Franks. As it turns out, a new Virtual Reality concept had been brought to him by an old friend and without hesitation he knew immediately that Parksville and Beaverkill Studio was the place to do it! The seed was planted!
Todd first brought Anne Hiatt of Opera on Tap and Video Artist and NYU Professor Cari Ann Shim Sham up to the mountains several months back. The Virtual Reality concept was both simple, yet shockingly unique. Opera and Horror, Sopranos and Seekers, booming voices and buckets of blood...what better way to bring the Arts to the masses?! Anne and Shim Sham were invigorated by the possibilities after their first tour and just like that "The Parksville Murders" process had begun!
I met Anne and Shim Sham a few weeks later at a Cinematic VR conference at The New School down in the City to catch up on the latest developments in this fast growing and pioneering genre. There is a new virtual language developing right now, a new way to present our world and our stories and the immersive possibilities are endless. Art always seeks to expand it's own boundaries...it's the endgame of the creative process...there is no end. With this "virtual reality" in mind, the team gathered and plotted with writer Jerre Dye to craft an immersive experience that is beyond visual; rather it is something that is truly "felt" and "dealt with" in the core of our being.
Thanks to the support of OPERA America's Building Opera Audiences grant program supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation and the dedicated and focused fundraising efforts of the unstoppable Anne Hiatt, a budget was put in place and Pre - Production was quickly in full swing. While various members of the team had VR experience of varying degrees; a pro team of specialists was required to maximize the ultimate Vision of the Project...which was to create an exciting and new point of entry for the yet to be exposed Opera fans of the future, not to mention re-envisioning the Opera experience for it's many current and longtime followers. After an exhausting National search, the team selected Lightsail VR from Los Angelos. Many a conference call later, the now bi-coastal team got on the same page and a well considered plan was put in place. All the pieces of the puzzle were now complete and the ball was rolling!
Soon it was Production Time. First came our local scenic carpenter, Alex Johnson, who crafted lovely, yet simple scenery in the Beaverkill Studio Carpentry Shop. (I always love it when Art Department heads visit the studio and get that warm fuzzy feeling when they see a totally convenient shop right on the premises!) Next came studio friend and control desk creator, Drew North to install the scenery on the stage itself. As the last pieces of the set were being screwed together, the large team from LA arrived with VR rigs in hand and armed with an intense albeit jet weary determination. Ok, so the set proceeded to shift around the stage to about five different positions, but hey folks...this is production, nobody said it was going to be easy! Here is a short time lapse of prep for one of the positions!
After two days of tests, set up and pre-lighting the long awaited day had arrived! Showtime people! Time to get it done! I rounded the bend to the Green Room on the first day of shooting and there they be...black hooded demons with glowing red internal lighting sipping tea and looking focused, yet relaxed for the day ahead. One demon was so relaxed...he decided to nap on our reclining lounge chair! So far, so good.
After getting some initial graveyard location shots; the set was ready to shoot on. Cue the lights, fire up the fog machines; actors take your spots! "WWWWWHHHHHHHAAAAAAHHHH RRRRIIIINNNG! WWWWWWHHHHHAAAAAHHHHH RRRRIIIING!" went the alarm! Dammit!! In anticipation of the fog, we had our central alarm station put the system on test and not call out to the authorities; but what they failed to do was kill the alarm sirens locally at the studio. In a moment of what seemed to be clarity, I turned off the power to the alarm and reset the system to silence the wailing and allow the shoot to proceed. Good save, or so we thought!
About 8 hours later...beep, beep, beep. Beep, beep, beep. Huh? Sure enough, the low battery alarm was going off. Way better than wailing; but disruptive and annoying none the less. The system had continued to run on battery power since the power had been turned off and now the battery was running low, thus the beep! A phone call or two later, the beeping was silenced and the eerie, fog dense scene was able to continue in all it's moody glory. The moral of the story is...bring on up your fog machines, we now gotcha covered! Thanks Matt Celia and Robert Watts of Lightsail VR for rolling with the punches on that one! Even the best laid plans have an occasional hiccup!
From that point on the shoot sailed smoothly and the victims were chased, horrified and done away with (or were they?) with grace and ease...and all while being serenaded with a few high notes to boot! Glad we had that extra roll of red gels...really came in handy. With the studios shots in the can; the team headed up to the Hunter Lake location, just up the hill from the studio. The team utilized our battery operated bi color LED light panels for capturing the final shots and the last buckets of blood were poured! Great hair, make up, effects, costumes, vibrato and teamwork by all! It's a wrap people!
As for the wrap party, that is not for public consumption but let's just say Beaverkill Studio cannot guarantee late night boat rides and brisk moonlight dips for every shoot we do here; but we can guarantee focused work, partnered assistance, great accommodations and a fun, productive and even exhausting experience! Great job and congratulations Anne, Cari, Todd, Adrian, Robert, Matt and the entire team! Well done.
FYI...to see a sneak peak of the results come on down to DUMBO this Thursday, October 27th at 6pm for yes, a free drink and a glimpse of the results! You will be glad you did!!