Behind the Scenes at Bristol Riverside Theatre: Script Read-Through

A few weeks ago Sanj and I completed an acting class in effort to improve our directorial skills.  It involved learning and delivering a monologue under the guidance of an experienced instructor.  We paid as much attention to the direction of other students as we did to the instructor’s direction of us.  Soon after the class finished, another opportunity presented itself.

The Bristol Riverside Theatre is putting on a production of Inherit the Wind with an opening night of May 23rd.  Along with the casting call, an opportunity to participate in a unique opportunity was announced.  For the first time, “all-access” reporters have been invited to see and document what happens behind-the-scenes during the production from the first script read-through to opening night. Having shot a short film last year and with an interest in seeing how other productions, both stage and screen are run, I jumped at it.

Kathryn Moroney, the associate director, invited me to the first read-through of the script Tuesday evening, April 30th.  I felt like I had arrived at a town hall meeting when I walk into the rehearsal studio.  Over forty actors were seated around a series of tables arranged in a rectangle.  About ten others are off the sides in support including stage managers, Greg Hartley, Audience Development Coordinator, and Debbie Fleischman, managing public relations. This is the largest production the Bristol Riverside Theatre has done in recent history, with a cast of nearly fifty. The play recreates a small southern town and, looking at the population of the rehearsal studio, I think they can do it.

Director Susan Atkinson observed the reading while Kathryn read the italicized portions of the script indicating action and movement.  Having just finished my acting class a few weeks ago, I have an implicit expectation that the script reading would need adjustment.  When the students in my class would read for the first time, it was generally delivered without any emotion or sense of character.  I must have had a subconscious expectation that the first reading would involve adjustment.

That wasn’t the case. These actors made it through auditions. They are cast and they know their characters.  I’m struck with how well the lines are delivered.  Genuinely funny lines in the script were met with candid laughter.  Here, the cast can freely respond to the lines.  Later, they’ll get direction and orchestration, but tonight it’s the first read-through.  Not a rehearsal.  If you’re not delivering the next line, the response is unscripted and that’s okay.

In less than three hours, the entire play had been read. Applause followed and Susan congratulated the cast on a job well done.  Next come rehearsals of both stage and song, but you’ll have to wait for my next entry for that.

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Blobageddon Screened at the Roslyn Film Festival

Roslyn Film Festival 2013

A packed house at the Seventh Annual Roslyn Film Festival

Once again, Blobageddon has reared its head.  This time it was at the seventh annual Roslyn Film Festival, a community-based event held at the Roslyn Fire Company in Abington, PA to benefit the fire fighters.  This marks the fifth time Blobageddon has been unleashed on an unsuspecting audience and both Sanj and I were in attendance Saturday evening March 23rd.

I’d been living in Abington, PA since November 2010 and hadn’t heard about the festival until a few months ago – just in time to get a last minute submission sent in ahead of the deadline.  Sundance, it’s not.  But, it is more than either of us expected.  We recognize that Blobageddon is not exactly cinematic excellence.  What it is, it is and that’s cheese, glorious, indulgent cheese.  Go ahead and soak it in.  It’s less than five minutes. I’ll wait.

We shot it specifically with the Phoenixville Blobfest in mind.  It somehow managed to win the 2012 Blobfest Short Film competition, covered more fully in a prior post.  At that point, it was the most involved video we had produced, complete with an animated blob and a mad scientist’s lab (Part I and Part II).  As low budget as it is, we put plenty of work into it and want it to get as much exposure as we could muster.  The Roslyn Film Festival takes place only five minutes from my home.  We couldn’t resist an opportunity to see Blobageddon screened for another audience, so we entered.

While it’s not a high profile festival, it is a worthwhile and enjoyable fund-raiser for the Roslyn Fire Company.  We expected other films to be about on par with the dubious quality of our submission.  That was not the case.  Nine short films were screened, all of which had better editing and larger budgets than our homage to the Blob. 

Roslyn Film Festival

Audience members were given a ballot and asked to cast their vote for their favorite.  First, second and third place trophies were to be awarded at the end.  Going into the event, we thought our chances of winning a trophy stood at 33% with nine entries.  After seeing the competition, we quickly determine our changes fell to about 0.002% or less.

Both Sanj and I have seen Blobageddon dozens of times.  As it played, we were paying more attention to the audience reaction than the movie.  When the audience vote was tallied there was a Q&A session with the filmmakers.  Someone asked what it was like hearing the audience’s response to your own comedy.  I was frank.  The laughs were not as frequent or as loud this time around as they were at Blobfest or at Mascara and Popcorn and I think that has to do with the audience as much as it does with the movie.  Having seen Blobageddon in several different events, I think the response hinges on the context and expectations.


Roslyn Film Festival

John answering a question from the audience in the filmmaker Q&A session.

Blobfest is all about camp.  And camp we are.  That audience was expecting it and reveling in it.  The Mascara and Popcorn crowd enjoyed cheese horror and appreciated our short for what it was.  A crowd of sci-fi and horror fans I presented to last month also enjoyed the movie despite its apparent flaws.  This time, at the Roslyn Film Fest, it was different.  We were up against dramas and documentaries with a budget edited by people in film school.  The first film set the tone. Infinite, unlike our submission, had a set, crew, preproduction planning, etc.  A sci-fi drama, it touched on fundamental religious questions and the nature of the universe.  On the spectrum of quality independent films, it’s about as far from Blobageddon as possible.  Moreover, it set the tone for the festival.  There were just as many comedic shorts as there were dramas, but the dramas shined in terms of editing and cinematography.

Infinite won third-place. We didn’t have a chance.  Dancing Outside the Box, a documentary about wheel chair dancing, won second.  Toy Soldier, a short about a boy who loses his father in the Iraq war, took first.

They are all well-deserved wins and give us something to aspire to as amateur filmmakers.  Blobageddon is only a start.  We’ve been moving along in post-production with Zombie Casserole and have a few more scripts churning away.  We will be submitting to the Roslyn Film Festival next year.

We continue to film in and around the Philadelphia area.  If you are interested in participating or would like to learn more, please feel free to contact us at

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Make Up For Zombies

We at For Zombies don’t let anything stop us, least of all common sense.  No experience – we’ll muddle our way through it.  And we’ve been muddling our way through make up as evidenced by the photo of ourselves in the banner above.  With some guidance from a friend of ours who had done make up for seasonal haunted houses, we applied cotton balls, latex and grease paint with no artistic still whatsoever.

And that was fine for our YouTube videos, but when we wanted to shoot Zombie Casserole, we knew we needed some help.  Fortunately, Derek and Alicia generously volunteered their time and skills and zombified a horde for our shoots.  That worked wonderfully for our weekend filming.

Sanj Before

Sanj, before I zombified him.

Sanj Intermediate

Sanj during zombification.

Sanj After

Zombie Sanj!

Sanj and I do have occasional cause to shoot our Dear Zombies segments that feature just ourselves and we recognize that we need to improve our make-up skills.  So, we enrolled in a one-day class hosted at FX Warehouse in Fishtown.   The Poor Man’s Zombie Workshop was taught by Josh Counsel, a make-up artist with plenty of experience in the field.  He owns Toxic Image Make Up Studios out in Utah.

There are a number of nuggets we picked up that will improve our zombie making skills:

  • Use tissue paper in addition to or instead of cotton balls.  A single ply of tissue gives your skin a crackled look.
  • Use Rice Crispies, Corn Flakes or oat meal to give the skin a distressed look.
  • Stipple and dab with the brush.  Don’t make long brush strokes.  My girlfriend later pointed out that’s how women apply make-up.  Apparently, I have a gross lack of experience in this area.
  • Do not use water to thin fake blood.   That tends to stain clothing when the food coloring is introduced.  Use vodka or some other alcohol base instead.
John Slightly Zombified

John with a slight cereal skin condition.

John Intermediate

John becoming a zombie.

Zombie John

Burn victim zombie!

Both Sanj and are better prepared to zombify ourselves and others at our next filming event.  A little learning goes a long way.  We haven’t given away all of the secrets.  A zombie has to keep a few for himself.

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The Zombie Casserole Chronicles – Part Ten

It’s kind of a big deal when you take a project you’ve been working on for months and get your first glimpse of what the end result might look like.  So it was a couple of weeks ago, when I produced a DVD of the rough cut of Zombie Casserole.  It clocked in at 31 minutes, 13 seconds and 17 frames.  After a couple of months of piecing together individual scenes, this was pretty much a watershed moment.

John and I slapped some beers in ourselves, the DVD in a player and kicked back with notepads and pens.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t far off from our original vision when writing the script last fall.  Some things came out better than we hoped, others not as well – but the overall film was pretty much on target.

Although the sound in this version hadn’t been mixed, we did have a catchy title song to go with the opening credits thanks to Shmoolie.  One big thing we learned was that even though when writing a script you may come up with separate scenes, when you actually lay everything out, those scenes and the ordering may not make sense.  I suppose that’s why it’s called a rough cut.

However, this is film – we can make anything happen.  We immediately decided in some cases that in order to make the timing make better sense, we needed to intercut parts of some scenes with parts of others.  We also saw some opportunities to use After Effects to clean up some footage.  And yes, while this does require work, it’s not nearly as bad as sitting in front of a monitor with lots of uncataloged footage you have to review and then pick through to decide what should be used.

I should note that once we take into account all our notes, we’ll still have a ways to go.  At that point, the film will be ready for sound mixing and scoring.  But there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Zombie Art Appreciation

We admit it, we zombies don’t know much about art. Sure, the Moanin’ Lisa’s fine and so’s the Scream. We can appreciate any artist who’s willing to hack off part of himself and save us some trouble. We know what we do like and it’s undead art that breathe new life in our daily shambles. In our un-beating hearts, we are hungry artists.

Here are a few samples from Ed Luterio who runs The Spirited Artist, a BYOB instructional studio and gallery next to the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville. It’s the home of the Blobfest.




Edward A. Luterio

The Spirited Artist
237 Bridge Street
Phoenixville Pa. 19460
Phone: 610-933-4336

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