Date: September 18, 2013
by: Jonathan Simmons | Staff Writer
Patrick Russell, writer and director, and his wife Ashley, producer, discovered Flagler County as a filming site when they vacationed in Flagler Beach this spring. PHOTOS BY SHANNA FORTIER
Indie screenwriter and filmmaker Patrick Russell needed a Florida beach where an axe-wielding scarecrow could chase a beautiful blonde woman down the beach in broad daylight without anyone being put out.
In Flagler Beach, he found it.
“Just the emptiness of the beaches is really great,” he said before a filming session Friday. “We’ve got this guy in a mask chasing a woman around with a hatchet, and there’s nobody there.”
He did get a few strange looks from the odd passerby when the demonic scarecrow raised its axe and began slaughtering a ripe watermelon. The filmmakers needed to film the axe coming down and then making that juicy “thwack” sound as it smashed through something moist and mushy, but the scene probably looked a bit odd to people out for a jog or combing for seashells.
Russell has made about a dozen short films. This one, “The Beach House,” will be about 20-25 minutes of building terror, released online on Vimeo just in time for Halloween, he said. It has a cast of seven and is budgeted for about $15,000, money he’s raised himself and worked for with his position as a writer at the Tampa Examiner, where he’s a film critic.
The movie revolves around a horror screenwriter — played by actress Sheena Colette, who has acted in “Burn Notice” and “The Glades” — secluded in a lonely beach house to write. The demonic character she creates for her film begins to haunts her as the combination of solitude and depression drive her mad.
“There’s just something exciting and scary about being in a big place with just your imagination. You put a person in a setting like that, and you watch them unravel,” Russell said. “It’s a movie about depression, really, but it has those horror, slasher tropes within it,” with the protagonist’s own dysfunction manifesting as the slasher scarecrow.
The cast of The Beach House began filming in Flagler Beach and Palm Coast Monday.
It’s familiar territory for Colette, a New York native who has family in Flagler County and spent some of her childhood vacations on the same stretches of sand the masked figure chased her down during filming Tuesday.
“I’m excited, because I’ve been here for so many summers,” she said. “And I’m really excited that there’s something going on production-wise in Palm Coast.”
And the Florida weather even helped set the mood for the horror flick, serving up an angry dark sky in a shot where Colette gazes out a window towards the water. But there were tough times, too: filming outdoors from their van in the Florida sun and heat, the crew sweltered without air conditioning. They couldn’t turn it on because the filming equipment’s sensitive microphones would have picked up the sound.
At a session Friday afternoon, Russell peered at the handheld monitor as the actors reads their lines on camera, smiling and nodding when he felt they got it right.
They were acting in a rented condo in the Canopy Walks Condominium Association. Russell and his wife and producer Ashley had found it, like their other filming locations — a beach house in the 3300 block of Ocean Shore Boulevard and the Day’s Inn in Palm Coast — through vacationrentalpros.com. The movie is a Screen Actor’s Guild production, Russell said. Editing the raw footage will take about six weeks.
Russell, who studied film and media arts at Temple University in Pennsylvania, said moviemaking is not about the money for him. It’s about making a product he can be proud of.
“The fact that I’ve made something that now exists that didn’t before, and people can watch it — that’s the reward for me,” he said.
"The Beach House" is scheduled for release on vimeo.com Oct. 25. To learn more, visit http://www.thebeachhousefilm.com.