Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ronna Wallace to Rep GDE

It is with great excitement that we announce a new member to the Ghosts Don’t Exist family. GDE will be repped by Producer’s Rep extraordinaire, Ronna Wallace. Ronna started out as an Executive Producer on films like Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Bad Lieutenant, and Bob Roberts. She is now one of the best in the biz at finding a home for films – repping movies like the successful horror, Open Water. Our goal from the beginning was to get her involved and for it to become official is a huge milestone for GDE. We’ve heard that she is picky about the projects she accepts, so for her to take on GDE speaks volumes.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches we are definitely THANKFUL for having Ronna on board and we’re excited to see what she can do with GDE!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Meet the Crew: Ed Mantell

I'm proud to say that Art Director Ed Mantell and I have a few things in common—one of them being the title, Art Director. While my title applies to the graphic design industry, Ed's calling is filmmaking; and there's nobody better at his craft than Ed Mantell.

I had the pleasure of working closely with Ed on the set of Ghosts Don't Exist, ensuring that he had access to digital props and other often-overlooked art department details. Wit
h every project, things sometimes have to change on the fly—even the script. I can recall a few instances (usually in the wee hours of the morning after a long shoot) when a scene called for something new; Ed would always respond with the same unflappable reply: "Copy that!" And within moments, he'd have it solved.

That's an art director's job on set and off—making sure that the film stays true to details and
visual consistency. To say that it's a tough job is an understatement. It takes meticulous planning, and a careful eye to control the set after its been assembled—a particular challenge. Between takes, cast and crew typically relax momentarily and tend to forget their surroundings. That's when the rogue coffee cup sitting on a step may inadvertently be moved or thrown away—someone innocently having forgotten that it was a prop in an earlier scene that shouldn't be disturbed! Ed was always there preserving the set; taking careful photos and diligently monitoring every artistic detail.

Just as important as his expertise and professionalism is Ed's genuine personality. He's both a willing, generous teacher and mentor on set—and a student of the industry with a continual thirst for knowledge. And he's just a hell of a lot of fun to be around—a trait that so many on this team shared.

Like most of our other veteran crew members, there's much more to Ed Mantell than his art directing duties. He's accumulated a wealth of experience on both sides of the camera, having worked as an actor and extra in over 30 projects, including documentaries for PBS, The Discovery Channel, A&E, and many more. He's also been in several feature films, including Gods and Generals, War of the Worlds, Leatherheads, and the critically-acclaimed HBO mini-series, John Adams.

As is his nature, Ed makes a Herculean effort to understand the things that interest him, and he immerses himself. He's a certified Cannoner and Gun Commander (Certified by The National Civil War Artillery Association). He's also a living historian—having impersonated civilians and soldiers from the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam—on film and for the general public.

It's also been suggested that Ed is a real-life pirate. But that's another story.

Undoubtedly, one of Ed's many skills is his chameleon-like ability to change appearance. I got to witness the transformation first-hand when he assumed a bit part in GDE as Bradford Walters, a character pivotal to the backstory. Ed effortlessly shifted gears on our very first day of filming, leavin
g his improvised art department desk briefly to don a vintage suit and take a turn in makeup artist's Jim Choate's chair. Reporting to set, he was a totally different person. He shot me a knowing wink and added, "Man of a thousand faces."

Ed's also an amazing drummer and guitarist—and one of the highlights of each day's wrap was the impromptu jam sessions with he, Sam Edens, and Gavin Peretti over a few beers. Where lesser crews might justifiably crash into bed after a grueling day, these guys would hold court for additional hours. And after hearing them play a few bars, most of us stuck around as well.

"Life isn't about finding yourself, Life is about creating yourself." This quote from George Bernard Shaw is one of Ed's favorites, and it's befitting. He continues to create himself with each project he undertakes, and in doing so, be a positive influence on everyone he works with.

On a sad note, 19th + Wilson and the entire Ghosts Don't Exist team extend our heartfelt condolences to Ed on the loss of his father,
Carl Raymond Mantell, who passed away yesterday. Ed's dad was a piano and organ teacher, and had still been playing a midi accordion as a one-man polka band. Like his son, he sounds like a wonderful character. God bless you both.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ghost Capture: Movin' On Up!

If you haven't downloaded Ghost Capture for your iPhone yet, there's never been a better time to do it. In honor of Halloween, it's available FREE until November 1st!

Our fun, paranormal photo manipulator is officially a hit—it's just cracked the coveted Top 20 free photography apps and is currently at #14! How awesome is that?!

However, now we really need your help RATING it in the iTunes store. Of the 4000+ who've downloaded it globally so far, only a hundred or so have actually given it a rating. If you enjoy the app, please take a moment to give it a good rating on iTunes—every new download helps spread the word about Ghosts Don't Exist, and that's the ultimate goal!

We're also in the process of planning the first major update for the app, so keep your eyes peeled. We've literally been receiving thousands of creepy images from Ghost Capture users around the world—which you can now browse through in the new Ghost Capture Gallery at the official site! Keep those freaky fotos coming!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The GDE iPhone App!

Ghosts Don't Exist is a first for 19th + Wilson on a number of fronts. It's our first feature-length film, and our first time working in high-def. It's also the first of our projects to spawn an official iPhone app!

Ghost Capture is a cool little application we designed ourselves, in the spirit o
f the film (no pun intended.) In short, it allows you to create realistic "paranormal" images right on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Here's the description from the iTunes App Store:

With Ghost Capture, you can manipulate any photo from your iPhone photo album. After choosing an image, (or taking a new photo directly through Ghost Capture) select a ghost to superimpose onto the photo. Choose from creepy Victorian children, faceless torsos, Civil War soldiers, ghostly orbs, and more. After placing the ghost, adjust the size, rotation, and transparency to achieve the optimum effect. Save and email your creation to your friends, and let them judge for themselves!

You'll be surprised at how creepy some of your own photos become. Transparent, creepy Victorian children and faceless torsos do have that effect, you know.

There's currently a page of 10 different "ghosts" to choose from, and we'll be adding plenty more in future updates.

The app is available on iTunes for .99 cents, with all earnings going to the film.
So please help out by purchasing it and giving it a solid rating! Even if you don't have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can still purchase the app through iTunes, if you'd like to help support us anyway. (And for when you do finally get that iPhone.) ;)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

40,000 and counting!

The Ghosts Don't Exist trailer is getting seen, and at an even greater pace than anyone anticipated!

Between the past week's features on the front page of YouTube and Chris Cooley's Hot Clicks article on, the trailer has topped an astounding 40,000 views since being posted on August 27th! And more importantly, it's continuing to generate positive reviews.

Many thanks to all who've watched it, highly rated it, and spread the word!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Official Trailer!

We've all been waiting for it. We've all been asking about it. Finally, it's here. The official trailer for Ghosts Don't Exist.

The YouTube video has already topped 5,000 views in this first week, and we
thank everyone for continuing to spread the word!

Be sure to also check out the updated and expanded official site, which includes an additional high-definition viewing option.

The film is now in the capable hands of sound designer Billy Britt and composer James Sale, (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs; The Golden Compass) who are working their auditory magic.

Billy Britt talks with director Eric Espejo and producer Richard Friend in his Richmond studio.

You're now free to move on to that next question—when will the final cut be ready? It's the question we'll all be asking... probably for the next six to eight weeks. ;)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hot Off the Presses!

Be sure to pick up the September issue of Northern Virginia Magazine, now on newsstands! There's a great feature article included on Chris Cooley and Ghosts Don't Exist!

It's a terrific piece written by
Buzz McClain, who also just happens to be the movie critic for Playboy Magazine! (Which makes it all the more fitting that the article is titled "'Skin Flick.") ;)

In other GDE news, word on the streets (those streets being 19th + Wilson, of course) is that the much-anticipated trailer is coming soon. Very soon. As in, this week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ghost Hunters: a Familiar Location!

If you watched Ghost Hunters on SyFy last night, you might have noticed something familiar. Jason, Grant, and the team investigated the Brentsville Courthouse Historic Centre in Prince William County, Virginia—the first location the producers of Ghosts Don't Exist visited when meeting John Warfield of DCMAG last October!

The DCMAG crew has documented numerous paranormal experiences in the historic courthouse and jail over the course of many investigations, and it was interesting to watch the TAPS team retrace our footsteps!

So, did they find anything? You'll have to watch the episode.

And what about us—did
we find anything? You'll have to wait for the DVD. ;) In the meantime, here are a few photos from our very first paranormal investigation—a tour of the Brentsville site with DCMAG, which ultimately led to their being used as consultants on the film!

We interviewed John Warfield at the Brentsville Courthouse for a bonus feature on the Ghosts Don't Exist DVD!

The Brentsville Jail... No lights, no electricity!

Aaron, Donnie, Eric, and Tanner in what is purportedly one of the most active rooms of the haunted Brentsville jail.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Composer: James T. Sale

It is with great pleasure that I announce the latest addition to the GDE family, our composer:

James T. Sale,

His only personal info on IMDB simply states that he's an avid Washington Redskin fan -- I think he'll fit right in with our project. In fact, it was that alerted him to our production and thank goodness for that. James has worked on an impressive collection of projects. Most recently on films such as Haunting of Molly Hartley, Fanboys, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

James is from the Washington DC area and is now based out of Los Angeles. We are excited about his involvement and can't wait to hear what he whips up for GDE.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Director's Q&A

Eric Espejo, writer-director for Ghosts Don’t Exist would like to share his thoughts on questions submitted for the GDE producer’s video blog.

What happened to the producer’s video blog?

I’ll just answer that with a plug about being invited to speak to film students at George Mason University’s Studio A ( It’s on Nov 6th, and I think you’ll be more interested in watching that video, than our recently recorded producer’s video blog. We plan on putting the producer’s video as an Easter egg on the GDE DVD.

How did you get Chris Cooley involved?

I sent a message to Chris’ “business development” email address listed on his blog. He seemed like the kind of guy who’d be interested in show business. In the same way I’d pitch any other producer, agent, and/or manager, I told them about 19th & Wilson and our project. Jake Stewart, one of Chris’ business partners responded positively. It was a couple of months of correspondence. Then one day I got this message from Tanner Cooley that simply said, “Call Chris he wants to talk to you, his cell is…”. I was on vacation with my wife, Sarina, and we were about to go to dinner by the beach and I made her wait 10 minutes while I called him. She’s very understanding of the film stuff, but I think she ordered the most expensive items on the menu for payback. Anyway, we finally got to meet Chris for a drink in DC (Christy was with him) and I was incredibly impressed at how nice and genuine they were. I’ve said it before, the Cooleys are a class act. Chris really liked the concept of the movie so he agreed to sign on as Executive Producer. Later we met with Tanner Cooley and immediately we clicked and felt like he’d be driving things from the Cooley side, so we added him as a Producer. Tanner has a real interest in film and was instrumental in getting the project off the ground.

How did you come up with the story?

I’m a big fan of the horror genre. I’m not so excited about slashers unless the story is really done well. Story is everything, of course. Take Robert Wise’s “The Haunting” as an example; leaving more up to the imagination rather than showing a slow moving monster is much more frightening in my opinion. Also, in a horror when the concept is somewhat plausible then it enhances the fear. I’ve been pretty skeptical of shows that feature ghost hunters, so I asked myself what is something that could happen on a gig to these researchers that would absolutely blow them away. As a screenwriter, that’s your job, to take a situation and push the envelope within reason. So I took the paranormal arena and put some investigators in a pretty f’d up situation. As any writer knows, there are countless rewrites and I should mention that our other EP, James Mercurio who has a lot of experience with development, kept pushing me to not settle…to dig deeper into what was happening to the characters.

What made you choose that cast or location?

I was thrilled that 220+ actors showed up to the weekend auditions – folks from the DC/Balt area, and even Philly and NYC. A huge part of directing is casting, it’s very stressful. It’s essential to get it right. I thought I’d be able to just “know” that weekend when someone got it right. It was too tough to decide in 48hrs. We ended up having callbacks. I have a deep respect for what actors go through in auditions. One of them email’d me later and asked if there was anything he could’ve done differently. It’s a simple answer, “preparation”. It’s impressive when someone takes the time to learn the sides they’ve been given in advance. Reading off the paper makes a huge difference. What’s interesting is that two of our actors were online auditions (Philip Roebuck and Josh Davidson). They sent in videos and as soon as I saw Philip’s online submission I saw Brett’s character. He nailed it. Josh Davidson had an attitude about him and I could picture him as David Sherman, even though the role was written as a curmudgeon – I’m sure Josh will take that as a compliment. Devon Marie Burt had this great way of making you feel stressed for her, and that’s what was called for her role in the movie. Frederick Cowie secured the Richie role by just being himself. He’s got a unique sense of humor but has the range to bring that perspective to a horror. Joe Hansard is a great actor I’ve worked with a few times before, and he’s top notch. He plays creepy well. I wish I could keep talking about the rest of the cast but this blog would go on too long. I’m happy about each decision – there were a lot of comments on set praising the cast.

As for locations. We couldn’t have done it without our UPM, Kathryn Coombs. We made her scramble but she came through for us. For the main house, I searched online for rentals and I sent her a few options. I got a good idea of what the homes looked like from the net, but Kathryn did everything else. She set up the scouts and secured it.

Anything creepy happen on set?

Nope. You might want to field that question to our ghost hunting consultants, John Warfield and John Rossi of DCMAG. See the link to them on our blog. Well, there was this thing with the batteries in a certain location but I don't know...

Were there any moments during filming that really made you realize how much you love filmmaking?

Not a specific moment, but when you look at the hours you work during an ultra low budget indie production you think to yourself, “I must love this.” It’s cliché to say this, but it’s not work when you love it -- so you shouldn’t mind the hours. However, if you don’t have the right crew, then you may end up frustrated with a project. That wasn’t the case on GDE, we had great chemistry and it was a lot of fun.

What was your favorite and least favorite time on set?

Favorite time is after “Action!”. To see a script come to life on that monitor is exciting. Least favorite time is when weather doesn’t cooperate. You have to be prepared to rewrite on the fly just because an external shot is not possible. It can be stressful…I remember rewriting in Hamilton and just when I had it figured out, it stopped raining. Another dislike was our schedule. When you have a low budget you only have so much time. You have no choice but to cut out certain shots that you envisioned, but that’s just how it is. But our DP, Kuni Ohi made it work, he was outstanding, he was heavily involved from the get go – we worked many hours on a shot list. Preparation was key. Plus we had other seasoned pros like Bill Britt (sound), Don Aros (gaffer), Hektor Stockton (key grip), and Jim Choate (makeup/fx), that made the schedule work. Without them I think we would’ve struggled. Also, a director needs to surround himself with a solid team for just himself and I had incredible support from Gavin Peretti (AD), Richard Friend (2nd AD),and last but certainly not least Jean Paul Chreky (scriptie). That’s probably my other favorite part about the set – the crew. They were all exceptional.

How many famous Washingtonians were in GDE and how did they do?

From the Redskins there was Chris Cooley and Todd Yoder. From local media there was Lindsay Czarniak from NBC4 and Mike O’Meara from the Mike O’Meara radio program. They were all very professional and did really well in their roles. I know Chris was concerned about his part but he was a natural. He was very believable and I think he’s happy with it – otherwise, he wouldn’t have shown his scene nationwide on NFL Total Access with Rich Eisen. Yoder was a last minute cast and he had some improv lines that would’ve put us in a different MPAA rating – he was a lot of fun and actually added value to the scene because I was trying to find a way to setup a situation better for Chris’ character. Lindsay was a natural as well, especially since she plays a reporter in the movie. I’m so grateful for her to make it work. She had a hectic schedule with the Caps and Nascar, but went out of her way to make sure she could film her scene. I remember listening to the Don and Mike show for years, so it was a blast to have Mike O’Meara participate. He really got it right as a television network executive. His scene worked out perfect. I should also mention that our producer, Tanner Cooley also makes an appearance as his future profession…a doctor.

Are there any one-liners from the movie that you think fans will pick up on?

“Weird.” It’s not translating well for a blog because there’s a way to say it. You have to say it the way Chris Cooley says it. The 19w team quotes it all the time.

Without giving away too much of the story, will it be a “head nodding” or “head shaking” ending?

I’m not sure what you mean about this question, Liz (Liz_Kauai). If you’re asking if it’ll be an up or down ending, then I can’t say. I remember something that M. Night Shyamalan once said about his films. He said he’d like it to pass the take home test. He went on to explain that sometimes his films made you go home and think more about what you had just seen. You start to question it, debate it, and it becomes even more intriguing – the kind of film that starts internet discussion threads. It makes you want to see it a second time, looking for clues. I think GDE might do the same. I’m not saying I’m trying to hack M. Night. I’m just saying that it may be a movie that makes you question certain things, like “Do ghosts exist?” It’s an old debate amongst skeptics and those who believe in the paranormal. There are parts of the film that could support…wait now I’m starting to say too much, so just go see the movie.

What are the plans for GDE’s release?

Producer and 19w CEO, Aaron Goodmiller and I have been corresponding with Ronna Wallace, Producer Rep extraordinaire. She executive produced such films as Reservoir Dogs and Bad Lieutenant. She’s now a producer’s rep with years of experience and sales like Open Water. A producer’s rep is the first person you contact when you have a project so I talked to her when we were in pre-production. She’s waiting to see our trailer or rough cut (our great editor Matt West is hard at work), then she’ll decide where to go from there. If she reps us I’m sure she’ll tell us what the strategy is.

What are 19W’s future plans/projects?

The Cooleys have expressed interest in doing another film and we’re excited about that. While our main focus is seeing GDE all the way through, we do have some projects in development. I’m currently in a rewrite of our next one. There’s a subtle link on the new site that hints at our next project.

Thanks for all the great questions, and sorry I couldn’t answer every single one but I didn’t want this blog to take up three pages, so I picked the most frequent ones we get. Speaking of a long post, if you’ve read this far, thanks for doing so. Please keep spreading the word about GDE and we appreciate your support!

Friday, July 17, 2009 updated, expanded, and LIVE!

The all-new is finally up and running!

We've thoroughly expanded the site to showcase cast + crew, sponsors, press coverage, the blog, and a number of extras—including the exclusive DCMAG Diary of a Ghost Hunter mini-site!

Check it out, and be sure to let us know what you think!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sneak Peek at the New Site

We've gotten a lot of questions recently about this, so I'm happy to report that we are verrrrrry close to launching the long-overdue overhaul of the film's official website,

The current site was developed before the film was even cast, and was designed primarily for investment purposes to simply set the tone and generate interest. Now, it's time to showcase what we've accomplished—and we've been hard at work doing just that.

After casting, we entered what felt like a whirlwind of tasks and deadlines—production itself being a 15-day marathon that literally required all hands on deck. With the film now in post-production, we've finally been able to address the issue of updating and expanding the website design—and Version 2.0 is shaping up to be a very cool thing.

The image above shows just a few examples of what you can expect from the new site. In addition to production and cast photos, there will be links to press coverage, (including the blog, of course) sponsors, downloads, and lots more—including our exclusive "Diary of a Ghost Hunter" feature with John Warfield of DCMAG.

We're in the home stretch, and should be announcing the launch shortly... stay tuned! :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fun With Props: The "Psy Fi" Channel

In every good film, there's attention to detail. I'm happy to say, you'll find plenty of that in
Ghosts Don't Exist.

One such detail involves a fictitious cable network—which we had to create from scratch. (Sort of.)

As you know by now, our story centers around celebrated TV ghost hunter,
Brett Wilson. He and his team have a phenomenally successful show, much like the SciFi Channel hit, Ghost Hunters. To convey this, we started from the beginning—by establishing a fictitious brand.

We needed a brand that would instantly convey the essence of the SciFi Channel, without plagiarizing or mocking the original. Unit Production Manager Kathryn Coombs suggested the name, "Psy Fi"—a play on "psychological" and "science" fiction, given the nature of paranormal reporting. And being the graphic designer, I had the fun chore of developing a logo.

The PsyFi News logo, along with some additional prototypes

The Psy Fi News logo would be used across a number of platforms, in order to convey its range throughout the film. Some of the things we had to create:

  • wall-mounted signage for the network executive boardroom
  • a branded notebook for field reporter Lindsay
  • motion graphics for the actual Brett Wilson interview footage.

When it all comes together, our Psy Fi pseudo-network certainly feels like the real deal. Of course, it also helps tremendously when you have very real media folks—pros like Lindsay Czarniak and Mike O'Meara staffing it! ;)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quasi-Dinner for Five: GDE Edition

Most of you are probably familiar with Dinner for Five, Jon Favreau's hit show on IFC where he and four guests swap stories and discuss the craft of acting over dinner.

This Friday, we'll be doing our OWN version, inspired by DfF. Although, instead of dinner, we'll probably stick to cheap appetizers and beers. :)

The producers of Ghosts Don't Exist (Tanner Cooley, Eric Espejo, Richard Friend, and Aaron Goodmiller) are meeting up for said drinks and appetizers, and 19W will film the whole thing—as we discuss the process of making the movie and the exciting next steps. Then, we'll post the video here on the blog!

What questions would YOU ask the producers? Post them here in the comments section, on our official Facebook page, or email them to They might just end up in the video!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tanner Cooley Talks GDE on WPL!

Producer Tanner Cooley was a special guest on Comcast Sportsnet's Washington Post Live show yesterday afternoon, where he spoke with Ivan Carter about Ghosts Don't Exist! Check it out:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Extra! Extra! GDE in the Washington Post!

In case you missed it yesterday, Ghosts Don't Exist was in the Washington Post!

The Reliable Source column by Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts was a terrific followup to one they wrote in January, announcing Chris and Tanner Cooley's association with the project. Yesterday's article focuses on Chris' role in the film, and mentions the cameos by local media favorites Mike O'Meara and Lindsay Czarniak.

Many thanks to the Post for the wonderful publicity—it's an honor!

And speaking of the Mike O'Meara Show, check out the pics from last Friday's show with Chris, Tanner, and Eric Espejo in-studio!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

MEET THE CREW: Boom Operator Sam Edens

Sam & Sam: Samantha Iles with Sam Edens

Sam Edens is one of the most amiable fellows you could ever hope to meet. Friendly, funny, and always entertaining—having him on the Ghosts Don't Exist team throughout the aggressive 15-day shoot was a very good thing for us all.

He's unquestionably one of the first folks you'd notice on set. Tall, rangy, and with a long ponytail and goatee—at first glance, he may look more like the "outlaw biker" archetype he actually portrayed in a 2003 episode of The F.B.I. Files on The Discovery Channel. But from your first conversation with this easygoing gentleman, you'll know you're in very good company—and in for a fun ride. Fittingly, on Day 1 of filming, it was Sam who showed up with the Ghostbusters shirt. GDE was officially off to a great start.

But Sam did much more than simply keep the troops in good spirits; he held—literally—one of the most crucial filmmaking responsibilities on set. The boom mic.

Working in tandem with sound recordist Billy Britt, Sam's job was to pick up the key voices and sounds in every scene. Indoors, outdoors... sometimes in uncomfortably close quarters. It's often a thankless job, and one of the most grueling. But we certainly appreciate Sam's skill and effort on this film. Because make no mistake—what you'll ultimately hear in the movie is due in very large part to Sam Edens.

One of the great things about working with Sam, aside from his wit and wisdom, is his unwavering demeanor. Cool under fire doesn't begin to describe it. Whether it was bad weather or ungodly hours, Sam never lost his affability. He helped create and foster a stress-free environment on sets that could've easily turned into anything but.

Sam can always find a way to lighten a moment, bring a smile, and set everyone around him at ease—including Redskins' great Chris Cooley, waiting a bit tentatively for an alternate take during his screen debut:

Sam is a lot more than a boom operator. He's a talented screenwriter and actor who has appeared in a number of productions, including The Patriot and John Adams; and has portrayed such surprisingly cleancut historical figures as Alexander Hamilton and Sir Isaac Newton, respectively.

And you thought he was just another outlaw biker. ;)

Sam on the set of The Patriot with Jason Isaacs—the diabolical Col. Tavington

Sam as Sir Isaac Newton in The Science Channel's 100 Greatest Discoveries

On the set of HBO's John Adams

Sam as Alexander Hamilton in The Discovery Channel's Weapons Masters

On top of it all, Sam is a heck of a musician. One of the great memories many of us will take from the GDE experience is that of Sam, Ed Mantell, and Gavin Peretti breaking out in their freeform jam sessions at the end of each day. Sam's bass, Ed's guitar, and Gavin's vocals were a welcome sound, signaling another day closer to the completion of the film.

Check out Sam's MySpace page, as well as that of his freestyle group, 13 Foot Drift. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Scare Tactics

You might be surprised to learn that there weren't a lot of pranks played on the set of Ghosts Don't Exist. Probably because we were all so focused throughout the production. In the months leading up to filming, however, we did have a few opportunities to provide a friendly scare or two. Well, I did, anyway. Fittingly, they came during actual ghost hunts.

The first was at the Brentsville Courthouse, where we met the guys from DCMAG for the very first time. We were about to join them for our very first investigation—of the historic Brentsville Jail—when I seized the opportunity. Standing just outside the courthouse, I noticed someone passing by the upstairs window. It may have actually been Nancy Yee or Kirsten Cooley—both of whom were there touring the site with us. So I snapped a photo. Hold that thought for a moment.

A few seconds later, I noticed Donnie Conty in the Courthouse foyer. As Donnie will tell you himself, (and as you'll eventually see in a particularly priceless behind-the-scenes clip) he's always the most likely to pull a "Dude, run!" in any scary situation. But knowing that he takes everything in stride, I proceeded to call Donnie outside. Feigning a concerned but quizzical look, I suggested that I'd just photographed something... well, unusual. I pointed to the window above us, which was now empty:

I then showed Donnie my camera, containing what seemed to be a photograph I'd taken just seconds prior:

He scrutinized the image in the camera, then looked back up at the empty window in disbelief. He was able to utter a startled "WTF?!" before his jaw dropped completely.

Unable to hold in the laughter, I let him off the hook. He had several choice words for me, but I know he appreciated the simple creativity that lead to such a convincing scare. ;) It's an amazingly easy concept that just happened to come to me on the spot.

Fortunately, it came to me again—the week before we began filming GDE.

19th + Wilson asked DCMAG to give our lead actors a crash course in ghost hunting (something else you'll definitely see in our behind-the-scenes features). Before the investigation at Historic Jordan Springs, we were given a tour of the amazing site. There happened to be a few folks still there that evening, as part of an event that was wrapping up; and noticing a dapper older gentleman in one of the libraries, I snapped a photo. Hold that thought for a moment.

In pranking people, I've learned that it can often be just as effective to show someone parts of a photo out of context—especially if they're not expecting certain elements to be there.

With that in mind, I approached Sarina Espejo with my camera. Knowing that she'd also seen these same rooms eariler, I showed her the "unusual image" that had turned up in my viewfinder. While scrolling through a zoomed image, I explained how I'd taken some photos in the library. "It pretty much speaks for itself," I said, heightening the suspense. As I continued to scroll across the image, Sarina saw closeups of books and stuff, like this:

and this:

And then, out of nowhere, this appeared:

It's amazing how—in the context of an intense paranormal investigation—a well-dressed, harmless senior citizen takes on the more ominous visage of a long-dead mortician, quietly observing our activities from beyond the grave... for all eternity. Or something like that. The effect is even more startling if you simulate dramatic music and/or scream when revealing the image.

Sarina slapped my arm. Hard.

All joking aside, we did experience a number of unexplainable events at both Brentsville and Jordan Springs—some of which we'll be sharing here very soon. They definitely helped set the tone for cast and crew alike. ;)