The Serpent’s Tongue

TST Poster-2-flare (Medium)

 

SYNOPSIS

When Simone and her best friend Star find an old chest in Simone’s basement, the two friends discover dark secrets of Simone’s family history — a history filled with black magic and murder. Once Simone puts on a necklace from the chest, she starts hearing a voice whispering promises that are too tempting to ignore, and she finds that the choices of right versus wrong and good versus evil are not as clear as they once were. Succumbing to the seduction of the necklace, Simone must choose whether or not what she’s been promised is worth the price of betrayal and murder. Meanwhile, as Star watches the frightening changes in Simone, she comes face to face with the realization that saving her friend may result in her losing the one thing she has always wanted.

 
PRODUCTION NOTES

It all began with cancer. Not a tragic sort of cancer. More like the cancer that gets added to a romantic comedy to give it some dramatic tension before the cancer is cured and they can end with romance. I probably did not handle it in the best way. Having felt a lump in a place where lumps aren’t supposed to be I promptly walked into the bedroom where my wife was breastfeeding our twin 7 month old babies. She looked up and I said, “I think I have cancer.” Her jaw dropped and she said, “What?” I repeated, “I think I have cancer” and then turned and left the room.

 
The next two months were a bit of a whirlwind. I quickly discovered I did have cancer, had surgery to remove the offending part of the body and entered into multiple cycles of chemotherapy. Nausea and hair loss aside, it wasn’t all bad. I did get some care packages with some great movies.

 
At this time becoming a filmmaker had always been a dream. Once I started a family I was not sure it would ever happen. A few weeks after my last chemo session, however, my wife said to me completely out of the blue. “I think you should make a movie.” Cue the romance.
As much as I loved movies, I quickly learned that I knew nothing about making movies. I spent the next two years learning everything I could until I decided that it was time to just make the film. It was around this time that a serendipitous introduction to Joe Hancuff, who would become my filmmaking partner and great friend, put the last piece in place needed to begin production. Joe was a professional photographer who also had a dream of making movies. Although neither one of us had ever made a movie, our talents complemented each other perfectly and we set forth to make a feature film having never even made a short film.

 
One week prior to the first day of filming one of the actors quit but replacing him went very smoothly. Going into the first day of filming I had the expectation that I would be faced with at least one major crisis per day and if I tried to plan for every foreseeable problem then I should be able to wrap the film easily in the 15 days I had available. Everything ended up going as expected although I did not have one major crisis every day, just most days.

 
After the first day, everything was downhill but that first day almost completely derailed the production. First, neither my Sound Recordist nor my Grip showed up and I subsequently found out that their schedules required them both to drop out of the production. Apparently their busy schedules prevented them from notifying me as well. With no other options, I assumed the roles of Sound Recordist and Grip. Directing while holding a boom and wearing the audio headset was not as difficult as I originally thought. It gives a whole new perspective to directing while lying down on your back on the kitchen floor behind a counter holding the microphone up just below counter level. Fortunately, though, one of my actors volunteered for the job of Sound Recordist and after receiving a quick tutorial in Sound Recording 101 he took over the majority of the sound recording for the remainder of the shoot. Being the Grip was not that big of a change for me either. When I first proposed to my wife I think I sold her on the idea of marrying me when I reminded her that I was good at lifting heavy things. The next crisis of the first day occurred when I realized that one actress did not know any of her lines. Actually, this was something I fully expected ahead of time. What I did not expect was that she would bring her boyfriend with her who appeared to be arguing with her the entire day. At the end of the day, I honestly did not know how I could finish the movie. I did not have to watch the dailies to know that I had almost no usable footage of any scene that included this actress. Trying to decide what to do, I received the biggest gift I could have hoped for. This actress and her boyfriend approached me although he was the one doing the majority of the talking. They first demanded to be shown any footage of her scenes and that they would determine which shots would be used. I said no. The boyfriend wanted to push the matter but the actress finally said that she was okay with me deciding which shots to use. I may have still let everything go but they were not done and decided to try a little extortion. The actress proceeded to tell me that she wanted more money than she originally agreed to for the role. And she did not just want a little more, she wanted to be the highest paid actor on the film for a supporting role. She stated that she might not be able to return to shoot any of her upcoming scenes if I did not agree to her demand. I fired her. She quickly tried to say that she did not want any more than we had previously agreed to but I knew this was the right decision and ended it there. When I announced that I was replacing this actress, one actor turned to another actor and I could clearly hear him say, “Somebody must have watched the daily footage.” Replacing her ended up being easier than I expected. I offered the part to an actress already in the film who had a smaller role. She did not take long to accept the part and then I was able to quickly recast that role as well.

 
Over the next two weeks there were almost daily issues that needed to be taken care of but none bigger than that first day. I was worried the night we shot the pool scene though. The scene is supposed to take place in the summer and they are going to the pool to cool off on a hot night. The scene was filmed, however, in the third week of September in Maryland. We were experiencing beautiful days in the 70’s and the nights were around 50 degrees. The pool temperature was a crisp 62 degrees. Our actors, Alex Barone and Amber Wright, would be lucky to have a combined 10 percent body fat between them. By the end of the evening each actor was almost hypothermic and we were barely able to suppress the shivering during the takes. After completing the last shot, Amber was barely able to say a word for several minutes and we blew the circuit breakers in the house by attempting to warm her up with hair dryers.

 
Due to scheduling conflicts and the need to reshoot the fired actress’s scenes, we were faced with the need to shoot four outdoor scenes on the final day of production. Getting these scenes completed was critical as the weather was calling for 2 straight weeks of rain and there was no day until well into the fall that all of my actors could get together again. Call time was 6:30 am and there was a steady rain at that time. About mid-morning the weather broke and we ended up getting an entire day of sun allowing us to complete the 2 daytime scenes. The final two scenes needed to be shot after dark. The rain began just as we completed the first of the two scenes. We rushed inside to protect the camera and the sound recording equipment and my Director of Photography/Sound Engineer declared the evening done. Knowing that we would need to wait months to complete the one final scene if we did not get it complete that night I told everyone to wait and see if we could get a break in the rain. Watching the radar I could see that the rain that was hitting us was a first band and that there was a break in the rain coming. I could also see that immediately following the break in the rain was the main storm front with no further breaks. Against the judgment of my DP/Sound Engineer I had everyone waiting to run outside the moment the rain ended. We got the break in the rain and ran outside to complete the scene. We completed all of the master shots and completed half of the close-up shots I wanted when the rain started again and we had to call the production for good at that time. We had enough, though. The movie was complete.

 
After fifteen days of little sleep and focusing on nothing but the movie, my wife told me how proud she was of me but she was happy it was all over. Cue the romance.

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