Tuesday, January 30, 2007


It seems like the start of any project, or any phase of any project in this case, goes fast. But, after you knock out all the brute force work, things slow down as you begin to take care of the details.

That's where we are with Interplanetary at the moment. As such, there isn't a lot of big news to report from the last few days. John, Jen, and I did get Carl's massive Master Control light fixture rigged tonight, though.

Carl built this thing out of some lumber and a king-size bed sheet, but, from below, it truly does look like something straight outta the future.

We also started playing around with the acrylic spheres that we'll be using as the basis for our space helmets. Here's a shot of Carl, John, and an LED light.

I just realized I haven't covered much "how to" stuff yet on this blog, so it's not quite living up to its billing as a sequel to "This Movie Ain't Gonna Shoot Itself." I will attempt to rectify that soon. And we'll hopefully get some more of the details taken care of this weekend.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Purring like a kitten.

Tom has been doing some serious mechanic-ing -- he already got the engine for our Mars buggy running.

Here's a close-up of the engine and the beer bottle that's serving as a temporary (and very small) gas tank.

Making a monster.

Jonathan Thornton, who we're really, really lucky to have doing special makeup effects for Interplanetary, got to work in a big way over the weekend, doing a full body and face cast of Shane "Trap" Traffanstedt. Trap will be playing the monster in Interplanetary. I did mention there's a monster, didn't I?

Here's Jonathan and wife Ramona working on Trap...

Jonathan has also started designing some effects stuff that looks amazing. I really want to show it off, but it would give away too many plot surprises, so I'll have to save it 'til the premiere.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Who says you can't find a desert in Alabama?

Our new friend Tim gave Carl and I a tour of Wade Sand and Gravel yesterday. There's a massive quarry over there that we're hoping to use for some exterior Mars shots. Here's a shot of Carl standing in the quarry...

We'll obviously have to wait 'til that large pool of water dries up before we do any shooting in that particular spot.

DP Jim Roberson also stopped by the set at Atrox to do some preliminary lighting tests...

And that's not all -- it's been a busy week. I'll try to post an in-depth recap soon.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Digital photographic proof that we are making a movie.

Here's Ming the Merciless manning Carl's small scale model of a control console...

John deconstructing a monitor for inclusion in the eventual full-scale control console...

Carl stepping through our first (unpainted) door frame...

Angie painting up a storm...

You wouldn't believe how much math was involved in constructing this control console frame...

Unloading the VW Beetle that will serve as the basis for our space age Mars vehicle...

Prototype space suit being fit for actress Mia Frost...

Monday, January 15, 2007


Busy week and weekend putting set stuff together at Atrox. We got our first wall more secure and started working on a door. Plus, we got what will become our "Mars Buggy" (actually, more of a truck). And tonight, I'm heading out to see Peyton, our costume designer, about the prototype space suit she's working on.

I'll try to post some photos tomorrow...

Monday, January 8, 2007

The (first) wall.

Carl and John stand proudly in front of our first wall...

It isn't dressed or properly lit yet, but it's standing.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Watching paint dry.

January in Alabama is usually cold and painfully dry. But this year, it's been mostly rainy or, at least, humid. Which I wouldn't mind if we weren't trying to get set painting done. We worked for a couple of hours today, realized we couldn't do anything else until some paint dried, and decided to call it a day when we considered the rain and how long said drying would take.

Friday, January 5, 2007


I've made a few short films and one feature, but I've never built a set before. I know there are advantages to building a set on a soundstage versus using practical locations. Hitchcock did everything on a soundstage, and who among us would dare question his methods?

A good chunk of Interplanetary takes place inside Mars Base Two, a small complex built into the side of a Martian mountain. Base Two is really just corporate office space, reinforced so it can be pressurized enough for a breathable atmosphere. But I didn't want to go shoot in an office building, because there should be something about Base Two that looks unusual, like something you don't see on Earth everyday.

So John and Carl came up with a fairly inexpensive way to build Mars Base Two as a set. Then we got lucky and Kyle Holman, one of our actors, offered to let us build the set at Atrox, a huge warehouse in Leeds, Alabama, and home of one of the best haunted houses in the U.S.

The plan so far is to assemble enough flats (4' x 8' wall sections) to create the largest room (the garage) required for Mars Base Two. Then, reusing those flats, we can put together all the other rooms in the Base. The downside of this plan is that we can only shoot in one or two rooms at a time. But not building all the rooms at once probably cut our material costs by 75 percent.

When you're shooting at a practical location, you're usually stuck with what's there. Don't like the carpet? Too bad. I'm finding the opposite to be true with sets. You can do anything. Which is kind of cool, but kind of tricky, too. For example... what color are the walls inside Mars Base Two? Carl and I have been through six different colors so far. But I think we've finally made a decision.

Here's a sample photo, with a light blue barrel and red air compressor for reference. We chose the color on the left for the walls, the slightly darker gray. I know it's hard to believe we spent a lot of time coming up with that color, but it illustrates how more options means there are more decisions to be made. And I bet anyone who has ever made a movie has been overwhelmed with decisions on occasion, even shooting on location.

Thursday, January 4, 2007


What's Interplanetary about?

The Player version of the pitch: "Alien meets Office Space."

What's the shooting format?

Super 16mm film. We'll probably end up shooting on Fuji stock, unless a good deal materializes from Kodak at some point.

I love film and am generally underwhelmed with video. Even high def. I'm especially excited about the Interplanetary shoot because I just upgraded my camera with a video assist and three new Optar Illumina lenses. Add director of photography Jim Roberson to that camera setup, and I'm expecting the footage will look great.

Also, in keeping with a more traditional aesthetic, I'm hoping to do everything "in camera," so there won't be any computer generated special effects.

What's the budget?

I was very open about the budget for Hide and Creep (total cost, including deferred payments, was around $38,000 as I recall). This time, I'm keeping quiet about specific numbers. I will say that Stacey and I are self-financing again, so know that the budget is ultra-low. Especially for a movie set on Mars featuring exploding monsters.

This movie won't shoot itself either.

This blog is a sequel of sorts to "This Movie Ain't Gonna Shoot Itself," a column I wrote for MoviePoopShoot.com (now known as QuickStopEntertainment.com) about the making of Hide and Creep.

If you're interested in the nuts and bolts of ultra-low budget filmmaking, take a look at "This Movie..." -- it might be right up your alley.

And it begins (again).

We started pre-production on a new feature film, Interplanetary, a few days ago -- December 29, 2006, to be exact. Actually, I guess the movie's been in pre-production for a couple of years, as I've been working on the screenplay off and on for a while now. But we started building sets on the 29th, and that makes the whole thing seem more official.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Some introductions are in order.

"We" includes my producer/wife, Stacey, and me, writer/director Chance Shirley. The two of us, along with our pal Chuck Hartsell, made a zombie film a couple of years ago called Hide and Creep. It got several good reviews, a medium-size DVD release, and played a few times on the Sci Fi channel. You can learn more about the flick at HideAndCreep.com.

Stacey and I financed Hide and Creep out of our own pockets (with some help from MasterCard). That movie finally brought in enough money to get us out of the hole, so we decided we'd let it ride and try another feature.

"We" also includes producer John White and art director Carl Ross. John and Carl have worked on several projects here in Birmingham, Alabama, but this is the first time they've really worked with me on anything, at least in any official capacity.

I'm excited to have John and Carl on board because they know what they're doing, and they work hard to get it done. On top of that, they're good guys to hang out with. Which is important, because I expect we'll be spending a lot of time together over the course of the next few months.