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Behind the Attic Door – Episode 1 – A New Frontier

We are proud to present the very first episode of Behind the Attic Door.

Documentary filmmakers Chris Walker and Roman Safiullin have created seven episodes about a group of young filmmakers, on the verge of realizing their childhood dreams, who must journey to the desolate American West in order to realize their vision.

Please stay tuned to the blog every week for a new episode. Even more, help us spread the word. Link our video to other blogs, forums, and social network profiles (our facebook and myspace). Leave us reviews and ratings! Thanks for the unwavering support and we hope you enjoy.

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Behind the Attic Door – Episode 1 – A New Frontier from The Attic Door on Vimeo.

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Production Design – Point of No Return

Alex Eastwood
Production Designer

Fifth part in a series. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Part 5,

I remember a very long two days of driving from Orlando to Utah. This road trip was enjoyed by Bryce, the Line Producer, and myself, in an absurdly overpacked SUV. We split the driving duties, which I admit, Bryce drove more than I, and I read a book that I had purchased at a Good Will thrift store for 99 cents titled, Into The Wild. I am not trying to illustrate some underlying cosmic connection between my approaching adventure and this book, but the random timing of my reading, and the adventurous wanderlust of the book’s subject, coincided in such a way to make our filming in the Western desert mountains almost divine. I was nervous and thankful.

The Parry Lodge We arrived about a month before shooting and settled into our new home at the Parry Lodge. The rest of the Art Department arrived the following day and we immediately started having meetings and preparing for the unexpected, or at least, the unexperienced. Lack of communication will sink even the grandest of ships, so I had decided early on to have Art Department meetings everyday, and we collectively discussed what needed to get done, and who would be assigned what tasks.

Joshua Zeigler, the Construction Coordinator, showed up from Salt Lake City and the both of us got along immediately, which was good since we both were living in the same room for a month. While the rest of the Art Department was busy with their tasks, Josh and I delved into all the sets that needed to be built for the film. We poured over all the sketches, drafts and blueprints I had and started making a list of all the supplies we would need. This was the transition from concepts on notepads to thousands of dollars of lumber and tools. We became regulars at the local hardware store, and though the projects we were starting to undertake were massive, Josh always had a professional coolness, sense of humor and a realist’s point of view that instilled calmness. I was especially glad of this because Josh was literally going to be the only person building 95% of all our sets!
Concept of House - 1 Concept of House - 2 Drafting - Interiors Flats Drafting - Interior Upstairs Elevation Drafting - Interior Upstairs Overhead Drafting - Exterior Build Overhead 1st Floor Drafting - Exterior Build Bird Eye Drafting - Exterior House Front Drafting - Exterior House Side

Feature filmmaking is an interesting creature. At first everyone is excited to make movies and willing to work long days with little recognition. However, what happens when you enter week two of an eight week process, with no day off in sight? What happens when you are just at the beginning of an enormous project and you’ve never felt so overwhelmed and alone in your life?

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Production Design – Time for Fire

Alex Eastwood
Production Designer

Fourth part in a series. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Hello everyone. It has been a very long time since my last post and I am excited to get back into explaining the inner workings of being the Production Designer on A Monster in the Attic!! Here we go…

Part 4, I think.

Concept Sketches of Exterior House So I returned from Utah feeling accomplished and overwhelmed. Many of our locations were found, but we also had decided to build the exterior house, which meant I needed to befriend some architects and construction coordinators.

Back in Orlando I started meeting with my Art Department to discuss gathering props, set dressing, and preparing for the adventure of filming in Utah. I was also sketching ideas for the farmhouse and beginning to meet with architects who would be able to draw up the blueprints.

Advisor Phil Peters at Monument Valley, Utah Some of the most intense parts of preproduction were the continual meetings I had with Phil Peters. As I mentioned before, he is one of the most integral reasons why my participation in this film was such a success. With that being stated, I also want to point out that every single time that Phil would graciously take time to meet with me I would leave those sessions either depressed from how much work I still had to do, exhausted from how much information he would unload on me, or hysterical from the amount of pressure he put on me to succeed. In hindsight it was exactly what I needed, but it also was the beginning of many anxious and sleepless nights.
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Monster Set Finds New Home

Danny Daneau
Director

Most films come into a region, put their heart and soul into building and creating, only having to destroy their work afterwords, leaving the only lasting record in the film shot. We are fortunate enough to not share that fate. In the center of town of Kanab, Utah is a movie museum / restaurant called Frontier Movie Town. After wrapping on our film, Cowboy Ted of the Kane County Film and Tourism Commission, arranged a crew of locals to drive to our remote location, 45min out of town, and dissemble our existing set. They then moved and rebuilt it at Frontier.

Monster Front Porch Movie Set at Frontier Movie Town

It may not look like much now, but this front porch set will be soon refurbished and made to look as it will appear in our film. This means the hard work of production designer, Alex Eastwood, and the rest of the Monster Team will not be forgotten. At least not in Kanab.

[tags]A Monster in the Attic, Daneau, Movie Set, Frontier Movie Town, Kanab, Utah, Kane County[/tags]

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Design Location Scout

Alex Eastwood
Production Designer

The Utah desert in February can be a mighty cold place, especially if you are a Florida conditioned person. Underdressed and overly ambitious, Danny, Erica, Eric, Bryce and I were standing in southern Utah deciding on where the story of A Monster in the Attic was going to be told.

Part 3

Alex and Erica studying map. For all the complexities that this film has, its heart is a story that is based on minimalism. It is a story of two children surviving under bleak circumstances, having to live each day in bare preparation for the next, and doing all of this framed in the ever important third character of this film; the geography of southern Utah.

Click Picture for Full Screen View

With our limited budget for scouting, the five of us had one weekend to decide where the entire story of this film was going to take place. While we were out there we exhausted all the resources we had in trying to find all the locations that were described in the script. This included all the interiors that take place in the children’s house, an abandoned farmhouse in the middle of the red rock desert, and all the exterior locations surrounding.

The Kane County Office of Tourism and Film Commission was wonderful in providing us with ample information of the surrounding area. Southern Utah is a gorgeous place and once we drove around and explored this backdrop we were quickly checking exterior locations off of our list. The next great treasure we came across was a place in Kanab called the Heritage House. It is a historical house in the town whose architecture and lifestyle has been preserved since the turn of the century. We were amazed. It was absolutely perfect for all of our interior shots. It almost seemed that the script was written with this place in mind, however, this was the first time any one of us had ever seen it. We knew we had found all of our interiors, but the outside architecture, coupled with the fact that it was located in downtown Kanab, was not going to help us with our exterior house scenes.

Heritage House Winter 2006

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Art Department Preproduction

Alex Eastwood
Production Designer

Second part in a series. To read “Part 1″ click here.

I had talked it over with my wife, budgeted our finances to make sure we wouldn’t be homeless and made the necessary arrangements to take time off of work; I was officially the Production Designer of The Attic Door.

Part 2…

Filmmaking can be broken down into three categories; Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production. When most people think of the fun and exciting life of a filmmaker. they are usually thinking of the world of Production where all the filming takes place. They might also be thinking of Post-Production, where all the pieces of filming are brought together, assembled and polished into the final product that you see in the theater. However, I think very few people are enamored by, or even aware of, the world of Pre-Production where almost everything you see in the film is conceptualized, researched, illustrated, budgeted, created, collected, sewn, constructed, painted and many other verbs that would take to long to list. The reason I hold this belief is because before I did this film I was that person.

Alex Eastwood Scouts
Alex Eastwood takes notes on the first location
scout in March of 2007.

It is amazing how naive I was at the beginning of this project, and also how blessed I was to be befriended by the very talented and experienced Production Designer and film professor, Phil Peters. I was beginning to meet regularly with Danny in January, and these meeting would often times be with Phil who was one of Danny’s film advisors. Phil was a Hollywood production designer for many years for film and television and had infinite amounts of wisdom and experience to draw from. Even more, he could relate to this project as his career started in Australia where he was use to working in small towns, in extreme environments, with a very tight budget. Phil helped guide me through the necessary steps of pre-production and truly filled in gaps that my inexperience was leaving wide open. Even though I was so excited to go out to Utah, start building sets and get the camera rolling in production, I quickly learned that one of the best kept secrets to any successful film is pre-production.
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Alex Eastwood, Production Designer

Alex Eastwood
Production Designer

Hello to everyone out there on the World Wide Web. My name is Alex Eastwood and I am the Production Designer for the feature film, A Monster in the Attic. I am writing a series of blogs based on my experience on this film, and I will try and tell this story as chronologically and truthfully as possible…

Goodnight Charlie Set
Alex Eastwood on the set of Goodnight Charlie (2004)
A Short Film by Danny Daneau

Part 1…
To begin, I have known Danny for ten years. We went to the same high school, and later to the same film program at The University of Central Florida. We have worked together as filmmakers for over five years and his passion for adventurous and endearing storytelling has always lured me to work with him again. He approached me in January to be the Production Designer, which kind of took me by surprise. For starters, I had always worked as his cinematographer on prior projects, and secondly, I had never worked in an Art Department before (let alone been in charge of one)! I think I would have told anyone else that I couldn’t do it, but the chance to work on a feature film, and with Danny again, was quite tempting. I told him to give me a week to think it over.

Eastwood November Guest
Alex Eastwood on the set of November Guest (2005)
A Short Film by Danny Daneau

I had absolutely no experience when it came to production design or to feature filmmaking. I had a full time job that I couldn’t quit, and preproduction was going to add another full time job to my schedule. And I had a wife that I was going to be separated from for 7 weeks if I took this job. (Oh yeah, my right wrist and left elbow were broken from a Christmas skateboarding accident, so I physically wasn’t in the highest spirits either). My wife and I were going over what it would mean if I committed to this job; the chaotic schedule, the financial stress and the marital strain to name a few. Knowing all of this, she was the one who pushed me the most to do it. Even though it was going to be one of the hardest things we’ve done, she knew that filmmaking was my passion, and that only from true risk and hard work came true reward and quality. So with her love and support I felt empowered and ready to tackle the world. I told Danny I would be his Production Designer and it felt great to be back in the filmmaking saddle. The only thing left to do was figure out what a Production Designer actually does…

[tags]Production Design, filmmaking, University of Central Florida, UCF, Marriage, Love[/tags]

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