The CIVIL WRATH Diaries: Part 3
By Mother Brain
February 9, 2014
The real Florida weather had finally arrived and it was perfect. 73 degrees with low humidity. John’s neighbor, Ralph, and I were the first to arrive at the trail location where Civil Wrath was finally going into production. John arrived 20 minutes later along with Joseph, Karl, and Marc. While our production was not as high end as what I was used to in New York, we had a wide variety of tools necessary to make the location into a full blown Hollywood movie set.
As the graveyard set was being put together with the wooden crosses and burial sign, I had to leave set briefly to find my actor friends, Dan and Allison, who were by coincidence just 20 minutes outside Inverness. I had invited them personally to help us out on the shoot and had to direct them to the trail since it was so far off the road from the rest of town. Having the extra hands on set added to the fact that we had five different model Handycams arranged to get maximum coverage of the scenes.
We started getting the cameras set up to get the picture settings as close as possible and loading up the prop pistols with ring caps. While this went on, I got into my costume which consisted of a collarless shirt, a leather vest I bought from a flea market in high school, gun belt, cowboy pants, Calvary hat, and my old leather boots which I once used for a Punisher fan movie. John handled my makeup so I could look like I was in my early 40s. He powdered the sides of my hair, added touches of grey highlights to my sideburns and mustache, and made up my eyes to be heavier. It was an extraordinary transformation to become Moses Washington.
Initially, we planned to film the scene where Moses talks quietly to his slain unit in the graveyard at the end of the day; however, Dan suggested we film it first so there wasn’t a strange jump in time with the moving sunlight. So one of the first things I had to do was learn how to control my horse. For insurance reasons, I was not allowed to ride on my horse, Blackie. I would only walk it into the scene using the rope attached to his neck. The ranch owner gave me a 5 minute crash course in directing the horse and making signals with my lips to it so I didn’t look like a city slicker.
During the shoot, a local reporter for the Citrus County Chronicle named Nancy Kennedy came to visit. She briefly interviewed John and I about how we got together to make Civil Wrath. Although John would spend more time discussing the shoot since I was all over the place that day trying to remain in character to a degree. Nancy would write a really great piece for the paper just a few days later (you can view it here: ARTICLE ON ‘CIVIL WRATH’).
The basis of the story we were adapting from John’s novel was Moses getting surrounded by vicious Confederate soldiers and how he gets out of trouble with the help of a young ex-Confederate played by Joseph. It was all about building the tension that leads to a big shootout and a significant epilogue about respect and tolerance. Everybody was game to play in this. Don and Darryl really sold the hell out of their roles as pea-brained racist Confederates even though they’re the kindest guys you’ll meet when the cameras are not rolling. Joseph was very physical as the ex-Confederate, Johnny Walker. I appreciated our moment near the end when he explains to Moses why he helped him out of the ambush. He had to be relieved that there was enough help on set to take the weight of the behind the scenes work off his back.
Like any film shoot, there were occasional hangups. Blackie the horse at one point broke free from his rope and tried to gallop away from the set. Dan immediately went after it and got as far as jumping on the horse while it was out of control. The ranch owner was not happy about this. But I was more concerned with Dan’s safety than getting our production shut down oddly enough. Fortunately, Dan managed to get the horse back and we continued shooting. The ranch owner just didn’t allow Dan to get on the horse again.
We also ran into a situation where Ralph’s generator would occasionally breakdown. We weren’t just using it to charge camera batteries. Charlie didn’t have a field recorder and instead brought his entire mixer board with studio mic with him to record sound. The constant shutdown of the generator caused us to lose half a day’s work of sound which means we’ll have to re-record our dialogue in post-production. It wasn’t entirely a bad thing though. The loud motor of the generator was too overbearing on the audio anyway.
The crew was no different from that Michael Keaton movie, The Dream Team. Karl, Charlie, and most of these guys did most of their past work either at home or at the local church. But there was no tension in spite of our varying degrees of experience. Everybody wanted to make the film work. Karl went as far as taking high angle shots from a ladder during the standoff scene. That to me was dedication. Even John had to multitask with directing, camera operating, and makeup work for myself and for Joseph who had to look like he was beaten to hell hours earlier.
After reshooting the graveyard scene, we wrapped the production around 4:00pm. For John, this was the most excitement he must have had in years. He was proud of my work as Moses and just as proud with the rest of the cast and crew. Even for Dan who has helped to produce numerous independent film projects was impressed and told us he would make an effort to help get Civil Wrath made as a feature. As for me, I felt good about my performance and it was nice change for me to take part in a story that didn’t involve cell phones and computers as plot devices.