Adam Green is no stranger to filming under some of the most horrendous conditions possible, and with his new feature Frozen he put himself, his actors, and his crew to the test. Recently we caught up with Adam in between the nine billion things he has going on to get the skinny on his upcoming film.
“Everyone on the set kept saying it felt like the set of Apocalypse Now, minus the excessive drug use and personal meltdowns,” Adam tells us. “The crew was just rock solid and everybody hung in there. We got everyone who was going to quit to quit before we started, which was a plus. When I thought of the idea, I thought it was so simple. We had a contained location, three people on a chair, how hard could this really be?”
He would soon find out that it would be pretty fucking hard. “It was my own fault,” Green continues. “Most people would be like, well, we could do parts of this on a soundstage, parts of it in front of a green screen, but I just think audiences today are way too smart for that. That average person watching movies knows when something looks fake. The only way that this movie was going to work was if it was all realistic. The only way to shoot Frozen was to really put the actors through this. I still can’t believe that I found three people brave enough to do it, or that they still talk to me!”
“One of the hardest things about casting was sniffing out who the real actors were,” says Green. “I’m not saying that just because you go through some real physical pain that makes you a real actor, but there’s a lot of people out there who just want to be pretty, be famous, and go to premieres. There was nothing to hide behind in this movie. It was all them for ninety minutes. There was no way to phone it in. We’re editing the movie now, and anyone who’s been around the editing suite has said, ‘Holy Shit! I can’t even look at them! They look so miserable!’ That wasn’t acting. If you want to get a good performance out of somebody freezing to death, just freeze them to death.”
Though the film seemed relatively simple on paper, it wasn’t long before Adam and company started facing their biggest challenges. “It was a logistical nightmare,” says Green. “When you really think about it, when you’re on a ski-lift, those chairs only move forward, not backward. The spot where our cast gets stuck was literally fifty feet over a ravine because it has to be in a spot in which it’s questionable whether you could jump or not. While scouting, I kept thinking to myself, could I make it from here? The spot that I picked there’s no walking away from a jump from. When it came time to set up the lights, we quickly realized that there were no roads to get our giant cranes up. Everything had to be pulled there by Snow-cats. It ended up taking a full day just to get each one of our lighting rigs up there. Then we had to dig flat spots so that they’d be level, and then that’s where the lights lived. There was no way to move them. So when we sent the actors up, if we over-shot by even a foot, that was it! We couldn’t shoot it anymore, so then the actors would have to go up to the top of the peak and then around again, and that could take upwards of forty-five minutes. Those chairs don’t stop on a dime. We could give a cue like ‘Okay, stop it!’ but that doesn’t mean it will stop exactly where you need it to.”
Now here’s where your hearts really have to go out to the cast. Once they got into the exact spot they were supposed to be in, that’s where they had to stay. “They couldn’t eat anything, they couldn’t go to the bathroom, they couldn’t even hear us they were so high up. They would just look down and see a bunch of ants running around and doing their things,” Green continues. “I had a walkee hidden in Shawn Ashmore’s jacket, and that’s how I’d communicate with them. Though performance-wise it worked out well because for them there was no distraction. The camera would come up to them on the crane, and that’s how they’d know we were getting ready to shoot, but otherwise they’re just sitting there.”
“The logistics were really the hardest part. We started off production during a blizzard. It wasn’t even the cold that was hard; it was walking in that stuff all night and having to stand at a forty-degree angle the whole time … what that does on your knees and your back? Not to mention the cast — they’re wearing thirty-pound expedition boots while sitting in that wooden chair becoming frozen and atrophied all at the same time. Their joints, their ligaments, they were really hurting. Anyway, about halfway through the shoot when we switched things over to filming in the daytime, we got hit with a heat-wave. Things got up to around thirty degrees, and then the snow started melting. We came to the set one day and had lost seven feet of snow. All of our condors and cranes were leaning sideways, so we had to shovel and pack everything in to where it should be, and then we got hit with another blizzard the very next day which dropped about thirty-eight inches of snow in just six hours. It was just one extreme to the other with no quitting. Whatever the mountain did, you just had to take it and figure out a way to get around it. And we did.”
Frozen is now in post-production, but looking back on the experience Green had this to say, “On the last night when we wrapped, I was just standing there. I didn’t want to leave. It really felt like we faced the mountain and we beat it. Yet, I wanted to know what else it could throw at us. We dealt with everything, from hail to sleet to snow; even my eyes got sunburned! Obviously I would have to take my protective glasses off to look through the camera so I could know what I was filming, and God, did I pay the price. It hurt so bad! I thought I was just tired because my eyes were really red, but the make-up people were like, ‘Holy shit, dude, you’re eyes are totally sunburned!’ It took me five days to get back to normal so for a good portion of the movie it might not be in focus because my eyes were burning so bad *laughs*.”
“Now I’ve done extreme heat, I’ve done the desert, I’ve done the swamp, I’ve done the mountains and the snow, so now I think the only thing left is space, but I’m gonna do it all practical,” jokes Green. We think. “We ain’t gonna green-screen shit! If we’re gonna do a space movie, then we’re going to space and I’m gonna give the fans something real. I might just produce that one though. ”
Look for more on Frozen and the extended interview very soon. In the interim check out our exclusive behind-the-scenes pics below! Click each one for a larger image.
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