Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Set Invasion: Piranha 3-DD!

Set Invasion: Piranha 3-DD!

After thoroughly enjoying the cinematic paean to excess that was Piranha 3-D back in 2010 - which you can read about here - imagine my delight when I found out the sequel was going to be shot practically in my backyard!

And how about that title? Piranha 3-Double D - tells you just what you need to know, and shows they're approaching this just right - with the tongue even more firmly in the cheek! Can't wait! And of course that title means they are shooting the picture in 3-D! Awesome!

I still know a lot of people in the film industry here, so I knew there would be an old pal on the crew somewhere. I'm not going to mention anyone by name as my set visit was truly an invasion as the title implies; despite the usual warning on the call sheet that "all visitors must be cleared with the producers in advance" I just kind of snuck in. I ended up seeing about a dozen familiar faces scattered across the crew in several different departments. Thanks to a couple of them I ended up on set about twenty feet behind camera, and chatting with everyone gave me some good scuttlebutt.

John Gulager

The film is being directed by John Gulager (Feast), and yes, he made sure to get his dad, the great character actor Clu Gulager (Return of the Living Dead) into the flick too. We'll talk more about Clu in a bit. The rest of the cast features several young actors I'm not too familiar with. But, rumor has it that Ving Rhames (whose character seemed to be -spoiler alert- dead at the end of the first movie) and Christopher Lloyd will be popping in for at least some cameo action. David Koechner, the comedic actor perhaps best known for playing Todd Packer on TV's The Office is one of the more recognizable new faces. He's bound to be filling in as the new Screen Weasel, replacing Jerry O'Connell from part one, who of course did not make it to the end credits. My interest did spark when I heard that Katrina Bowden from TV's 30 Rock will be showing up, as she is an A-1 cutiepie!

Katrina Bowden

Here's how I hope she appears onscreen in Piranha 3-DD:

Oh jeepers!

But enough about bikini beauties.

Did I just say that?

Ahem. There are a couple of other stunt casting cameos lined up for the flick - and they seem just perfect for a movie like this...

First up -

Yep, we're all in for a corking good Hoffinization! David Hasselhoff will be lending his talents to the movie, which has me sober as a judge! (That makes one of us, no doubt!)

But the even bigger casting news - yes, they got him, and brought him to my hometown...


Who else?

My blog's Good Luck Charm was here in all his manic glory - and in my two hours on set I got a couple of new GB stories to give Charlie Band's two day odyssey with Gary a run for its money!

Back to Clu Gulager -

- apparently Clu is sharing his scenes with the most dangerous possible co-star - no, not a piranha - Gary Busey! And the set grapevine had it that ol' Gary was enjoying razzing Clu during their scenes - with cries to director John Gulager to "Get word to Clu what the scene's about - he's F-ing it up!" and other witticisms along those lines.

But, before I go farther - let's set the scene - the film was shooting at a local water park the day I commandoed in. (No, not that kind of commandoed - I was wearing undies!)

Here's a local news photo of the location ala movie production:

That's what they call a stakebed truck, used for hauling equipment. In the background are the production trucks, which include the usual like a camera truck, an electric truck, a grip truck; and some newbies to me: like a 3-D truck, and a fish truck, which is apparently harboring the physical representations of the toothy menaces from the title - when they aren't being CGI, that is. I would have liked to have had a peek into that truck, but sadly it didn't happen.

On set the usual hubbub was going on - lots of people scrambling around getting everything ready to shoot. The local water park was converted into the "Big Wet Waterpark" for the movie - I managed to snap a couple of quick shots after production wrapped for the day  - less chance of being thrown off set that way - bless you, cameraphone!

I heard about an interesting scene involving a young couple in a van. The van's brakes give out, and it ends up rolling into the water while the twosome frolic in the back. When the piranha show up, a very suspenseful sequence ensues - the van filling with water, one of the two handcuffed and stuck (naughty naughty) and the other forced to climb on top of the vehicle to escape the biting doom....

One of the most fascinating aspects of my visit was the technology now being used for the shooting, and the 3-D. The movie is being shot in high-def video - and the 3-D is native this time. (In the first movie they shot it like a 3-D movie, but with a 2-D camera due to weight issues - then in post-production they added the 3-D to match. This ended up making for a better 3-D experience than the other two backside/afterthought 3-D flicks I saw of late - Thor and Narnia 3; but even with the forethought it's still not as good as the movie being shot in 3-D from the get go.
Well, while I was hanging out on set, I noticed something about the video monitor being used by camera. Now back in my day - supply the cranky old man voice for me here - video monitors were of the 10-12 inch screen types.

Take a look at what I saw on the set of P-3DD:

I know it's a little hard to see - I was really snapping some of these pix like a spy in a bad movie - but if you look close you can see that there are people grouped around a video monitor - but the video monitor is like 47 inches, and it is in HD and in 3-D - LIVE! There is a box of glasses set up right next to the monitor, and anyone with the right clout can sidle up, throw on a pair of the dark smoky lenses, and watch rehearsals and takes in the same 3-D that the audience will see in the theater months from now!


You could see the image - I saw a lengthy walk-and-talk scene being rehearsed and shot - and the people on the monitor had the weird ghosting around them like you'd see in a 3-D movie in the theater if you took the glasses off. I had no idea this was possible.

Let's see, what else did I see? Well, at one point while I was wandering around the outskirts of the production setup looking for any familiar faces - I saw an effects guy working on something on the back liftgate of his production truck. This is something I saw a lot of back in the day - and now I think we really all should give a shout out to production truck liftgates, which have been the site of creation for a lot of effects we've all enjoyed over the years. In any case, I chatted briefly with the guy - pleasant enough. He wandered away, and I got this shot:



A pal actually got me a closer shot - here it is:

Nicely done - she looks pretty real if you cover up the messy bits. But this bodes well - some of the best gore these days mixes real physical effects with a some CGI mixed in, as opposed to all CGI stuff, at least in my opinion - so I'm happy to see some bloody bodies laying around!

At some point in my travels I get my hands on the day's call sheet - a remarkably concise breakdown on one two-sided sheet of paper listing every needed element for that day's shooting, and serving to give the crew their call time to come to work. I have carved out a few sections of the sheet - minus anything which might be considered too sensitive or stalker-friendly.

Let's take a look at them:

Here's the masthead - and first celebration of that lovely title. Note the "visitors must be cleared" blurb. *ahem!* Also, the safety meeting to be held at call is boilerplate put on all call sheets for liability purposes. Of course, there are safety meetings held for stunt sequences and special effects bits, or anything weird where people might get hurt if they're uninformed, but they don't really call the entire cast and crew in at 7:00am to go over safety issues. A blocking rehearsal means that in addition to saying the lines, the actors (and the camera) will be making the moves that will be made when film rolls later - this gives every department a look at what will be needed to get the shot in the can - lighting, camera angles, set dressing, props, etc. Last note here - see that the call sheet indicates Water Park (No attacks). This means no mass attacks with people running and screaming - at least I assume that is what it means.

Here are the scenes shot for this day - showing how even on a smaller feature like P3-DD they shoot less per day than anything filmed for TV. The page count for this day was 3 2/8 pages - which should account for approximately 3 minutes of screen time in the finished product. TV shows routinely shoot 7-8 pages a day - double this. You can also see the movie takes place across at least four days, as the little squared off column advises which script story day each scene comes from - for continuity purposes.

Here are the sections that specify extras, effects, and props. So they were using only 20 background people that day, and as you can see, some smallish effects stuff with the character Big Dave...oh, and a scene where he has a piranha pulled out of his tushie!!! Huzzah, these guys are definitely not classing the sequel up!

After the show wrapped for the day, I stuck around chatting with my buddies, but realizing time away from set is a premium during a production I tried not to hold anyone up from heading on home. I then went around snapping some photos.

While I was doing this, I saw John Gulager and representatives from the camera and effects crews all mobbed up, discussing the gameplan for the next day. John's first assistant director was right there beside him too, so I avoided this crowd as I slipped around.

Finally, about the time I'd gotten what I thought I could without getting hollered at, I noticed that Mr. Gulager had just been left alone. I seized the opportunity to walk up and introduce myself. He was personable, and seemed pleased when I announced myself a fan of his and the first Piranha 3-D flick. We chatted for a few moments; when asked about the release date he rather ruefully confirmed Thanksgiving of this year - wow that's not a lot of turnaround time! I commiserated with him about this, then I wished him luck with the shoot and went on my merry way.

I really had a good time invading this set - and got further in than I initially planned to, or thought I would. I am really looking forward to this flick, and I'm thrilled I only have to wait until around Thanksgiving!

And til next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!


  1. Very interesting set visit, I mean "invasion.' Ha, it was quite entertaining.

    I commend you for your earnest documentation-. That's pretty cool that they're filming Piranha 3DD so close to you. You took some good photos even if they came via some Bond-style covert operations; the camera phone is vital.

    I learned some new stuff about movie productions, so I thank you for your detailed rundown.

    And yes, truck liftgates deserve a shout out!

  2. Awesome post, Craig! How cool is that! I learn so much about movies from you. Your blog is educational and VERY entertaining. I haven't seen Gary Busey since Celebrity Apprentice. He was a fan favorite, and totally nuts. At least on camera. Don't know what he's like IRL.

    David Hasselhoff? COOL! Great pics.

  3. Very cool post, Craig! I loved all the pictures! Well, the "dead" people were quite a surprise as I scrolled down. I can't wait to see this movie now!

  4. Matthew - thanks so much! Huzzah truck liftgates!

    Luana - Nicer things could not have been said - you have my gratitude! Yeah, actually, despite my snarky comment - a video clip posted on Hasselhoff's website showed him enjoying some boating here on a day off - and he looked very hale and hearty in it. One of my friends on set described him in person as a "sweetheart." Yes, a she ;) And according to everyone who witnessed his three days on set, Gary Busey is batcrap crazy and willing to share it with anyone within earshot.

    Sharon! I'm glad you liked the pix! I didn't get anything earth shattering, but I thought they turned out fairly good from a phone - so thank you for commending them! Movie's scheduled for November! Yeeehaah!

  5. I loved all the behind the scenes pics! That girl did look poretty real. Gah.

  6. This is awesome! I love movies where all the pretty bikini girls get hacked, stabbed. dismembered, axed, devoured...in other words the best part is watching them get slaughtered. Judging from those pics, Katrina will look even better missing a few chunks. ;)

    I cannot wait to see this. November is perfect, it'll be the anti-Twilight...now there's a film crying out for a few cast members to lose body parts.

    That is so cool you got to talk with Clu. He's a wonderful, memorable actor. And I love the pics from around the set. I hope I have little luck when they bring Superman to town later this summer.

  7. Jennifer - good to see you - yeah - that piece of feminized rubber now represents the goriest this blog has gotten! But all for a good cause! ;)

    Melissa - glad you enjoyed it - yes, it is fun to see the pretty people "chewed up and spit out" sometimes! Especially in 3-D! Hope that Superman shoot pans out for you! Cheers!

  8. Looks awesome! Thanks for sharing this :)

  9. Well, I've seen it (purchased it on FB) and... yeah, it wasn't exactl< my cup of coffee. But I give it another chance, since I heard that I might get the chance to see it on the big screen in September *yay*