A screaming good time

Students get first-hand look at film production

Special to the Advocate
May 15, 2013

A group of aspiring elementary- and middle-school-age actors may not have elicited the same hype that actor Tom Cruise made in the screening room for “Jack Reacher” at Celtic Media Centre last year, but their voices could be the screams and yells audiences remember in this summer’s SyFy movie release, “Ghost Shark.”

“Ahhhhhhh, mom!” screamed Caiden Paige, 12, who, during a recent Beta Club field trip, lent his voice to the terrified boy heading into the mouth of a phantom shark that appears suddenly in a backyard to terrorize boys playing on a water slide.

Caiden’s classmates from Verda Elementary School in Montgomery rushed to the microphone to react to the carnage.

“Oh, no!” said Kyland Nash, 11, as he pretended to watch his friend getting eaten.

Other classmates volunteered to do voice-overs for other parts of the scene in Baton Rouge’s Active Entertainment movie about a shark’s spirit that haunts a town in just about any place it finds water, including inside plumbing systems and around backyard water slides. The film is scheduled for release in August.

Caiden quickly learned that voice-over work was not as easy as he once thought. He had to repeat his lines at least a dozen times before rerecording mixer Jerry Gilbert seemed satisfied.

“It was hard to imagine someone getting eaten,” Caiden said. “There’s a lot of pressure and nerves that actors have to experience to deliver lines and expressions.”

Raleigh Studios at Celtic Media Centre hosts student groups at its site about once a month, though the frequency of tours often depends on what’s happening at the studio, said executive assistant Brooke Laney, who also heads up events, tours and marketing at Celtic Media.

If there is a lot of set construction going on, there may be fewer tours scheduled, she said.

Laney said Raleigh Studios officials believe it is important to bring school children to the site.

“Media, entertainment and technology are all a part of their future,” she said. “And now that this industry is such a big part of Louisiana, it is important to raise their awareness about movie-making and entertainment.”

On May 7, 20 Beta Club students from Verda toured Celtic Media Centre, where the fifth- through seventh-graders visited the mixing room, the screening room and set warehouses and made Christmas ornament props for the upcoming holiday film “Papa Noel,” a Lifetime movie being filmed at Active Entertainment.

Students also pulled out smartphones to take pictures in the Celtic Media Centre lobby where movie posters were covered in signatures from actors in “Battle Los Angeles,” Tom Cruise’s “Oblivion,” “Battleship” and “The Twilight Saga,” movies filmed in Baton Rouge.

Active Entertainment co-owner Daniel Lewis, an LSU alumnus who hosted the event, told students the film industry offers limitless opportunities. His company produces smaller budget films for networks including Lifetime, Hallmark and SyFy, he said. His studio has released SyFy original “Swamp Shark,” filmed in Henderson, and “Monster Wolf,” filmed in Crowley. Staging those movies might require about 60 people per movie on a budget of about $1 million to $2 million, he said.

Crew members involved with a movie set are not limited to actors and cameramen, he told students. Cooks, medics, stuntmen, costume designers, nurses and makeup artists are among other workers.

“We’re trying to reach out to young people and educate them on the jobs available in this industry,” Lewis said. “They can get jobs and training in their home state and never have to leave the state,” he said.

Lewis said he is optimistic about Louisiana’s ability to continue supporting the state’s film industry. Though Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tax proposal is causing concern in film industry circles, Lewis said, “I think the progress and investment made in the film industry has been positive, and I don’t think any legislator will want to slow that.”

Students also toured a mixing studio where foley artist Michael Russo, who has created movie sound effects for films such as “Blood Out,” starring Val Kilmer and 50 Cent, and “The Tomb,” starring Sylvester Stallone, demonstrated his craft.

In one film, he demonstrated the appearance of two actors talking to one another, though in reality, they were not in the same room. The voices were rerecorded, he said.

Sound effects are cleverly recreated, he said. Everything from fighting to chase scenes, walking in grass, gun shots, picking up keys or even laying on a bed require help from Russo’s studio, he said.

“Anytime somebody picks something up or puts it down, I have to reproduce it. Everything they touch, we make a sound for,” he told students. “We can make sound effects larger than life in this studio,” he said.

Russo said it’s not unusual for him to wear a pair of high-heeled shoes and walk on concrete in the studio to duplicate a woman walking in the shoes.

“We walk in every footstep of every actor,” he said. Russo said big budget films, such as “Oblivion,” depend heavily on sound effects and lower budget films rely less on the technique.

Beta campers were surprised.

“I had no idea that when I see people walking on the movie screen that it’s actually someone else making that sound,” said Kyland.

A tour of warehouse five on Celtic Media grounds elicited a few gasps from students as Laney described several movie scenes filmed inside the warehouse.

“Do you remember the part where the alien jumps out of the swimming pool in ‘Battle Los Angeles’?” she asked. Several students nodded their heads. That set was made in the Celtic warehouse, she said.

Laney said big budget films might include a limitless number of sets that can cost as much as $1.5 million each.

“A stage is really a big black box that’s sound resistant. Directors can come in and build a house,” or in the case of the movie, “Battleship,” an engine room and hallways.

Lewis also displayed for students many of the creatures featured in his SyFy films including a wolf head from “MonsterWolf” and a shark head and fin from “Swamp Shark.”

Beta camper Ashlyn James, 12, said the field trip was an eye opener.

“I thought it was neat and cool how they make the sets look so interesting. One day I’d like to create characters for movies,” Ashlyn said