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Made in Florida: "THE BEACH HOUSE"

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This past spring, my wife and I took a trip to Flagler Beach with our dog, Bandit. We had just released our short film Best Buds, and were looking to get away some place we hadn't been to before.

Once there, I was blown away by the privacy and seclusion of our surroundings. That weekend got me thinking about the next movie I would make.

Over the summer, I began writing what I hoped would be a scary short film that I could show online right before Halloween. Taking a page from Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe, I wanted to tell the story of a writer who becomes terrorized by their own creation. That familiar scenario makes the viewer question whether the on-screen threat is real or simply the imagination of the character. Our 'twist' was to update this classic horror trope into the modern era. That meant turning objects like phones, laptops and tablets into instruments of terror.

With the screenplay finished, it was time to start casting. The way the script was written, it was crucial we find a compelling and versatile lead actor who could bring the depth and emotion needed for the story. Without a strong actor in the central role, there would be no movie.

Sheena Colette plays Andrea Hunter, and she also served as Executive Producer. With Sheena on board, the next step was to apply for a SAG New Media contract, which is a lot of paperwork that ensures actors won't be treated like slaves. Rounding out our SAG ensemble is Florida talent David Mackey, William Haze, Wil J. Jackson, Andrea Crouch and Wendell Kinney as the 'Scarecrow.'

Production ran September 9th-13th in Palm Coast, FL with the beach house also accommodating the crew for the duration of the shoot. Our cinematographer, Brent Reynolds, used the Sony FS-100; a lightweight, large-sensor camera that's great for low-budget filmmaking.

The biggest logistical challenge was directing the Scarecrow. Played by Wendell Kinney, the role required the actor to essentially wear a latex helmet that stuck to his entire face. On the first take, we had him walk out into the ocean, dunk his head underwater and then walk back towards camera. That becomes harder once water gets trapped under your mask and you can't even see where you're going.

The Beach House wrapped on Friday, September 13, allowing us six weeks of editing before Halloween. The majority of post-production work was done by myself in Final Cut X. That included picture editing, sound editing, mixing and coloring. I also created an ambient soundtrack using Logic Pro, my first time using the program. I'm not John Williams, but Apple's Logic made it relatively easy for someone like me to create an appropriate aural mood to match the visuals. We released online on October 25, garnering thousands of viewer impressions since its debut.

On January 10th, The Beach House comes full circle when it screens at the Flagler Film Festival, the same town where we filmed the movie.

The Beach House is also screening a week later in St. Augustine, as part of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF).

Here are all the details:

Flagler Film Festival
Friday, January 10th
Hilton Garden Inn
55 Town Center Blvd
Palm Coast, FL 32164

Saturday, January 18th
Gamache-Koger Theatre
50 Sevilla St.
St Augustine, FL, 32084

The Beach House is also available online:

Thanks for watching!

Patrick Russell


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