&ot » 07. Preproduction The Attic Door

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Looking Back: The iChat

The following entry, published on May 1st, 2007, describes the challenges of working long distance and the blessing of video conference technology. Read the orginial post here.

Erica Harrell
Producer

One of the most challenging, yet intriguing aspects of producing A Monster in the Attic is communicating with crew despite their physical distance. Though the film will be shot in Utah, our crew is spread out across the country.

Since Danny Daneau, Alex Eastwood (production designer) and Bryce Hudson (unit production manager) all live in Central Florida and I live in Los Angeles with Eric Ernst (writer) and Scott Uhlfelder (director of photography), we take full advantage of communication technology in this digital age. As dedicated Mac users, Danny and I often use the video conferencing feature found on Apple’s iChat program, that allows us to communicate face to face in real time. Since there is a 3 hour time difference, we’re often communication either really early on the West coast, or really late on the East.

This challenge will only increase once we move to Utah for production, as we will then be spread across three different time zones. Though Kanab is a seven-hour drive from Los Angeles and two days from Florida, communication is made easy through advancements in technology.

Eric Ernst (writer) Danny Daneau (director) Erica Harrell (producer)
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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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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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Behind the Attic Door – Video Podcast Teaser Trailer

Danny Daneau
Director

Today is an exciting day for the team here at www.theatticdoormovie.com. Below you can watch the teaser trailer to Behind the Attic Door, the video podcast series beginning in the Fall of 2008 documenting the behind the scenes journey of our film. The video clip is also introduced by yours truly.

Soon you’ll be able to subscribe our website to your iTunes, Yahoo Podcast, Podcast Alley, podcastready, and blubry accounts. This means anytime a new episode our video podcast is uploaded to our site, it will download to your computer automatically.

The Attic Door is officially mulitmedia.


Sneak Peak – Behind the Attic Door from The Attic Door on Vimeo.

[display_podcast]

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Scouting Grande Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Danny Daneau
Director

We had the tremendous fortune to be granted the opportunity to shoot all of our exterior sequences on the Grande Staircase-Escalante National Monument. In September of 1996, President Clinton designated this to be first monument administered by the Bureau of Land Management, rather than the National Park Service. There hasn’t been a film crew permitted to shoot on these lands for decades and now we were granted full access.

Even after the first two scouting trips, I frequented the property as often a I could, trying to discover it’s most filmic of areas. I would never be able to cover the entire grounds, or even a fraction at that, because the national monument spans over 1.7 million acres of southern Utah.

Grande Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Danny Daneau scouts more of Grand Staircase
only two days away from production.

Map Grade Staircase-Escalante

Map of Grade Staircase-Escalante in relation
to the state of Utah.

[tags]Grande Staircase-Escalante, National Monument, Bill Clinton, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, film scouting[/tags]

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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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Erica Silverman Casting

Erica Harrell
Producer

Erica Silverman or Erica #2 as I call her was the casting director for both of my films, Baker and A Monster in the Attic.

As a lot of people will say in Hollywood its who you know who can help you where you want to be. I met Erica Silverman on my very first job in Los Angeles. I was a production assistant on the short lived CBS Sci-Fi drama THRESHOLD. Erica was working as the casting assistant under Ronnie Yeskel. (Who I accidentally threw off of a golf cart of my second day of work) Erica and I quickly became friends as she is one of the nicest people I have ever met. A native of North Dakota, Erica graduated from USC’s Film School in 2005 and started working with Ronnie.

I’m sure as many people in LA do, I asked Erica if she was going to cast my movies, when I had movies. She said yes, but I think she was a bit surprised when I came to her over a year later with not just one film, but two. Not only that, but the first film Baker had a huge ensemble cast of 18 characters with many of them being senior citizens. Just as bad, A Monster in the Attic had only two children who had to carry the whole film. As casting director, this was an enormous task to find the perfect two.

Madison Davenport
Picture of Madison Davenport Auditioning with
Erica Silverman for the role of Caroline.

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