Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my final report from the set of STEPHEN KING’S THE MIST.
And I mean final final, not “there may be some more later,” like my “final” Day 4 report.
It looks like I have totally missed the chance to see the pharmacy sequence filmed, but my day kicked off with some sweet spider action. And don’t you worry. I’ve got a good amount of pictures of the dressed Pharmacy set. Look for those sprinkled throughout, plus a great image to end it all with… a nice tease at a very creepy creature.
This report will be filled with spoilers. Nothing that’s not in the book, but today I saw the deaths of 3 characters, two of them major characters in the story. Like I said, these happened in the book, but if you don’t want to know, then skim through and look at the cool pics. You’ve been warned.
All of Thursday’s scenes were in the parking lot outside of the Food World as a group of people make a break for one of the cars.
The first shot in the mist was of Bud (Robert Treveiler) and Ambrose (Buck Taylor… he was the guy from the first set of reports that kept insisting the mist was from a chemical plant explosion… the mustached man that almost gets whacked in the head during the earthquake and the light fixture swings down) supporting Myron (David Jensen) between them as they run through the mist.
Myron, dressed in a mechanic’s jumpsuit, hurt himself on his rush out of the market. Looks like his ankle.
The shot is a steadicam shot tracking them through the misty parking lot, hurrying between parked cars before they run in to something they really don’t want to run in to.
Video village was set up in the front of the Market, near the check out counters. Darabont got access to the set by walking through the front doors of the market (the one with the bloody hand print), through a heavy white plastic sheet and into the mist. The whole stage was filled, heavy plastic containing the stuff.
Darabont had his sound system set up so he could give direction through speakers in the parking lot set from his chair in front of the monitors, thanks to his handy dandy wireless mic. Of course, when blocking shots or giving specific direction to the actors or camera people, Darabont would scoot into the mist and give it face to face. The speakers were more of a time saver so he could keep at the monitors, seeing how the shot was looking, and give cues from his seat.
His first announcement: “I’m going to cue the spider jumps.”
A & B cameras were used, one getting a higher shot above the heads of the hurrying men, seeing where they were running, watching car shapes appear in the mist as they run past them. B camera was the tracking camera, following alongside the group as they go.
In the shot, Myron yells out… “Aw, shit! I think I broke it,” favoring one leg as the two men help him out.
They hurry along, but skid to a stop. In their way is the trunk of a brown automobile. There was nothing on it as I was watching it, but there’ll certainly be something on it when you watch it.
One of the men utters, “Jesus god…” as he sees the spider that’ll eventually be on the trunk of the car, getting ready to pounce.
Darabont, over the sound system, calls out, “3… 2… 1… Jump!”
Poor Myron falls back, hard. Ambrose and Bud fall as well, but they won’t have a 3 foot long spider sitting on their chest like Myron does. Bud butt-scoots backwards quickly and Ambrose stands and runs.
In the first take Ambrose stands and stares down in horror as Myron screams and gurgles, struggling with an invisible spider. Then he kind of just stumbles off.
After a note from Frank, Ambrose did the next take much better. He stands, staring down at Myron getting attacked and starts screaming at a pitch that shouldn’t be possible for a man of his age. He runs off screaming, panicked.
Thomas Jane was sitting next to me watching the monitors. He turned to me and said he wanted to show me some of his comic book stuff when I had a moment. Nothing like the present, right? So, we headed to his trailer and he showed me a bunch of covers and art from his two books, BAD PLANET and ALIEN PIG FARM 3000. Both are at Image and both are done with Steve Niles (of 30 DAYS OF NIGHT fame).
He’s got a lot of talented people behind his books. Tim Bradstreet is inking BAD PLANET, about our planet getting taken over by alien spiders… very ‘50s sci-fi. He’s getting cover art from people like William Stout and Michael Kaluta.
His new books are going to be released very soon. They actually look pretty damn sweet. Check out the covers:
Anyway, after a bit looking at alien spiders and giant alien bounty hunters (for BAD PLANET)… and hillbillies fighting aliens (for ALIEN PIG FARM 3000), I went back to the set.
They were getting coverage of the same sequence, this time focusing closer on each of three guys… Bud running off into the mist in one direction, back to the store, and Ambrose running off in another… Everything was started on the ground, though, getting Myron wrestling with the spider.
I stepped into this mist for the first time and let me tell you something. It’s a whole different view point. It’s crazy. In your immediate surroundings you can see clearly a good foot, but then there’s a harsh veil obscuring anything. Five feet from you is just white. Check this shot of Billy Gierhart, the camera operator… I know it’s foggy, but that’s a good shot of what it was like in the mist:
Darabont came out and brought out KNB’s fully built spider to show David Jensen what he’s actually struggling with. He was also showing the proportions to the camera guys to describe the shot he wanted, holding the creepy fucker over Jensen and moving it off.
The idea is the spider attacks him, pinning him to the ground with its legs. Then it shoots some webbing in the poor fella’s face, silencing him forever. After a few wraps, the spider crawls off, turns around and tugs the body back with it.
It takes a few tugs to get the man’s body going, so it’s drag, then stop… drag-stop, drag… then the body disappears fully into the mist.
Watching this sequence outside in the mist was a completely different experience. I can’t really explain how much creepier it was watching poor Jensen being dragged, to the point where his feet disappear completely from view.
The other coverage followed Bud butt-scooting away, then running off into the mist and Ambrose getting up, screaming and running between cars, waving his arms at invisible things.
The majority of the crew had to stay in the mist to work. Here’s a shot of Everett Burrell, the Café FX CGI guy I keep talking about, standing with the cinematographer, Ronn Schmidt (looking right at you):
Myron’s fate sounds horrible. His grunts of fear and exertion fighting off the spider turn quickly to these horrific gurgling sounds before he goes silent, arms falling to the pavement.
After a good few attempts at this, they get the shot and the coverage.
This next sequence will be a big deal for those who have read the story and those who are new to the movie. Out of everything in the report this is the spoiler section I’d advise you to avoid if you don’t know the book and wish to keep yourself pure. Seriously. This is a big moment from the end of the movie. You really don’t want to know it if you’re not already familiar with the book.
The scene is Ollie (Toby Jones), David (Thomas Jane), Amanda (Laurie Holden), Irene (Frances Sternhagen), Dan (Jeff DeMunn) and Billy (Nathan Gamble) running through the mist, going for David’s car.
David’s holding his son in one arm and a mop handle in the other. Ollie is ahead of the rest, running. “Which way!?” he calls out.
From behind him, out of view in the mist, David yells out, “This way! UP the row!”
David runs into view, with the group hot on his heels. He glances back and sees there’s no Myron, Bud or Ambrose. He stops, “Where is everybody?!?” The group suddenly realizes their numbers are down. Different “They’re lost!” and names being called out come from them for half a beat before they continue running.
A camera started off a little above eye level as Ollie runs towards it, between two cars, the mist heavy around him. He shouts out his “Which way!?” as he runs up to camera, David appearing just briefly behind him, still obscured by the mist. Ollie runs by the camera, which turns to follow him as he gets David’s response.
Toby Jones’ run was a little awkward, totally fitting his character. It’s almost a little lopsided, more shuffling, but he’s still ahead of the group.
He gets to the landcruiser and throws open the driver’s side door and the door directly behind it. He turns, smiling to the others. It’s not quite a close-up, but it’s still a close shot.
David screams out, “Ollie!”
Ollie’s smile falters as he turns around and looks up.
Poor Ollie is taken. And from the look of the storyboards they had mounted up next to the monitors fans of the book will be very happy with how faithful Darabont is keeping to the novella. I asked Darabont if he thought the creature that takes Ollie was related to the lobstrocities in Stephen King’s DARK TOWER books. He smiled and nodded his head. “Yep! Definitely!”
VFX needed a medium shot of the scene, so there’s Ollie opening the car doors, then turning. A good close shot of his face as his smile falters and he looks back up over his shoulder. He holds and the camera is still. He drops down out of frame and the camera holds on the empty space before tilting up into the mist.
In the final movie, we’ll see Ollie grabbed up by this claw and torn apart above the car.
They got a really nice reverse that sees Ollie opening the car doors, then spins around behind him, seeing David and his group run up and stop dead in their tracks, looking up behind him, then looking down to him and screaming, “Ollie!” He turns and sees the giant shape behind him.
Since they had lit for this direction, they did a take with the group stopping, calling out, Ollie turning around, then they had him drop out of frame and held for a second before Darabont cued the group to run forward and pile into the landcruiser.
B camera on this scene was looking through the car. I’m not sure if they opened the doors on the opposite side of the car or were shooting through the window, but it caught an interior of the car view of Ollie throwing open the doors and then moved around the car to frame the group indistinct in the mist and Ollie in the foreground, doing his look up.
They got Ollie’s final moments and began a new set-up, which focused on David and his group following Ollie in the mist.
Unlike the wide shot they got earlier, this one continued on to them rushing to the car, Ollie’s death and all.
The main camera was ahead of the group as they ran. Darabont changed some of the timing and spacing of the group after the first take so you’ll be able to see everyone.
With the camera running in front of the group, they were able to get some great reaction shots of Irene and Dan worried and calling out before Amanda pulls them. “We have to keep going!” Then they skid to a stop, seeing the shape of the creature behind Ollie, a good two stories tall. Frances Sternhagen in particular had a good reaction her, hands flying up to her mouth as she screamed.
At the monitors, Darabont saw one of these takes and turned around, smiling. “That’s great! That’s great! Thank God I’ve got good actors!”
On one of the takes, Tom Jane was running towards the camera and fumbles a little bit. You know when you see someone running and there’s that half a second before they fall that you can see they’re going down? That’s what I saw, then he spills below the frame, hard… Remember, he’s holding little Nathan Gamble in his arms. From the monitors it looked like they both fell really bad.
Laurie screamed and my heart jumped into my throat. My God, what is she seeing? I had visions of Nathan’s face scraped up on the ground, blood flowing. Then Lauries calls out, “Get up! Get up!” and Jane is pulled up, then swoops down, coming back up with Nathan in his arms, looking no worse for the wear.
He swings him up and they all continue the run for the car and pile in.
Her scream was in character, keeping the scene going. But I certainly didn’t realize that. I thought I saw a really, really bad accident.
After cut, Darabont called to the AD and asked if everybody was okay. He got an affirmative back.
One thing I liked about this scene is that you’re never going to see the full creature. The claws will come in, do their business, and then the group watches as the shape fades out. I think they’re even going to have this big thing knocking over a street lamp in the parking lot, so the characters know it’s safe to go. They had a set-up from behind the group that tilts up into the white mist and holds, watching the monster move away, so they know its safe to run the rest of the way to the car.
When they got this bit of coverage, Darabont sat in his chair, head in hands. He got up and paced around, checked the storyboards, then came back and sat back down, shaking his head. “I just don’t know how this is going to cut together.” He was preoccupied, trying to make it work.
I didn’t see the eureka moment, but it’s clear he find a solution that worked for him, pacing wise, because on the next set up, one that was closer on them all running to the car and piling in, he asked if they’d stop and turn, reacting to Ambrose’s scream (from the spider attack somewhere in the mist behind them).
The crew had to dress the car’s windshield with Ollie’s blood before they could move in. Poor Ollie.
A & B were set up so A was looking through the blood-streaked windshield at David (driver’s seat) and Amanda, with Billy in her lap (passenger). Irene and Dan are in the back seat. B was looking through the driver’s side window, catching the profile of those in the front seat.
David honks the horn over and over. I’m told in the movie he’ll still be hearing Ambrose screaming and he’s trying to give him something to follow if he’s lost in the mist. He stops honking when the screams stop abruptly.
David goes for the keys and realizes they aren’t his pocket. In an earlier scene, he had given them to Amanda and she remembers this, digging into her pocket and fishing them out. David’s about to start the car when he sees something on the hood.
Ollie, if you remember, was in charge of the only gun in the store. When he was taken and bits of him were falling onto the car, the gun fell, too. It lies on the hood.
David stares at it. The A camera tilts down to it and back up at David’s face. He looks to Amanda. She sees what he’s going to do. “No. David… NO!” He opens the door and reaches out for the gun, fingers dragging the hood, just barely missing it.
The A camera gets this shot really well… especially when David whips his head up, seeing what will be a spider running for the hood. He lunges and grabs the gun. In a quick movement he pulls himself back inside the auto, slamming the door. The whole time Amanda’s screaming for him to stop and get back inside.
The next shot was one of my favorites of the day. As they were setting up, I overheard Frances Sternhagen talking to Nathan Gamble in the car. I had a pair of headphones that could hear anything the boom mic could pick up as well as the wired mics on the actors. I mention this only because it made me smile. In a very grandmotherly way, Sternhagen was telling Nathan that they were all “little Miss Moffets, sitting on their toffets.” She said it in that kind of “spooky with a smile” way.
Anyway, this next shot I loved to death. It’s a very EVIL DEAD type shot. It starts off real low, looking at the landcruiser head on. It’s still, then David opens the door and reaches for the gun. The second Jane pops out of the car, the camera starts moving.
The camera is scrapping the ground, running up to the front of the car, then lifting up over the grill and stopping on the hood. They had it timed so David sees the approaching creature, lunges, grabs the gun just as it gets on to the hood, then pulls back in.
The DP, Ronn, came in from the mist and Darabont said, “That looked great!” Ronn said, “I hope so… we were so close the lens almost hit the grill when we went over.”
The idea is there’ll be a spider added in front of the camera. The camera is close on its heels at it hauls ass for its meal, running along the ground and then crawling up the grill and onto the hood.
They then got a shot from the backseat of the car, over the shoulders of David and Amanda, looking out through the windshield at where the spider will be.
There’s going to be a face-off as the spider looks through the glass and they look back. It charges, hits the window, pauses, then crawls up and over the roof, going for something else.
To get this shot, they had the AD perched on the roof and at the right moment he brought a hammer down right smack dab in the middle of the windshield… This was going to be tricky… if the hammer missed it’s mark or the timing was off, it’d take forever to change out the windshield.
Cameras rolled, Darabont called action and David jumps back into the car. Amanda and Billy scream as the invisible spider’s on the hood. A beat then the middle of the windshield just cracks, spider-webbing out from a single impact point. Everybody reacts to it, then cuts.
The very last shot of the day was a front-on shot of the car as David turns on the motor and wipes away Ollie’s blood with the windshield wipers.
It was a very long and difficult day for the crew, being out in the mist the whole time, having to deal with density issues. I wish I had a quarter every time someone quoted BACK TO THE FUTURE on that set. “How’s the density?” would be heard and inevitably someone would respond with “I’m your… density…” in their best Crispin Glover.
I said my good-byes, then headed back to my crappy little La Quinta to get the 4 or so hours I could before my friends and I had to be on the road back home.
Once again, thanks to everybody on that set for welcoming me with such open arms. A particular thanks has to go to Denise Huth, Randi Richmond and Frank Darabont for letting me bring the good word to you folks.
And thank you guys for reading. The feedback has been great. I’m giddy over this movie and I’m happy to see you guys feel the same way.
Believe you me I’ll be keeping an eye on this project, hopefully bringing you good folks some more goodies as the flick goes through editing and effects before it’s November 21st release.
I leave you with a glimpse at the disgusting creature that was causing all the havoc on set this final day. Enjoy!