Friday, March 13, 2015

Final Night of Trailer Shooting - Interview with Actress Britta Russell

On the final night of shooting the proof of concept trailer for "The Gospel According to Stephenson," Production Manager, Ralph Giordano spoke with Actress & "Stephenson" Blogger Britta Russell about her experiences working on the film...

RG: Tell me about what it was like to be working on a Satire/Horror film? Were you scared...?

BR: The experience was amazing and I'm so thankful to be able to act in this film in addition to being a Production Assistant and Blogger. 

Scared...? Actually, yes at one point. Matt Block (Stephenson) gets into his character very well and when he yells at me and Steven (Sabell) in the scene, I literally jumped because it frightened me.  So the reaction was real. It worked great for the scene! 

RG: Did you gain any thoughtful insights on how to make the perfect scream?

BR: My insight is this: no matter how many times you prepare, the scream that comes out when you are in the moment is the most effective. Sure, our director works with me and perfects it, but what comes out in the moment is genuine.

RG: I know it was fairly cold on the night we shot your scene, and you were wearing a frilly wedding dress, but you endured like a trooper. Is there more cold weather acting in your future?

BR: Being a Minnesota native, I really should be used to it. Everything is a learning experience. The wedding dress used in the scene belonged to my mother and I was fortunate to be able to wear it in the film. However it provided little protection from the elements on such a chilly night. I was very appreciative of the hot chocolate and various crew members throwing a coat over me between takes.  I was well cared for.  Of course I am very willing to work in the cold again, but next time I'll be more prepared! 

RG: Tell me about your director? What was he like to work with...?

BR: Working with our director, John Schuermann, truly was a dream come true! I met him in LA at the ScreamFest showing of his brother's film The Creep Behind the Camera and was terrified I would blow my chance. Thankfully, he doesn't bite (as Stephenson surely would!) and is such a great guy. During rehearsal for this scene, he asked me if I was okay because I looked terrified. Well, of course I was “acting” terrified, right? He came over and gave me a hug. That was very sweet. 

I am greatly honored to be working with such a talented, and ingenious director like John!  He knows what he wants. He molds and perfects what each of us does to get the scene right. His vision is clear, and it was easy to understand what he wanted.

RG: What about your co-stars Matt Block (Stephenson) and Steven Sabell (DuWayne)? Tell me about them. Any behind the scenes stories?

BR: I already knew and was friends with Steven, so it was easy to work with him. It was like hanging out with a buddy. We were very comfortable with each other, which helped a lot since we were portraying newlyweds.

Earlier in the evening, I stepped into the rehearsal room where Matt and John were all huddled around a laptop looking at the storyboard for each scene and thinking, "Oh my gosh, there's lead... our Star!” I was a bit intimidated at first.  But, during filming, I found it easy to work with Matt.  He was a sweetheart and I was able to relax and act natural on set with him.   


RG: Over all how would you rate your horror film experience?

BR: This experience as an actress was new to me, but I easy warmed up to it... mainly because my co-stars were so professional and fun to work with. This was a wonderful and an incredible experience all around! 

RG: Are you ready for more work on The Gospel According to Stephenson?
BR: Yes, I am definitely ready to work more on the Stephenson film! It was truly an honor and I can't wait to get started again!  And, I hope to work with my co-stars again. What a blast!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Second Night of Trailer Shooting - Another Success!


Thursday, January 29th was the second night of shooting for our "proof of concept" trailer for The Gospel According to Stephenson. We filmed at a private residence in one of the original early neighborhoods near downtown Colorado Springs. The location was perfect and many thanks to the wonderful family who graciously allowed us to take over their home for a few hours!

I was on set as a production assistant on this night, and as always, I was fascinated by the fun and camaraderie the crew and actors shared throughout the evening. Actor, Charles Gilbert was great at being our creepy yet hilarious Droppo the Clown. Both Charles and Steven J. Sabell (as DuWayne the hapless newlywed) were great as our door-to-door ministry team for our star vampire Leslie Stephenson (portrayed by actor Matt Block).

Here’s the sceene set up: Droppo and DuWayne interrupt a perfectly nice evening from a lovely suburban couple, played by Richard Schimmelpfenneg and Saundra Larsen. Being on the set of a horror-satire is a unique experience, and I was doing my best to not laugh loud when Charles was delivering his lines.

We had a surprise visit from Co-Producer, Jim Musante. It was great having Jim on set and watch him and our Director, John Schuermann share satisfied smiles as they both witnessed their creative vision- many years in the planning- come to life. Thanks for the support and all you do Jim.

I also know that behind every successful man is his wife—Thank you to Margot Schuermann for all her encouragement for this project, and the great conversations we had behind the scenes!

Our production team are fast workers, and soon it was a wrap at this location. After a quick tear down we were on our way to our second location for the evening. A HUGE thank you to Southside Johnny's Restaurant for their hospitality and allowing us to film on their property. It may have been FREEZING, but we all warmed up with some wonderful hot beverages and food, provided by Johnny’s. A special shout out to all of our extras who came out to support the film. Thank you for standing outside in the cold weather for HOURS with us so that we could create a convincing crowd and helping actor, Key Dieck with the proper
motivation for the scene. Key did a stupendous job and even got some great reactions from random passersby.

Even though it was cold, and we didn’t wrap until midnight, I felt energized. Making movies is incredibly exciting, and I am thrilled to part of this one. I look forward to reporting to you next time from the point of view of an actress. I even get a death scene! Well, sort of...

You’ll find out more in the upcoming blog, so stay tuned!

Britta J. Russell-Reporting

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Our first night of shooting - a tremendous success.

Britta Russell reporting!

The night of January 5th was the first night of shooting for the proof of concept trailer to "The Gospel According To Stephenson." We had a great turnout and would like to thank every one of our extras for coming out to support our film!

We are excited to be working with actor Matt Block (Leslie Stephenson) from Denver’s Hamilton Casting along with local Colorado Springs talent, which included Key Dieck (as Levy Walters), Daphne Schuermann (Melissa), and Sorsha Morava (Tammy). Night shoots can be tricky, but we were fortunate to be able to shoot at local hot spots in downtown Colorado Springs. We would like to give a major shout out to both Josh & John’s Ice Cream and the Peak Three Theater for allowing us access to film there!

Our craft services provider, Christie Hanes had her hands full with keeping over 35 cast and crew members happy with wonderful comfort food! Seriously, that was some of the best chili ever.

KJ Murphy, our amazing makeup artist, did some seriously great work with our cast, adding just the right touches to our mysterious vampire, Leslie Stephenson. KJ had a supply of fresh fangs available for all the various takes.

Of course, our Director John Schuermann kept us all on our toes. We loved seeing that pleased smile on his face as he worked with his actors and crew, and witnessed his original story come to life.

Co-Director’s of Photography Pete Schuermann and Aaron De Pry kept the production moving along with quick yet dramatic camera set-ups... creating just the right mood with lighting and impressive camera work. Both the cast and crew are so professional on every angle and I know everyone is excited about being a part of this outstanding feature film!

Stay tuned for more updates along the way.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Matt Block cast as Stephenson, Charles Gilbert as Droppo for trailer!

Matt Block
Charles Gilbert
Thanks to our amazing casting director Brian McCulley of Hamilton Casting we were able to audition a great many excellent Colorado based actors over the last few weeks.  For our initial round of casting we are happy to announce that we have chosen Matt Block to portray our title character, Leslie Stephenson.  Matt has a tremendous screen presence plus is able to capture the essential British nature of the character.  We have a suspicion that this has something to do with the fact that Matt received an M.A. in Acting for the Screen at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London England, where he also received Distinction First Class.  In addition, we have also cast Charles Gilbert as Droppo, our washed up, alcoholic vampire clown.  Charles nailed the character during an audition that was both hilarious and creepy.  Congrats to Matt and Charles - welcome to the team!

Friday, January 2, 2015

"The Gospel According to Stephenson" cast and crew begins shooting our "Proof of Concept" trailer this upcoming Monday (January 5th) at 6 pm.  We will be shooting a critical sequence from the middle of the script where Stephenson outlines his plans for growing his numbers by capitalizing on the current "pop culture" vampire craze.  Part of the scene takes place in front of Kimball's Peak Three Theater where a crowd is exiting the theater after having just seen our "film within a film" "Nightfall Part 3: Break of Day."  As you can tell from the poster art, "Nightfall" is a satirical take on a certain series of "teenage vampire movies" that feature prominently in our story.

Thanks to Ralph Giordano for the photography and Steven Sabell for creating the poster!  Thanks also to models Key Dieck and Shanna Grace plus make-up artist KJ Murphy!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Video Interview with "The Gospel According to Stephenson" Writer / Director John Schuermann

Thanks to Ralph Giordano of the Peak Film Forum for arranging this video interview at September's Forum meeting.  I got a chance to speak about the story and themes of "The Gospel According to Stephenson" plus reminisce about some past film projects :)  Thanks also to Kurt Supancic and Lee Graham for handling the shooting and editing of this piece! 


Peak Film Forum Vignettes - John Schuermann from Peakview Productions of Colorado on Vimeo.

"The Gospel According to Stephenson" Script Getting Great Reviews!

We are happy to report that the script for "The Gospel According to Stephenson" is finished and getting excellent reviews!  We asked Andrea Meyer of the Freethought Film Festival for brutally honest and critical feedback, and she responded with three words:


As much as we appreciated hearing that, we went back to Andrea and asked for further thoughts.  Here is what she had to say (edited slightly to avoid spoilers):
"...I'm struggling to find anything on which it needs improvement...I liked how the relationship between Sam and Jessica was defined...The gory bits were very well executed...I felt frantic as I read these scenes. Well done!"

But wait - there's more!  We also received professional reader feedback from the Blue Cat Screenplay Competition, a major script-writing contest run by Gordy Hoffman (an award-winning filmmaker and brother to Philip Seymour Hoffman).  Here is the feedback, again edited to avoid spoilers:

"This story was a very original, critical take on the vampire craze. It was entertaining and thrilling with a dash of comedy. It made fun of itself in all the right ways. You were able to laugh at it, and yet still be scared. It reminded me a bit of Wes Craven’s Scream; making fun of slasher films, yet still being a suspenseful slasher film...The dialogue was used in a strong way. Every conversation progressed the story and we were learning more and more information as it went on. I especially liked the scenes with Jessica. Every scene we got to know more and more about her; her alcoholism and her doubts and insecurities about Sam. Her character continues to satisfying and left me wanting more."

As a bonus, here is professional feedback from the Final Draft "Big Break" Screenwriting competition from several years ago.  This was based off the original version of the screenplay, then entitled "The Last Vampire."

"This is a very nice take on the vampire myth, the vampire coming back and having no idea what is waiting for him... Having him interact with modern medicine and all the myths we have about the supernatural mixed with a police story works well... The characters are well chosen and the variety is lovely... The dialogue is well done."

Thanks to all who provided valuable feedback during the script-writing process!