Left For Dead - Behind the Scenes

You can see the film by clicking here.

I had this crazy idea. But I had to make sure that the disgusting ruined building was still there. It was late and with no moon, very dark.

Last night, after shooting a High School basketball tournament in Rhode Island I drove my car to an area of Franklin, Massachusetts that is unlike all other areas of Franklin. I went to the old warehouse off Fisher Street and as I pulled up to it, the dark windows were like deep black eyes. I threw it into reverse and got the hell out of there. At least, the next day, the shoot day, was suppose to be sunny. I found the place by accident a few years ago while cross country mountain biking around the town center. I followed some high tension electrical lines to an old rail road bed. I followed the bent and rusted rails to a remote wooded area and there it was. A nasty byproduct of human progress and desertion.

An old, beaten down warehouse. There was a big tree growing right through the middle of it! It had mossy loading docks, old rusted chemical and fuel tanks, and a rotten trailer with a bathtub full of rusty nails. This place was cool. This place was a real world example of what happens to an industrial structure made of iron, concrete, brick and wood after 25 years of neglect. 25 years free of human maintenance. Mother nature was trying to reclaim this as her own. But it was not just nature destroying this structure. Human vandals had taken a toll as well.

warehouse outside

I was all alone.
I had a knife. But would that have made a difference?
I could have been killed.

I parked my black Jeep behind the building so that no one could see it from the tracks. I began to pull my gear from the car around 10 am this morning. It was about 32 degrees F and I was excited to lay some dolly track.


Actually, it was not dolly track at all, it was 1 1/4 inch pvc pipe that I had bought at the Home Depot. I had four ten foot spans and used a smaller diameter (1 inch) pipe as an inline seamless joint attachment. By doing this, I could use the entire 20 feet of pipe if I wanted to. The platform was custom made by me and is a very simple design. A piece of plywood, some bendable metal, and v-channel. I added a scrap of rug to “nice it up”. All of this material can be bought at a hardware store. The dolly has sixteen hard skateboard wheels attached to the metal v-channel with bolts through the wheel axles. This worked great. I used shims and bricks to level the track and even purposely ran it uphill so that the dolly would work with me in the shot! Special production thanks to gravity.

z1u with the letus

My camera was fitted with the Letus35 Extreme. This little wonder is a work of art. I am still not sure what is going on inside the thing to make it work. All I know is that when I attached at $30 28 mm f2.4 old Nikon mount SLR lens to the front, I was amazed at the shallow depth of field. Even in low light with no vignetting!

Cheap lens on the Letus - StarD 24mm f2.8

The secret is to use the camera’s focus to set the “back focus” and then use the SLR lens to set the depth of field and focus near or far. I keep the SLR lens aperture (or iris) wide open. I use the camera’s zoom to push past all the Letus innards and frame up the shot. My camera zoom was set to about 70 percent. I could still use the camera zoom to push through more of the SLR lens if I wanted a tighter shot. The depth of field was unaffected! All vignetting was done with Magic Bullet Looks in post.

warehouse wide 1
warehouse wide 2
warehouse wide 3

This place was huge. Aside from the smell of rotten flesh and the threat of falling bricks, I felt like I was in a Hollywood sound stage.

1000 watt generator

I had to bring my own electricity. This place has been off the grid for years. My Honda EU1000i whisper quiet 1000 watt generator was perfect for this production.

I ran one 500 watt Lowel DP light and positioned it around the warehouse as needed to light dark areas. Other than that, all the light you see was natural. Only two of the shots in this film were lit. The first was the water reflection room and the second was the rusty old iron support.

I did bring a fog machine, but I plugged it into a just-started genny and it shut it down with a grind and a sputter. I should have let the motor warm up for a few minutes before putting it under heavy load. I did not realize that the fog machine was 700 watts! I am pretty sure I burnt out the fogger, so I will have to get another at about 50 bucks. i just wish I was able to add some atmosphere to the place. There were many areas where sunlight was breaking though rust holes in the roof or blasting in from broken skylights. I would have liked to shoot with shallow depth of field including these foggy rays of sunlight. Next time.

warehouse 4
warehouse 5
warehouse 6

Everything is done. I finished the entire project in just one day. Pre-production, production and post production all completed in about six hours. I set a deadline for myself and got her done. I did not include the render or export time for the files. I escaped a potentially hazardous situation shooting a film alone in a place where that psychotic someone would love to kill another human being.

I hope you enjoy the film. I do not plan to be in the next one. I had to be in this first attempt. I will be doing many more with help from my friends.

Oh yeah, what was I running from?

Answer: A drunken box car hobo who dropped his viddles and chased me through the warehouse, I pulled my knife but the raging rail runner shot me with an old German pistol.