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Friday, March 11, 2011

Trap: What's up with that?


After Edges of Darkness finally hit the US in 2009, producer Robert Bravo and I had the opportunity to make Trap. By “opportunity” I mean we had a distributor (for legal reasons has to remain nameless) who provided us with a letter of intent to distribute, making Trap the 1st feature I ever started with guaranteed (or so I thought) distribution. Alls we had to do was make it and make it not suck.

I honestly don’t recall when I wrote Trap. It had to be sometime between the summer of 2008 and spring of 2009. It was most likely between January and March of 2009.  Edges of Darkness was finally getting out, and was actually getting some decent press. It seemed like a good time to do a follow-up.

I was determined not to repeat past mistakes:
1. Trying to hard to stretch beyond my budgets with set pieces too big in scope to pull off.
2. Rushing through the script.
3. Having too many characters.
4. Not spending enough time with the actors on set and in rehearsal.

I also wanted to do something different. I had made 2 movies prior; both were horror, both featured zombies. I decided to tackle something a little more dramatic and that took place in the “real” world. No supernatural beings or fantastical situations.

The original proposed budget for Trap of 4k. Yeah, it was small. (Trap is the cheapest ((money wise)) movie that I’ve ever shot). The script revolved around 3 main characters: An aging kidnapper, his younger partner and their teen victim. The drama was more character than action centered and it took place in one interior location. A small cabin. In the 1st draft we never leave the inside of the cabin. I finished the script and was pretty happy with it. It was definitely a step up from my previous work. We decided to go ahead with production.

I did 6 days of rehearsal with the 3 main actors, in different combinations. It was a really cool rehearsal experience for me. I think we did a lot of good work there. I had an especially good repartee with Alan Perada and Ashton Blanchard.

We shot over three weekends. The 1st was dedicated to the opening sequences and one later sequence which all take place outside of our main locale. About a month before shooting we decided to open the movie up a bit and created a new sequence that takes place outside of the cabin. The sequence involves Walter’s (the main character) daughter. It helped to further develop him and sets up his final scenes nicely. At the same time it gives the whole movie a bit more scope.

The 2nd two weekends were shot at the cabin (int) location. Then we did one more half day up in the Malibu hills. Our actual cabin was in Downtown Hollywood.****Also one final shot was picked up nearly a year later, an insert of a gagged Tennessee (done with a body double), but more on that later.

The shoot was 6 and half days and we got everything.

I started editing in the middle of June. I finished my cut around the middle of August (sound design and all).

We then take the movie to the fore mentioned distributor. You know, the one who guaranteed they were going to release it? Well, they didn’t. Turns out they objected rather strongly to the subject matter. Kinda funny seeing as they had the script for nearly six months. Anyway, they passed. No hard feelings. I’m not bitter.

The 2nd distributor we talked to I had contact with over Edges of Darkness. They just expressed interest a little late. They took a look at Trap and “loved it” “couldn’t wait to work with me.” “couldn’t believe what we pulled off at the budget.” I’m like, “Great how much will you give me for it?” They say “well… we can’t really sell this. No name actors. Not enough blood, sex and nudity.” Then with a straight face it’s suggested that I “cut creature scenes into Trap, making it a horror movie.” Trap was drama about a middle-aged kidnapper falling in love with his teenaged victim. How on earth do creatures figure into it? For a half day, I thought about it. Coming up with some half=baked From Dusk till Dawn-esque scenario, but quickly decided against it.***this very quickly became the inspiration for “Monsters in the Woods.”

Then more complications. My producer had a connection with music great Chubby Checker and he agreed to give us the use of one of his songs. Now, this took us a few months from his word to getting something on paper. In the meantime, we had stopped shopping the movie. It was around mid-December when we finally got it on paper.

We decided to wait till the 1st of the year 2010 to start sending out screeners. About the 2nd week of January we get an email from someone connected to the Chubby Checker song. Turns out we had the duplication, but not the synchronization rights to the song. In short, we either had to pay an amount we did not have or drop the song.
We chose the latter. Now we had to find a new song.

I put a temp song in from Cudacade

Somewhere in here we explored the option of self-distribution, but without the proper funding to back it, self-distribution is not such a hot idea. So we jumped into Monsters in the Woods.

Also, in my downtime in Monsters pre-production, I tooled around a bit more with the edit. I decided a needed an insert shot of Tennesse, bound and gagged inside of the bag. The girl I was seeing at the time bared a strong resemblance to Ashton, so I put her in the bag and grabbed the shot real quick outside my apartment.

Nearly 8 months later, as I’m editing Monsters in the Woods, Alonzo Jones cuts a blues album. I ask to take a listen, cuz I’m looking for some blues tracks for Monsters (I ended up taking two). One of the tracks also fits Trap perfect!

But, I’ve got exactly zero interest from the producers of Monsters in the Woods, to push Trap. So, now Trap is done. I can’t package it with Monsters in the Woods, but am sending out screeners to distributors and film festivals. I hope to garner some attention on the festival circuit later this year and catch some distributors eyes.

It’s a good flick. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I’m eager to share it.

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