Fun Size Horror premiered the trailer for ISLAND ZERO, a feature film from best-selling author Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles) who wrote and executive produced the monster-thriller. Inspired by classic films like The Thing, the movie is a truly independent production that should inspire other filmmakers. The director, Josh Gerritsen, and producer, Mariah Klapatch, have provided us with exclusive commentary into the making of the feature. Below is Part 2 of the commentary series featuring Klapatch's reflection on the production.
Watch Trailer & Read Part 1 HERE!
Production of ISLAND ZERO - Mariah Klapatch, producer
"When I left Los Angeles to spend the winter in Maine producing a horror movie I was scared. Mostly I was scared I would be cold. While I grew up in Maine I hadn’t lived there for nine years. I’d been living in sunny, warm LA where we put on our sweaters if it dips below 68. To prepare for the experience I’d been foregoing the sweaters even though it got down to the 50’s! That preparation was secondary to the support I received from friends. One of the most wonderful gifts of support came to Maine in the mail from my wonderful and talented friend Chell. She has a little saying and she’s taken it to the next level by making pins that say it: “It’s Probably Cool.” I put the pin on and kept it on every day until we finished post-production. It became my mantra and soothed my nerves on countless occasions.
The term independent film gets tossed around a lot and often without reliable meaning. On our movie we were fully independent, allow me to explain: We were funded by a single source, we did not pre-sell distribution and we shot so physically far from any entertainment hub that even incidental influence was mostly avoided. If we wanted to make a large creative change, we made it. If we wanted to cast local actors with no “box office clout” for the supporting roles, we did it. So, what does that mean? The upside is that we had both creative and organizational freedom. The downside (which is only a downside if you spurn hard work, grit and exhaustion) is that I did a lot myself.
I plugged along in Maine every day on locations, talent, crew, catering, boats, budget, and development. Sometimes the first fire would hit when I checked email in the morning. Sometimes by 10am there would be several. These crises were as consistent as waves—un-relenting, steady and of unpredictable size and force. Every day was a rollercoaster but what I learned is that, “it’s probably cool.”
When we began prep in earnest I decided it would be good to do a team development day. I hired my mother, an organization development consultant, to work with our core team: Tess, Jacob, Josh and myself. If we were going to shoot this script with this budget in Maine we needed our team to be highly functional. So the four of us got together for a day and worked through what kind of movie we wanted to make, what our core values would be, what each of our intentions and roles would be and how we planned to handle conflict. If any of us had doubts or worries they came out that day. I can say with certainty that without that team building day the whole experience would have been vastly different, if it had happened at all. That this is not done before every production everywhere is a shame. cont'd below
Toward the end of pre-production the cavalry arrived: Mark Farney our DP and Candice Kuwahara our Line Producer (aka the person who kept me from eating myself from the inside out every day). Things got easier, not easy, but easier. Soon after that other crew began work and before I knew it we had an actual movie to shoot!
Shooting in Maine in winter is a mixed bag. On the one hand every day is a potential disaster: sickness runs rampant, equipment malfunctions, roads that lead to locations may be impassible on the days they’re needed. On the other hand, Maine in winter is known as “off-season.” This means that the community is smaller, rental prices are down and come March folks start to get cabin fever so having a movie in town is fun! We got very lucky and the winter we shot was one of the mildest in recent memory. We didn’t need to re-schedule a single day. It was, truly, a miracle!
We shot nineteen days of principle photography and we went into crew OT only three times. Keeping to a schedule goes a long way to earn the respect of talent and crew. They know when the creative team is being over-indulgent, they know when production is prioritizing the wrong things. Prioritizing the well being of the people on set is the most important thing to me. As a producer I’m not saving lives, or the environment, or really doing anything altruistic. I’m producing entertainment because it’s fun. People shouldn’t be made to suffer unnecessarily for that. One of the ways I wanted to show that intention was by providing three meals a day instead of the traditional two. If we finished on time food was provided someplace comfortable. If we went over it was provided on set, but either way, dinner was provided. It was something made known in the interview process and it was written in every employment agreement. Food goes a long way on a film set. Don’t be a cheap a-hole about it and don’t let anyone else be either."
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