Where Did the Phrase 'Graveyard Shift' Come From?

Back in 16th-century England, cemeteries discovered a bit of a problem. When digging up graves for whatever reason, they found that many persons were being buried alive.

Since this was considered an undesirable state of affairs, cemetery managers devised a plan to prevent such "mistakes."

They ran a string into each newly buried coffin and tied it around the corpse's hand. This string led to a nearby bell. Persons were stationed at the bell. If it rang during the night after the funeral, the guard immediately summoned others to dig up the unfortunate soul.

This practice led to several interesting expressions. The persons dug up alive were "saved by the bell." Persons dug up not alive were "dead ringers." The guard who had to stay up all night with the bell was given the "graveyard shift."


Typhoon Filming

We had to film one scene where a sorceress decides to cast her magic spell in a cornfield. The scene had to be dramatic and impressive.

The sequence hadn't been shot yet, and one day a typhoon blew through, nearly sweeping us away with wind and rain.

The director decided this would be the perfect time to shoot this scene. Cast and crew, troopers that they were, said they didn't mind getting wet. So out they went, equipment and all.

Umbrellas protected the equipment and large plastic bags helped most crew members stay dry. The actors, Issa Litton and NIc Campos, went out with just ordinary clothes to brave the rain. Of course, they got totally soaked.

So shoot they did and recorded one of the most impressive scenes in the film. Hollywood pays thousands of dollars to create such a scene. Nature gave it to us free of charge. Such a deal.

Talk about realism!


Surviving the Night: The Fear-Filled Filming of Darkest Night

A Behind-the-Scenes Blog Reveals the Real Horrors of How to Make a Horror Film Mostly on Graveyard Shift While Feeling Like a Zombie

By Russ Williams

When we planned the shooting schedule for Darkest Night, one thing stood out at first glance. Since most of the film's action happens at night, eight out of the film's 10 shooting days would be nights instead of days. We decided to shoot mostly during the "graveyard shift."

So, like vampires, for most of the shoot we all slept during the days and came out at night to do our horrific work. During late afternoons, we staggered around like the living dead. Surviving each night with good scene and sequence footage in hand became our paramount goal. Feeling even halfway human came in a far, far-back second.

The photo in this section shows Bryan Sales, the director of photography, taking a late-night break and enjoying Magnifico coffee.

However, this was not our only challenge in making Darkest Night. Getting the action from script to actor to movie felt like running a marathon for the first time. I never realized what it would take (or take out of me!) till I did it. All-in-all, it was the shoot from hell and one hell of a shoot, both at the same time!

So here is my personal journal of the event, take or leave. It was the best of times, the worst of times, nights of agony; evenings of ecstasy, messy, chaotic, hellacious but sublime as well. Often all of these things at the same time!

It was everything above and more. To rephrase an old cliché, film-making is like creating sausage. Much of it is just so horrible, the "consumer" really shouldn't know too much about it. However, one of my most important jobs is to write horror, so the lot falls for me to tell the tale.

What follows is a behind-the-scenes, blow-by-blow account of events during the shooting of Darkest Night, as told by the writer, executive producer and a professed innocent bystander. Think of it as my personal blog and reminiscences, as well as a useful handbook on how to make an indie horror film on the fly, with not much budget and in the Philippines.

Warning: It's a sometimes wild ride, so hold on tight! This Web page is not for the faint of heart.

April 27 - 29: Arrival, Getting Settled In, Getting a Few Shaky Bearings & Getting Used to Life in the Philippine Farmlands

All of the crew and I set out from Manila, heading for the beautiful, two-story house in Floridablanca where most of the shoot was going to take place. We kept driving on and on, further and further into the country. Just when I didn't think things could get any more rural, we passed a hog farm. On smelling the evidence, I hoped the house was much farther away at that point. My hopes were smashed. We turned into a long driveway and stopped at the location, bounding out of the car. Everyone immediately went to work preparing the house for making the film. I was praying that the wind would keep blowing toward the pigs. Unfortunately, my prayers in this regard went unanswered during most of the shoot.

On the left is the house in Floridablanca, Philippines (about 55 miles or 90 kilometers northwest of Manila), the location where most of Darkest Night was shot.

One thing was a given. During our time shooting there, most of the actors and crew would be living in the house, communal style. This arrangement led to a great spirit of camaraderie. It also created huge inconveniences. Fortunately, our director, Noel Tan, was there to help make order out of primordial chaos. He valiantly and partially succeeded. I was there to bark out an occasional order, hope it would be obeyed (sometimes it was!), and generally keep out of the way.

Our cooks made excellent meals for us. Basic creature comforts (and often we felt like uncomfortable creatures) did more or less come our way. The majority of the people had to sleep dormitory fashion, mostly on the floor. Folks discovered others' night-time habits never dreamed of before in wildest fantasy. There were also informal lines at the showers and bathrooms (people didn't queue; they just went to a locked door and gave up till, hopefully, later). That was, of course, when the plumbing was working. Often, folks didn't have time to shower at all, leading to an abundance of exotic fragrances wafting  throughout the house augmenting the pig farm breezes.

The actors had dormitories upstairs more or less with air conditioning. The crew slept wherever and whenever they could, mostly downstairs on the tile underfoot, with nothing but fans, a few pads and occasional covers. On every day but one, the heat was scorching, so they deserve credit for putting up with the most hardships. I, being the eldest of the lot and the executive producer, got an upstairs private room with air conditioning. However, I did think often of the crew sometimes sleeping and always sweating below me. Indeed, I felt their pain.

We also had a pool but not enough chlorine. After two days, using it became like swimming in a farm pond. The pool and back patio are beautiful and well designed, but become like a ceramic-firing oven during days unless you jumped into the so-called water. Even that was like lukewarm soup after a day or so, green-pea soup to be exact. Still, it was cooler than the afternoon air, and all of us went swimming most afternoons, just to help survive the heat.

During these prolog days, the crew spent time getting ready for the shoot while our support staff got the house in working order (kind of). Since the place wasn't inhabited, a lot of work needed to be done on the plumbing and some on the electrical wiring. After everything was "fixed," we still had to flush the toilets by pouring a bucket of water into the bowl from a lofty height. Most of our showers were tubes (in Tagalog) that is, washing up out of a bucket and rinsing by pouring water over our heads. Back in Tennessee, we used to call these "bird baths" because of the small quantity of water involved. After each of these, I even felt like a drenched bird, wet feathers and all.

DJ Perry arrived late Wednesday night (or early Thursday morning; I forget when) at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. They call it NAIA, and after an hour there, I was convinced the letters really stood for "N-sanity Arises Instantly Anywhere." It was great finally meeting DJ of course, and we enjoyed talking and getting to know each other. Noel managed to meet him without "getting a nosebleed" (his words), and they also became well acquainted.

Is it pea soup? Is it vomit from The Exorcist? No, it's pool water, and this strange liquid was just barely cooler than the super-heated air: Right, DJ discovers the joys of swimming in liquid Filipino algae.

Later on, we all developed excellent working relationships. This was a great advantage when moments of total confusion and true terror (the real thing, not movie stuff) sometimes swirled around us. I was soon to discover that Filipino indie film-making is sort of a controlled catastrophe about to happen any time, but, if you're strong and possess intestines of chrome-plated steel, the very worst doesn't happen. You just feel like it's happened or is happening or will happen or whatever, during most of the shoot. However, I digress.

Justin Chan arrived from Malaysia that Friday, and we picked him up at the Clark Airport, closer than Manila. Indeed, everyone was happy to meet our actor friend from Malaysia who plays a vital role in the cast, Jeffrey Espino. Justin's sense of humor and wild, crazy behavior was a delight to us all. Of course, he's an excellent professional. In fact, he's such a good actor, he was able to convince us all we were having fun, when many times we weren't and felt like we were on a shaky roller coaster about to careen off the tracks into empty air. He would just crack another hilarious, gut splitting joke! I would laugh and laugh, even times when I felt like throwing myself from a second-floor window. Had the shoot truly driven me to suicide, he could have convinced me to die happy. However, again, I digress.

Life on location marched onward. Anticipation electrified the drenched-feeling humid air. We did get three meals a day during the whole time, with a variety of delicious Filipino dishes. At this point, I must leave a word or two about Filipino food. On the whole, it's salivatingly delicious. However, it often contains a plethora of insidious hidden bones. Eating Filipino food is like being a good gossip. To avoid painful reprisal, you have to know where all the bones are buried. In addition to wholesome food, we got a sponsorship deal with Magnifico coffee, instant complete with powdered cream and sugar. Actually it was rather good, and I looked forward to it every morning. They were one of our sponsors, so I'm not going to say anything different, right?

As you can tell, being used to American film-making, I was quite unprepared for the Filipino way of doing things cinematic. At any rate, this rambling preamble gives you a good idea of what our first few days at "the house" were like. Of course, after the rest of the actors arrived things really started to get interesting.

April 30 - May 1: The Actors Arrive Followed by Dismay, Beer, Assembly, Beer, Rehearsal, Beer, the Press & Beer

The actors arrived early that morning for a brief assembly, announcements and a day of rehearsals. Like the true professionals and actors they are, each in his or her own way successfully, except to my notice, hid his or her utter dismay at the primitive nature of our living quarters. DJ had already moved my heart with an eloquent plea (virtually on bended knee) for a room with air conditioning, a petition truly worthy of Hamlet. He got his wish. Others, however, were not so lucky.

I simply smiled and said, "Welcome to the world of independent film," praying at the same time that the plumbing and electricity would keep on working during the rest of the shoot!

We all pause for a moment of prayer during the invocation. If I had known then how much prayer we actually
needed, I would have requested at least four more invocations!

Actually, there was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm as well. A mood of expectancy filled the crowd as everyone gathered in the house's living room for a morning assembly and get-to-know-you session. We bowed to the Asian horror-movie tradition of having a religious service before the start of the shoot. The minister we had on hand preached and prayed well. There was no hellfire or brimstone. He probably knew all of that was coming later. This was going to be a horror film, right? He did leave as soon as he was able, and I don't I blame him in the least.

At the same time, I prayed no one would get hurt during the shoot. Of course I had genuine concern for all members of the cast and crew. Also, I didn't want to get sued. Anyway, at this time, I can truthfully say, "No human beings were hurt or injured in the making of this film." OK, there were a few really small cuts and bruises, but they don't count.

Additionally, I prayed the traditional producer's prayer, "God, please let this film make lots of money!" There 's nothing wrong with that, OK? Afterward we made a few announcements when the service was over and then got on with the rehearsals. As we walked from room to room, reading the words in the major scenes, there seemed like something almost perfunctory about the whole thing. All the actors and even Noel seemed to be thinking, "All right we know the script already. Let's get on with the shoot."

However, we couldn't, at least not that day, because this was planned to be a rehearsal day and no more. So we went through the motions of staging things, had dinner, relaxed that night, drank huge amounts of beer, talked a lot and went to bed. What could be easier? Still, I felt an uneasiness. Like the herd of swine next door, was I just feeling the calm before the ax falls? I fell into an uneasy sleep, counting pigs.

That was Saturday, and the next day was Sunday, a day off from the shoot. We talked to the press, took lots of photos, relaxed in and by the pool and drank beer. Dozens and dozens of photos were taken, of cast members in every conceivable pose. Again, we had an easy day. Everyone turned in early. The good stuff would start the next day of course, Monday, the first day of the shoot.

May 2: Starting the Shoot With a Corny Daylight Scene Before Everything Goes All Dark, Evil & Scary

We decided to start out with a couple of daylight scenes in the afternoon, to ease everyone into the night shift. Hopefully, folks would gradually get used to  being up all night in a couple of days.

Shooting started with a confrontation scene between Nic Campos and Issa Litton (see the photo below), playing Steven and Michelle Espino. We shot in the cornfield across the road that ran in front of the house. Everything went reasonably well, so we went on to do a couple of more brief scenes, and then it got dark.

That night we fired up the kerosene lanterns. Since in most of the darkness scenes, the story calls for a house without power, lanterns and candles were in order. For the rest of my time there, I got so used to the kerosene smell that, for a day after I left the place, pure air actually smelled a bit odd. Still, kerosene fumes did wonders for the near-constant pig odor from next door. Fumes or funk was our constant choice.

So, we filmed a few indoor scenes in the dark, of the family getting nervous over strange happenings. Meanwhile, experiments in fog went on outside. The script called for outdoor night scenes to be foggy, but we couldn't afford fog machines. Then, we hit on a useful alternative, setting fire to the insides of coconuts. Although they smelled like we were burning dirty gym socks, the smoke didn't choke us up or make us cough. This is, I was told, is the "old-time" Philippine movie way of making fog. Our eyes didn't even burn (well, maybe a little but not much).

Best of all, I wasn't allergic to this smoke like I am almost everything else. However, whether the smoke bothered me meant little. The most important thing was, of course, that the actors were OK with it. I remember the spectacle of young PAs running, sprinting, and prancing around with burning, halved coconut hulls, in between takes, spreading "fog" about like little girls sprinkling rose petals in old-fashioned melodramas.

Later, we found out we could get even more fog if we melted candles into the coconuts before setting them on fire. After a few fingers got burned, the "fog makers" learned to wear heavy gloves while spreading their gloom. Luckily for us, the wind cooperated during our evening shoots, and we got the effect we were looking for without having to chase our artificial "fog clouds" all over the Philippine plains.

However, this "fog" had one undesirable side effect. After a few hours of exposure to it, the inside of your throat, sinuses, and nasal passages felt like they'd been coated with tar. I found myself wondering if Bela Lugosi and company used this method to make all that "London fog" while shooting Dracula back in 1931. I'm sure they didn't have dry ice in those days. No wonder poor Bela got so totally irritated he wanted to rip people's throats out!

That day and night we discovered another wrinkle in our existence at the Floridablanca house. We would not have any Internet. A next door neighbor Joy (who was also our hostess at the house) let us use her dial-up occasionally, but that was all. Cell phone reception was OK (though buying "top-ups" was chancy), but for all practical purposes we were cut off from the outside world. I felt like the characters in my movie! My good friend from Malaysia, Michael Tay (also assistant camera operator) had it much worse however. Being addicted to online computer games, he had to go through a really rough bout of "Internet withdrawal." Think: Heroin times 10. Luckily there were plenty of us around to hold his hand during this terrible time in his life. He did survive, but the last time I heard from him, he was adoringly embracing and kissing his Internet modem in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, back home.

That night I got my last truly good sleep for the remainder of the shoot. I wish I could have bottled it then for use during the next few days. There would be nights later on when I longed for sleep like travelers in the Sahara ache for even the tiniest drops of water.

May 3: Working the Night Shift: We Learn to Stop Sleeping, Weather a  Storm & Love the Night Plus Gallons of that Delicious Magnifico Coffee!

Today, or rather tonight, our graveyard-shift shooting began in earnest. The "darkest nights" had truly begun. Cast and crew almost literally fell all over each other to find positions in the low- or no-light conditions often prevailing inside the house.

Actually, we had two choices of how to do the night shooting. We could have gone for what I call "movie night" which is actually shot in real light darkened down with dense color filtering in post production (it used to be done with camera lens filters). In horror movies nowadays, getting this effect usually means "bluing down" the video, which has become common lately to the point of cliché. All of us decided on the other alternative, namely, shooting in actual low-light conditions with only lanterns and candles, plus maybe some small amounts of electric light help for highlights here and there.

This kind of late-night shooting makes for more realism, which the "actual home video" scenario of the film demanded. Some of the images that ended up a bit too dark could always be lightened in post production, to become visible, as long as some kind of usable video was shot. If a scene came out too dark, it could always be redone on the spot.

Speaking of realism, that evening's shoot called for doing a scene where there would be a small earthquake while the main family was just finishing up Christmas dinner. During the quake, the power was scheduled to go out. I was in my room at that time, catching up on some paper work. The lights went out and then on a couple of times. A crew member knocked on my door and explained that they were testing the main switch for the scene. Fine, I thought.

A few minutes later, a thunderstorm blew up, as if from nowhere. In literally seconds, there was lightning, thunder, rain and almost everything else the sky could throw at us.

"Oh, no!!" I said to myself. " The shoot is screwed!" There was no thunderstorm written into the script (avoid those horror film clichés!). Then the lights went out again and stayed dark. I thought, They couldn't be going on with the shoot with all this commotion outside. Or could they?

By that time, outdoors the storm sounded and looked like a major battle was being fought. I rushed downstairs with a flashlight to find out what was going on. Incredibly, the lights had really gone out, just at the moment they were supposed to while shooting one of the scenes. I thought, Yeah, I know life imitates art, but God, why now and why me?

While the power is off, the cast and crew lounge around, and then someone says, "Let's party-party, uh, I mean, let's make a film!"

Immediately, I assumed we were done and for the whole night and maybe "done for" period. I mentally saw our schedule blown to Hades and huge sums of  money whirlpooling down the drain. However, our intrepid director, Noel, wasn't worried. We would continue the shoot, just with more candles and lamps, hoping and praying that post would make up for our lack of "help-out" lighting. Thankfully, the storm soon left as quickly as it came, and we were able to keep on shooting, inside and outdoors as well. Hey, after all, isn't the film called Darkest Night?

While we leaders were taking about a half hour to make our decision to continue the shoot, the cast and crew were milling around, joking and wondering what to do. Then, Noel marshaled the crew and marched onward. Yes, shoot and retake and take again and shoot yet more we did!

Finally, in a state of total exhaustion, I fell in bed unable to move, while the noises of yelling, banging, and movie story-telling resounded from rooms below me. After hearing Noel yell "Quiet" for about the fiftieth time, I finally went to sleep, counting "Quiets" instead of pigs this time. However, tonight there was no air conditioning, since the power was still out. I tossed to and fro, sweating myself into an uneasy slumber.

May 4: The Saga of the Cats: How DJ Perry Prevented the Further Discomfort of Our Furry Little Friends

We awoke the next day around noon to discover there was still no electric power. I was up again , guzzling Magnifico and wondering how I would survive the day—and the rest of the shoot.

As I discovered later the hard way, it was not going to be easy.

The Magnifico woke me up but steam-heated my entire body as well. There was no escaping the furnace of daylight now, and I leaped into the pool trying to find a marginally cooler environment. DJ was already there, so we talked business for a while.

The porch lights flickered on during our conversation, and everyone cheered. I breathed a long, heavy sigh of relief. In fact, I relaxed so much, I stopped treading water and thought for a moment I might accidentally swallow a bit of the vile water surrounding us. Even now, the thought makes me shudder in horror over "the darkest gulp."

Oh yes, and then there was the Saga of the Cats. I do remember a moment during that afternoon, when I first walked out to the patio and pool area drinking Magnifico. As I tried to shake off drowsiness, I heard some loud "meows" and thought there must be a cat around.

I looked about and saw three cats in a small cage, all motley in color. In my stupor, I do remember thinking, that it may not be right to keep those animals in the sun and caged like that. However, suddenly people began to flock to me with various decisions to make and papers to sign, and in my half-awakeness, I shamefully forgot the forlorn felines.

However, DJ certainly did not! Suddenly, I was aware of a one- man crusade going on, to set right this abomination of the feline world. Righteously dismayed by the animals' real discomfort, he complained to the director and virtually everyone else he encountered that day. He may have complained to me also, but being still half-awake at that time, I honestly don't remember.

Others did hear, and a serious discussion ensued. Foreheads furrowed. Eyes narrowed. People scratched their heads. Utter seriousness pervaded the crowd, now aware of the horrific feline injustice. DJ argued the case of the poor creatures like a hungry lawyer paid on percentage. Finally, the decision was made, and the cats were freed. Hooray for the cats! They were found not guilty by reason of feline-hood.

Stumbling out to the patio again, late as usual, I came in as the high drama was ending and heard about the heroic events second-hand. I had two thoughts: 1) I'm happy for the cats and 2) I hope we get the same amount of drama out of our actors in the film as we did over a few scrawny cats. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed in either case.

As an epilog to the Cat Saga, well those felines were just lucky there were a bunch of good-hearted actors around. What did the loud meow-ers do after being freed? Interestingly, they hung around the set for the rest of the shoot. Some said they were begging for food. Others said they just liked our company, friendly felines that they were.

I knew better. They wanted to hang around me. As the old saying goes, "Misery loves company."

Thankfully, by dinner time, I was awake enough to feel decent again. That night was our first "monster" effort, which we referred to as the "twins" scene. I won't tell the whole story behind that word choice (no spoilers!), but the scene went fantastically! Jill Palencia and Elle Velasco played their roles with panache (see below), as Chelsea Reyes and Carol Santos.

Is this the sleep-over from hell? No, Elle Velasco (right) and Jill Palencia are just getting ready to become horrific, totally scary monsters.

However, one requirement for the scene had DJ kicking down the door to an upstairs bedroom where someone was screaming. Afterward, he complained of pain on his back and took off his shirt. Noel actually photographed scratches on his back, as if a girl with long fingernails had gone at him. Yet nothing of the sort had happened to him, at least not recently!

Then other rumors began to surface. One of the PAs said he had seen a ghostly face at one of the windows during the storm the previous night. Others complained of being bothered downstairs at night during sleep, by unseen visitors. For my part, I was curious, but when all of this talk first surfaced, I was too tired to pay much attention. I made a mental note to follow through on reports of "supernatural apparitions" during the next day.

Sometime way after midnight, I stumbled into bed, enjoying the marvels of modern air conditioning. I will never again take an air conditioner for granted, I thought before sinking into a foggy sleep that smelled like burning coconuts.

May 5: Another Night, Another Monster, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying & Love the Chaos of Filipino Indie Film-Making

Again, another day dawned bleak, clear and hellishly hot. This time, I felt a bit better, as I had gone to bed earlier. However, my sleep during the sultry night had been restless. I came out about noon, feeling like a singed vampire, shrinking from the torrid tropical sun.

I sought refuge in the pool once more. By this time, the pool water was starting to look grossly stagnant and smell worse, but I didn't care. The water's surface was beginning to grow little green slime-things, like I remembered creating for my junior high science projects. At least the water was cooler than the oven-like air! More importantly, I was overjoyed that there were no more power losses to hold back our shooting schedule. We had a crew meeting that afternoon, and we all got wonderfully organized, or so I thought.

Night fell, and of course the evil horrors began. That meant, of course creating another monster, this time from our actor, Justin, who played Jeffrey Espino. We shot a few minor scenes, and then, around 11 pm, came time for the main course. During the previous shoots, our prosthetics crew headed by Alf Alacapa, had been working hard on Justin, turning him into the appropriate "creature" for his big scene. By now, Justin was bound up into a bizarre "suit" with many kilograms worth of gooey, gloppy layers covering him and not allowing much movement. Alf's crew put him on a table and brought him near the house's front kitchen where his "monster scene" was to be shot.

Meanwhile, the cast and crew had been working doing some scenes outdoors and elsewhere in the house. Amazingly, they finished on time. So everyone and everything were ready to go by 11 to shoot Justin's hideous appearance of evil—except the front kitchen. It looked like a junk-filled store room. Oops!

Set managers shouted out thunderous orders. PAs rushed around like ants. People literally fell all over each other. "Get the kitchen ready!" I shouted. "Where's the kitchen table?" Noel prepared the crew, and then re-prepared the crew, and then then re-re-prepared the crew. They fiddled with their equipment like bored kids playing with game boys. Actors rehearsed their lines to the point of hoarseness. DJ soon pulled me aside and reminded me of Justin, just waiting in the next room, bound up in his fright suit.

Justin! I rushed to the living room to see our monster boy, sweating, sighing, trying to stretch out as much as he could in his heavy, scary suit, obviously wishing he was somewhere else much more pleasant, like maybe the pit of Hades. My psychological horror film was turning, right before my eyes, into a torture movie!

Alf Alacapa (in blue) and one of his assistants work with Justin, while the actor delights in happily submitting to all the goo and torture that will turn him into a slimy, disgusting monster.

"Are you OK," I asked. "Oh, sure," he lied gracefully, but the strained words came out with telling difficulty. Alf's assistants wiped his sweat and cooled him with a fan. "Thanks for hanging in there. We'll be ready soon," I lied in return, also gracefully, and I forced a smile. However, Justin's smile was so forced his makeup cracked. Alf did some repairs while I fretted, not so gracefully.

Returning to the kitchen, I saw people still dashing here and there, preparing the set in a state of total panic, like they were trying to escape a sinking Titanic. However, there was nowhere to go, and certainly no cold water to dive into. In fact, the air was almost warm enough to bake scorched bread. Issa thoughtfully brought in some totally delicious rose tequila and other liquor to help us to pass the time and relax some.

Here's something about me. I'm not really a heavy drinker. In fact, I drink rarely and then, only socially. It's not that I don't like alcohol. I love alcohol. I guess that, being somewhat of a "health nut," I just avoid it because my doctor says it's not that great for my body, especially at my age. However, I thanked God in heaven above for Issa and her sudden appearance with refreshments. "Issa's bar is now open," she exclaimed gleefully and shoved a bottle of tequila in my hand. After a few strong glasses, I stopped thinking of that second-story window and decided to flow right along with the hurly-burly streaming about me.

Unfortunately, Justin was far from able to help us imbibe, and could just stare longingly at the drinkers around him. I felt badly for him but steadfastly refused to worry any more. Eat, drink and be merry. After us, the flood, right? So, I kept on drinking liberally. I did manage to step back from DJ, who was wielding a machete about, slicing the air up and down around him. He was practicing on how he would dispatch the monster in the next scene, if we ever got around to shooting it. I successfully avoided getting hacked, barely, and held onto my drink.

On the night of the near-eternal kitchen set near-disaster, during the resulting break, the cast and crew did what most of them seemed to enjoy most—consuming copious amounts of alcohol in every form imaginable and in some forms I truly never dreamed of.

Kevin Vitug laughed and pointed out that my face was bright red. This always happens to me when I drink. By now, I was even hotter, sweaty and approaching my limit. Still party-party we did while Justin suffered, Noel and his crew fiddled endlessly with their equipment, and the set people rushed about the kitchen like free-for-all rush-hour traffic in downtown Manila.

Of course, when I drink, I get absent-minded and easily pleased. Now, I was even happy about the near-disastrous scene before me. I also misplaced my script and clipboard. I asked a nearby PA to borrow her copy of the script. "I lost it," she replied.

I realized I had also left a glass of tequila elsewhere. I had given it to my friend, Michael, the camera assistant. I asked him, "Where's my drink?" "Sorry, I lost it," he shot back. I went to another PA and asked, "Where's the shooting schedule?" "I think I lost it," he answered, rather sheepishly. I went to Kevin and asked, "Where's the bathroom?

"Over there," he pointed, smirking at my buzzed-out condition (his high state bordered on the interplanetary), and then he giggled, "Where's your mind?" "I lost it," I responded and left to relieve myself quite liberally in the water closet, mentally kicking my own butt for being so confused that I forgot such an all-important location, and my clipboard too! It must have been a senior moment, I consoled myself! Certainly not the tequila ...

Afterward, I thrust myself through the surging, scrambling, shuffling crowd that was still fussing endlessly over and around the kitchen. I shook my head, mumbled some lame excuses and let out a long sigh that would have set the house on fire if someone near me had lit a match. I climbed the stairs and then threw myself hopelessly into bed.

I didn't exactly pass out, but in all likelihood something like that happened. I dreamed I was trying to swim through a giant tequila bottle and drowning. I finally found and jumped out a second-story window in my bedroom, just to end it all, falling atop a gigantic sliced lime. I woke with a start, with morning sun piercing my eyeballs almost as painfully as I could imagine getting struck by DJ's flying machete.

May 6: Miracles Do Happen! Noel & I Bask in the Glory of Excellent Footage & Fortify Ourselves With Magnifico for Yet Another Night — Plus Zeny's Beautiful Performance

Bleary-eyed, I arose that morning, went downstairs, stepped carefully around sleeping crew members and slugged down many, many cups of Magnifico just to keep my vital signs from flagging to zero. After breakfast, I stumbled to where Noel sat in a corner, studying the script like a text book before a final exam. We talked a while about last night, lessons learned and all that, and I asked to see footage from the previous night's shoot.

We looked at the video, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Everything looked great, even Justin's monster scene in the kitchen! I slapped Noel on the back, and we congratulated each other. Then, we toasted the film with more with Magnifico, hoping and praying the rest of the shoots would be just this good! Also, I thought, please without the confusion. Of course, I was still being naive. My head pounded as I slugged down the coffee.

Actually, the day was relatively uneventful, other than lots of filming and rushing about, as usual. It was one of the few days when everything went off like, well, the proverbial clockwork, except of course that the shooting schedule often changed from hour to hour. Still, at such times, I had learned to thank God for minimal chaos. I had long before given up hoping for no changes at all. I had grown used to continual flux by now and was often surprised when the schedule did not change at the last minute.

That evening, we shot what we called the "Boy in a Box" scene, on the second floor of the house. The photo below pretty much tells the story:

In this scene, Kevin loses it completely; in fact, he loses everything except his torso and head! I told him beforehand that if he didn't do a good job acting, he wouldn't get his arms and legs back. He did a perfect scene in one take. It's too bad you can't motivate every actor that way, every time!

I won't say much more about this scene (again, no spoilers!) except that it went really well. There was lots of drama, suspense, and more than enough chills, even in the heat!

However, I can't let the recounting of this night go past without telling one story. It's about the shoot for the scene where Reina Espino (played by Zeny Sevilla) finds her dead grandson. As all scenes before the shoot, it began with cast and crew gathering in the appointed place, this time the house's side yard. While all prepared for their roles in the shoot, the "coconut boys" pranced about waving burning coconuts to provide our fog. However, as you can see from the photo below, at first we had a bit too much!

I stumbled around the area, almost getting lost before someone took pity on me and grabbed my hand, pulling me back with the others. Anyway, we waited a while for the "fog" to lessen, and soon we were ready to shoot. You can seen Zeny below on the left (just barely).

The scene has quite a bit of drama, and the script calls for Reina to find her grandson dead in the field after a violent family fight is over. So, the shoot went on, with shouts of "Quiet!" Etc. After a few false starts, the scene finally got rolling, and no further takes were necessary. Then, the time came for Zeny to mourn the small boy's death.

I won't say much more than the obvious. For me, it was one of the high points of the entire shoot. Her performance was utterly amazing! All of us were crying by the end of the take. Between the coconut smoke, heat and the emotion, not only were there no dry eyes left, but no dry faces, shirts, or blouses! Everyone applauded vigorously when she was done.

It's one night in my life I will never forget.

May 7: The Night Wherein Everyone Goes to the Altar for the Climax Shoot but Has, Well To Put It Delicately, Far Less than a Religious Experience

Feeling buoyed a bit by the successes and relative calm of the previous night, I arose in the morning with a lot more pep. In fact, about a half liter of Magnifico got me going. I had learned to measure the relative stress of the previous day in cups of Magnifico. More than six cups meant the last night nearly killed me. Fewer than four meant a pretty good time. This was definitely a "less than four" kind of experience.

I went to Noel, and we congratulated each other again, not just that we survived, but that the previous night had produced fantastic footage. We discussed the scheduling and plans for tonight. This evening's shooting would produce the most important scenes in the entire film. The "climax" of the action, so to speak, takes place during an outdoor "pagan ceremony," which we all had dubbed "the altar scenes."

The day passed uneventfully, and after dinner, we got a few minor scenes out of the way. I walked a short distance away, behind the house, to check out the altar area, and felt that our production designer, Mary Anne de Chavez, had indeed done an excellent job, with help from Chris Garrido, our art director, and also Alf. I walked back to the house and conferred with Noel. He was getting ready to do a couple of shoots.

One of these scenes, we called the "monster baby" scene, with Marife Necesito playing Agira Espino. The photo below shows the happy baby:

The "proud parent" of this smiling baby prefers to remain anonymous. Babies seem to always have a bad time of it in horror movies, don't they?

While Noel and his group were using this monster to "kill" another cast member, a smaller group had already left for the altar area and started preparing it for the "extreme" ritual cult scenes to come. This was a secondary crew that that had gone out to the location to get things ready for the shoot, so I heard, rehearsing the principle actors in preparation for the rest of Noel's and the group's later arrival, to start filming the scenes.

An allergy had been bothering me a lot that day, so I decided to turn in early that night and let Noel and company finish the altar scene shoots. Besides, there was going to be some nudity during these scenes and film tradition requires that no unnecessary personnel be present at such times. So, also out of respect for the actors, I decided to call it a night early for a change. Little did I know what events would transpire during my more-or-less peaceful slumber.

As I slept, the evening's excitement grew. I remained blissfully peaceful as the stress of filming grew to epic proportions. I will let the photos below tell the night's story:

There Must Be an Altar Scene Shooting Here Somewhere — We Think?

We're Just Hanging Around & Hoping Something Will Get Filmed — Maybe ...

The Unthinkable Happens! DJ Actually Loses His Head!! Just Kidding ... It's Really His Altar Ego.

The Look on Noel's Face Says It All.             Hey, How Do I Get Outta This Movie?

May 8: Bad News, Good News, a Reprieve for Sunday & I Get To Do My Elvis Imitation Via Karaoke

DJ entered my room the next morning, shortly after I awoke. The story was not good. My mood wasn't good either. I needed my Magnifico. From the funereal look in his eyes, I knew I also would end up needing Xanax or a stiff drink or both.

"There was a little confusion during the altar scene," he began, and my heart sank like an atomic reactor core in full meltdown. It seemed that while Noel and his crew "A" had been shooting the scene after the baby-monster scene, somehow, a false rumor had spread among the rest of the cast and crew. Somebody (who's name remains unknown to this day) said the rest of the cast should go to the altar scene location. Of course, not to be left out of the action, the rest of the crew followed.

So, everybody showed up at the altar area, except there was no director present. A few actors were already there rehearsing with crew "B" helping out. Nudity was not an issue at that point since all the cast had their clothes on. All the crew had their clothes on. Everybody had their clothes on. But nobody knew what to do. Utter chaos ensued.

Of course, this did not sit well with the rehearsing actors, especially Issa, who told everyone to go back to the house, in that sweet, lovable way that only Issa can tell anyone to do something. Naturally, no one listened to her. She wasn't the director. "Where is the director?" everyone asked. Soon, almost all members of cast and crew, as well as passers-by and animals overwhelmed the area. DJ's description reminded me of a movie-style biblical epic, except with no supervision and some decidedly unbiblical language.

"Where should we go?" many of the newcomers asked. Several of the actors already present vividly told them where they could go. Their names shall remain unspoken here. Some tempers flared. Frustration mounted. Crew members there confessed to DJ, "We don't know what to do," according to DJ. Yes, that was glaringly, intensely and painfully obvious.

As DJ's story waxed onward, I tried valiantly to pay attention, or even just to look like I was, but my mind inevitably wandered. Thoughts stampeded through my head like herds of mad-cow infected caribou. I thought variously, My film is down the toilet. The investors will lynch me. I'll lose everything. Next year, I'll be living on the streets. All is undone. I am undone. Everything is undone. Where is the nearest window? I want to jump out and end it all. I'm the star of another horror film, my own life—Death of a Producer.

"But there's good news," DJ eventually added. I snapped back to attention again, eager as a puppy dog for any scrap of something good or hopeful. "Noel finally got there and saved the thing. He put the whole mess together and pulled off the shoot. And the footage looks great!"

Inside, I was overjoyed! I wanted to hug and kiss the man, but I knew he would probably take it the wrong way. Just then, Noel entered the room, looking like his own puppy dog had just painfully died. In an attitude worthy of the confessional, he took responsibility for the "small problems" of last night and promised they wouldn't happen again. I said something like "That's OK since the takes turned out fine" and then made a graceful exit downstairs to drink about eight cups of Magnifico in a row, my record for the shoot.

Incidentally, we said good-bye to Justin that morning, who left to go home to Malaysia. I wonder what he thinks of us all? He told me it was a wonderful experience and that we're all great. He is truly Chinese and just as truly polite. Also, he's a really good actor.

I gratefully rested for the remainder of the day, and we voyaged to nearby Clark to have dinner and then go to a local bar. There we could participate in the joys of singing Karaoke. As I had discovered earlier, Karaoke is a huge fad in the Philippines. I strongly believe that many Filipinos enjoy Karaoke more than sex. I had a few drinks, joined in the fun and belted out a song.


I get to sing "Stand by Me" in my classic 1950s Elvis style. Everyone said I sounded great. Were they just lying because I'm the executive producer? After I slugged down a couple of margaritas, I didn't really care.

So what can I say? A wonderful time was had by all. We returned to the house, and everyone got a healthy night's sleep. I tossed and flopped about, hearing tuneful phrases of Filipino karaoke echoing in my brain.

May 9: A Typhoon Tears Through, Roaring Into Town & Giving Us Some of Our Most Intense Scenes; At Last I Feel God Is On Our Side!

By now I was totally awe-inspired by Noel. I rose the next morning thinking he wasn't just a good director. He was the greatest magician since Houdini. He had snatched so many good shoots from the gaping maw of near-disaster by now, that I felt like he was capable of pulling rabbits out of hats by the thousands. In fact he could probably create more bunnies than a randy hare on hard-core steroids.

However, as life and fate would have it, his real mettle was yet to be tested. His harrowing gantlet of heroism would come today, as he rushed headlong into the torrent of a typhoon. The show must go on, yes, the show shall go on, even in the midst of a raging storm. Like King Lear, today Noel Tan would shake his fist in the face of nature's raging, frightening fury.

The day began quietly enough. Sunrise was actually clear with just a few clouds hanging about. Cups of Magnifico flooded down my throat as I enjoyed my breakfast. Soon, I looked out to see ominous dark clouds covering the sky. Wind was starting to whip the trees and bushes. I asked a passing PA what the weather forecast was. "Oh, just a typhoon coming in; that's all."

A what? A typhoon? I nearly passed out as visions of another power failure and financial losses flooded my brain. Suddenly, Noel rushed by me, wearing an improvised rain slick made of large plastic bags. I grabbed his arm and blurted out, "There's a typhoon coming! What the heck are you doing?"

"It's perfect," he answered smiling. Suppressing yet another urge to rush to a second-floor window and defenestrate, I asked him, trembling, "For what?" He smiled again, almost beside himself with delight, "To shoot the scene with Michelle and magic in the cornfield."

A typhoon, I thought once more. Isn't that like—a hurricane? Having lived many years in Florida during my younger days, I knew fully well what a hurricane was like. And now, there was such a thing headed for us! And we were going out in it? And to shoot a scene?

"What about the equipment?" I asked. "Oh, we'll carry an umbrella," he answered.

I shot back, "You can go out into the typhoon. I will stay in here and pray."

"Thanks," he smiled once more and headed to the living room. I followed just to see what was going on. Crew members were suiting up, checking out their equipment and readying a small, orange umbrella to take outside. Issa and Nic were sitting on the sofa practicing for the scene.

Noel went to cast and crew, "Do you mind getting wet?" Issa answered, "Not at all." Nic looked down, mumbling some kind of agreement. Crew members simply nodded.

Issa smiled with excitement, anticipating the scene with all the determination of Sigourney Weaver off to slay the Alien. She wore her white blouse and evil pendant (see right), as Cris Garrido (art director and makeup person) sat nearby with a stick and magic potions. Nic seemed a bit more reserved but ready, nonetheless.

Michael wasn't even wearing rain gear. He opened the door, and wind, water and leaves whooshed in like an as if from an exploding grenade. We all stepped back. There was a low, growling sound like some ancient dragon wakened angrily from a deep sleep. "It's raining," he announced, dripping, and shut the door.

Still apprehensive, I pleaded, "Are you all sure you want to do this?" Issa marched toward the crew and up to Noel. "Let's do it!" she demanded. Nic followed her, nodding his head and muttering under his breath. Cris carried the props protected with a plastic bag. The group braced themselves as if seeking to brave a howling Antarctic blizzard. I turned away, afraid to look, but then looked anyway. It was like seeing a freeway accident happen. I couldn't not watch.

Michael opened the door again, and the group snapped backward a moment from the sheer wind force and baleful-sounding stream. Their hair stood up and back as if they'd just grabbed about 10,000 volts each. Then, donning their improvised parkas, they all trudged outside into the merciless elements, carrying their little orange umbrella (see the photo below, from left, Noel, Bryan and Michael). I watched the closed door for a time along with the wetness everywhere, the leaves, the blown script pages. A young female PA came to the area with a wash cloth to clean up the mess.

There was no clear view of the cornfield from the house. So, I reclined in a window seat and watched the storm as it blew trees back and forth like twigs. Rain washed from the heavens as if to announce the second coming of Noah. The rain was coming down so hard it resembled dense fog. Small items danced about like random television static, sailing past the window before me. Indeed, as I promised Noel, I did pray, for their well being, of course, and for a good shoot, for our equipment and for the storm to let up. In addition, I prayed that I wouldn't be seeing any of our cast or crew flying by the window. I also prayed fervently that no one here would be sued because of this, least of all, me.

About an hour (!) later, they all returned, drenched, cold, shaky and exhausted. "I need a shower," Issa shouted. "Please, me first," Nic pleaded. Then, I looked at him and I thought he could be one of Medusa's rejects, you know, from Greek mythology, the snake-headed woman whose gaze turned men to stone. Except he looked only half stone. The "magic power" Issa/Michelle had to scatter to cast her spells was gray sand, which she repeatedly emptied from bottles into the wind. Nic was standing downwind from her and got coated. She relented, and Nic rushed upstairs. Even his footsteps in the stairwell sounded gritty.

Near-breathlessly, we watched the footage. It was amazing and wonderful! Again there were pats on the back and toasts with Magnifico. I congratulated the brave men (and woman!) who attacked the storm valiantly and won. They were gutsier folks than I. Also, they were really lucky, and so was our equipment!

In addition, the typhoon gave us one blessing, the only cool day during the entire shoot. I savored it like true manna from heavenly quarters. It also allowed me to drink my Magnifico and not sweat like one of our neighboring pigs.

Issa lets Nic have it right in the face with a bottle full of sand smack in the midst of a roaring typhoon. Would he have preferred a real black magic spell? Ask Nic—after he gets all the grit out of his mouth.

When compared to filming during a raging typhoon, the rest of our work that day seemed almost commonplace. So, we continued to plod forward, scene by scene.  By now the "graveyard shift" living and shooting seemed almost normal. Again, I went to bed hearing the sounds of high drama echoing beneath me. I slept and dreamed of being blown off to Florida in America by a typhoon only to be blown back to Floridablanca here by a hurricane. I was trapped.

May 10: The Dramatic Scenes at the End of the Film & Let's Talk About the Ghost Stories that Happened During the Shoot

As we were careening into the final days of our shoot, I discovered that it was taking progressively less and less Magnifico to turn me human again in the morning. This fact was not only doing wonders for my nerves but letting me know that I could dread the possibility of fewer things going wrong as time chugged onward.

The scenes for tonight were high drama, the ones leading up to the film's climax with Susan, Ken and Steven (DJ, Anne Gauthier and Nic). However, there was to be no yelling, whooping, chopping, killing, destroying or turning people into monsters during this evening and the early morning hours. However, quiet drama had its own pitfalls, at least at this location

There was a mongrel tied close by the house with a perfect sense of timing. Every moment early that night, when we needed quiet drama, it decided to bark loudly and vociferously. We waited. The scene quieted. Shooting began again and once more, at the intense moment, more barking intruded. Noel quickly realized that yelling "Quiet" wasn't going to work this time. There were also cows mooing, roosters crowing and pigs grunting loudly. At times, our audio honestly sounded like we were filming next door to a zoo!

However, the lone dog was by far the worst and most persistent. After about a dozen bark-filled interruptions, someone finally said he would take care of the beast. Surely enough, the barking stopped. I wanted to strangle the thing (I repent! I'm not cruel to animals! Really!). Whoever saved our night let the doggie live, because I saw it the next day, still barking its motley self into hoarseness. Maybe someone fed it some of Issa's tequila. Or perhaps, like actors, it just wanted constant attention and got it (only kidding folks. Really!).

As it turned out, the rest of the shoot was relatively uneventful, with no barking—or chaos, and no disasters or catastrophes either. So, rather than recounting to you one of our more "boring" nights (yes, film-making can be boring, especially if everything goes as planned), I will relate one of the more interesting "subplots" of the shoot.

To put it bluntly, we had a ghost haunting us during the time we were in the house. To those of you who don't believe in the paranormal, I'm sure there is now much laughing and hooting going on. Interestingly, most people in the Philippines do believe in such things, as do I. So, I only ask that you keep an open mind. This isn't hype for the film, by the way. These stories actually happened.

I first began hearing rumors among the crew on our second or third day of the shoot, as I wrote here previously. People reported being slapped or otherwise disturbed in the middle of the night. The word was out that you shouldn't sleep at the foot of the stairs because strange things happened in the stairwell in the dead of night. Some people said they heard a little girl whisper "Poppa, Poppa" in one of the kitchens. Other such stories abounded, and I considered them serious. However, I didn't rush after them with pen and pencil in hand. If there was a spirit in the house, I wanted some kind of proof besides "word of mouth."

As you may recall earlier in this saga, I mentioned the night DJ kicked down a door when hearing one of our actresses (Jill Palencia) scream as part of shooting a scene. This event happened during the night of May 4. As a footnote, the door looked like it had been kicked down before, perhaps a few times many years ago. After the scene wrapped, DJ told Noel and some others that he felt pain on his back. He removed his shirt, and we found scratch marks on his back, as if two small hands had clawed him during the scene (see the photo below). Noel grabbed a camera and took photos.

NOTE: The photos here are real and have not been altered or faked in any way.

These scratches spontaneously appeared on DJ's back after he kicked a door down to enter a room as a part of shooting a scene upstairs; this was an extremely emotional scene.

Also, on that same night while shooting this same scene, one of our PA's, Jesse LaVerne Mendoza, saw something strange while Jill was screaming. His experience happened downstairs while we were shooting upstairs, and his story was told independently of the event with DJ. He didn't even know about it till days later. Here is an excerpt from what he wrote down for me:

It was cold and the hair on my spine started to stand. Her scream was so scary that I thought it made me feel something not good. I turned my face to the window, and I saw this girl popping out of the window with half her body. Her hair was long ... I couldn't see her face ... and in 2 to 5 seconds, she was gone.

He and some of his friends ran outdoors and checked the side yard area by this window but found nothing. However, if you want to see the window where this event occurred, please see the photo below.

Michael took this photo during a break time at the now-famous "haunted window" in the house. The smudge is more like a shadow and was not caused by anything obstructing the camera lens or any known external shadow. Shown in the photo are actors, from left, Elle Velasco, Zeny Sevilla and Raymond Osmeña.

Later on that same night, Michael was taking some photos of cast and crew members during a break. Several photos of people at this window, shot in this same series, showed similar smudges. Nothing was in front of the camera. Interestingly, these mysterious "smudges" only happened at this one place, in front of this window. Here, by the way, is where Jesse saw the phantom girl he reported. This window became somewhat "famous" during the shoot, and we all ended up calling it the "haunted window."

For the record, we did talk to some members of the family who owned the house, and they told us that there had been reports of strange, unidentified apparitions in the stairwell. One person said light bulbs in a chandelier above the stairs continually burn out, almost faster than they can be replaced. However, no one could tell us anything about the spectral "little girl," and she remains a mystery to this day.

May 11: After So Many Days that Seemed Like Emergencies, Noel Really Gets To Film an Actual Emergency Crew — Meanwhile, I Get a Chance to Relax & Watch a Really Good Movie

The  shoot was winding down by this date, so there's not much more to tell. What can I say? All good things find their finality, as the saying goes, and a film shoot is no exception.

During the day, we were tying up loose ends, so to speak, film-wise. Most of the shooting was away from the house. There was a scene with Jonas Gruet as the reporter Danny Valencia (see the story of the "Doomed Family"). Most of the crew went off to San Fernando to film at a stand of ruins. For myself, I was happy the ruins were part of a scene and not what was left of the film.

I was finally through with most of my anxiety and was ready to throw away the Xanax, reduce to minimal Magnifico and end my thoughts of upstairs windows. I wasn't ready to count the film's profits yet, but my visions of losses were flying peacefully away. As with anyone who heads up a big project, film producers, I believe, generally have occasional visions of failure when things go wrong. Also comes the time of relief when you know the shoot is almost completely "in the can," as they say, and not gone down ignominiously into a different kind of can!

So, with most of the crew and PAs off to shoot a scene where emergency crews have to put out a house fire (not the house where were, thank God), the "skeleton crew" remaining at the house had a few beers relaxed and talked about the "good times" during the shoot. There was enough BS spread around that night to grow another cornfield, but it was good BS.

I even had time to watch two of DJ's films that night, Dean Teaster's Ghost Town and An Ordinary Killer, a super fun western and a crime drama (yes, DJ, I promised I'd plug your films for you!). I went to bed early, dreaming of box office profits. As I counted pigs, each one turned into a peso and eventually, before I slept, into real, live U.S. dollar bills.

Local emergency crews help to create a flash-back scene. I was just happy I didn't have to call them for real during any of our other scenes, though there were times I sincerely wanted to!

May 12: We Bid Fond Farewell to the House & Floridablanca then Later Shoot Some Interview Scenes in Manila Where I Get To Play Actor — Then Behold! It's a Wrap!!

We had to get out of bed head-achingly early that day, since we all needed to leave the house ASAP and let our clean-up people do their work. The film already contained our darkest nights. This was my darkest morning. I rushed about my room, throwing things into suitcases and saving precious film clips and photos on my laptop. I rushed through breakfast and even drank only two cups of coffee!

Magnifico, I shall miss you dearly, I cooed to myself.

We got back on the road and made the seemingly interminable trip to Manila. Once in town, we wound through dozens of narrow, jitney- and taxi-filled streets, until we reached the building where we would be filming some interview scenes from the film.

Jonas even interviewed me on camera for one brief scene, so I fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams. For a few shining minutes I shall always cherish, I got to pretend I was an actor and truly speak in front of a camera for a real, live movie. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! BTW, Virginia was also the name of one of our characters interviewed during these scenes (played by Angelita Loresco).

I took a few minutes to talk to Noel and some members of the press (including Mell Navarro, who is now our official publicist, and I'm sure will make us the most popular horror film since The Exorcist (right Mell?). I also chatted with some of the actors and crew members who were there. It was a really nice time but a bit sad as well. We all knew the worst was over—but also the best.

So, in the end, everyone left except for a small a group of cast and crew, who loitered about the final scene, waiting sadly for the "principal photography" to come to an end (see the photo below). At long last, the shoot was a wrap. We did it!! As in nautical tradition, I as captain, was one of the last to leave the ship.

Of course, there are many more stories behind the making of this film, which I don't know, don't have room here to recount or could never tell (some things are better left unsaid, especially spoilers!). Maybe someday, I'll interview all concerned and write a book. Then, again—maybe not. There is no need now that the shoot is over, for me to expose the guilty and every need to protect the innocent!

Yes, I'll remember all the fun we had making the film. Young folks were continually playing guitars and singing during breaks. There was lots of joking, laughing and camaraderie. Beer and Magnifico (and occasionally tequila) flowed more freely than water. I was already starting to forget the near nervous-breakdowns, the long waits for the bathroom and shower, the longing stares at the second-story windows, the longed-for conveniences of civilization. Yes, I was even forgetting the brain-twisting times I felt bewitched, bothered and buried under angst-filled fears of failure more terrifying than any horror scene I possibly could write.

I was even happily losing track of the people who, to put it delicately, acted like asses toward our project before and during production. It's far better, I thought as I rode in my departing taxi, to remember all the wonderful people, cast, crew, publicity, everyone who helped out with this project and worked positively to make it the wonderful film I proudly believe it will be.

I consoled myself: Time heals all wounds. Time also wounds all heels. Definitely.

Anyway, as the sun melted languidly into the west, I headed to a clean, quiet, supremely peaceful Manila hotel with a joyously comfortable bed. Though I missed the ruckus and hoopla, confusion and chaos, the gallons of Magnifico, the camaraderie of cast and crew, I was bear-hibernatingly sleepy. But it was an ineffably sweet kind if tired, nonetheless.

It wasn't a dark night. It wasn't even a darkest night. In fact, I do faintly remember that it was just an ordinary night. For me it became the ultimate excuse to virtually disintegrate into slumber. What happened then?  Only one single glorious, blessed thing: I enjoyed possibly the very best night's rest and sleep of my entire life on this spinning rock-ball planet earth.

Maraming Salamat sa Inyong Lahat at Pagpalain Kayo Ng Diyos: Cast & Crew!!  :-)

Now: Special Thanks to Our Publicity Photographer

I wish to give a special thank-you to our still photographer for publicity, Gil Policarpio (see photo on right), who braved foggy coconut smoke, sometimes choking kerosene smells, confusion, chaos, constantly changing schedules, ghosts, storms, "monsters," rain, yelling, screaming, banging, DJ's machete, doors crashing down, alcohol-dazed revelers, sleeping on the floor, and many of the truly darkest of nights.

He put up with all this bedlam to get almost all the photos you see on this page, as well as in this entire website. Not everyone had to be there for every single scene. He showed up for all of them and with not even one complaint.

To find out more information about Gil, click here. You can also check out his Facebook photography page Obra sa Calle.

So, instead of giving photo credits on each individual picture, I and the rest of the producers, cast and crew of Darkest Night here wish to convey our special thanks! Salamat, salamat, salamat!  -R.