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Serena and The RATTS is the first feature film from Horroble Pictures. Action/Drama/Sci-Fi.
I wrote the script during my first sophmore year of college while attending Manchester Community College in Connecticut. It was initially meant to be a 30 pages of a feature length story that I would later shoot and edit and turn in for credit in a class I was taking on writing. Once the 30 pages were written I decided go all in and finish writing the rest of the script (with some encouragent from friends and talks about getting the film distributed with TROMA.) Since I had only initally intended to produce 30 minutes of the story I wrote the most interesting and exciting parts of the story first, the middle of the story, the guts of it. I called it "Part II". After I had created the characters and the situation and conflict and even revealed the twist in the story in the first third I decided to go back and explore how these characters came to be. I had to consider how and why a young girl ended up becoming a murderer for hire and the relationship between her and her teacher that led them to the conflict depicted in Part II. This would serve as the back story and the character development, the new heart of the film. This was "Part I." Then of course has to come the resolution in the story and the climax of the situation created in Part II. I usually hate the way movies end. Not so much because of what happens or how the story is resolved but because the tone of the film is usually so far gone from what it started with it feels tired and ridiculous by the end. If you don't know what I'm talking about try renting "Outbreak." It's a very good suspenseful thriller about a viral outbreak in the USA... in the beginning and middle... by the end of it they are playing chicken with helicopters and jet airplanes. Anyways my point is, Serena, despite having been written heavily under the influence of whiskey and intended to be a section of a story only, and then written expecting to please the people at TROMA and later deciding I respect it too much, and never having written a script before, I like the ending. I like the ending because I forced myself to not end it like these movies. And I like it because in a way it doesn't have an ending and I think it works for what it is.
I gave a good attempt at shooting it when I was 19 and to make a long story short it fell through. I didn't have the experience or man power or people skills required to produce a feature all by myself so I let it go and it quietly rested on my computer.
It wasn't until meeting Evalena that I had any kind of spark to give it another go. We both remember where we were when It hit me. We were talking about making a movie and I mentioned that I had a script that I wrote years ago that I never got around to producing. The difficult thing was finding a girl who could encapsulate the beauty required to make an audience fall for her and a mystery and darkness about her that could convey realistically a twisted viewpoint that would allow her to kill people. Where would I find such a girl? You can probably imagine how I felt when I looked at her after asking myself that.
SO I HAD MY LEAD.
And I didn't know it at the time but I also had the best producer I could ever hope for.
We began by shooting a short promo video to capture the style and tone we were planning to achieve. This was useful for recruiting cast and crew since we had no budget to pay people; we needed to get everyone excited about the project on its merits alone.
We went about casting over the course of several weeks using my school (MassArt) to hold the casting sessions. When the school was unavailable we used my apartment which ended us scaring some actors away since it was in Mission Hill (rightfully so). We recruited crew by way of craigslist and my class mates.
We put together a rough budget and presented it to my folks. We would need some money for props and food and a good lens adapter to add to the production value and visual style. We used rented equipment from MassArt for lights, camera and audio. This allowed us to keep our budget low.
Once casting for our principles was complete we did a few taped rehearsals and meetings to let the actors become familiar and confident portraying their characters.
Most of the production phase is a blur at this point. We seemed to be running very smoothly until towards the end when we totaled our car and only means of transportation while returning a leaf blower we were using to simulate the van explosion on Evalena's face. Our friend Kim Kennedy was very helpful in bringing us to the impound lot the next day.
The warehouse shoots were something special, packing all of our props and camera and lighting equipment into a sporty four door sedan, we literally had just about every cubic inch of the space inside occupied. Equipment was piled on my lap and under my feet for the 1.5 hour drive to Newport. One day we headed out at 6am to shoot the ending scenes of the film. We didn't wrap until 2am and then spent two hours scrubbing the blood off the warehouse floor. Most of it was fake, some of it was real. Evalena and I tried to drive home, but we were completely exhausted so we picked up some clothing from a CVS to change out of the blood and fiberglass soiled threads and found a cheap hotel to crash at for a couple hours. Safety prevailed.
I remember now I didn't start to relax about the film being completed until we were on our way home from shooting the chase scene that's towards the end of the film. We had hired a police detail in Torrington, CT. so that we could run around the cities alleyways with prop guns out. The detail worked in 4 hour shifts and we could only afford one shift. Meaning we had to shoot an entire chase scene with locations spread out over the city in the span of 4 hours. Anyone involved with film production knows that this is not an easy task especially on a low budget. We found a shopping cart and loaded our supplies into it and ran around the city on foot in 90 degree temp trying to get shots off as fast as possible. Each take required the actors to run and the camera people to run with them. This couple with running to the next spot made for a very fast paced 4 hour shoot. When it was all over I felt like we reached the summit of this production, everything would be downhill from here.
One of our biggest breaks in post production was meeting our composer, Sean Hathaway. I had already written about this once before on here but lost my work and don't yet have the time to re-write it. So to keep it short we were thrilled to find a composer that could capture the sound we were looking for while giving the movie a unique musical identity.
We were also very lucky to have the help of a couple great visual effects compositors. Adam Russell added effects like muzzle flares and explosions and added technical fixes license plate replacement and sign removal. Matt Plassche worked for several months on a particularly difficult part; removing people from the background of a hand held shot.
And for post sound design we had Cody Skully and Russell Murachver adding foley work and Colin Birney cleaning up the entire piece. Sean and I did some additional leveling and cleaning (including a 24 nonstop leveling session to prep the movie for our first festival submission) and we recruited Jesse Lin to add some extra tonal sound design. I reworked the gunshots using sounds contributed by Colin and Russell.
After Color Correcting, I used a great little plug in for noise reduction called Neat Video. This program is something of a miracle when it comes to saving overly noisy footage due to compression or low data rate or underexposed shots. I recommend it, worth every dollar.
MARKETING, DISTRIBUTION AND SCREENINGS
The movie is completed (enough to send out to distributors). And we have contacted some and sent out the first round of screeners.
We plan to do another screening of the finished film in Boston sometime soon.
We're going to Rock and Shock to release the a 2 Disc set DVD of Serena for the first time. Right now we are publishing all of our own DVDs one at a time along with printing the artwork. Only one day before we fly back to CT and put all the materials together. Check em out.
January 22, 2012
Serena had been taken on by Odyssey Motion Pics & Film Sales as our International Sales Agent. They will be taking the film to the European Film Market to pitch to international buyers. I cut a new trailer to accompany the film at the market since it is a powerful sales tool.
Sept 2nd, 2014
Serena has been released by Indican Pictures for North American and Internet Distribution. Check out the links at the top of this page to pick up or rent a copy!
"Yeah I think this will work."