Someone’s being brutally murdered. There’s only one problem.
The blood won’t come out of the tube. It’s leaking and not spraying out like it should.
This is just one of the challenges director Charlie DiVito faced when shooting his horror film, Ruiner, which is about a young couple’s traumatic encounter with a serial killer. It’s a low-budget film, being put together for under $10,000, meaning they have to improvise with props and special effects Hollywood directors take for granted.
Associate producer Kegan Sant says the problem with the fake blood started when they ran out of ingredients to make it. In the end they resorted to salsa.
That’s right, not ketchup, not water and red food colouring, but spicy, extra-chunky salsa. Sant says the popular chip topping was the best choice to achieve the proper guts and gore effect.
Then there was the leak. Duct tape wouldn’t fix it and it was the end of a 13-hour day of shooting. So Sant had to take one for the team.
“I had to go down just off camera and actually blow the blood out,” Sant says from Centennial College’s Ellesmere campus where some of the film was shot. “Not a very tasty combination.”
DiVito said another main problem they had was cast and crew members not showing up and people not realizing the time and effort needed.
Finding a crew is one of the toughest things when filmmakers are first starting in the film industry, DiVito says.
“This is not a nine-to-five job,” he says with his arms crossed across his chest. “I hear that Hitchcock quit at 6 o’clock every night, but now you can’t do that. You’ve got to get it until it‘s done and if it takes 12, 15, 20 hours, then that’s what it’s gonna take.”
The biggest obstacle is money.
Eric Veyt, an assistant director in Mississauga, is also fairly new to the film industry. Now 21, he started working for Limestyle Productions, a film company founded by his brother and his brother’s friend, when he was just 18. Without hesitation, he says getting together enough cash to fuel a film is very hard.
“Finding the money to get to that point where you actually have something to shoot is the most difficult,” Veyt says. “It’s not the part where you’re trying to get creative and write a script.”
To tackle that challenge, Veyt says a film company must do a great job of marketing itself and putting its name out to the public.
“The best way of dealing with that problem of not having enough cash is to go put yourself out there. There are film markets all around the world right now.”
Veyt says he just got back from a trip to Berlin with Limestyle Productions to sell their films and promote future productions. Doing some work for free just to get recognition and networking with people are other ways a new film company can grab the interest of possible investors, he says.
Actors also put a fair dent in the film budget. Veyt says that more well-known actors, even B movie ones, can cost up to $40,000 a week. But, there’s a way around that.
Both DiVito and Limestyle Productions use non-union actors who tend to cost less than unionized ones. Many unknown actors will also work for free to get their name out to audiences, Veyt says. It’s the crew that needs cash.
“They [actors] don’t ask to be paid because they’re being put in the movie,” he says. “We pay the crew because it’s harder work.”
DiVito, who just graduated from Centennial’s Broadcasting and Film Program in December, has cut costs by having some of his classmates help him for free.
“It’s just love of the game and it’s just respect for each other,” DiVito says with a smile. “That’s the way we really do get started out, is if you’re shooting something, I’ll come help you and if I’m shooting something, you come help me.”
He adds he’s been impressed with the professionalism of the cast and crew members who have shown up to help.
Time is also extremely important.
“Time is money when you’re making a film,” Veyt says. “If you go overtime for an entire day, you can’t afford to make a seven-day shoot an eight-day shoot cause you only have seven days of food and rides for people on those seven days.”
Luckily for Ruiner, DiVito has kept on top of things, Sant says.
“If he wasn’t so put together the shoot would’ve been much more complicated and harder to do and we would’ve been delayed and behind shots,” says Sant, as DiVito shoots a scene in the background. “But so far we’ve been on schedule.”
Both DiVito and Veyt have guts when it comes to filmmaking, and not just splattered over the scenes they’re working on.
Veyt is so dedicated to the craft he once threw himself under a falling camera on a crane to make sure it didn’t get smashed.
The $150,000 camera was on a dolly on top of an eight-foot crane when the whole thing fell over and plummeted towards the ground with a grand total of roughly $300,000 worth of equipment. Veyt and his fellow crew members used their bodies to break the camera’s fall.
“So all these people dive underneath all this really heavy equipment and there’s bruises and cuts on everyone, but we saved the equipment, and that’s all that mattered,” he says as though announcing a Stanley Cup-winning goal. “Everyone knew, no matter what it cost, no matter what happened to them, get underneath there. Get underneath that camera and save it. And not to mention it had our film in it which is worth even more.”
DiVito’s commitment is easily seen when watching him at work.
“I had to make sure it was really you,” says Naomi Vondell to fellow actor Ed Casagrande for the 10th time. “Jesus Christ you look like shit.”
Vondell isn’t talking about Casagrande’s appearance after a rough day of shooting. She’s in a scene where she and Casagrande play cops meeting to discuss an investigation.
DiVito is trying to get the scene just right, but the light seems to be a bit off. He has Vondell sit with a white board on her lap to reflect more light into her face.
And he shoots it again.
“I had to make sure it was really you . . . .”
Then he moves the camera behind Vondell and shoots it again.
“. . . Jesus Christ you look like shit.”
And maybe they all will once the potentially 15-hour day is over, but the end product will be something DiVito and his cast and crew members can be proud of in spite of blood shortages and lack of manpower.
And if that’s not convincing, just talk to anyone who works with him to see the devotion DiVito brings to his filmmaking. Sant says working with DiVito has been the best part of making the movie.
“All in all, my favourite part of it’s been just the energy and passion that Charlie’s brought to the project and it’s really been contagious across the cast and the crew,” he says.
Divito hopes to have Ruiner done in eight months and screen the film at Halloween on Bloor Cinema downtown. He also wants to get film festival exposure and have the movie released on DVD afterward.
DiVito says audiences should prepare themselves for a big surprise in the plot.
“There’s a huge twist in it that I don’t want to give away . . . and if I’m successful with the twist, then I have done my job,” Divito says. “If people can look at it and then when it happens say, ‘Oh my god. I can’t believe that just happened,’ that’s what my main goal is.”