1 December 2011 Where have we been. Well, it's been a busy time here at the HPLHS. We've be fortunate enough to travel to a number of film festivals worldwide to share the completed movie. And in the meantime, we've been working on getting the DVD ready for release. Looking at the footage we had and the feedback we got on Call of Cthulhu, we decided not to skimp on Special Features. So, as of today, we're releasing released Whisperer as a Deluxe Two Disc edition which features the movie and all the fixin's.
You can pre-order it now and it should be back from the factory and shipping out by the middle of December. We anticipate being able to ship it anywhere in time for Christmas. You can click here to order yours and read all about the DVD as a product.
In terms of making it, the Behind the Scenes documentary on the disc was a big undertaking. We had more than 60 hours of tape from production plus hours of behing-the-scenes video shot with other cameras. We had thousands of photographs taken through all phases of productions. We brought in key cast and crew members to do extensive interviews. And then we had to take all of that and whittle it down to 47 minutes of riveting entertainment. Not an easy task. We realized we had some footage (particularly about filmmaking techniques and effects) which might not be everyone's cup of tea, so we pulled those out and made them into their own technical featurettes. We picked our favorite scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor - well, it's all digital now, so the cutting room floor is purely metaphoric - and put those on there too. So, it's a couple of hours worth of extra material for those of you who want to experience the movie and the team that made it.
We're still doing all we can to get the movie to you via a variety of paths. We have top men working on deals for disc releases in various markets, getting it on TV, video on demand, all that kind of stuff. But we're not the sort of guys who wait around for other people to make stuff happen. The movie's done, we put it on a disc, and if you want to see it now, well come and get it.
What's next? We'll heave a mighty sigh of relief and then dive into mastering of the BluRay. We anticipate it will be much like the DVD, except that all it's footage (including the Behind the Scenes documentary) will be in glorious HD. We hope to get that in your hands by January. Believe me, we're going as fast as we can.
As the holidays come upon us, all of us at the HPLHS would like to take a moment and thank those of you crazy enough to follow our weird journey, read this blog and show so much enthusiasm for what we do. Quite literally, without you we never would have made it this far. Thank you.
1 September 2011 OK, lots has gone on this summer and we haven't told you much about it. Most significantly, we finally secured a sales agent for The Whisperer in Darkness. Following the tremendous positive press we got coming out of the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, we ended up getting several offers from companies interested in respresenting the movie. So, we'll be working with Raven Banner Entertainment who will in turn be working to sell the film to broadcast, Video On Demand (VOD) and disc-based retailers in markets worldwide. This big step is often called "distribution", but what it means is there's someone besides us actively working to get the movie in front of viewers everywhere. We are particularly delighted to partner with Raven Banner as their team actually are Lovecraft fans and they appreciate what differentiates a Lovecraft film from other horror pictures.
Here at HPLHS headquarters, we're slowly roasting in the late-summer heat and are working to finish off the elements that will go onto the DVD. We recently completed interviews with team members for the Behind the Scenes featurette for the DVD and BluRay. We have interviews with Dave Snyder, Fred Manchento, Laura Brody, Jessica Dalager, Barry Lynch, Matt Foyer, John Younger, David Robertson, Andrew Lemand and Sean Branney. We'll cut together a documentary featuring our pithy commentary, outtakes, still photos and hopefully give you a sense of what it was like making Whisperer. We are currently pushing to have a DVD ready for sale by Halloween. We know many of you are eager for the BluRay. Because we can't master a BluRay in-house, we'll need to make the DVD first and then take those assets to a company that can master the DVD for us.
Barry Lynch and Matt Foyer recall the joy of filming
Our thoughts go out to the good people of Vermont who have been battered by tremendous floods in the wake of hurricane Irene. Many of the areas where we shot have been among those affected by the flooding. And of course, we all know what kinds of things get washed into the rivers when there's flooding in Vermont.
As the fall comes, we enter our busiest season for festival screenings. You can read the details on our Festival Page, but we're particularly looking forward to attending the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festivals, both in San Pedro, CA and Portland, OR. We're hoping many of our cast and crew members will be there with us when Whisperer screens at the historic Warner Grand in San Pedro on Saturday Sept 17. We'll have many props and miniatures on display for you to check out too. And of course we'll have lots of our strange and wonderful products on sale there too. Don't miss it.
1 July 2011 Onward, ever onward. Whisperer finally had its US Premiere at the Seattle Int'l Film Festival. David Robertson, Andrew Leman and Sean Branney were there and had a great time at the festival. The crowds were big and enthusiastic and the SIFF team did a great job organizing the event. We followed the SIFF screening others in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. July has several more and we continue to line up screenings all over the world for the rest of the year.
As you can see, we've finally reworked our Whisperer site into something a big more comprehensive. We encourage you to check it out and we'll be feeding it content regularly as the days go on. For example, if you want to see the listing of festivals we've been to or are going to, click here.
Work continues on the translations. More and more of them are done all the time, and as we get them, we timecode them to match performances in the movie. We're also now finally scheduling our behind the scenes interviews and should be shooting the first one of them in two days. All of this is in preparation for the DVD and BluRay release.
2 June 2011
The Waterfront in Belfast
Wow, it's been a busy six weeks. Whisperer has screened at the CPH PIX film festival in Copenhagen, Denmark (oh, those lovely Danes). It's screened at the Imagine Film Festival in the Netherlands (oh those hard-drinking Dutch). We had a special sneak preview at the Crest theatre, here in Los Angeles, and tomorrow night the official US Premiere will take place at the Seattle International Film Festival in Washington.
In addition to the festivals where we've been screening, we've got more lined up across the globe. This weekend Whisperer will also screen at the Berkshire International Film Festival in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (Mi-Go country!), and mid June we'll screen at the Southside Film Festival in Pennsylvania. Things turn international again in July with screenings at Fantasia in Montreál, Canada; Fantaspoa in Porto Alegre, Brazil; PiFan in Puchon, Korea; and RioFan in Rio de Janero, Brazil. We have more festivals later in the year in Warsaw, Reno, Buffalo, and of course the HP Lovecraft Film Festival. We anticipate adding more festivals to the lineup; most of them dont notify films until roughly 8 weeks before the festival, so if you're wondering if we're coming to your neighborhood, our answer at the moment is we really don't know.
Beyond festival life though, we continue to work on the assets for the DVD. Prepping a DVD is actually a pretty involved process. For the special features, we have to find, digitize and organize all of our Behind the Scenes footage and photos (and there are several thousand photographs from the making of this film). The we have to to schedule interviews, shoot them and edit the whole mess in an effort to make something that should be fun to watch. So we're working on that.
The DVD also has its many languages. The HPLHS Volunteer Translator Corps has done a great job of rendering the final text of the film into a translation. We then take that translation and break it into timecoded phrases which we then synchronize to the actors' performances. As some sentences require many more words when translated (I'm talking to you, Finnish), each language is a sort of a jigsaw puzzle with 1,100 or so pieces. We are getting there though.
The final arrangements with distribution are still in discussions. Believe me, it's more frustrating for us than it is for you, but we hope that by July 1 we will have a firm plan in place that will ensure you'll be able to either see the movie at a theatre or get it on disc well before the year is out.
poster design by Andrew Leman
13 April 2011 Now that we're done making the movie, we begin nursing it through the next phase of its life. We have begun screening at festivals and are working hard to line up additional screenings worldwide throughout the year. We're working on the other items that go on the DVD or BluRay in addition to the movie: special features and subtitled translations. And we're working on some poster designs to help promote the film.
In March the movie finally had its public premiere at the SFF-Rated Film Festival in Athens, Greece. The folks there were incredibly hospitable and Whisperer screened at a pair of sold-out showings. The film was very well received and they even sent us home with their Audience Award for Best Director. We thank Alecos Papadopolous and his team for providing an outstanding premiere. Click for photo of a real Mythos sighting in Athens.
April 1 we screened at the Belfast Int'l Film Festival in Northern Ireland (click for photo of venue). A good crowd turned out at Belfast's Waterfront Hall to see Whisperer along with AM1200 and Die Farbe - a new German adaptation of The Colour Out of Space. We had a lively Q&A following the screening - we offer our gratitude to Andy Thomas, the crew at the Waterfront and the rest of the Belfast FF team.
Coming up in mid-April we have screenings at the CPH PIX festival in Copenhagen Denmark and the Imagine Festival of Fantastic Film in Amsterdam. And American audiences will be pleased to know that we've finally lined up the US Premiere at the one of the US's leading festivals, the Seattle International Film Festival where Whisperer will be screening on June 3 and 5. We hope those of you in the Pacific Northwest will join us. We hope to announce additional screenings soon. And come September, we'll be screening at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro, California.
Many translations of the film are now complete and the final translations then need to be matched up with timecoded subtitles that will match the actors performance. There are 904 subtitles in the movie. There's about 25 languages. There's a lot of work in managing subtitles, especially when we can't read Hungarian.
We pretty regularly get the question, "When can I get it on DVD?". We are in discussions still with a couple of possible distribution partners. Once we finalize a deal, we still have to complete the other contents that would need to go on the disc, then we have to master the disc and send if off for replication before it finally becomes available through our site or at a store near you. Believe us, we are working hard on getting it ready, but at this point, it's unlikely you'll be able to purchase your own personal copy before the fall. However, it's highly likely that you'll be able to get your own copy before the year is out.
In my hands...
1 March 2011 And it's done. Really. Finished.
What does that mean? It means the final audio has been completed, screeners have been made of the movie in its final form. It means tomorrow we'll be having a screening for the cast and crew. It mean's we're not reworking the content of the movie in a significant way. Now we're putting it on different media - we burned our first BluRay this week - and testing it on different audio and video systems. So far the results have been pleasing. The HD image holds up very well on BluRay, and the Dolby Surround Sound sounds great when you play a DVD or BluRay back in an environment with the right hardware.
This month the movie will premiere at the SFF-Rated Film Festival in Athens Greece (I leave for Athens Monday). The next screening after that will be in Belfast, Northern Ireland at the Belfast Film Festival on April 1st. In April we have screenings lined up at the Imagine Film Festival in Amsterdam and the CPH PIX festival in Copenhagen, Denmark. Yes, we'll be screening it here in the USA too, but as these festivals were the first ones to leap on it, they lined up the first screenings. Naturally, we're very excited to share the movie with an audience.
We'll turn our focus now towards finalizing a relationship with a distributor and working to get it into theatres, on the air, and of course on discs that you can play at home. We'll keep you posted about that process. Right now though, it's a good feeling to scroll down this blog to when the movie was just an idea, then a script, and then realize that tomorrow an audience gets to watch it.
2 February 2011 OK, folks, we're getting pretty close. Completion of Whisperer is now scheduled for February 16. Woohoo! We're closer than ever to figuring out how the movie will be distributed and are doing our utmost to help make it so as many of you as possible will be able to see it before long.
We've talked here some about the process of mixing. Last night we met with our Production Audio Mixer, Erin Rettig, in a mixing room on the Fox studios lot here in LA. If you've ever seen pictures of this kind of work being done, the film is projected up on a large screen, and the mixer uses a board with 10,000 knobs on it to tell a computer what to do with each and every bit of sound in the movie. We're pleased to tell you that Whisperer has never sounded better than it did while being played through this fantasically high-end audio system.
We're making a couple of last minute adjustments and changes to the picture. One fun detail is that the camera we used on a few days of shooting had a dead pixel on the CCD. What that means is that each frame of the movie consists of exactly 2,073,600 pixels of information. And exactly one pixel in every frame shot on those days is dead. So we have to go back to every frame (and there's 23.97 frames in every second) and repair the dead pixel. This is why we are so glad there are powerful computers and great piecs of software to do this kind of thing.
Now that completion of the movie is nigh, we'll be back in touch with our team of translators to do some final adjustments to the translations to ensure they match the picture. Production of the DVD and BluRay is next on the agenda.
12 January 2011 At last - 2011 - the year The Whisperer in Darkness finally comes out. At the moment, all that really remains is audio work. Troy is revising some of the sound cues and adding in a few we never had in the first place. Erin has all of the audio tracks and is working away on the final production mix. When we get the last of the audio files, we'll whisk them over to him. He'll mix those down and then output the final version of the audio.
When can I see it?
Yes, that remains the big question. We submitted Whisperer to a few film festivals last fall and those are starting to come around. At the moment, TWID is slated to screen in March and April at SFF-Rated in Athens Greece, the Belfast Film Festival in Northern Ireland, the Imagine Film Festival in the Netherlands. There's a number of additional fests that we haven't heard back from, so we keep a watch on it day to day. We haven't yet scheduled a US premiere - which is not at all surprising as we don't yet have a final version of the movie - even the cast and crew haven't seen it yet. But we anticipate holding a screening for our gang in February. We have committed to screening it at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival. Historically, this festival has been held in Portland, Oregon. This year though, it's in San Pedro, California mid-September. As that's in the Los Angeles area, we're thinking we'll get as many of our team members involved as possible and make the event quite a Lovecraftian to-do!
As the movie is finally completed, we'll begin work on prepping the DVD and BluRay version of the film for release later in the year. As we learned with The Call of Cthulhu, making a DVD is quite a labor intensive process. We'll edit the behind-the-scenes footage, shoot some interviews, design menus and dive in on all the prep that goes into making a DVD. We don't know when it will become commercially available, but it's unlikely that would be before this summer. The good news is that it's equally unlikely that it will be later than this summer. We'll keep you posted.
We've just released a new t-shirt design based on one of the poster designs we're considering. As soon as we finalize that decision, Cat Staggs will dive in on the actual illustration for the movie poster. We'll keep you updated here when we have something to show you. Thanks for your support - we can't wait to share the final film with you.
2 December 2010 The glamours bits of filmmaking with lights and actors are well behind us now. At this point it our work is divided into two main categories: work to complete the movie itself and work on the movie's future.
In terms of the picture, we've been tidying up a few details - and we added one additional rotoscoped shot. We looked at the picture again and tried an alternative edit in two scenes which we were all happy with. It cut about a minute out of the film, but we think it's the better for the trim. Just before Thanksgiving we finally locked the picture's timing. That means we will not add any extra time in nor take any out. This is important as Troy is scoring the movie and it's a real headache for him when he writes a sequence of music to match the picture then we suddenly make the picture longer or shorter. Speaking of Troy, he's about 90% done with composition and we've been delighted with what he's done. We've engaged the services of Erin Rettig as our Re-Recording Mixer. He'll be blending all of the audio, setting the volumes of the many tracks of sound and then outputting it for 5.1 surround and stero mixes. His work should be done around the end of the year. And when he's done, the movie's done.
The other arm of the operation has been our plannig for how you'll see the film. We've been submitting it to film festivals worldwide and talking with distributors. For a little indie picture like ours, distribution is a challenge. We've got offers on the table and we're looking at them carefully to see who is the right partner to help us reach as broad an audience as we can through theatrical, broadcast, DVD/Blu-Ray and Video On Demand channels. It's unlikely you'll see it at your neighborhood multi-plex, but maybe it'll screen in some art houses, maybe it'll screen on television and it's an excellent bet that at some point this year you'll be able to get your own DVD right here at the HPLHS website. Right now Whisperer has been submitted to more than a dozen film festivals and we're waiting to find out where it will have its premiere.
We're also getting word out with a new poster design and a new t-shirt that we hope to be able to show you quite soon.
2 November 2010 Post. That's where we are. Much like the entry below, we are polishing little bits and pieces of the movie. We're adding chunks of music as Troy finishes them and sends them to us. He's forecasting completing the score in late November and that gives us then December to make final adjustments and to have the full professional audio mix of the movie done. Then we'll be ready to show it to someone. Once we get a final version of the film completed, we'll finally have a screening for the cast and crew - virtually no one from the production has seen the current version of the film.
We've submitted a cut of the movie to about half a dozen film festivals. We made a screener with a temporary score made mostly from music Troy composed for us on other projects. We send it off to them and then wait and hope for the best. We should start to hear back from the first of them in December.
As we've told you, we're hoping to get the broadest and best distribution deal we can for the movie. To that end, we'll be at the American Film Market in Santa Monica in early November, discussion distribution possibilities. So, no, we don't know when you'll be able to get a copy of it, but we're doing everything we can to ensure it's soon.
13 September 2010 Wow, what a month it's been here at HPLHS World Headquarters. We shot again on August 27 and 28 and finally wrapped all photography on the film. No more cameras, no more lights. No more renting a deck to digitize footage. Farewell to the jib and the kinos. This round of photography was all about miniatures. We shot the Round Mountain miniature and returned to a few other setups where the footage we shot the first time around wasn't quite perfect. But this time around we got the footage we were after and were finally able to put the camera away for good.
So why aren't we done, you ask? The new footage had to be captured and cut into the picture. We also have some very special special effects shots which are being done by some of our colleagues. They're not quite done with their work yet, and the movie wouldn't be complete without it. But as they finish up each shot, they send it to us and we cut it on. These effects shots are looking great and we'll be able to tell you more about them soon. So we're finishing off the last work we have on the visuals, doing a preliminary audio mix. When that's done, we'll test the movie on a few close friends, see what they have to say, make any last minute changes, and then burn a couple of DVD screeners.
We're under deadlines to send the first screeners of the film off to some film festivals in late September. The version of the movie we send them wont be in its final state, but hopefully it'll be in good enough shape to warrant the possible inclusion of Whisperer in these important film festivals. The version of the movie we'll send on these screeners won't have our final score (it's still in the process of being composed) and the audio won't be mixed. We may continue to polish the visuals this fall until they are just right. But the movie will be pretty darned done.
People are often asking us when they can get a copy of the film. The short answer is we dont know just yet. While it's possible that we may distribute Whisperer ourselves as we did with The Call of Cthulhu, we'd like to try and get it on big screens and distributed as widely as possible. So, we're trying to get the movie into some Key Film Festivals which may help us find the ideal distribution solution. If that doesn't all work out, well, you'll certainly be able to get a copy from us. But really, wouldn't it be more fun to hold out for a couple of months in hopes of seeing it down at the multi-plex?
20 August 2010 We continue to move forward on all aspects of production. While Andrew and Fred and Jason continue to build miniatures in anticipation of the last round of shooting, Dave and Sean are concentrating on other kinds of visual effects and details, adding sound effects, compositing some miniatures into live-action plates, and basically hand-tweaking virtually every frame of the movie.
At left you can see Fred Manchento's feet sticking out from underneath the miniature Round Mountain set. He's rigging some strategic lights beneath a portion of the set. Lighting miniatures is tricky, and sometimes we go to strange lengths to get them to look just right.... If you click on the picture you'll get a bigger view that shows a bit more of the mountain above Fred.
We've made a lot of progress on the Round Mountain miniature, which is taking over a lot of floor space here at the HPLHS. There are now several hundred handmade miniature trees planted on its verdant slopes, and about three or four hundred to go before we point the movie camera at it, which we'll do next weekend. The miniature is made of paper and foam and chickenwire and plywood and moss and about six kinds of glue. Here's hoping it all holds up in the blistering heat wave they're predicting here for next week....
5 July 2010 - See? See, we told you we'd be better about web updates. At the moment, one of our priorities is to lock down the edit. Troy is trying to compose a score to match the picture, and if we add a few seconds here, take out a few seconds there, and move this scene over here, it makes his life a nightmare. So, we watched the movie last week, hoping to make a few final determinations about how some scenes will be cut. We're evaluating options, negotiating and filibustering, but we should have the picture's edit locked down within a week or so. We don't actually watch the movie in sequence very often - instead we're usually working on a scene on sequence at a time. Everyone took notes (including line producer, John Younger - welcome back, John), about the current edit and things that still need attention. There's plenty of those.
Among the miniatures being built by Andrew and our modelers is the Round Mountain miniature. In one sense, it is the smallest miniature being built for the movie, at roughly 1:30 scale. But in terms of actual size, it's pretty damned big (roughly 12x16 feet). To keep you entertained and in the loop, we include a photo of it in development. The sticks in the foreground are supports for portions of the miniature that have not yet been built. And yes, this is an actual photo of the glamorous interior of the HPLHS Studios (tired, sweaty movie makers were whisked out of frame for this shot). If you study the full-sized photo, you may be able to spot: the model of the Alert from The Call of Cthulhu, a stand-in figure of Albert Wilmarth, the Forhan's toothpaste banner and other fun stuff from this and other HPLHS projects.
There's many other miniatures, not the least of which is Andrew's barn. It is a scale replica of an actual barn at a property where we shot footage in southern New Hampshire. The outside of the barn had to be built to match footage of the existing property, but the inside of the barn was built to so that we could photograph it from within. What you see in the photo is the barn before it was finished, but it now has a nice roof and cupola, and on the inside there's ladders and scale hay bales.
20 June 2010 - What's up? Sorry, we've been terribly remiss about updating the blog. We'll try to be better as we move through these final phases of post-production. The good news is that we're still on track for an October 1 completion date. What's taking so long? Well, there's still a lot to do. Our miniature crew of Jason, Fred and Andrew have been working away building a variety of beautiful and small things which you'll see in various places throughout the film. Super-sculptor Dave Snyder is back with us again, creating another very special scary prop. Troy had some serious computer hardware problems, but he's back up and running and composing away on the score. Sean's sound effect work is mostly done and he's adding some polish to the sound design (after all, our fungi need to sound just right). Speaking of fungi, we've added some team members who are working specifically on some of the more fungoid parts of the film. In the spirit of keeping surprises, we won't say much more on that topic now. Dan Novy has signed on to help us with a couple of small but very tricky visual effects shots. Dave's been polishing some of the visual effects and we're getting ready to make our last round of decisions about the edit of the picture. So, you see, we have been hard at work and expect to remain so throughout the summer. But we are getting closer to being done and are happy with the progress we're making.
Trial and Error
Yesterday we decided to try out a new camera and lens provided to us by the fine folks at Moviola (the Hollywood production equipment company from which we rent things like our camera, lenses, jibs, etc...). We were shooting some of our miniatures and the small form factor and excellent lenses of this new camera seemed like a perfect fit. But alas, our experiments yielded images which showed that our miniatures were going to work well, but this camera would not. Its image fidelity was not good enough, particularly when cut in with the existing footage from our beloved Sony F900. So, we'll toss this test footage, rent the Sony again, and re-shoot the miniatures. We knew this would be an experiment and we were glad to discover this solution was not the right one for us after only a few hours of shooting.
One of the interesting developments in making this movie is that we started running low on funds. Several aspects of production went horrifically over budget, but we were able to limp by for a while. But making it to the end of production was looking like it would be difficult without the infusion of more capital. To our tremendous delight and gratitude, Sandy Petersen decided to put up some capital to help us finish the picture. We were thrilled to get an investment of funds, but we were especially thrilled that they should come from a person of key import in the modern day Cthulhu Mythos and someone whose work proved to be a big inspiration to the HPLHS. For those of you who don't know, Sandy was the original author of Chaosium's role playing game The Call of Cthulhu some 25 years ago. It was through playing that most execellent game that we eventually found ourselves staging Cthulhu Lives! games which in turn gave birth to the HPLHS. So, if you see Sandy, thank him for his key role in helping to complete Whisperer.
20 April 2010 - Final Pickups
We thank all of you for the kind words you've had about the trailer. We're delighted to see so much enthusiasm from around the world for the project. Feel free to send the link around, share it with your friends, put it on Facebook or use it however you like.
At this point, we're prepping for shooting this weekend what should be the final scenes involving cast members. We have a few setups we weren't able to get to due to time constraints on our March filming session. So, we'll be doing one night of exterior pickup shots and one night of interior pickup shots. Once we have those, Wilmarth and Walter Brown can retire their costumes as their shooting will be done. No more makeup, no more wardrobe. This will be our last chance to make it rain copiously on Matt Foyer.
What else has been going on? Dave edited the footage we shot in March into the rough cut. We've started work on a few of the visual effects. Troy's started working on the score and we're cataloging all of the sound effects and foley work that will be needed, plus the few lines of dialogue that will need to be re-recorded for various reasons. Completion of the live action shooting will allow Andrew to move forward with construction of some of the miniatures that will be incorporated into the picture. As suggested in the trailer, we're gunning for having the film complete by October.
1 April 2010 - New Trailer
Let me start by saying: this is not an April Fool's Day prank. We really have a new trailer and it's just a coincidence we're releasing it today. We commend the lovely and talented David Robertson who edited this together and our composer Troy Sterling Nies whose music from a variety of HPLHS projects was cannibalized to make the trailer's score.
28 March 2010 - And...Action!
So we shot again this weekend. We wrangled some cast members, background players, crew, locations, gear, and vehicles and shot some of the scenes we still need coverage for. Friday was a fairly easy night of shooting elements for composite shots at the new HPLHS studio. Saturday was a little more involved, as we shot at night at an outdoor location in the Hollywood hills with several large vehicles and a total group of around 30 people. We had a good shoot and got some beautiful footage of key moments in the film. Our cast members continued to endure exterior rain shots and our background team were excellent sports about letting us dump water on them too. We were very pleased that the representative for Los Angeles County who was on set to supervise the shoot turned out to be a big Lovecraft fan and was really excited we were shooting Whisperer while on his watch.
It looks like we'll still have two more days of shooting - one night of exteriors and one day of interiors - which we'll try to knock off in late April. Once we get those, we'll be done with shooting the cast and will be working on visual effects, sound effects, mixing, editing and the musical score.
Yes, the new trailer is cut. We're putting a little shine on it, but expect we'll be releasing it in the very near future.
George Akeley has questions for
Professor Wilmarth - enlarge
5 March 2010 - No, Seriously, What Are You People Doing?
It's taken us a while to get the new HPLHS world headquarters up and running and fully functional. But we've done that now and the HPLHS is better than ever. And we're driving forward with everyone's favorite mi-go movie. So, what's going on, you ask?
The backbone of the project is now the rough cut of the movie. It shows us what we've got, what we dont' have and what we need to work on. It shows us pretty clearly the things we need to do in order to get from where we are to completion of the movie. First and foremost, we have to shoot the scenes that have yet to be shot. There are live action sequences that we had to scrub when we were shooting last fall. We're now preparing to shoot the largest and most complex of those in late March. In fact, we're looking for a few good men (sorry, ladies) to join us as background players. If you'll be in Los Angeles in late March and would like to be involved, email us.
Sound is another key element that requires our attention. Our composer, Troy Sterling Nies, has his copy of the rough cut (no, don't offer him bribes for him to send it to you) and he's batting around ideas for how to approach the picture in terms of music. In addition to the score, we also will need to do some audio work in terms of foley and looping. We have some scenes which we shot without sound for a variety of reasons. So now we need to go back and add footsteps and other sound effects to the soundless scenes. We also have a couple of scenes where the audio we captured isn't quite up to snuff. This happened most frequently in scenes in the rain where raindrops on the microphones wreak havoc with the audio. So, we'll bring the actors back in and have them try and match their original performances as we re-record a few bits of the film. Oh for the days when we were making silent movies....The last key missing ingredient is visual effects. In order to get these done, we have to look at the live action footage and use it as a template for shots where we'll integrate special effects, models or miniatures. Right now the big push is to get things ready for the live action shots in late March, but April will be all about miniatures and models. Fortunately, the new HPLHS studio space has room dedicated for exactly these purposes and we'll be able to build and shoot right here in our own digs.
We promise from here on out we'll do a better job of keeping you posted with production news.
25 January 2010 - What Are You People Doing?
OK, we've been very quiet here on the blog lately. Sorry about that. The HPLHS has been inundated with holiday orders. Then, right on the heels of our busiest time of the year, we had to move out of our old digs. We found a building about five miles north of our old location; it's a former rivet factory and is now our creative playground. We chose it and are setting it up specifically so we can shoot some of the miniature and model sequences for Whisperer here. There's a lot more room for us to work. We like it here.
We are also getting ourselves ready for the next phase of principal photography. I know, we've said that before, but a lot of planning is involved to make sure we can work efficiently when we shoot.
Dave completed the rough cut, and we've had the chance to watch the entire movie start to finish. There's a few scenes which aren't there at all or don't have their special effects in them, but nevertheless, it's very pleasing to be able to sit down and actually watch the movie. We still have lots of work to do, but it's an exciting milestone in the process.
5 December 2009 - Cutting and Plotting and Moving
David Robertson, our Director of Photography and editor is still hard at it, taking more than 50 hours of footage and cutting it down to a 90 minute movie. As you might imagine, making the first rough edit of the film is a very time intensive process. It's where we start to discover how marvelous some of footage is and where we have significant challenges that are still ahead of us. Still, we're delighted with what we're seeing and hope you'll enjoy another still sneaked out of the picture (Martin Wately as Walter Brown).
Most of you have never visted the glamorour HPLHS World Headquarters. It's very near the famed Forest Lawn cemetery in South Glendale (a suburb of Los Angeles). We've been there ever since we first showed up to built the set of the Alert wheelhouse in our friend Nick's woodshop. Five years later, we've filled every available nook of space and Nick's ready to have the rest of his wood shop back. So, it looks like the HPLHS will be moving to a new World Headquarters building a couple of miles away (near where Glendale and Burbank meet for those of your who know the area). It's a cool old building and provides lots more space for the nefarious goings-on of the HPLHS.
We still haven't shot the final live action footage. We're continuing to meet and conspire with others on how to execute some key effects shots. There's really no point in us shooting additional footage until we've got our effects plan firmly in place. This week there were meetings with potential effects collaborators and the whole thing is moving forward. Albeit slowly. And, of course, this time of year the HPLHS is very busy shipping tentacles, Dark Adventure CDs and other weird stuff to holiday shoppers around the globe. We really appreciate the business you guys bring us as that's what keeps the whole operation afloat. We're hoping you all are enjoying a great solstice season.
20 November 2009 - Plotting and Cutting
So, now that all of the footage is digitized, David, our editor, has been sitting down to make sense of it all. He's putting the pieces together and seeing what we've got. The process of editing is largely about what's the best way to tell a story with the pieces that you've got. What we've seen so far has been heartening. The footage looks great (if you look at it in black and white) and the pieces needed to tell the story are largely there. For those of you interested enough to read this, we thought we'd finally share a couple of stills from the actual movie with you. So far, we've only shown behind-the-scenes shots, taken on set with still cameras. The photos here are actually from the movie footage. If you click on them, you'll see them at the full resolution captured by our HD camera. Enjoy! And happy Thanksgivings, Americans.
The top still is from Wilmarth's first encounter with Akeley in Vermont. Depicted are Matt Foyer as Wilmarth and Barry Lynch as Akeley.
The second still is in Mr. Noyes' car as he gives Wilmarth a lift up to the Akeley place through the wild hills of Vermont. Daniel Kaemon is Mr. Noyes. This scene was shot on location in New England.
Third, Professor Ward tries to talk his collegue Wilmarth out of debating the existence of hill creatures in Vermont. The scene was shot at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Matt Lagan plays Professor Nathaniel Ward.
Voices in My Head
This week we assembled the actors playing Wilmarth, Akeley, Noyes, B-67 and a Mi-Go at Jamnation, a recording facility in Venice, California. There we recorded the sections of dialogue which have no accompanying picture that goes with them. So, we recorded everyone and will sprinkle these bits of dialogue into the appropriate movments in the script.
The Final Shooting
We will still have a couple of additional days of filming. At the moment, we haven't set dates for those. We've playing with a couple of different ideas about how we may shoot some special effects. How we shoot those effects will impact how we shoot the remaining live-action sequences. Because of the costs involved in renting the necessary gear, we want to be sure that we can shoot everything we need to finish up live action in as short a time-frame as we can. We have learned that rushing generally creates far more problems than it solves.
2 November 2009 - What's Next
Now that we've largely recovered from the big wave of shooting, we're planning how to knock off the few remaining shots that we have. Originally we'd planned to get this footage while we were shooting in the studio, but due to some scenic and prop issues (see below), we had to push some stuff off our schedule. So now we're working to determine just where, when and how we'll get this footage. Because the equipment is expensive and rents by the week, we're trying to find a week where we can get to all the locations that we need, line up the cast and crew and get the remaining footage as efficiently as possible. Hopefully within the next 3-4 weeks we'll do our next (and hopefully final) round of shooting with cast members.
In addition to shooting on location, we also have to record some voice overs. Those of you familiar with our Dark Adventure Radio Theatre programs might have read about our sessions at Jamnation in Venice, CA. We'll be returning to Jamnation with the cast members who need to lay down some voice-only recordings. Hopefully we'll get that lined up in the next week or so.
The HPLHS Volunteer Translator Corps has been hard at work and we congratulate Wilmar Taal of the Netherlands for completing the first translation of the movie. We've picked up Korean and Arabic recently, so the reach of our tentacles continues to grow. We also thank our friend José Beltra-Escavy and his colleagues at the European Patent Office. Thanks to José cajoling his colleagues there, we've been able to add several additional languages.
Too Many Notes
Work is underway on the music. Troy Sterling Nies was on-set to handle production sound. Now he's back in North Dakota and starting his work in composing the score for the film. It's a large task, but Troy tells us it was very inspirational to be on the set while the scenes were being shot. Being there gave him a number of ideas to play with as he composes the music.
Feed the Machine
With about 50 hours of HD footage on hand, we found we needed to beef up our video capturing and editing system. So now, we've got about 4Tb of storage space and we've been working away at logging and capturing the shot footage. Logging it helps the editor identify and organize all the many pieces of footage we've shot (Oh, this is Scene 23c - Medium shot). Capturing is the actual transfer of the footage off of the HDCam video tape and onto a hard drive. The lovely and talented David Robertson is editing the picture in Final Cut Pro. Just 42 more hours of footage to capture.
Hell on Wheels - Leman, Robertson & Branney
Hiding Microphones: where wardrobe and sound meet
A rare view of Wilmarth's office in color
24 October 2009 - Polyglot
Thanks for stepping up, translators! This week we've added Czech, Slovakian, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Euskera and maybe Croatian. We really appreciate it. If you've volunteered to translate, we'll be sending you our Translator Agreement this week. Once we get that signed, we'll send over the script.
So, what's next? Well, we have three sequences of live action still to shoot. So, right now we're working out where, when and exactly how we'll shoot them. In the meantime we also have about 50 hours of HD video tape which needs to be digitized so we can start to edit the footage we've shot. Getting HD footage into the computer involves a high-end video capture card and renting a deck to hook to the computer, so just capturing the footage is an involved process. But not to worry, we have top men working on it. Who? Top men.
20 October 2009 - Studio Life
So, another chapter in the making of The Whisperer in Darkness is now complete. We have finished shooting in studio. Don't start bouncing up and down just yet though, we still have two sequences involving actors to shoot, plus plenty of miniatures, models and effects shots. We're not done by any stretch of the imagination. But we have surpassed another major milestone in finishing up our studio work.
Shooting in the studio proved every bit as challenging as shooting on location. We had plenty of noise issues (see below), but we also had the constant need to prep (design, build, paint, dress) every location in the studio, which meant wrangling plants, furniture, hay, rain (lots and lots of rain), animals, fog, actors and much more. Our stalwart crew was tough and resiliant and we somehow managed to work our way through our most challenging difficulities (see "Hiccups" below) and get the footage we needed. Hours were long, but no one cracked under the pressure.
We did have to shuffle our schedule some, we did run hideously overbudget to get things done in time, but we now find ourselves quite close to being done with principal photography. The screenplay is 94 pages long. Out of that, about six pages remain to be shot. So we are indeed getting there. That said, there really is no need to write us and ask when you can see the movie. We have lots to do and will continue to update you as we continue through the production process.
Rain, Rain, Go Away...
We felt bad for our star, Matt Foyer, as we sprayed water at him for a week in New England. None of us - particularly not Matt - quite realized how much water would be flying indoors though as we returned to the studio. We setup our rain making equipment and day after day, it rained on Professor Wilmarth. Some days we dumped other things on his head too, but mostly it was lots of cold water. We really appreciate how tough Matt was in putting up with all of our precipitation. We also applaud many of the other performers in the film who endured extensive man-made precipitation. We really need to find the guys to wrote this and dunk them in a tank of very cold water.
For those of you who have kindly offered to translate Whisperer into your tongue, a translation script will be headed your way soon. There is quite a bit of dialect in the movie and we want you to have as much time as possible to work with it. We continue to look for more people who would be willing to translate. We realize it's a big job, but those who undertake it will be showered with praise for sharing this movie with speakers of their native language. At the moment we have: Bulgarian, Castilian, Catalan, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian and Swedish. C'mon you Croatian, Israeli, Korean, Japanese, Navaho, Icelandic, Hawaiian, Euskera or Aleut fluent Lovecraft fans, this is our moment of need... What about Irish? Greek? We know you're out there...
Prof. Wilmarth in the Vermont rain
Glenn Alfonso applies makeup to Mr. Pavao
On location at Bellows Falls, Vermont
8 October 2009 - Home, Sweet Home
After the wilds of New England we were able to setup shop in our rented "sound" studio in Los Angeles. Our schedule has us filming three weeks in Los Angeles before we complete the portion of the film involving actors. Of that three weeks, two days were on locations in Pasadena, but the rest of it was slated to take place in the studio. As of now, we're in the middle of the second week and are bracing ourselves for a final push to the principal photography finish line.
Our very first day of shooting in LA involved a group of background players. These stalwart volunteers came down to the set and met up with our lovely and talented cast members and we shot our first scenes in the studio. All was well, although a very vocal cricket decided to cast itself as an extra. Fortunately our background team seemed to have a knack for frightening it into silence as we shot our takes on the set.
We had an even bigger herd of background players join us for a shoot at Pasadena City College, where we booked a period-appropriate lecture hall. Another group of lovely volunteers donned their period attire and joined us for a fairly long scene in which they got to be an audience attending an event at Miskatonic. They did a super job and spurred our actors on to terrific performances that we hope you will enjoy.
After dealing with the challenges of recording sound on location in New England, we were rather looking forward to the relative ease of recording sound in our own sound stage. Apparently though, where we're shooting, the term sound stage is used to denote extra sound being added to our recording process. Between neighbors who sound like they're running some kind of blacksmith competition, a semi truck repair yard across the way and the fact that the studio sounds like it's on a flight path for the Burbank airport, our sound stage has been anything but quiet. Still, we slog onward through the noise to capture every nuance of sound for our first talkie.
In general, production has gone pretty smoothly for us. Naturally there have been a few minor incidents here and there, but generally, we've had nothing to complain about. Well, that was until we get back from New England. The plan was that our set crew would build out the numerous sets we'd be shooting on in the sound stage, including one particuarly complicated one which we would use for several days of filming. We returned to find that our very complicated set was about a third of the way done. It was over budget and our builders had to leave town. So, we sent them on their way, addressed the fundamental structural flaws in the plans made by our scenic architect and dispatched a new crew to make the place shootable. They've done a bang-up job for us and while we've had to reschedule the sequence of somethings, we're on target to shoot on the big set as intended. Unfortunately, a key prop for the show was also not completed on time. This week we find ourselves having to try and create an important and complicated prop at the last minute. We've rescheduled to buy as much time as we could, but in the end, some serious last-minute prop work will be required by the lovely and tireless (don't get me wrong here, they're tired) Art Dept. crew.
Live from Portland
This year we had to miss a favorite annual event: the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. We were shooting and could not go. However, we were able to participate in a call-in discussion held at the festival where people in the audience could ask us questions about the production while we were actually on set shooting the movie. We were glad to be involved in the festival and appreciated the enthusiasm of the Lovecraft community for Whisperer.
Some cast and crew in front of the Miskatonic gates
(click to enlarge)
Down on the river (click to enlarge)
Outside the Akeley farm (click to enlarge)
1 October 2009 - Location, Location, Location
OK, we're back from our adventure to New England. In the end, 17 of us made the trip to shoot footage in Massachussets, Vermont and New Hampshire. Over the course of six days, we shot at numerous outdoor locations to take advantage of access the story's real locations. Where we're not on the story's actual locations, we found first-rate local substitutes. Our hearty cast and crew endured long hours, long car rides, long shoots, and fleeting moments of sleep to capture the exterior footage we shot for Whisperer. We thank them for their suffering. We hope you will too.
As foretold, we shot at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. We thought the college would prove an excellent casting choice for Miskatonic and being there proved us right. We grabbed some great establishing shots of the campus and then shot a scene outside a ladies' dormitory, under the watchful eye of the dorm's residents and a drizzle of rain. We returned later in the week to shoot Miskatonic's main gates and an interior scene in one of the campus' beautifully appointed vintage classrooms.
A couple of the New England shots required background players. We put out the call through various channels and were delighted to find terrific people who heeded our call. We shot with background players at Mount Holyoke College and at the Bellows Falls, VT train station. A group of talented and enthusiastic folks dressed up, turned up and played a great role in the film.
Shooting in New England also involved plenty of work out in the field. And by that, we mean in the rivers, in the woods, and quite literally in the fields. Local folks told us plenty about the wet summer they'd had and how we should expect rain everywhere we went, but in the end we had to resort to making our own rain most of the time. In case any of you have forgotten, our crew can quickly point out that a barrel of water is very heavy. Many cast and crew members will also point out that the temperature of our our artificial rain water was unnaturally cold, especially if you've been drenched in it all night long. And after we're done, the rain rig has to be put away, the actors dried, the costumes packed up and a few scant hours later we have to pull up to the next location.
Back in Los Angeles
Most of the crew got back very late on Sunday. Our intrepid road warriors, Troy and Amanda, drove the FungiMobile back across the nation (an no, none of you appear to have seen it while it was on the road), logging over six thousand miles. We're now setup in Los Angeles, where most of us live, and filming began here today. We shot two indoor scenes today.
We already miss the verdant, Mi-Go infested hills of New England. But it's great to be working in a studio and not having to deal with many of the issues that come with shooting on the road. Three full weeks of shooting still to go...
The Fungi-Mobile - can you find it?
18 September 2009 - On the Road
Today, we put our intrepid crew members, Troy Sterling Nies and Amanda Deibert into the Fungi-Mobile and they began the trek from Los Angeles to New England. The Fungi-Mobile carries the essential gear needed for making the movie: lights, costumes, and many cases of Diet Coke. There are several people on our crew willing to work without pay or sleep, but who cannot work without Diet Coke. Regardless, the FungiMobile is on the 3,000 road trip and we wish Troy and Amanda godspeed.
Find the Fungi Contest
We thought you might want to share in Albert Wilmarth's experience of searching for the elusive Fungi from Yuggoth, so we're announcing our Find the Fungi contest. Somewhere out on the roads of America is the HPLHS' specially branded bright yellow Fungi-Mobile. If you photograph it or can accurately tell us when and where you saw it, we'll give you our very special Fungi Prize Pack: an autographed Whisperer in Darkness poster, a DVD of the movie, a Whisperer t-shirt and we'll invite you to the Los Angeles premiere of the movie. Click here to send us your sightings. NOTE: it is imperative that you do not impede the progress of the Fungi-Mobile. If it does not arrive in New England by the time the rest of us arrive, well, we don't even want to consider that possibility.
The past week has been a flurry of activity at the HPLHS as anything we wanted to take to New England really needed to be on the truck this morning. All kinds of props and signage were finalized so they could be packed up. We are mostly shooting exterior footage in New England, with the exception of one scene that takes place in Wilmarth's office at Miskatonic. There seems to be some excitement on campus that this college has been cast as Miskatonic. When you see it on screen, we think you'll share in that excitement.
Late summer is a very hot time of year in Los Angeles. Locals in the know tell us this is not the case wtih early fall in New England, particularly this year. We hear it's chilly there at night. It may rain. Lucky for us, we'll be shooting at night. In the cold. And the rain. But our cast and crew are looking forward to the experience of shooting The Whisperer in Darkeness on location in Lovecraft Country. In some instances, we're shooting directly on the actual locations listed in the story. We'll try to keep you updated on the production experience.
A real Vermont intersection
Our beloved alma mater
Lonely farmhouses in the Vermont hills
5 September 2009 - To New England Again!
In late August Sean and David Robertson completed the final scouting trip to New England. We looked at all the locations where we'll be shooting, met with everyone we needed to meet, and generally did our best to ensure that everything's ready on the New England side of things when we arrive. We were once again hosted by Mat & Susan Jacobson, who receive the highest HPLHS praise for their hospitality. Mat also earned our admiration for his uncanny ability to remember rural dirt roads which he visited with Sean and Andrew two years ago.
Overall, we were delighted by how friendly and cooperative everyone we met was. We would come up to people and ask if we could film their house. Most people said, "Sure! Would you like to film our barn too?". This is a pleasant change from filming in Los Angeles where such requests are often met by a crusty look, thousands of dollars in location fees, and a demand for a multi-million dollar insurance policy. People were nice to us. We were glad to be there. We're renting to houses to accommodate our cast and crew, and both are situated on lovely properties brimming with rural New England scenery.
One of our key locations is Miskatonic University. We've found a lovely and cooperative New England college where we'll be filming. We think it's got the Miskatonic vibe and its period architecture will look great on-camera. Most of our other New England locations are outdoors, several of which are the actual locations Lovecraft describes in the story. While it's expensive for us to haul all our gear and crew back east, we think it's well worth it to be able to shoot in the legend haunted mountains of Vermont and among the ivy-clad walls of a prestigious New England college.
And while Sean and Dave were traipsing around New England, Andrew, Chris and others were toiling away 100+ degree heat as fires raged not far from our studio. The prop list is daunting for Whisperer and Chris and Andrew continue to work like maniacs to get everything done before the gear truck departs for New England in the middle of September. We've commissioned certain props from several specialists around the globe, and all are hard at work to ensure we make the deadline.
The cast is now fully in place and our Costume Designer, Jessica Dalager, is working on getting everyone fitted. Our makeup artist, Glenn Alfonso, is studying everyone's faces and cutting hair as needed. Andrew Hildner is drafting construction drawings for the Akeley house set - the most complicated of the sets which will be built for the production. Line Producer, John Younger, is working on logistics for vehicles and rented equipment, all while relocating his home from Tennessee to Los Angeles. Sound man, Troy Sterling Nies, is preparing to drive from North Dakota to LA, where he will get out of his car and get into our gear truck and drive it to New England with Production Assistant Amanda Deibert.
We're still looking for Background Players both in New England and Los Angeles. If you'd like to be in the movie, this is your last chance. Email us at email@example.com and we'll give you the dates in question. We also continue to look for translators.
Barry Lynch - Before
Barry Lynch - After
Dave Snyder and Someone's Brain
20 August 2009 - Happy Birthday, Howard
What better way to celebrate the old gentleman's birthday than by toiling to bring one of his stories to the silver screen? As we slave away on Whisperer the whole team at the HPLHS shares the goal of making Whisperer a film that even Howard would enjoy.
Casting the Cast Cast Member
The movie is now cast. The core cast of Whisperer features 19 actors. In the end, well over 5,000 actors submitted for roles. We sifted through all the submissions and called in roughly 100 actors to meet us in person and read from the script. Out of that group of actors, we chose the most experienced and those best suited to the roles. HPLHS fans may recognize a few faces, though there's plenty of new actors on board for the production. We thank everyone who submitted - we wish we could have hired you all. We're still signing on a few Background Players for shots in both New England and LA.
Veteran film, TV and stage actor Barry Lynch will be playing the role of Henry Akeley. Barry's no stranger to HPLHS projects, having performed in The Call of Cthulhu and several episodes of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre. Special effects in the movie required that we make a life cast of Barry's head. Our special effects makeup artist, Dave Snyder, did a full cast of his head and teeth. Click here to see a video of the lifecast being made. (iPod version here) Dave is a highly experienced professional makeup artist whose work includes (among other things) many of the corpses from HBO's Six Feet Under. From the life cast, Dave then makes a separate positive version of Barry's face which he then sculpts. After he sculpts it... well, we wont tell you exactly what we're up to, but we'll have a version of Henry Akeley that'll look really great and can do things that even Barry Lynch cannot do.
More Art and Props, or It Takes Brains
And while the makeup team is toiling away, other teams are hard at work too. We have a scenic designer drawing up the floorplans for the sets. We have our costume designer figuring out what all these people will wear. We have our in-house prop team making all kinds of weird stuff. We have talented friends near and far contributing additional props and artwork to help get everything ready. Leman and Lackey are toiling around the clock, inventing new ways to make things that mankind should not make. The things they are making or so secret, we dare not depict them here. At this point, there are nearly 50 people working on various aspects of the film.
Next week, Branney and Robertson hit the road and return to New England for a final visit to all of our locations. We'll figure out camera placements, logistics, where to hide all the mi-go - that sort of thing. We'll ensure that everything is in place so that when we show up in September with cast and crew we'll have a pretty good idea of what we'll be in for.
We can still use translators (see below) and Background Players in Los Angeles and New England. If you'd like to volunteer to be a part of this weird enterprise, shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 August 2009 - Art Department and Casting Calls
Pre-production is boldly striding forward. We've hired our second member of the production team. Chris Lackey (whom those of you who have seen the Special Features on the Call of Cthulhu DVD may remember as the guy who fell through the non-euclidean angle into the pit with the cougar) has joined our team once again. He's working with our own Andrew Leman on the very long list of strange and complicated items which need to be created for the production. There's brain cylinders, the black stone of the Mi-Go and things we dare not even tell you about, and our Art Department is hard at work trying to ensure they're all made in time for the cameras to start rolling. We've pulled in extra assistance for a few special items from craftsmen in various corners of the world to help us out with some specialty items. The things they are making look great and it's nice to have the HPLHS studio once again littered with alien technologies and body parts. Well, we often have that kind of stuff around our studio, but there's even more of it now.
We've continued to flesh out the production team. David Robertson, our Director of Photography for The Call of Cthulhu is back and will be providing his keen eye for shooting in black and white to Whisperer. We'll be shooting in HiDef on the Sony F900 camera. It's the same camera we used for shooting the Whisperer teaser. The most recent Star Wars films were shot on the same camera. We've also managed to talk Troy Sterling Nies into joining the Whisperer team. He'll be on-set capturing production sound and then he'll switch to composer mode, creating another lush period symphonic score. We're busy wrangling many more members to join our crew.
We have published our casting notice and are actively engage in assembling a cast of actors for Whisperer. We know there are a great many of you who would like to be in this movie. We were fortunate with Call of Cthulhu that we were able to hire professional actors and with this one, we are once again only casting it with professionals who have significant experience. In the first 12 hours that our casting notice was out, we received well over 4,000 submissions from actors wanting to be in this movie. If you are an actor, you can find the details of what we're looking for in the major actors' trade sites. If you don't have a lot of experience, we're still happy to try and include you as an extra. We need extras for scenes being shot in both New England and Los Angeles. If you can get yourself there, feel free to contact us at email@example.com and we'll do our best to see if we can get you on screen.
Beyond the casting, we now have a pretty firm production calendar. We'll start shooting in New England September 22nd. We'll be there a little less than a week and then we return to Los Angeles and shoot through October 17. At that point, we'll be all done with actors and full-sized sets. We'll move on to work with our Miniatures Unit and will film miniature and stop motion sequences through the fall. We'll start editing the movie at this point too, and hopefully sometime around the end of the year we'll have a rough cut of the movie. Then we move into adding music, some special effects and putting polish on it. If all goes well, we'll have Whisperer done in early 2010.
17 July 2009 - Lawyers, Guns and Money
So, it's getting serious now. The lawyers are involved. And the bankers. We went and got ourselves a Line Producer. And several boxes of guns.
Making a movie is complicated, and for every cool thing you see onscreen, somewhere there is paperwork that describes it, secures permission to film it, releases it, etc... As we move closer and closer to principal photography, we have are dealing with more and more pieces of paper. We had to drag our lawyer into it all to make sure that we're doing everything right: protecting ourselves and the film from any legal issues which can be avoided.
In order to keep the process of getting ready under control, we hired John Younger, a line producer. Basically his job is to really study the script and how we're planning to shoot the movie. He then figures out everything we'll need in order to do that, and from there he figures out a schedule. Once there's a schedule, we start figuring out how much everything will cost. Once we know what it will cost, then we start securing, making, fabricating, building, painting, borrowing, etc... the 10,000 things we will need to make Whisperer. It's John's job to keep us in line and let us know when we're spending too much time or money. He says, "No, you can't have Cthulhu leaping out of the sea to take down the zeppelin". He knows the zeppelin is borrowed from the National Museum of Lithuania and must be returned in pristine shape for us to get our deposit back.
Now that the legal and financial aspects are coming into focus, we're about to hire on some of the rest of the crew. Those of you who have seen the Call of Cthulhu special features may recognize some faces. And there's plenty of new faces too. Our quest for props continues to grow and we're making friends with lots of people who sell items from the 1930s on eBay. So boxes filled with strange things regularly show up at HPLHS World Headquarters these days.
Speaking in Tongues
In terms of languages, we're still looking for more translators. We have volunteers for the following languages, but if you know something that's not on the list and you're willing to do a lot of work to render a feature film screenplay into your language, by all means let us know. We've got: Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Catalán, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Castilian Spanish, Swedish, and Welsh. For those of you who have signed up, we thank you. Get in on the action at: firstname.lastname@example.org
25 June 2009
We're still working away like crazy on pre-production issues. In addition to practical matters such as locations and brain cylinders, there's also a number of legal and financial issues that have to be setup. We're having production meetings, interviewing costumers, buying props on eBay. There's a lot of things keeping us busy. We thank the many of you who have volunteered to help us. Our Volunteer Translator Corps has grown nicely, though we're still looking for more language. Castillian Spanish is still up for grabs, as are Dutch, Irish, Turkish and any language that starts with the letter C. To get in on translating or to offer other services, send an email to email@example.com
But all work and no play makes the HPLHS guys dull boys, and I had the good fortune to get some travel/adventure time in this month. Together with HPLHS illustrator and long-time friend Darrell Tutchton, I went to Easter Island (also known as Isla Pascua or Rapa Nui). Lovecraft said, "searchers after horror haunt strange far places...", and there's hardly anywhere farther nor stranger on the planet. The island is located in a remote region of the South Pacific, roughly 2,500 miles west of Santiago, Chile. In addition to the moai (the giant stone heads and bodies), this tiny island features nearly 20,000 archeological sites. Due to it's utter isolation, the culture of the ancient Rapa Nui people is something quite unique in human history. It's still a six hour flight from Chile to get there, but for those making the trip, it's well worth the effort.
We spent a couple days out hiking among the ruins, making friends with stray dogs and the wild horses that roam the island. In addition to the many wonderfully mysterious and awe-inspiring sites above ground, we took gear to explore some of the hundreds of caves that are on the island. In searching for the entrance to one well-known cave, we happened upon a number of other caves and ended up exploring those. The experience was like something out of a Call of Cthulhu roleplaying adventure or an Indiana Jones film: standing among piles of lava rock littered with countless animal bones, breaking off leaves from a banana tree to clear away the spider webs, and descending into caverns once used by and ancient islanders but clearly not visited in a long, long time since. And in crawling further and further underground we eventually found ourselves a deep, nearly airless chamber where someone long ago had set something special up on a ledge above the wet floor of the cave. Looking closer, we realized the odd object had the unique curvature and suture marks of a human cranium - one that had been put there ages ago. Deeper in the same chamber, we happened on another one set on a ledge. Were these the remains of ancestors or enemies? We did not know, but thrilled at exploring one of the few places on earth so remote, that a couple of guys with some helmets and flashlights could descend into a dark, sepulchral world touched with a unique chapter of human history.
I have wanted to visit Easter Island since I was a kid. I've been fortunate in my life to be able to travel to a great many places and see may fascinating wonders that remain from earlier civilizations. But Easter Island really is an incredible place and dramatically exceeded my expectations. The sad history of the island is terrible parable of sorts as the archeological record documents the rise and violent fall of this impossibly isolated civilization. The story of Rapa Nui is a cautionary tale of environmental wrecklessness, cultural upheaval, warfare and social collapse. But from the wreckage of the ancient islanders, modern Easter Island has bounced back as an amazing destination for those who would haunt strange far places and whet their appetite for adventure. - SB
"a kind of apologetic hacking or whispering sound drew my attention..."
1 June 2009
Where's the damned movie?
We know a great many people have been eagerly looking forward to the release of our next film since we debuted the trailer in October of 2007. You've clamored for the movie and for information about when it will be released. We've told you, "We're working on it". So now, at last, we're ready to tell you the strange and terrible tale of what's been going on with our movie of The Whisperer in Darkness.
For starters, it's not really that strange nor terrible. Shortly after we finished The Call of Cthulhu in late 2005, we settled on the notion of adapting HPL's "The Whisperer in Darkness" and shooting it as a feature length film, shot in the style of the early 1930s. This story -- with its strange whisperings and buzzings -- demanded sound, so we planned to shoot it as a talkie. But it would still be shot in Mythoscope and would endeavor to capture the visual tone of the early Universal Pictures horror films like Dracula and Frankenstein. The plan was in place, all we needed was a script.
But I've Seen the Trailer
So, one of us dove in on writing an adaptation, fleshing out Lovecraft's story, tweaking its structure and reshaping it into something that would be satisfying as a movie. In the meantime, the HPL Film Festival was approaching (this is back in 2007). Early that year, we promised our pal, Andrew Migliore -- the creator of the festival, that we'd have something for him to show. We knew the scene where Wilmarth listens to the recording of the creatures would be in the movie, so it seemed like a good place to start filming a teaser. We gathered our friends Matt Foyer (The Man in The Call of Cthulhu) and David Robertson (our Cinematographer for The Call of Cthulhu) and a few other helpful friends and we shot a teaser for the movie. It came out pretty good, so we gave it to Andrew to show at the festival and we put it online. We thought it would tide people over as we finished up the shooting script and got ready for production of the actual movie.
Words, Words, Words
If you've never written a feature-length screenplay, it's an arduous process, and it took the better part of a year to get the first draft completed. So the guy who wrote the screenplay gave it to the other guy to read, and he hated it. He didn't want to shoot the script. He decided what he needed to do was to write his own adaptation. So he took the better part of another year and wrote the script the way he wanted it to be. Then he gave his script to the first guy. The first guy didn't like the second script (see, we don't always agree on everything) and knew it wasn't the movie he wanted to make. So, the two fellows then sat down together to hash out a third version of the movie which was negotiated, reworked and jointly beaten into submission. And after a few months of this, and more than 20 full drafts, in April of this year HPLHS Executive Screenwriting Committee had a script they were both happy with. They tested it out with a group of actors and fellow filmmakers, made a couple of last minute changes, and in late April the shooting script was finalized.
A screenplay is the blueprint for a movie, and once it was done, we knew exactly what would be needed in terms of locations, actors, props, special effects, etc... Things needed to be made, found, acquired, borrowed, designed, and rented. And that's what we're doing now. We've got 58 scenes being shot at 14 different physical locations, some in Los Angeles, some in New England. We're working on the designs of Wilmarth's costumes, Akeley's house, and Mi-Go's anatomy. We're lining up our crew, period vehicles, rain machines, and our hellishly bizarre list of props. Friends and artists around the world are working on the movie even now. We're on track to start actually shooting footage at the end of summer. By the end of September, all work with actors should be done and we'll move onto special effects and editing. We're not sure when the movie will be done, but hopefully sometime in this winter.
We haven't told people much about what we're doing. We needed to hash out our internal differences on the story and come up with something that everyone at the HPLHS liked and stood behind. Now that we've got that, we're plunging forward with our typical reckless aplomb. We're still keeping lots of secrets from you as we're hoping to surprise you with some elements of the film. TWiD is a more liberal adaptation of the original story than The Call of Cthulhu was. We needed to make the story longer to make it suitable for a film, and let's face it, unless there's some adaptation, "The Whisperer in Darkness" would largely be a movie about a college professor reading his mail. So, we have some surprises in store for you, but we hope you'll find them in keeping with the source material and our previous Lovecraft adaptations.
Yes, now it's the time you can get involved. Over the past couple of years many of you have written to us, wanting to be an extra, play a role, or just get in on the fun of making this movie. We didn't have any specifics of time or place then, so we said "We'll let you know". Well, we're letting you know now. We would like to involve as many of our friends, fans or HPL enthusiasts as we can. Be forewarned: if you're not in or around Los Angeles or Southern Vermont, your chances of getting involved will be limited due to the logistics of this production. But, if you want to volunteer your services, let us know what you'd like to do, what you can do, and where you are. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll see if we can work you into our grand scheme. Please understand, we may not be able to accommodate everyone, particularly as actors. The actors we hire are professionals, and if you're not highly trained and experienced, we may not have a role for you. But there's lots to do and if you want to get in on it, please do let us know.
As with The Call of Cthulhu, we're hoping to offer Whisperer in as many languages as we can wrangle. If you would like to join our Volunteer Translator Corps, let us know. It's a pretty big job, as the screenplay is nearly 100 pages long, but if you've got the inclination and the language skills to render a Lovecraft movie into your language, please let us know and we'll set you to work. No language is too obscure, though we'll warn you now we have no interest in seeing the movie translated into Klingon.
We have been greatly inspired by the enthusiasm so many have shown for this project. We believe we have an exciting telling of The Whisperer in Darkness and are eager to make the movie and share it with the world.