by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)
By now, you have read about our adventures at Fort Worth's Hangman's House of Horrors here, here, and here. Well, this little article is about the last shoot we did for the Fort Worth charity.
On October 21st, Miguel and I met up at Hangman's to do one final shoot for a promo video that the owner and market chair wanted. We both showed up a few hours before they opened to get some interior shots done. We showed up at the LaDeDa Productions office (behind Magic Etc off Forest Park Blvd.) and did some preliminary discussions with the owner D'Ann Dagen. We talked about the kind of video she wanted, and we also talked about the target audience of the video (and the whole haunted house). Miguel and I quickly discovered that we are old. Young people don't bother with emails anymore. It's all about texting. Just when we thought we were on the cusp of high-tech with our 'electronic mail,' them young whipper-snappers go off and 'text' each other. This revelation, brought to us by D'Ann, made us feel old, but we did have a laugh.
D'Ann wanted a video that would showcase the rooms of the main house. In case you didn't know, Hangman's has several separate haunts with the big one being called 'Hangman's House of Horrors'. She picked a few rooms that wouldn't change from year to year, since most of the house does change. After we talked about it, we decided on shooting a video that somewhat followed a storyline. Miguel was real keen on doing some sort of back story telling of the Hangman legend. D'Ann made a good point against, but she is always willing to do whatever it takes to promote the attraction. She didn't want to 'bore' Texans with something that was very 'old-timey' and 'Texas'. She figured we (being the citizens) get enough of that from day to day. Miguel was still keen on it. He thought there could be some really cool stuff to do, so we all decided to shoot just as much as we could, and we could always make multiple videos - some with, and some without, the Texas theme.
The whole theme D'Ann wanted was something that would appeal to her target demographic; that is to say 12-16 year olds. She wanted to show the cool looking environments, and she wanted to show other teens getting the crap scared out of them.
The 'storyline' we came up with was a group of cynical girls are listening to someone (D'Ann) talk about the legend of the Hangman. They poo-poo the story until they find themselves right in the middle of the nightmare. They are chased through the house and eventually escape, only to come face to face with the Hangman himself.
In shooting order, the rooms (or scenes) we wanted to shoot were:
1.) The skeleton hallway - A long corridor with skeleton bones hanging along the walls. The group would be huddled, walking down the hallway, and some ghouls would pop out behind them and chase them. We shot this several times with both Miguel's camera and mine. We used the tripod light (which was a pain to find power but I'll talk more about that later). The lighting wasn't good, but my XL2 can really make up for that. We got the shots and then moved on.
Before I move on, there is something to be said for all the positions they have when shooting a real movie, commercial, etc. One problem we had was the people that were there to help us. We really needed a PA or a 'people wrangler'. It was tough getting the shots setup, and getting the people who were not in the actual shot to move out of the way and shut up.
I love gaining new experience through actually 'doing it'!
2.) Small Spinner hallway - One of the most awesome tricks at Hangman's are the spinners. These are the spinning tubes you walk through, and your mind makes you think the room is rotating. We wanted to show this room. We picked the smaller of the two of them since the neon/black light effect was much brighter in this one. The group would walk into the hallway and one would fall. A fiend would come out of the darkness behind them and come after them. After we got the shot and the house was open , Miguel had to go back in because we forgot to get a point of view shot. Miguel got the shot, BUT the haunted house was going full blast and the room was filled with smoke (very hazy on film). During editing, I fixed the inconsistent shots by ramping up the brightness on the shots that happened before the smoke. They blended very well.
3.) Bayou Room - This room looked like a swamp. Once again, the hapless group of girls move through it, and run into the Hangman. In after-thought, I don't think we should have 'showed our hand' or 'shot our load' so early. We should have had some other ghoul there, and not revealed the hangman until the end, but oh well. On my edit of the video, I changed the color of the murky green room to blue (to add some interesting looks).
4.) Disorientation - This room is probably what Hangman's is known most for. It's uneven floors and diamond shaped pattern, along with a flashing strobe, confuses it's visitors. The costumes that the actors wear match the walls, and when you journey though it (with full effect) they can blend right in. Once again, our group of girls walks into the room, and once they get to the middle, they spot the monsters that were hiding in plain sight. This shot looks the best of all the shots we did. The cameras did well handling the strobing lights.
5.) Swinery Exit - The girls run out of the Hangman's lair, and are met by some chainsaw wielding mad men. They are chased around the pallet maze. One fun gimmick of the park is the chainsaw rednecks that chase visitors around. We had them chase our group of girls around. Very little of this is usable because of the angles. You can see the lights we setup and the people waiting outside the area.
6.) VIP Tent - This isn't any real part of the park, just the tent area that was used for parties (the VIP event that we had the week before). We had the girls run out of it, stop in front of the camera, look up at the Hangman, and then scream.
7.) Backlot - The final shot was the reveal of the menacing Hangman surrounded by the ghouls that had been chasing the girls through the house. They all start moving in and surround the girls. This is the end of the video. We shot this final scene several times. I was not happy at all with the whole surrounding the girls thing. I liked the idea of JUST the Hangman. Miguel wanted to use it, and he has used some aftereffects to play with the footage.
After we wrapped, we went home and took a month off. We both burned our respective footage, and swapped it, so that both Miguel and I could work on totally separate and different edits of the video.
Miguel has made the long format of the original idea, and I have made a super short (one minute) promo. We hope that D'Ann can use the videos to raise awareness for the charity, and bring more people in.