We wrapped principal photography on THE GIRL IN THE CRAWLSPACE Sunday afternoon, after a full three-day weekend of cold weather, fake blood, mock stabbings and pretend stun gunning, mock filthy crawlspacing and real not-as-filthy crawlspacing, people throwing themselves on the ground and laying on cold concrete getting cold water dripped on them, hundred-foot drone shots, furnaces quitting, and dogs barking, but we made all our days, actors and crew were on point, I didn't make too many mistakes, and I got to treat everyone to my homemade beef BBQ that simmered away in the background the whole time.
By Wednesday I felt more like my old self. Before then, I just felt old.
The very last shot of principal was a cold, windswept wide shot of the green shed in my backyard where the creepy-crawly third act unfolds, as anticlimactic a shot as you could imagine to wrap on. And yet I still felt incredibly emotional and kind of turned and walked off for a minute. I had planned to give a big speech to my four principals and the crew, but two had already slipped away and it was pretty cold out. So we just sat on that cold, wide shot until everybody realized we were done.
In a lot of ways we are just getting started. There are a couple of quick pick-up shots in Dayton, there is all the editing, the color timing, the score, on and on. But that is largely done out of sight by me and my producer, Henrique Couto, working with a second group of talented people. Henrique told me that making a movie is like putting together a puzzle, except you have to make the puzzle first and then put it together. So we made the puzzle first.
I think the biggest thing I learned directing was that when I started this project it was for me, but by the end, it was for everybody involved with it. And knowing that everyone, from make-up to boom to lead talent, all have hopes and dreams for the project, and that those rest squarely on me to deliver. I think the greatest thing people misunderstand about b-movies is that nobody wants to make a bad one. Even though they sometimes turn out that way. I know that some movies are born of cynicism, but I have yet to be involved with one. Everyone wants this to lead to that, for this film to get them noticed for the next, and on and on. They are people's dreams, and that is a big debt to carry for people, in a good way.
I think the biggest thing I learned as a screenwriter on this one is that people did not understand what I was talking about a lot of the time.. It came out gradually throughout the shoot, all the way to the enigmatic ending that the leads wanted to have explained. At the most basic level it is about a burlap-masked killer that has cut through a small town. But behind that I wanted it to be about the power of storytelling to save people's lives, especially in rural areas. And at the deepest level I wanted to talk about the sway the insouciant beauty of Linda Stirling in 1944's ZORRO'S BLACK WHIP had over a young mind, how Peter Lupus never got his due for HERCULES AND THE TYRANTS OF BABYLON, how the crazy majesty of Klaus Kinski as "Hot Dead" shines in movies like I AM SARTANA YOUR ANGEL OF DEATH, and the power of role-playing gaming to inform friendships in ways that people can't express otherwise. And that's probably where I lost the thread a bit.
There is a scene where I wanted Erin Ryan's character Jill, the title character, to be casually carrying a Tex Willer fumetti I brought back from Italy, with no explanation about why she was carrying it. After we were done, she handed it to me very carefully and said "Here, I think this is important to you." And then I sort of felt like Marlon Brando at the end of APOCALYPSE NOW, my cast and crew coming down the river to see how crazy I had become.
But what moved me the most as a writer and director was that even though people in front of and behind the camera couldn't quite figure it all out, they were willing to go along with me and see what happened. That's probably the most validated I have ever felt in my b-movie life.
Now I just have to find a lot, a lot of other people who think the way I do, or more likely are willing to go along with it, to rent and buy the movie. But that's for another day.