The motto of Park After Dark, “don’t run, you’ll only die tired.” Hollywood, California. Elevation 420 feet. The gruesome twosome behind Park After Dark are director/ producer Eric Dyson and producer Hank Lambert. The two men are on the lookout for the writer of their project, Colleen Smith. At six feet tall and red hair, Colleen is easy to spot at the end of a dirt path in Runyon canyon. The team look out over Los Angeles and brainstorm on where this indie film might actually shoot their comedy horror, Park After Dark. In a city where the mere mention of the words film crew, can make people salivate dollar signs, finding an affordable location is key.
Park After Dark is a story about two mega slacker buddies who, in their mid 30‘s, find themselves having a midlife crisis of sorts. To take control of their lives, they decide to sign up for a wilderness survival weekend. The hunt for your own food and bury your own
poop kinda weekend. In order to train, they decide to get off their butt’s and go to a local hiking trail in the Hollywood hills. Unbeknownst to them, the hills are inhabited by a creature whose sole purpose is to draw out your inner survivor or kill you in the process. Director Eric Dyson says, “part of what makes the script so funny is the abundance of blood, body parts and really gross stuff. When you contrast that with humor, it creates a dichotomy of insanity”.
Dyson’s back ground in film goes back some twenty years. Mainly working in the field of cinematography. His credits include “24”, “Lost” , “Batman Forever” and “7” just to name a few. “After I graduated from film school, I had the opportunity to work at Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. “I started in post-production while Hook was being edited. When I left Amblin, Jurassic Park had just been released.” Watching iconic film maker Spielberg play with a set of toy dinosaurs in order to visualize key sequences in Jurassic Park provided helped to teach Eric how important pre planning was. “In all my projects, I’ve always put emphases on what visual I was trying to convey and having a parallel alternative.” A parallel alternative Dyson describes is a Plan ‘B’ of sorts. If the money or man power wasn’t available, the parallel alternative is very similar to the original plan. “Many times thinking of non-traditional ways of doing things forces film makers think more creatively. The biggest problem with big studio films is that they are so lazy about their creativity. They depend on sequel power or pulling in the audience from some left over regurgitated bullshit. Ticket prices are too high and budgets too out of control to justify the garbage that gets put into theaters.” You might say Eric is a little opinionated when it comes to film making.
The total shooting schedule for Park After Dark is only 15 days. The going rate for permits, fire marshal and crew parking at Runyon Canyon park (where the story takes place) is upwards of $5,000 a day. “To offer investors a return faster, it’s imperative to keep our budget painfully low.” Like most things in the indie world, it comes together by accident and asking of favors. A terrain area identical to the Hollywood hills can be found above the city of Pasadena where, coincidentally, Eric lives. “I was shooting and directing a web series for a friend. She was one of those people who seems to be friends with everybody in Pasadena. I heard about an area of private property called Zorthian Ranch. An intro was made and a phenomenal deal was agreed upon.” Alan Zorthian, the ranch owner, is the son of artist Jirayr Zorthian. An artist and sculptor who made a name for himself in the US after escaping the Armenian genocide. The property is about 40 acres and has views of the sprawling city below. Eric says his approach with Zorthian was to be honest and straight forward. He also offered his services to help build Zorthian’s web page with HD video footage. “Alan Zorthian is one of the nicest guys I’ve met. Very much non Hollywood. He rents out his property to some big productions. I told him straight up what our budget was and we made a ‘budget appropriate deal. If for some reason we get more money, I’m happy to change the terms of our agreement.”
Casting has been another budgetary hurdle. The dilemma being no money equals no name actors. Unless the writer is Colleen Smith. Colleen is deeply rooted as a teacher and performer at The Groundlings theater in Hollywood. The Groundlings theater was the launch pad for artists such as Phil Hartman, Paul Reubens and Will Ferrell. More recently the creative team behind the film Bride’s Maids and The Descendants are also Groundling alums. Because of this connection with such a talented group, Colleen was able to pull in fellow performers and friends to the project. Eric says, “I had my own interpretation of the script from reading it. When we did a read through with the actors that Colleen brought in, holy crap the words jumped off the page. These actors are brutally honest. When a joke falls flat, a collective sigh can be heard. Luckily for us, the pacing of the jokes to serious dialogue ratio worked out extremely well.”
With the primary filming location locked and key casting in place, Dyson and team have come to the point that all indie film makers face, show me the money. Again, past well grounded relationships prove to be a logical starting place. A number of years ago Eric produced a handful of video projects for Kendall Walker at WGI Global Entertainment Media LLC. “Eric and I had very similar views on keeping high standards on quality and content. We never wanted to have to use the excuse that something looks a certain way because of lack of money.” Getting Kendall to agree to executive produce Park After Dark wasn’t a walk in the park says Dyson. “We had to really break down every cost and convince him that we could make this hilarious, bad ass film in 15 days. I’m either lyin’ or I’m dyin’. If I blow this opportunity, my career is dead.” Kendall was sceptical at first, but after attending the invite only cast read through, he was convinced. “It all just flowed. I was laughing so much, I had to stop laughing so I wouldn’t miss the upcoming dialogue.”
Park After Dark camera’s will start turning late fall or early winter of 2013.
This post was written by Nadia Vella