Archive for July, 2011

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From the Outside Looking In

by Joe Zohar
July 27th, 2011

My long time friend and colleague, Andrea Adams, called me up asking if I would be interested in shooting content for a feature length documentary, My Amityville Horror. Needless to say, projects like this don’t come around very often, so I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more. After being really impressed with the teaser trailer, I spoke to Andrea and told her I was in.

From working with Andrea in the past, I knew she wasn’t into wasting her time, so when she says to me, “I am really excited about this project and know you will get along great with the director,” I knew I’d be joining something special and interesting. Shortly thereafter, I talked over the phone with Eric Walter, the director of the film. Our talks were very concise and to the point. He knew what he wanted and communicated it very well, trusting that I would do my thing on the word of his direction. The stage was set and I was excited.

February 15th comes and I’m twenty minutes late for meeting Andrea at NYC’s downtown subway station. Upon my arrival to her happy, yet obviously “in the mode” essence one has during production, I was introduced to John Blythe, the other primary producer of the film. It only took a few lines of dialogue for me to tell that John, although not directly involved in the technical aspects of film, loved and respected the craft of filmmaking. Needless to say, it made me feel great about the administrative production team and was pumped to meet Eric and the rest of the crew.

Upon our arrival to the hotel in Queens, I was greeted by Eric and Danny Lutz and was brought up to speed about the project and what we’d be getting into on location. It was as easy talking with Eric in person as it was over the phone. Danny proved to be as interesting as I’d thought he’d be, something I’ll let the film speak for me on. I began to see that this subject’s handling of growing up being involved in America’s most notorious haunting was the air to this Zeppelin we were riding on and was assured it would make for compelling cinema.

After meeting the rest of the crew, I knew this production was going to go really well. I had heard the crew was more of a squad, having worked together on countless productions. Being the odd man coming into a family of technical people can be so many things: a nightmare, awkward, isolating, just to name a few. My experience was anything but that. All the guys were very welcoming, easy to work with, great sense of humor, not to mention technically proficient and amazing at what they do. Aside from minor setbacks, I thought all the shoots went incredibly well. The footage looked gorgeous and I couldn’t wait to see it all in context.

I thrive on productions where crew members specialize in their field and can trust one another professionally to shoot/record/produce the film as if it were your own. Throughout the shoot, we visited some truly unique locations. From a home filled with stuffed animal heads hunted from all over the world to an 84 year old demonologist’s home who carries with her a relic of Christ’s cross, while living above a museum dedicated to the bizarre and macabre with multiple roosters, cats, and other various animals running around her home that made for intriguing visual subject matter. All this was captured beautifully by Director of Photography, Charlie Anderson, who was shooting on the RED camera like it was an extension of his own being. Charlie was really able to capture the contrast present in all these locations. I could tell cause I was constantly looking over his shoulder saying, “Damn, that looks good.”

After principal photography wrapped, I stayed a few extra days with Eric to capture b-roll of the various locations, including the village of Amityville. During this time, I was really able to connect with Eric and see what he was about as an individual and filmmaker. What I found was somebody I couldn’t believe lived in Los Angeles. He was down to earth, loved early 90′s grunge rock, and wore black with an affinity for literature and challenging cinema. I was glad I got the chance to spend the extra time with him. Eric was incredibly focused during the principal shooting, so I didn’t get the chance to see beyond the surface. After having some time alone and getting a sense for why he wanted to make the film, what he plans on doing with it and how he plans on doing it, I was instilled with an heir of confidence that this film could really go places and peak a lot of people’s interests.

In closing, I love spiritual, supernatural, and ethereal subject matter. I hope all the viewers out there who will see this film will enjoy meeting Danny Lutz, who was only ten years old at the time of the hauntings. I hope the viewers think, question, and debate the experience of what it would be like having an intimate experience with a force so powerful that even forty years later it stays vivid in your mind. Whether you’re a skeptic or believer, this film challenges both. I can only speak for myself in saying that. Whether or not I think Danny Lutz is telling the truth or if the whole Amityille Horror is something that really happened, is entirely beyond the point of how the film should be viewed. The point being that Danny Lutz believes it. Hopefully after you spend some time with him on screen, you’ll have an opinion of your own. Something I feel will be where the success of the film lies.