One Giant Megaphone

A long, exhausting day of shooting was nearing the end. The crew had endured the hot sun and dusty, smelly barnyard conditions all day. We just needed the night to complete the last few scenes on Lee Martin’s The Midnight Hour, a local Michigan indie series that I was the DP on. For this particular episode, I was filling in for the sound/boom guy, who couldn’t make it that day.

One o’clock a.m. rolled around, and it was finally time to rehearse the last scene, which played out like this: The female villain has killed off the other characters, but traps one last guy in an abandoned grain silo next to an old barn. She wants to keep him like a lost dog, locked in the silo forever, and tells the trapped character her plans through a small, round porthole in the silo door. I asked the actor to yell and scream at the top of his lungs inside the silo so I could get a sound check from outside. I was amazed at how well it sounded, but thought nothing more of it.

This was all good, since we had permission to film and make noise on this location from the owners, who lived out in the country on 80 acres of rolling, wooded land. All of a sudden, red and blue flashing lights turned onto the property and came barrelling toward us. The police car’s spotlight darted around in the dark, looking for something. Great, another delay.

I started yelling for the 1st AD to get the director, but one of the dead actors, with blood and guts plastered all over her, got up and ran toward the police, thinking she would just explain everything and we could get back to finishing the scene. At that moment, I just sat down in the middle of the road and figured we’d never finish the scene before the sun came up.

Eventually, the director was able to smooth everything out. The police officer told him the neighbors—who lived half a mile down the road—reported that they heard a man screaming for help and that someone was going to kill him. Apparently, when I told the actor to yell at the top of his lungs, I didn’t take into account that the old silo was missing its domed roof, so the 12-foot-diameter, 60-foot-tall silo turned into a giant megaphone, which broadcast the actor’s screams all over the countryside. Oops!

Kevin O’Connor is a Michigan-based indie filmmaker, working as a director of photography and camera operator.

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Everyone who has spent time in video and film production has a funny tale or two about this life. Odd and quirky things happen to us and our colleagues that we all like to talk about after the shoot.

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