Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rat Rod Rockers! Cast And Crew At Gun Point!

Man what a night! Where to start. We began filming for Rat Rod Rockers! at 5 PM last night. We did a few short running out of doors scenes and running around a parking lot scene- in a building we have complete access too. This sequence is for the ending of Rat Rod Rockers! in which our heroine Danielle (Teri Aslett) and her younger sister (Ivy Sawden) are being chased by a Mob Boss (Kerry Murphy) and two thugs (Cameron Black & Tony Ririe).

We finish shooting the first location and move to a warehouse dock area across the street and right behind a big clothing store. This area used to have a fair amount of drug and vagrant activity, but has recently been cleaned up by constant pressure from the Edmonds Washington Police Department. We had the permission of the warehouse owners to film and I made sure I called the Edmonds PD a week before the shoot, to warn them that we would be filming in the area and be yelling and using blank firing hand guns. The reason I had the foresight to call the EPD was that several weeks prior, during a shoot just a few blocks from the warehouse location, in an abandon house we had rented for the weekend, an area neighbor had called the EPD for what they thought was "domestic violence." Five guys kidnapping a mother and terrorizing two girls in an abandon house. Now that's domestic violence! Anyway I knew if we were shooting guns in the area someone would call it in. I talked directly with the Assistant Chief and a memo was sent out to dispatch and the various Police Departments.

So fast forward to last night. We are moving scene by scene down the dock. It is getting colder by the minute, so we are trying to hurry. Actors dressed in summer clothing (most filming has been during late summer months) jump into heater warmed cars to take off the chill and drink coffee. Then comes the time to start firing the blank pistols at each other. In the scene, our heroine shoots at the bad guys and then runs down the dock and around the corner, out of camera frame into an alleyway. One of the gang members is hit in the arm by a bullet and then, picking up his gun, chases her down the dock and out of frame. We run this several times to get the perfect take. My camera is about forty or fifty feet from where they turn the corner and I have to yell "cut!" very loudly for them to hear me and then reset the scene. We do a perfect take and I yell "Cut! Come on back!" They don't come back. I yell again. They still don't come back. I look at the other actors and crew around me. "Whats up" I think, "what are they talking or taking a break." Then I hear a strange voice yelling- but I can't make it out. My first thought is that a vagrant is mad and yelling because we interrupted his alleyway slumber. I hear Cameron (gang guy who chases heroine) yelling far away, "OK OK- I'm putting the gun down!" My wife peeks around the corner. We all hear a voice yelling- "Get back away from the alley or you will be shot!" My wife comes running over and then I follow her back to the edge of the alley corner. The dock drops off into the alley. I see our heroine (Teri) laying face down with a spot light on her, her blank hand gun cast slightly to the side and away from her body. I see Police Car lights down the alley and hear a big dog excitedly barking. I start to walk around the corner and my wife grabs my arm, "Don't- he said he will shoot anyone who comes into the alley." Now I'm getting worried. I have visions of my actors getting mistakenly killed by Edmond's finest. I frantically call 911. I tell the dispatcher what's going on. She says that she does have a note saying Go-Kustom Films will be filming at the warehouse tonight. I ask her to call the officer directly and that he has my actors face down on the ground. She says she will try. Just then three more police cars pull in. Police swarm us- shot guns and pistols drawn. I start yelling (to the cop in the alleyway), "We are making a movie- it's a movie God Danmit!" I still have dispatch on my cell- as a very adrenaline pumped officer begins yelling at me to put my phone down and put my hands on my head. I and the rest of the crew are stunned and not really taking all this as seriously as the police are. In hindsight I think it was that we are not doing anything wrong- we had no sense of urgency. The man with the shotgun instantly changes my perspective. Funny how a loaded shotgun pointed in your direction will do that. I and the rest of the crew put our hands in the air. Now I have been arrested many times in my youth (stupid misdemeanor stuff) and as a belligerent Punk, had many guns, big and small, stuck in my face by various police departments. I can assure you that it is never something you should take lightly or that you ever get used to. Suddenly another officer runs from his car to the "alleyway of action" and as he jumps up onto the dock drops his gun (in all fairness the officer was running full speed and leapt onto a waist high loading dock not an easy maneuver). A few crew members giggle. He quickly snatches it up and takes position on the dock. The officer with the shotgun is not amused and tells everyone to- "Shut up!" We wait and wait. More yelling and a dog barking down the alleyway. Echos off the cold concrete walls. Time slows to a mere crawl. Then quiet darkness. The crew around me starts small talk with their arms in the air. Finally an officer with stripes on his arm comes around the alleyway corner. "Sebasstian! Is Sebasstian here!" I yell my location with my hands still on my head. He walks over and assures the officer with the shotgun and then tells him to stand down. The Senior Officer turn to me, "You OK." I say yes. I ask if I can go talk to my actors in the alley. He says in a minute, the K9 officer is still talking with them. I ask the Senior Officer, "What happened? I talked with the Chiefs Assistant personally." He explained that most officers had seen the memo about Go-Kustom Films making a movie at this particular warehouse location- however the K9 Unit has a different shift starting time and did not see the memo. He continued by saying that the K9 Unit had heard shots fired and then saw our actor with a bloodied arm. Guns and injury equal various serious shit in a cops mind. Not only that, but that same K9 Unit had been fired upon several months before by a man wearing body armor. The Senior Officer apologized several times and gave me a Police Report Number on his business card. He also thanked us for our patience in the matter and not freaking out and yelling at the officers. He said some people (especially drunk BBQers)do that and make things much worse. The officers started packing up and the cast and crew relaxed. A few were shaken up. Needless to say we lost over an hour of film time and it was getting colder by the minute. Also lit was very hard to get our focus back after an event like this. We finally did and wrapped filming by 11PM. We were all cold and tired but got all the shots we needed and no one got killed. I guess that made it a good night.

I want to add a special thanks too all the cast and crew last night and especially to Ron Foreman, who had to drive his open top, no heater hot rod all the way back home, some forty minutes away in the frigid fall weather.


Biagio of JokeAndBiagio said...

Holy Moly! I will say, nothing quite compares with having a shot gun pointed at you. This actually happened to me in Washington D.C. once (I'll have to do my own post on that one!)

Lessons to be learned here:
1. Working with guns can be dangerous on many levels, not just the obvious gun-handling issues.
2. You guys did the right thing by letting the cops know ahead of time!

All indies, learn from their good example. DO NOT film a gun scene without warning authorities. Even when you do, you might end up face down with a shot-gun up your you-know-where. That's when letting the cops know ahead of time really pays off.

Imagine if the police hadn't have been notified. There would have been arrests. Good for you for doing the right thing, even on an indie budget!

kgmadman said...

Some friends and I did something similar back in high school while shooting a crappy joke video - our little stunt got our whitebred town to call in two helicopters and a SWAT. Ah, wasted tax dollars.

Love the blog. I think I saw your band way back when. You guys play the Showcase out in Corona?

Garrett said...

Holy cow. I'm glad that nobody got hurt and that the cops settled down in time to come to their senses. I guess you can't be too hard on them since they did think they were seeing a real shooting, but wow...!

D.A. Sebasstian said...

I have always had a good relationship with Edmonds Police. We own a small business in Edmonds and over the last four years they have always responded quickly to calls (we've had a few). I've seen them handle vagrants in grocery stores and belligerent traffic violators always efficiently. Last Saturday night- it is to their credit (and my actors) that no one was shot. They secured the area in an intense almost military way and we sat until the Senior Officer told them to stand down. The Officer with the shotgun, though pointing in our direction, had the weapons barrel facing down slightly so as to not accidentally shoot someone. My wife and I were talking about it yesterday and both of us were impressed with the response and how they handled a very very tense situation (though maybe the Edmonds memo system should be reviewed). If we had been a gang, I don't think we would have had much of a chance- especially with the M16 wielding officers by the car blockade. This has to be why crime in Edmonds is on the decrease.

Amir said...

thank God nobody got hurt. I've been through something similar while moviemaking. I understand the COPS point of view too...just lucky that they weren't trigger happy.

Richard Bassett said...

This was hysterical...but I can actually see it happened as I've been on many location shoots where something similiar happens. Love the gun dropping cops...must have been so funny.