by Steve Rotz
We’ve all had moments on set where we thought we were going to die…of anxiety. Whether your talent went missing, your equipment was spooked, or you’ve been locked out of a location, the list can seem never-ending. Lucky for you, you’re not the only one! Below are a couple of professionals who shared their on-set horror stories with us…think yours tops theirs?
Paranormal [Hospital] Activity
“I’ve been making films for 15 years, and guest-speaking about my work recently at Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, Berkeley and USC School of Cinematic Arts, and would be happy to share with you a production horror story. The most memorable is an experience whilst I was shooting my major final year student film, in a nursing home that we dressed to look like a hospital. I’d been told weeks earlier when booking the nursing home that there would be a room free. I was then told the day before that they actually did not have any vacant rooms, but expected someone would likely die so a room would become free. (Which made me then wonder if I was supposed to hope someone would die for my film?)
No one died the morning we set up. But an old woman with Alzheimer’s was wheeled to the piano room while we redressed her room to use it to shoot - without her knowing. The staff said she’d never remember!
It was a very challenging shoot, as it was a 4-minute take, using a dolly that was hand-made, with inexperienced actors, on a very expensive film. And it was a moving death scene in hospital. We could only afford 3 takes.
The elderly woman in the next room’s EKG monitor started interrupting the first take. My production designer found the power-supply and suggested to me that we turn it off…but of course in the end, I couldn’t make myself do it.
Good thing too, because once we finally started shooting, there was a kafuffle in the room, and people running around everywhere. It turns out that woman in the next door had a HEART ATTACK and got to get wheeled out. (Thank goodness we didn’t turn off the monitor moments before - or else we would still be in prison to this day!)
By the 4th and final take we realized we were getting out of budget.”
But we pulled it off, and the scene looked fantastic. See for yourself: http://www.productionhub.com/video/view.aspx?item=22097
The Nightmare Before Coffee Shoppe
“My indie film, Shaded Duality, started with a young couple meeting in a coffee shoppe. It started with a few shots of them running into each other or passing by each other without really noticing. My production manager and I worked to secure a well-known cafe in Minneapolis. The owner was gung ho and seemed really interested in being a part of it.
I scheduled around this, made sure to purchase insurance, spoke with the crew about keeping things clean, etc. We get there at 6 when he’s supposed to let us in and he’s not there. We call and he tells us that he’s given his staff a 4-day weekend but forgot to call us.
We had to rewrite the whole start of the film right on the spot. I only had my actors and crew for certain days and was on a tight deadline. I ended up scrapping a lot of the script and using many outside shots instead. I had to cut many off the outside cafe scenes in post, because of sound.”
“I was a theater student at Butler University from 2003-2005. I was rehearsing a scene with another girl for a student written production - I really didn’t like being in it to begin with, because it was about psychologically abusive relationships that can progress into physical abuse. But the girl was really attractive, so all the scenes that WEREN’T abusive weren’t so bad.
We were rehearsing a kissing scene; and all of us being novices at theater (freshman), our director never taught us how NOT to actually French kiss, so that’s what we were practicing. After a couple tries, we took five, and came back to try again. We were in the midst of the scene when I realized the she tasted like the smell of peanut butter (I only knew the smell, as I am deathly allergic to peanuts so I’ve never tasted them). I stopped, the director cut the scene, and I asked, “what’d you just eat?” She replied, “oh, Alex just gave me a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.”
I jumped up in shock, and sprinted to my dorm room, which was almost a mile away. I knew I had about 15-20 minutes before anaphylactic shock. I made it, injected an epinephrine pen, drank 1/3 bottle of Benadryl, and told my RA. Luckily, the combination of it being a small dose of peanut, and the two drugs which stymied the reaction, helped me to survive without a trip to the ER.
To this day, the actress and I keep in touch and are great friends, but I no longer do theater…”
Submitted by: Anonymous
Former student of Jordan College of Fine Arts at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN. http://www.butler.edu/jcfa/