We only had two days of principal photography left on “Lotus Eyes.” Day one would be back at Greenridge State Forest near Cumberland and day two would be at Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont, Maryland.
On Monday, we woke up at 4 AM to make it to Greenridge early in the morning. We had only two scenes to complete that day, but both of them were complicated. First, we had a scene where the protagonist attempts to cook a dead mouse over a fire, but fails, dropping the mouse inside the flames and charring it beyond edibility. On set, we immediately faced the problem of the color of the mouse (purchased as frozen snake food from a pet store), which we unfortunately neglected to think of beforehand. The pet store product was a bright, white mouse, not one that would ever live in a forest such as Greenridge. Abby Harri, our makeup artist, ingeniously used a combination of products to color the mouse brown. She did this on three mice. Once we started shooting, we ran into a more complicated problem, fire. The biggest issue we faced during that scene was the continually changing look of the flames. The height, the intensity, and the smokiness looked entirely different between almost every take, making it nearly impossible for any of the shots of the scene to have proper continuity of action. We spent almost 8 hours on this one scene alone, and did technically completed it, but ultimately cut it from the final edit. The logistical issues led to it being a very poor scene.
Next, we traveled about an hour within the forest to the final location at Greenridge, an abandoned Juvenile Boys Camp in the middle of the woods. This striking visual would be the final shot of the film. Everything seemed ready to go, but then the rain started. Immediately, we all took cover in one of the abandoned buildings, but panic struck. What if the rain did not stop before we lost light? We began talking anxiously amongst ourselves about when we could all come back to Greenridge to make up the day. Eventually however, the rains stopped and we ran out and did the final shot before the skies opened up again.
The last day at Catoctin went very well although it was the most intense day of the production in terms of scheduling, with the largest number of setups. Luckily though, we successfully completed our scheduled scenes. As we drove home the last night, exhausted, it felt like a great burden had been lifted. As those who do film productions often experience however, post production often presents its own unique set of challenges and we would soon find out that this film would be no exception.