Monday, February 18, 2013

Welcome, Foolish Mortals

Where hinges creak in doorless chambers. Where strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls. Where candle lights flicker, even when the air is deathly still. Perhaps you’ve heard of such a place? But have you ever seen a haunted house? You know the kind I mean; that old, dark house that's usually at the end of a dimly lit street. The owners haven't been seen for years, no one really knows why. There's a high, vine-covered fence around the property. It poses a unique question: Is it there to keep somebody out? Or is it there to keep something inside? Our story revolves around this mysterious mansion...

Welcome, foolish mortals, to the inaugural post of  A Night in The Haunted Mansion's Official Behind-the-Scenes Blog! I... am your host... your... well... I'm the voice of the ghost host, and the director, and the co-producer; script/screen writer; editor; designer; special effects wizard; several other minor roles; and, well, the figure-head and driving force behind this out-of-pocket production. It's always gonna be me behind the screen here, so I'll be your one and only host on this blog. This first post won't be the most interesting, nor will it be the longest. This post will cover all the old ground that we've covered before, just so it's on the blog. (This same old stuff is also on the official website and Facebook page in similar fashion) The plot description; the production information; the legal stuff. You all know what I'm talking about, right? The stuff you've already seen if you've been to one of our other locations on the web. Let's get this started, shall we? Once this is out of the way, we can move onto the more exciting stuff you're all looking forward to. The stuff that this blog was created and intended for.

Plot Description & Production Overview

(Shamelessly take from our official Facebook page, because I'm feeling too lazy right now to write up another variation) 
When Mike and Karen take refuge from a storm inside an old mansion on their way home from a date, they inevitably set themselves up for a night they will never forget. The two teens become trapped inside the mansion by an unseen entity whose disembodied voice guides them on a tour through the halls. As Mike and Karen journey through the various rooms, it becomes clear that the mansion is haunted. A hallway with no end, staircases that lead to nowhere, an otherworldly birthday party, a ghostly wedding reception, a graveyard where the ghoulish inhabitants come out for a swing'n wake, and more highlight the couple's journey on 'A Night in The Haunted Mansion'.
Yes; for those of you who didn't notice or realize; this is based off the old 1960's LP album The Story & Song of Disney's Haunted Mansion and it's 1990's cassette tape re-release, A Spooky Night in Disney's Haunted Mansion. The whole reason behind this is simple and posses a question that may never be officially answered by the Mouse:
"Why hasn't this classic story made the jump to the silver screen? Heck, even to the made-for-television realm of films? This is, the quintessential Mansion story; the one that was tied into the actual attraction's opening, being released at (or around) the same time in 1969. 2003's Haunted Mansion was very loosely (some would even question 'loosely' and say nothing was related) based on the tale. (You know, with the whole "A Storm keeps them in the Mansion" and all... whatever...) While the official reboot is currently, as of this writing, farther behind then we are in pre-production; (I don't think they've yet to come up with a final script yet) we can rely on the vague plot description given by mansionite and director/project-head Del Toro that the movie isn't going to be even vaguely similar to the LP Album. Why hasn't anyone tried to take this and make it into a film?"
(And now that we've begun putting serious effort into this production, I hope it's never official answered.)

Well, after taking into consideration what could and couldn't be done on a minimal to nothing budget, and what would be possible and impossible to do without a studio, professional backing, and, well, money; I realized that, "Hey; if I put my mind to it, and put in the effort, time, thought, and determination needed, I can do this on my own time!" For a while, I've been trying to make a movie on my own time. I have a green screen, a professional movie editing program (Sony Vegas) and a passion for film. After looking at various options; spanning everything from a found-footage comedy to an adaptation of Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder; I finally decided that the LP story was the one I'd be the most at-home working on. I won't go into my rambling history of the Haunted Mansion and me, because you'd be reading for an extra hour. Simply put, I have one of the largest collections of digital Haunted Mansion media (not the largest, but maybe, in a tier ranking, somewhere around the 15th largest in fan history; it's pretty darn big) at my disposal for reference. I've been listening to the cassette tape since the late 1990's when it was re-released, so I know the story. All the pieces began to fall into place, and I went with the mansion as my final decision.

So; we're making a movie. This is what A Night in The Haunted Mansion is all about. It's the expanded and slightly modified tale of Mike and Karen; a teenage couple who, through a series of chain-reactions, end up taking a tour of the creepy old house. If you want to take a look at the script, character specifications, and all that stuff, go to the site. It's there for you to read; and no, I'm not putting that on the blog; because this post won't fit on a single page if I do.

A Little Information on the "Where & Why"

The production is, of course, being filmed somewhere. That somewhere is mostly in my hometown of boring old Bel Air, Maryland. (I assume you already knew this was being produced by someone in the United States) If you can't be here; I'm sorry. It's just as big (and probably even more) of a disappointment to me that some mansionite from somewhere far away can't join us for the filming. Of course, we have a few digital roles, but most of those are nearly filled. If you're interested in finding out what a 'digital role' entails, and how you can fill it from anywhere around the globe; (as long as you have a computer, and can meet certain requirements) visit our Facebook page and check the notes section.

So yeah, we'll be here in Bel Air, Maryland, for most of the production. Just so you have an idea, (just in case you don't know where it is or what it's like) Bel Air, MD, is a town north of Baltimore that was originally a farming community. In my years here, (I can't say that a huge amount) I've watched the town grow and change. It gets busier and busier each and every year. Still, there really isn't a whole hell of a lot to do around here after you've spent nearly 15 years doing the same-old, same-old. So instead of wandering in the woods (what's left of it; they keep building and building; so, you know; the woods disappear over time) or hanging around, I though it was time to do something productive with my spare time. If your local; we need you!

What We're Looking For Locally

Okay; here's what we need from you: Locals; follow the project, keep up-to-date with our blog, Facebook page, and website; express interest (I doubt you'll have gotten this far in the post if you don't have any) and spread the word. Non-locals; everything we listed above applies to you too! 

We're looking for locals who can act, sing and dance (you know; that scene in the ballroom?) who are willing to work with us on the project purely for enjoyment of the art. We don't have the money to give 63 actors an actresses a pay-check for this out-of-pocket production. (You can request to receive a free copy of the finished film and soundtrack upon completion, however) We've already spent nearly $500 or so alone on lights, costumes, make-up, and props. We haven't even touched the sets yet. (There aren't many that we have to build, but we do need to build a few things of decent size) 

So, yeah; I guess that about covers that part. We need you! I can't do it alone!

(You might have noticed I sometimes refer to the production as both ' I ' and ' Us '; this is because sometimes, I am referring to both me and the co-producer, and sometimes, I am referring to me alone.)

All That Legal Stuff

Because we must beware of the Mouse. Yes, this is a production based on Disney's Haunted Mansion. No, we do not own the rights to this subject. But because this is all out of pocket, and because we don't intend to make any money off the finished film, or any of the content we create for it, we hope that places our production in a safe spot. It's a tribute. We have no intention taking from the Mouse's pocketbook by using their properties for personal profit. Anyone who would do this is both a fool and a moron. Because I don't feel like re-stating the properly written legal statements for what feels like the hundredth time, here's the copy and pasted legal notices from our site:
This film is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the Walt Disney Company or any of it's subsidiaries. This film is a non-profit tribute to the attraction, the people who made it, the LP album, and the legions of Haunted Mansion fans worldwide. No profit or monetary value is intended to be made off this film. No Copyright infringement intended. All Haunted Mansion related material are property of the Walt Disney Company. This film is not for sale, and is not to be distributed for any form of monetary currency. This film is funded out-of-pocket, and by donations from fans of the S&FS website. ~ S&FS - 2011/2012 ~
...and this slightly different one...
"A Night in The Haunted Mansion" is being produced with the intention that the finished product is not to be used for profit or monetary gain in any form. The production is viewed as being a tribute to the attraction; not an attempt to capitalize on its established popularity for self-promotion or gain. All Haunted Mansion related material is property of the Walt Disney Company, and no copyright infringement is intended in the production of this film. We hope that producing the film as a "Tribute without Profit" can be seen as legally acceptable by the Walt Disney Company. We are making the film because we love the attraction, and do not want to bring about any legal issues in creating this extremely complicated, time-consuming tribute. - S&FS 2011 - 2012

 I really hope we don't run into any legal trouble. We're not dealing with profit on this production in any way, so I really don't see what could turn into a problem that Disney would end up actually taking any sort of legal action over. (Unless they just wanted to crush my hopes and dreams... but I doubt they'd do that to me)

So there you have it. If I modify this post at any time, you'll hear about it as long as you're following the project. Anything I need to add or touch up; that will be announced. I think we covered just about everything  that needed to be covered in this informational post.

Guess what foolish mortals? With this out of the way, we can start taking a look at the good stuff; the stuff the blog was made for; next time...

                                                                                                         ~ M.Brilhart ~ 
                                                                                                          Director, Co-Producer, 
                                                                                                          and your resident Ghost Host

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What's going on? - Part 1

No, the project isn't dead. Things are happening behind creaking doors; lots of things; but we can't share everything with you. Do you really want us to spoil all the surprises?

...Portraits; Demo Soundtracks; Computer Generated Models; Props; and more...

Things are happening, even if they aren't always posted publicly. As of now, this is our current plan of action; it has no set dates, but once it's reached the last step, relive me, you won't be able to not know about it.

At some point, I'm planing to overhaul the website again. Just wanted to mention that; it's not the first step in our plan. As of now, final touches are currently being placed on the script, which is currently on draft number 5. Once we've got our final draft, we can begin making the shot list for the entire film. A shot list (for those of you who don't know what one is) basically outlines what the script is going to translate into visually on camera. From deciding if a wide angle shot or a close up shot is needed, to what kind of lighting should be used, the shot list will bring us another step closer towards production. Using the shot list, the next step will be to sit down and storyboard the majority of the shot list. A film that's relying on green-screen and composite performances as much as ours, it's quite important to have a visual rough-draft to make sure we know exactly what each shot will entail. Once the storyboards are done, we can formulate a schedule for production. Once we have a rough scheduled ready, we will be left with one last critical step before production can begin.

Casting. This will be the big hurdle. We will need to finally start casting actors and actresses if we want to get into production. Don't panic yet! I'll only start bugging everyone and anyone local once the previous steps are finished. Think of it this way, once we reach this step, the weight of the project will fall on all of you, in a much lighter fashion.

I just wanted to announce our current plans; and get everyone who's on board with us up to speed on the status and direction of the project. Hopefully I'll find some time to do some more posts that aren't progress reports. Until then...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Updating the Story - Part 1

First off, I'm sorry this post has taken so long to materialize. I was on vacation, traveling the vast roads of the United States, from Casper, WY, to Port Columbus, OH. (No, there were no ghosts in Casper, WY) Now we can finally begin to dig deeper into this grave... a positive one... I guess that's one saying that didn't serve it's punful purpose too well... oh well, let us begin...

We are to begin with the category of "Updating the Story," which won out in our poll. This does not mean we won't look at the other topics. It just means this one comes first.

Let's look at what this is all about; a summary of the topic at hand, straight from the last post:
These installments will take a look at what has been done to take the late 1960's 24 Minute story-teller record and expand it into a full length film that modern audiences can take a bit more seriously. We'll look at what's been cut (very little) and what's been added (a whole hell of a lot) and what has been changed (quite a bit) to mold the source material into something we're just dying to show you.
So, without further a due, let's begin. I'ts a good thing this topic was voted to start first; because guess what everyone? It's time for a history lesson! I know a good amount of you know the story behind this whole thing, but this blog is meant to answer all the questions that any average Joe might have about the project. So it's time to take a look at the history of the source material...

The Story & Song from The Haunted Mansion LP album was released in 1969, coinciding with the opening of the original version of the attraction at Disneyland. For those of you who don't know the history behind the Storyteller records; they where the equivalent of the read-along cassette tapes of the 1990's. It seems today's generation doesn't have an equivalent to this sort of audio-visual entertainment. Anyhow, Disneyland Records basically had cornered the market in children's albums in the 60's and 70's. Prior to the release of the attraction-based Mansion album, similar storyteller records for both It's a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean had been released. These albums where not exclusively sold at the park; they could be found at your local department store; (Places like the Target, Walmart, and K-Mart of the day) the albums promoted the attraction to kids who bought them, and in turn, would lead to the children begging their parents to go to Disneyland to experience the real thing! Marketing genius right there...

Unlike the previously mentioned attraction-based releases, the Mansion album took a different approach to the concept. Where as the other two merely provided a narrated flow-through of the attraction, the Mansion album gave the listeners a story to go with the flow-through; hence the name, The Story & Song. The said story follows a teenage couple; Mike (voiced by Ron Howard) and Karen (voiced by Robie Lester); who wind up taking a flow-through of the attraction's scenes after taking shelter from a rainstorm in a Haunted House. They are greeted by the disembodied voice of a ghost host (voiced by Peter Renoudet) who guides them on a tour of his haunted home.

Because your really should hear it before we continue, I'm providing a link to the low-quality version that has been available on for the longest time. (Scroll down to the first "Shh... Listen" and press play. You can also read a bit more on the history of the album) I don't want to place any illegal links here. Not with this project on the line. I highly suggest you obtain a copy of your own. The album was recently re-released officially on compact disc in 2009, and is easy to obtain online, or at the Disney theme parks.

Because the original record only runs about 24 minutes in length, this leaves us with the need to expand the story. While there are defiantly enough visuals to fill out an hour's worth of film in the scenes present on the album alone, we feel that expanding and altering the story is a necessary task. Because the album is based on the Disneyland version of the attraction, which is slightly shorter than the version built at Walt Disney World, we have decided to add several scenes based on the rooms missing at the Anaheim original. Such scenes include the Haunted Library, Music Room, and Grand Staircase. Another entirely new room has been added to supplement as home for some evicted tenants with eight limbs from the Orlando attraction. But we'll cover these rooms a little later in the "Re-Haunting the Mansion" topic.

In addition, several elements have been dropped, added, and updated to modernize the story, making it more believable for today's audience; removing some of the campy and cheesy flavor of the album and replacing it with a more acceptable vibe. We'll cover these various add-on's and drop-off's in our next installment, Updating the Story - Part 2

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Our Tour Begins Here

...with so much content to explore, I really don't know where to begin. That's why you get to choose what we're going to look at first! Yes; that's right! You!

To the right is a poll; place your vote for what you'd like our blog to dive into first. Most of the choices will lead to multi-post installments regarding the topic at hand. Which one gives you an "aura of foreboding?"

Updating the Story

These installments will take a look at what has been done to take the late 1960's 24 Minute story-teller record and expand it into a full length film that modern audiences can take a bit more seriously. We'll look at what's been cut (very little) and what's been added (a whole hell of a lot) and what has been changed (quite a bit) to mold the source material into something we're just dying to show you.

Re-Haunting the Mansion

In these installments, we will take a look at what is being done to take the memorable environments in the attraction and duplicate them on screen. The record describes a dilapidated fixer-upper, while the attraction is well-kept on the outside; and apart from a few cobwebs, is mostly up well-kept on the inside too. We're making a haunted house movie, so we're doing it the way most people would expect to see it; a spooky old house covered in ivy; with creaking floors, rotting doors, and shudders hanging loose from the hinges. We'll take a look at the scenes in the attraction; some real-life references, and see how things are going to look in our happy haunt.

It's Only a Trick of the Light

In this section, we'll look at the efforts going into the various special effects that this film will be relying on. From transforming the living into transparent specters, to safely hanging yours truly from the neck in the bell free. Just how do you make a room stretch? What does it take to have a singing knight hold his own decapitated head in his hand? How in the world do you create a claustrophobic corridor of cobwebs, complete with hulking spiders? We'll explain how in these installments.

We Have 999 Happy Haunts

We'll that's a lie. If we do have 999, you're only going to see 63 roles being preformed. Still, 63 is an astounding number of roles to fill. So, assuming that the more you know about these characters, the more interested you'll be in helping to bring them to life (and in most cases; minus three or so; afterlife) on screen; we'll take a look at each and every character. What part do they play in the story? Can they sing? What type of personality do they have? What do they look like? What do they wear? Have they already been cast? These, and many more questions will be answered in these installments.

Of course, the general behind-the-scenes post regarding recent events will show up from time-to-time. And just because one topic gets the most votes doesn't mean I'll complete all of it's installments before jumping to another one. The installments won't be in any particular order, other than being numbered as they are posted. So, go ahead and vote if you haven't already. We're just dying to get started...