As you’ve probably noticed with the amount of vintage posters we’ve recently added to the “BUY STUFF” section of this website, we’ve been re-organizing and sifting through the many storage units and production vaults here at ArieScope. It’s been a great walk down memory lane as we uncover boxes and boxes of wardrobe, props, shot-lists, storyboards and drives full of set photography from the various features, TV shows, and short films that we’ve made over the past 15 years. Whenever I can, I hope to try and share “20 Behind The Scenes Photos” that you’ve likely never seen from some of our past projects. (Some of these photos even I had never seen until uncovering these drives!) Each of the below photos tells a bit of the story of the production of SPIRAL, which we shot in November and December of 2005 in dreary Portland, OR. I was still in post-production on HATCHET when we shot this film, though the story of SPIRAL really begins about two weeks into principal photography of HATCHET.
After shooting the scene in HATCHET where Joel David Moore throws up on-camera, he approached me about potentially co-directing a film that he and Jeremy Danial Boring wrote together called SPIRAL. (I guess you just can’t abuse some actors enough on some sets as they keep coming back for more!) Though I was flattered to be asked, my initial plan was to give the script a courtesy read and then politely decline as “co-directing” is a sure fire recipe for disaster. As exciting as the prospect was of making another film so quickly with essentially the same crew from HATCHET and keeping the party going (not to mention having another opportunity to work with Joel whom I absolutely adore), there was just no way in hell I was going to “co-direct” anything. Ever.
Then I read their script.
What was that I said about “co-directing”? It’s not such a bad idea, right? I love “co-directing”! Point is, I just couldn’t say no even though I so badly wanted to. Only a fool wouldn’t jump at the chance to make a movie like this as movies like this just don’t get made often enough and scripts this great don’t fall into your lap too many times in your lifetime. SPIRAL was completely different from HATCHET in every single possible way and I felt like it was a great opportunity career-wise to come out of the gate swinging with two completely different sides of myself artistically. With the hype and excitement that HATCHET already had going behind it, I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as the “comedic gore-fest guy” and SPIRAL was the script that could help me accomplish that. Joel and Jeremy had crafted a fantastically understated psychological thriller built on a deeply emotional core filled with incredibly interesting characters and the style of the film was just dripping off the pages in my mind. I just had to say yes.
So, how did I survive co-directing? Two ways. First was that Joel and I did our homework and took every precaution we could to not hit the typical pitfalls that come from having two captains on a set. Every shot, every nuance, every character beat, and every step of our battle plan was tirelessly plotted out months before we ever got up to Portland. This way Joel could remain completely part of the vision of the film and have every bit of artistic say as I would have, and most importantly, we wouldn’t have to lose precious time battling it out on set while everyone stood around and waited for the directors to actually, you know…direct. Secondly, since Joel was almost in every shot of the movie, he could trust that the plan was being executed as discussed and immerse himself in his acting duties without having to constantly watch playback to make sure that the movie was coming together the right way. Of course we still had our moments on set, though the only “show stopping” debate came from a difference of opinion between co-writer Jeremy Boring and myself when it came time to shoot the final scene between “Mason” and “Amber”. The “you can’t leave now” scene. I won’t get in to the particulars here since chances are strong many of you have not yet seen the film, but we wound up having to shoot the scene on another day so that we had time to properly flush out our debate and discuss how the beats would play out at length. In the end, the scene turned out brilliantly (and not just because I got my way, I swear) and there was no love lost. In fact, our heated debate only made the scene better, The fact that Joel and I have continued to work together on a regular basis (we’ve worked together in one way or another on 9 projects over the past 8 years and I think that some of my best work comes from the projects I do with Joel) proves that we indeed survived the dreaded “co-directing” curse, and the finished movie speaks for itself. If you haven’t seen SPIRAL yet I implore you- no, fuck that, I BEG you to check it out as soon as humanly possible. ”Proud” isn’t a strong enough word and I will always look back at the making of this film as one of the biggest honors of my career. I’m so lucky that Joel and his producing partners invited me and my family at ArieScope (which has since grown to include everyone that was part of SPIRAL) to take part in this extremely special movie- as it’s not every day that you get to try and channel Hitchcock and make an art-house film exactly how you want to make it… and with an analog live jazz score to boot.
SPIRAL premiered at the 2007 Santa Barbara Film Festival (where we took home Kodak’s coveted “Gold Vision Award”) and then opened in US theaters (to great critical reception but no advertising or fanfare) in February of 2008, just 5 months after HATCHET opened in US theaters. Though many critics and fans cite SPIRAL as one of our best made films, sadly it is probably the least known out of all of our work. Though largely due to the fact that SPIRAL is a slow burn art-house psychodrama (audiences today would rather watch a flashy remake or a giant tentpole blockbuster with fighting toys as the box office proves again and again), part of the reason I think SPIRAL didn’t break out was that it was released so closely behind HATCHET. At some festivals, both films would play on separate nights and the moment the Q&A for SPIRAL would begin or the moment I would sit down with a journalist to discuss the film, all anyone wanted to talk about was “Victor Crowley”. A high-class problem to have, of course, but at the end of the day SPIRAL and HATCHET are not just worlds but full-on universes apart and there is just no comparing the two films on any level. With an incredible cast including Joel David Moore (HATCHET, AVATAR), Amber Tamblyn (SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, THE RING), Zachary Levi (CHUCK, THOR 2), and Tricia Helfer (BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA), as well as stunning cinematography by Will Barratt, brilliant camera work by BJ McDonnell (who would go on to be promoted as director of HATCHET III), and a GORGEOUS all-jazz score by Todd Caldwell and Michael Herring… it has been such a joy to watch this film be discovered by more and more fans over the past few years.
Here are 20 behind the scenes stills that you’ve likely never seen before. I only included descriptions where I felt I had to explain as the point of this is to let the pictures tell the story. For one reason or another, these were the 20 images that jumped out at me as I sifted through folders and folders of set photography by David Muller. Enjoy, and remember… “it’s all about contrast.”
Zachary Levi remains the best Executive Producer I’ve ever worked with. Not only did he do an exceptional job acting in SPIRAL (“Berkeley” is my favorite character of his to date), but he also worked tirelessly to keep the crew happy (keeping spirits up), well fed (driving around Portland at all hours of the night to get specific food requests whenever called upon), and extremely entertained (he became somewhat of a karaoke legend at the bar across from our hotel). He has since gone on to sing in Disney’s TANGLED, to perform at the Oscars, and is currently starring in FIRST DATE on Broadway. I like to think that it all started here. This cat nap that David Muller’s camera caught him taking was so well deserved.
More Behind The Scenes Photos from other films coming to this blog soon! In the meantime, buy SPIRAL here if you don’t already own it!