Location. Location. Location
Locations define the life blood of characters: where they live and raise their families, earn their pay and spend their time. They also help define the backstory of the characters. As a low budget filmmaker, the most important question you should ask always yourself is:
What locations do I have access to for free?” #indiefilmmaker
Most locations in MY APOCALYPTIC THANKSGIVING (MAT) are filmed in my family’s different houses. The story also takes place in South Central Los Angeles because the special needs adults that inspired it reside there. I still call the South Central by its original name since my old school neighbors still refer to it by its Original Gangsta name. May sound funny except Los Angeles has tried to scrubbed the notoriety associated with that name immortalized in songs like Tupac’s anthem, “To Live and Die in LA.” Los Angeles has even attempted to nickname it to “‘#SOLA” like the neighborhoods WeHo (West Hollywood) and NoHo (North Hollywood.) The moniker #SOLA is of course referring to the new and improved name of “South Los Angeles.”
I know I’m Filipino and this movie is a mini biopic (sans zombies), but I still chose to make in about Koreans in South Central. The big reason is that Koreans are part and parcel to South Central and its culture. They are a big part of the community with their different businesses. An example is the great film GOOK that focuses in on a Korean store during the LA Riots
There are hundreds of group homes or “board ‘n’ cares” all over South Central. Most house four to six clients per home. They did this to help better integrate the adults with special needs into the community. This was as opposed to locking them away in a mental institute where they have zero interaction with society. We hosted the clients during the filming. They delightfully welcomed the cast and crew. In fact, they still talk about this experience to this day with joy.
Another house added “triple the value.” We shot Kim’s bedroom and stairs that Me Young climbs. And we also used the basketball court since its look inspired the feeling we were trying to convey in that scene. The ultimate filmmaking trick was using the garage for the office in the laundromat since the one on location was way too small. I also found ways to incorporate it more than originally planned since it’s a free location. Plus, I was able to use my junk as background set decorations. I’ll clean it up… One day.
A gangsta’s crib was a difficult location to find. Originally we were going to go with the trope of some boarded up abandoned house. But we couldn’t find any without big “no trespassing” signs. We figured that they still have tenants that like to do things like crawl in your shoes or burrow in your skin. Those are definitely not wanted guests on set. Our conclusion was to use an indoor pool that we could access. We have to give major props to our Production Designer Carlo Garduno.Carlo did an amazing job of decorating the indoor pool wall with gangsta graffitti. While we were filming prison scenes in the Clayton Museum, Carlo was painting up a storm
Originally, we were going to film The TV show, “Apocalyptic Zombies” in Montana. Part of it would in the tiny town of Fromberg where Holly’s Mom used to live. We had access to a whole town, half of which was abandoned. The Mayor even offered to block streets for us when we were filming. They are a theater group that was specifically to help us do local casting. We even had access to my other sister’s famous pig Hamlet: And the Devries-Roberts Cemetry even said we could film there
It would have been epic to Montana, but we ran into too many challenges trying to make it happen. As a result, we shot the TV show in Los Angeles. We had access to an Airbnb and friends were able to give us access to locations. It was also fun improvising some scenes here and there in different parts of the greater Los Angeles area. A cool thing is that many parts of downtown Los Angeles organically look like a scene out of the apocalypse with its random graffiti, trash and abandoned buildings.
Mad props to our actors Callie Gilbert (Andrea) Andre Devin (Mini Rambo) and Lisa Crosato (Sharon) who toughed out the cold, wet rain in good spirits. A couple of funny mishaps were when Callie locked her keys in her car and a seagull pooped on Lisa’s shoulders
Many thanks to Rick Clark from Hearts on Fire Tattoo Parlor. His place added so much authenticity to the gang.