Behind the Scenes of "Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories"
With the premiere of "Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories" happening tomorrow night at the Owensboro Convention Center (October 29th, 2016 if you are reading this in the future.), I wanted to write something about it. I have never had more fun on a photo project in my life. It is one of those jobs in which you are both happy and sad to see it completed. Shooting behind the scenes in indie films has become my favorite type of photography, eclipsing even my severe weather work. Relax weather fans, I don't plan on giving up storms any time soon. With this latest film however, I sincerely believe I've done some of my best work yet.
For those of you who do not know, "Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories" (which I will refer to as "VoB:HS" in this article from now on to save time) is the sequel to the obviously named anthology "Volumes of Blood" ("VoB") which was the first feature length film I ever shot stills for. Before the first film, I had only shot stills on two short films...both of which were shot at the same location at the same time. To read about shooting behind the scenes of the VoB, CLICK HERE. You can also read about shooting behind the scenes of "The Confession of Fred Krueger" HERE.
Shooting VoB:HS was several times more challenging for me than the original. To start with, it took much longer to shoot. VoB was 5 segments plus a few extra scenes shot over 11-12 days, at around 8 hours a day, spread out over about 5 months. VoB:HS is 7 segments plus extras shot over 24 days, at 8-16 hours a day for me (longer days for some) and spread out over 7 months. I spent maybe 60 hours on set on the first film. I spent more than 200 hours on the set of VoB:HS.
The second challenge was the size of the set. Most of the first film was shot at the Daviess County, KY Public Library. It's wide open space with lines of book shelves provided a lot more freedom of movement and provided quick access to hiding places when needed. VoB:HS was mostly filmed in a two story house that was over 100 years old. Many of the rooms could barely accommodate the actors, director, and camera operator. Knowing when to move in close for shots and when to back off and let the film crew do their job was a crucial skill here. A still photographer on set has one of the most important jobs when it comes to promotion of a film, but has the LEAST important job when it comes to making the film. Because of this, you have to put everyone else's job before your own. This means staying out of everyone's way.
The third challenge for me was lighting. The sets of VoB:HS were much darker than the first film. This works wonderfully for the film itself, but for a still photographer shooting with crop sensor cameras, low light is a huge challenge. 99% of the time, you cannot use a flash on set. This meant a lot more editing time for noise correction. I spent around 80 hours editing photos on the first film. For VoB:HS, it took nearly 350 hours of editing time. Number of edited photos added to that as well. I edited about 1,700 photos for VoB & almost 4,400 for VoB:HS.
The next factor was both a new challenge and a new convenience at the same time so it kind of balances itself out. On the first film, I was shooting with 2 cameras, a Nikon D3200 & a Canon SX130 point & shoot. The point & shoot was so I could shoot silently when audio was recording. For VoB:HS, I was using 3 cameras. My primary camera was a Nikon D7100 with a Sigma 18-50mm 2.8 lens. At least 60% of my photos on set were shot with that camera. I also had my Nikon D3200 with a Sigma 70-300 lens with me as well to capture some up close images when I had to step back a bit due to cramped spaces. I used a 2 camera shoulder harness with one DSLR on either side. I had the 70-300mm lens on set of the first film, but I wasted so much time and lost so many shots because of lens changes that I decided to simply keep both lenses ready to go at all times. I had a third camera around my neck as well, a small Nikon 1J3 mirrorless camera to shoot silently during scenes. Not as good a quality as the DSLRs, it was still a gigantic leap up from the old Canon point & shoot I used for silent shooting on the first film.
With every large photo project I complete, I always make a photo book for my portfolio. I think it is very important to print your work whenever possible. With behind the scenes projects, I always take a photo book to the premiere for the cast & crew to sign. For VoB:HS, I made the largest photo book yet. All my other books are either 8" x 8" or 8.5" x 11" and 20-124 pages. This new book is 11" x 13" and 138 pages. A photo of the front and back cover will be at the very end of this post.
SYNOPSIS FROM THE OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE FOR "VOLUMES OF BLOOD: HORROR STORIES:
"A couple plans to purchase an old home, but would like one last tour before the closing. They’re guided around the estate by a creepy realtor that may have more in store than they bargained for. Searching floor by floor, they begin to discover the remnants of its sordid and terrifying past… A popular 80’s franchise gets a modern upgrade, but at what price? On Halloween night a teen left home alone meets a trick or treater that wants more than just candy. A door to door insurance salesman makes a Thanksgiving house call with monstrous consequences. Andrew and Sara are happily married and plan on spending some quality time together, but something sinister has other plans for their evening. Carol’s Christmas Eve turns into a fight for survival when a vengeful stranger isn’t feeling the holiday spirit. Lastly, a birthday party turns bloody when some unexpected guests drop by at the wrong time. Seven interwoven tales of terror, how many stories does your house have?"
Here is a list of the segments (In the order in which they were filmed):
"Murder Death Killer" - Directed by Nathan Thomas Milliner
poster by Nathan Thomas Milliner
I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to work with. I look forward to seeing them again. I'll leave you with some of my favorite photos from the production. I hope to see some of you at the premiere. I hope to shoot on another project like this in the future. I'd make a career out of this if given the opportunity.