Jeepers Creepers: Reborn

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn

Creating Monsters – A conversation with Jeepers Creepers: Reborn SFX Makeup Designer Lea James

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It’s Halloween, and time for all things Creepy to come to light, so I decided to sit down and chat with Lea James, the SFX makeup designer who created the Creeper for Jeepers Creepers: Reborn.

When did you first hear that you would be doing the Creeper for Jeepers Creepers: Reborn?

leaI found out about six months before the production began, that they were looking for a makeup person who would be tasked with recreating a famous monster for a horror film. I was of course interested, and when the script landed in my email account, I realized the film was actually Jeepers Creepers reboot, “Reborn”. I had watched two of the movies before, and I thought they
were a fun horror franchise, however, to be honest, at first, I was a bit wary to jump on board, as I was made aware of the franchise’s negative past history. What convinced me was that I knew the producers were looking for a new director and the script was a completely fresh idea.

How did the design progress begin?

First of all, I knew this was an existing IP and there were some guidelines I needed to follow – I couldn’t take the Creeper too far from the original, but at the same time, the new Creeper needed to reflect the script. I started off by going back to the original films and making-of -documentaries to get my head around how the Creeper was originally created. At the time, we didn’t have a new director involved yet, so I was working together with the producers Jake Seal and Terry Bird, thinking about which direction we wanted to take the Creeper.

pano (1)After Director Timo Vuorensola joined the crew, the vision of the new Creeper was clarified, and we started to collaborate and sketch out what the monster would eventually be like. We wanted to make the Creeper more sickly and withered version of the creature, one that’s at the end of its life cycle. This was also taken into account when casting the actor to play the monster. Jarreau Benjamin was chosen among thousands of applicants due to his great physical presence and his amazing eyes – very important for the Creeper – he fits the bill perfectly!

20201119_102737-2Together with the producers and the director, we settled on the look, and after that, we needed to find a special effects studio that could produce the highly complex makeup. I approached one of the best FX studios in UK, KM Effects, who’ve worked on everything from Aquaman to Sandman, Mission Impossible, and many more. The head of the studio, Kristyan Mallett, took the project and we started the process at Watford Studios, at Warner Bros.’ lot.

First, they made a plastic cast of the actor Jarreau Benjamin. Then, the sculptor started meticulously building the features of the Creeper, producing many versions along the way, which was a real collaboration with myself, the director, and the studio until we were happy with the overall look. While we decided to employ Jarreau’s great eyes as part of the creature, we still needed to create the menacing Creeper teeth. For this, we chose to work with Fang FX. They produced many different versions of the teeth, until we found the ones we really loved.

img_20201210_164937How did you feel when you first saw the new Creeper all put together?

The whole team was very excited. We felt really proud for all the hard work that was put into creating it.

How long did it take to get Creeper ready every day?

It was a time taking making and needed precision and care, taking daily 4-7 hours depending on how many close-ups were expected, and another 3-4 hours to remove. My FX makeup supervisor Steven Harris looked after the application and the finish to perfection.


How was actor Jarreau Benjamin during this?

c4f5c2b5-e31b-4802-a8c4-a774fdb5562aJarreau was always absolutely amazing to work with. He kept the morale up and everyone laughing, we all gravitated towards his humour, and he never complained – a real inspiration to us all. Knowing he couldn’t really eat anything after the full makeup was on, he chose to fast the days when he was on screen, being able to only drink with a straw. On the set, we had agreed
a set of signals on how he could communicate with us so that he was constantly safeguarded and looked after.

There was also an easier application – a snap mask, as we called it – which we could put on and take off in just a few minutes whenever the Creeper wasn’t really visible on the camera, or when a stunt double was working through the
more dangerous scenes.

In addition to the main Creeper, there were two other phases, which were very different – could you talk a little about them?

The idea to connect the film with the earlier movies through the “barn” sequence came up later after we had finished the second shooting block and broke off for Christmas vacation. The producers wanted to add scenes where we see how the Creeper came out from the barn, where he was last seen at the end of Jeepers Creepers 2, so together with Steven Harris, we started to create this “Chrysalis” paint we could apply on the original mask, something that would resemble the dried-out corpse that was hanging on the wall of the barn but could be broken without damaging the mask underneath.

img_3856The other alternative version of the Creeper was the Slimy Creeper or the “Rebirth” makeup. Here, we wanted to take the Creeper back to almost a fetal state, after it had been killed and eaten by the crows. We wanted it to look like a newborn calf, with translucent, slimy skin – we created this goo – we called it Creeper Juice – and covered Jarreau completely with it. I think working on the “Rebirth” Creeper makeup was the most fun for the whole team – it was a huge job, but we were really excited how it turned out.

What about the Creeper wings? They were an instrumental part of the creature, but were however created digitally, why so?

In the beginning, we were planning to do also the wings manually, but the director really insisted we do the wings digitally, so instead, together we sketched out in detail what we wanted for the wings, and followed closely the process as our VFX supervisor Jason Rayment’s team created the wings. In the end, we were very impressed with how well they sat on the creature, having the right kind of skin texture and great animation.

Screenshot 2022-10-30 at 22.53.25

Who’s your favorite movie creature of all time?

It must be the Frankenstein’s Monster. I’ve always been fascinated by Mary Shelley and how Frankenstein’s story came together. I love creatures that can be scary, but at the same time, have a heart underneath it all.

Who are your favorite SFX artists?

I was very lucky to study SFX with Oscar Winner Neil Corbould. I took away many valuable lessons in movie magic.

Ray Harryhausen has always had a special place, I remember loving watching his stop motion creatures – the Medusa and the skeleton army – as a kid. And I want to of course mention Tom Savini and Rick Baker as well, I must have read all their books and any interviews I could find. Really instrumental in me finding my path in SFX.



Jeepers Creepers: Reborn

The Creeper’s Out!

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Tomorrow’s the premiere of my fourth feature film, Jeepers Creepers: Reborn. It’s also my first fully English-language movie, and first “American” picture, although, truthfully it’s half US and half UK co-production. Nevertheless, it’s a milestone in my career for many reasons.

Ronald and Mary’s car, getting ready for the inside-the-car -shoots.

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn wasn’t an easy one to make. But then again, if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a director is that none of them are. It’s kind of part of the deal: making a movie is hard, hard, lemon hard.

Camera truck with cinematographer of the Lousiana shoot, Brad Rushing, capturing the magic.

With this in the back of my head, Reborn was a beast of its own, though. Firstly, and this of course was a spin on the whole industry, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the moment we were about to start prepping. It took months to figure out ways to basically re-invent the whole production process in order to be able to shoot the film.

Brad and his team. It was hard in the sweltering heat of Louisiana with the full mask-on -policy.

We didn’t do ourselves any favors either by having loads of complicated VFX sequences, emerging filmmaking technologies (virtual sets), and of course, re-creating the Creeper, whose makeup took hours every day. Not only that but also, the setting was to take place during a busy horror film festival, which requires of course loads of extras – and as we remember, one of the main things with the pandemic is to reduce contact between people, avoid large groups and so forth. So, the hand we dealt ourselves was a plentiful one, but circling back to the original point about filmmaking, it always is. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be interesting, challenging and wouldn’t resonate on the screen. To quote David Bowie, on creativity: “If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

Shooting inside the car with Louisiana unit 1st Ad Larissa Garcia-Baab.

But that’s all semantics, in the end, what counts is the film itself. A production goes through multiple stages of rebirth – it’s kind of like shaping a Frankenstein monster: the script gives it a shape, casting and crewing up gives it form, filming brings it to life, edit makes it move and finally, post-production puts all the nuts and bolts together. But you never fully know what kind of a monster you’re creating, not until it’s out there.

Arrived to Black Hangar Studios, prepping for the first day of the UK shoot.

I’m very proud of our movie. We had a great crew that quite literally put their lives on the line due to the pandemic to make the film happen, and worked hard, harder than can be required ever – they definitely were no guns-for-hire but gave every drop of their creativity and inspiration on the screen. The cast jumped onboard a production during the hardest possible time in film history to make movies and delivered stellar performances. And our post-production team worked under very tricky conditions and brought us a beautiful cut, great visuals and music and sound.

More cars.

And of course, our producers, who had been pushing for years to get the film made, and fought through thick and thin to get it out there. Jake Seal, Terry Bird and Jamie Thompson among many other producers worked and believed in the Creeper world and fought to get the best possible crew to realize their dream. I was honored to be invited as a director on Jake’s behalf, and enjoyed working with them through the process.

Cinematographer Simon Rowling giving thumbs-up.

And now, it’s out of our hands, and up to the audience to watch and enjoy. I would’ve loved to join the premiere in the States, it wasn’t logistically possible for me this time.

Simon at the Horror Hound Festival, ready to shoot.

So party on, folks, and have a creepy time at the cinemas!

The festival, all ready to go.

Festivalgoers warming up.

Production designer Sivo Gluck with his team working on the Creeper House.
The Creeper doesn’t really wear sneakers.
At the Green on Black Hangar.
The truck In Waiting

Shine A Light – a detail at the Creeper House.
Smoking the set.
Come on baby drive my car.
The Truck had seen its’ better days.
The principal photography was wrapped on February Fifth in 2021. My trusted Picard was there overseeing the whole project through the day.

P.S. I’ll write about the design process and the idea behind the new Creeper later on, after people have had a chance to check the new monster on the screen, just not to spoil the fun in advance!

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn, Life

Winter Is Coming

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We released the first official teaser for my upcoming Jeepers Creepers: Reborn -movie two weeks ago, alongside the teaser poster. Both were well received in the Internet and while sharing but a quick glimpse of what we’ve been working, they have well grasped the vibe the film is going for.

A lot of people have been asking for additional information – release date, official full trailer and so forth. I’ve always tried to explain that in case of Jeepers Creepers: Reborn I don’t have that information – I know just about as much as the rest of the people, although, of course I’m constantly working with the post production team to finish the film, so there’s that. But it’s all coming together very nicely and I can’t wait to get to present the movie once it’s finished.

Some of you have been following me on the blog but just to recap, we shot the film in two parts – first, in Louisiana, then in UK. The Louisiana shoot was DP’d by amazing Brad Rushing and took a bit to prepare and shoot under the scorching Louisiana early autumn, while avoiding hurricanes, power outages and what not. We assembled a really fun team to work with, and obeying the COVID-19 regulations, managed to get everything done in a beautiful way – some photos of the adventure below:

The journey continued in UK, where we went to Lasham, close-ish to London to Black Hangar Studios where the second block took place between December and January 2020-2021. COVID-19 was rampant right then and the whole country was in a pretty hardcore lockdown mode, so going around places, not to mention prepping and shooting the film was always a bit of an added challenge. I mean, filmmaking is always hard – with the strict lockdowns and everything, it’s nearly impossible.

But it turned out to be also quite an intimate experience. The crew was mostly packed in an old mansion in the countryside and we were quite a tight team from beginning to the end. The UK shoot was DP’d by extremely talented Simon Rowling.

After getting back from the adventure I’ve mostly spent time moving, recovering, and watching over the VFX and post-production process. In addition to this, I’ve been working on two new feature films, the other one I’m shooting later this year, an action flick, and another one, a horror picture that I’m eyeing for next year shoot. It’s nice to keep oneself busy – to pace it with something I also directed two commercials (for Gigantti and Genano) and have been popping in and out of film festivals – Sombra festival in Spain and Trieste Science+Fiction festival in Italy, and the online one at Molinas, Spain where I’ve been in the jury watching loads of films and getting inspired for future endeavors.

The winter is now at the door. It’s raining in Helsinki and you only see short glimpses of light daily. There’s no escape from the fact that it’ll be a long dark and rainy time but at least there’s some pretty interesting things happening keeping the spirits high. Covid is also fading – at least, in general. US opens its’ doors for international travel tomorrow and most of the clubs and bars, restaurants and hobby places are open here in Helsinki without too strict restrictions. Still possible we get back to something if things go worse or a new variant pops up, but so far it’s looking good – as long as you’re vaccinated.

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn, Life

Welcome To The Fall

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Autumn, my favourite time of the year, is upon us. September brings the chilly air, paints the trees in millions of colors and prepares us for yet another long winter ahead of us here in Finland. I thought it’s about time I give a bit of an update on what’s going on with my life lately, as I find myself being less and less active on the social media these days.

Ever since I returned back from my long-ass trip to Louisiana and UK, I’ve stayed more or less put back in Finland, save few quick trips. One of the reasons has been, obviously, the rampant COVID-19, which keeps on making traveling really complicated and rather expensive. The other one is, with a flick of a switch, everything in the industry just went online.

Finally, I might add.

The tools have been around forever, but for years, we the filmmakers have spent gazillions in traveling to short meetings across the globe, ones that could just as easily have been made on a Skype – or nowadays, Zoom -meeting. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe there is a definitive need for traveling when working on international co-productions, whether for negotiations, casting or post-production elements such as editing, mixing and color-grading, which are hard to do swiftly online. In addition to this, film festivals are important, and can’t be replaced with online screenings and Zoom meetings, this would cut out a whole left leg and arm of the industry – the opportunity to bounce into like-minded folks, to pitch that random-ass project you’ve been working on or catching up that film you’d normally end up skipping completely.

But much of stuff that’s been given, is nowadays easier, swifter and more accessible than before. When I released the first Iron Sky, my managers and agent in US sent me out on a “coffee or water” -tour across LA. I met with Marvel, Paramount, Universal… You name it. The name “coffee or water” delivers, of course, from the first question you’ll be asked when coming to a meeting. Those meetings weren’t for nothing, although nothing came out of them. Well, not exactly “nothing”, I started to work on a project called Jeremiah Harm, which, sadly, never came to be (and probably for the best, it might have just been overran by Guardians of Galaxy that came out around the same time).

Nowadays, those meetings are de facto Zoomies, and I salute that. Only issue is attending them from Finland, which often means having to stay up until past midnight, but I’m a bit of a night owl these days, so nothing new there. But nevertheless, the conversations are the same, it’s less of a stress to get around and more focus on discussions. And as always, there’s really nothing to expect at this point on the discussions, but who knows, something might come out of it all.

Right now, thanks to Jeepers Creepers being underway, there is a level of interest in me as a fresh face in the horror and thriller community, which is often the easier and more accessible route into finding one’s footing in US market. With scifi, projects are often too heavy to lift off the ground, but with horror one can do impressive things with smaller budgets, which is less risk for every party, and there’s always that huge hit potential as we know can happen with well made horror.

Speaking of Jeepers, the post production is well under way. Right now we are focusing on laying down sounds, music and – of course, visual effects. With Jeepers, it turned out to be quite a big VFX job in the end.

Luckily, I can say we are in good hands. VFX supervisor Jason Rayment has pulled out the big guns for this and is showing an extremely quality-driven attention to every detail of every shot. I’m happy to follow the progress from my vantage point on the other end of the pipeline, watching as the scenes that were nothing more than quickly sketched storyboards only few months ago, are starting to look top notch.

It’s hard to say when the film really does come out. The producers have their plans and schedules in their mind, but unlike with Iron Sky -films, where I’m much closer to being a producer, with Jeepers my job was to direct the film and guide the post production process, but anything regarding the release goes through the producers. Simultaneously, I’m pretty openly active on Instagram and Twitter, which brings a lot of people to me, asking whether I know when the film comes out, or the trailer, or cast or plot details – but all of this I’m not at liberty to discuss. Our official Instagram and Twitter accounts are the only places you’ll find accurate information. We might have a Facebook, too, but as I’m not there, I have no clue of that.

Other stuff is happening, too. The Chinese film – The Ark – has finally seen what I’m thinking as the final, locked cut of the movie, and now the question is how to finish it. There was a break in the production due to reasons related and unrelated to Covid-19, so re-gearing up and getting the film back on track is a bit of a hurdle, but I believe in the renewed enthusiasm of our team, because I really believe it’s a pretty nice movie which needs to see the light of day rather sooner than later, and now we are on the track of doing that.

Obviously, the bankruptcy of Iron Sky Universe, the company that handled the IP of Iron Sky, was a big blow not only in business level, but personally. Having worked so hard on something and bringing it so close – yet so far away – from big success truly burned me down for quite a while. Coming out of such and intensive production, I probably went into some kind of a work stress related state of depression for months. During that time I tried re-inventing myself, as a advertisement guy. I went and worked at two ad companies for about a half a year, but honestly, I didn’t find a footing there. Either I was still too exhausted from Iron Sky, or the work – 9-5 office job – just wasn’t for me. Then, Covid hit and everything grinded to a halt and I had to take a breather, to really decide what’s next, and go on from there.

The few months of complete lockdown of Covid was indeed a lifesaver for me. I had a chance – a permission, actually, an order from the government – to not to do anything but stay indoors and stay put. That cranked my mind into understanding that nope, there’s no re-inventing oneself, you’ll just have to pick your head up and march on, and good things will come. And they did. And are still coming. But if I ever had a middle life crisis, those months after release of The Coming Race and leading up to Covid-19 lockdowns were when that took place.

Not looking forward into repeating those experiences, though.

And right now, we are looking into a brighter future. While the pandemic hasn’t gone anywhere, there are vaccinations and people are more knowledgable about the disease than when it started. Man, it was scary then. I remember laying in my bed with my wife talking for hours on at night about what all this means, how bad can it turn into, what’s our future going to be like. But today, it’s different. It’s still just as scary and deadly disease, but we know what to do to keep it in reins:

Get. Vaccinated.

Zero excuses.

In addition for working on Jeepers Creepers, and pushing The Ark forward, I’m also developing another very interesting production, also in the realm of horror, and setting up the next episode in the world laid out in the first two Iron Sky movies. I’m also and helping out friends with their films, scripts and productions. I’ve had numerous discussions with producers on possible projects, and that’s what the biggest part of our film director’s work is. I compare it to those horse race games in the penny arcades, I don’t know what they are called but the ones where you put money and horses move forward in their lanes. At one point, one may be galloping fast, but suddenly come to a complete standstill, and a wild card of a horse makes its way across the finish line, one you would’ve never believed could do it. It’s the same with film productions, everything moves forward, it’s just the question of pace, but one should never lose hope on stuff even if they need to be halted for a long time. (I’m happy to tell you that even an oldie goldie of mine, I Killed Adolf Hitler has resurfaced lately.)

In my personal life, there’s also been some turmoil. I’ve moved to a new area in Helsinki called Kallio, which is like night and day from Lauttasaari where I used to live for years. The beautiful beaches and woodlands of the Isle of Happiness have changed into trams, tramps and tarmac, and the fuzz and buzz of the central capital city. I love seeing the newly-found diversity of folk around here – in Lauttasaari, seeing a band T-shirt is a rare occasion, let alone people of other cultures, it’s very white, very suburbian and very middle-class. In Kallio, life happens constantly, up to the point of it sometimes being quite rough and rowdy. But I never found that intimidating myself, for me, it’s part of the world we live in, and trying to push that away from one’s surrounding is not good in the long run. But more than anything, a change of scenery is refreshing and sets mind down new paths and alleyways.

Kallio, my new neighbourhood.

Also, my son started studying in the media school in Tampere, and I’m really proud of him. He’s getting first hand education in all the stuff I still use constantly – I just wish I had chosen that road back when I was in school. So much really cool really important stuff being taught every day, and I love watching him finding his calling – whether it’s filmmaking or other part of media world, or something completely different. It’s weird, just few years ago he went to the preliminary school, and now he’s already a young dude making his world. May it be an amazing one!

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn

Gone To Place, Came Back!


I’ve now been back in Finland for a little over 2 weeks since returning from the last leg of shooting in UK. The latest stretch, which took 1 months of prepping and 8 days of shooting, concluded the shoot for the film I’ve been working on for the last about 1 years, and now remaining is edit, sound, music and, well, release.


Only now, I’ve started to be able to actually gather my thoughts on the last 6 months I’ve been away. The journey begun with me flying to UK for a day of meetings, then off to Dubai. In Dubai, I spent time writing and working on the script, with producer Jake popping over for about a week. Then, it was time to fly to Louisiana, where we started prepping for the first part of the shoot. It took about 1,5 months of slow-cooking preparations in the sweltering heat of Louisiana to get the first three shooting days done, after which it was time to fly to UK.

Dark Woods

In UK, we started prepping with a completely new crew to the main stretch of the shoot. Original plan was to shoot everything in one go and get home by Christmas, but this turned out to be impossible as Covid ate two of our shooting days and after that, we had to break for Christmas. I missed my chances to hit home for Christmas thanks to Covid instant lockup all across the world due to new UK strain of the virus, but found a way via France and Amsterdam eventually home for few days, before heading back in early January.

Director, cold and in the dark.

In Louisiana, we stayed at the studio lot where I had my own apartment. In UK during the first stretch of the shoot, we “all” – that means, most of the HODs – stayed at Froyle Park mansion, which suited well for us to enjoy fun times when not shooting. Coming back to UK after Christmas, I first stayed at the local Alton hotel Alton House, but found it being extremely drab, and was later relocated to a much nicer Northbrook, a Froyle-style mansion but with separate cottages that have their own kitchens and washing machine options etc. We stayed there with two folk from our makeup team with, and must say I enjoyed the peace there as well, as it was a bit away from all the noise and fuzz.

Night Shooting.

Anyway, the film is now in the can! That’s quite amazing. That’s my 5th feature film that’s done and done, and one I’m particularly proud of, not just because it’s something I’ve never done before – not a scifi film – and i’m happy of the outcome. Of course, it still has quite a bit of VFX to be done, which goes without saying, but it’s way less than any of the films I’ve done before, so it relies much more on what we actually shot and how we cut it together. It’s also much more reliant on atmosphere, which needs to be spot on to capture the special nature of the story.

And yeah, I’m excited getting to show the film to you all. So stay tuned!

Gray morning over at Black Hangar Studios

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn

Back in the U.K.

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Post-Brexit travel to UK means a lot more of border checks, small paper slips you have to not to lose, many more police officers staring at you with suspicion and a general atmosphere of “why was this necessary”. Add to that the extremely strict Covid-19 restrictions in UK, this is definitely not a fun fair, coming back to UK after the short Christmas break I managed to have.

And if you thought 2020 was a weird year, 2021 is looking ever weirder. Just recovering from the shock of US government practically showing its’ true face as Trump incited a group of crazy rebels to attack the Capitol and did nothing to stop it. I wonder what’s left of anything by the end of year…

But here I’m back in the UK. We are prepping to get back on to the shoot after the break, figuring out exactly what we still have left to shoot and what’s to come. It’s a big list but also, it’s been good looking at the stuff we already have and get a feeling that it’s coming together very nicely.

Right now, studios are silent and there’s only few people around but already starting today some are starting to flow back. It’s great to get the group together and finish this beast.

Oh, and it’s David Bowie’s birthday! Have a magnificient one, wherever you fly, Starman!

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn

Day 101: Stranded

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Saturday was the last shooting day of our first block here in UK. During that time, we shot in greenscreen studio, outside at studio backlot, at virtual sets – and finished at practical sets built in the studio. The team was beyond phenomenal, and we managed to get by without any Covid-19 cases, thanks to our rigorous testing process. But also, we got lucky: we had big crew, tens of extras coming and going and a hectic shooting schedule. We may have not been the gold standard of film productions, but we definitely tried our very best to stick to the rules, and that helped to keep us clear of all of it.

As always, my trusted Capt. Picard was overlooking the shoot behind the monitors.

Today, I watched the current cut of the film. Obviously, it’s still missing at least one third, but already I could see it rocking. So now it’s time to head for a Christmas break, just in time as Covid is getting heavier across Europe and in UK. Our plan is to come back in January to finish the shoot, Covid permitting of course. But for now, our apartment at Froyle is slowly getting more and more quiet as people are leaving for the holidays. It’s always a melancholic moment, and looking back at our amazing crew, it feels like a piece of my heart leaves home with them.

Only thing, I’m not going anywhere.

EU decided in a flash move to close the borders for all incoming traffic on air, water and land from UK, just in time for Christmas. What a wonderful world we live in. This is, obviously, due to the new Covid-19 strand that’s going around, and is being said to be 70% more infectious than the ones we’ve had before, and it has been discovered here in UK. The Foreign Ministry informed that all travel will be banned for 2 weeks, which means that in case they stick to the regulations, I may not be able to come home for Christmas or even New Year.

Now, that sucks. We’ve been planning with wife to have a nice Christmas, reuniting with my family after over 100 days of absence, but it seems that that’s simply not going to happen. It seems I’ll spend the Holidays alone in a small hotel in a small town… Certainly not the kind of Christmas I was expecting for. But then again, this goes with the whole year. I bet 2020 goes down in history as one of the pivotal years of recent history.

I don’t really feel like writing too much today as I’m feeling slightly depressed given the circumstances, but hopefully will come back with more gleeful entry in the coming days, now that I actually have some time. I want to write about what I learned during this production, what I would’ve done differently and how Covid in practical terms affected the shoot.

But for now, stay safe, keep your hands clean and your socials distanced and have a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas, you filthy animals!
Jeepers Creepers: Reborn

Day 72: Ready to shoot!

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It’s now been approximately three weeks I’ve spent prepping for the shoot for the film here in UK, staying at Froyle Park haunted mansion and traveling daily to the studio for the work.

A lot has happened. Let me start from where we are with the movie.

When we started to work on the project, I wanted to take the franchise this is based on, and twist it into a modern take of what we are building here. This means obviously on script level, but also in casting and revamping the horror elements into ones that are more – like our production designer Sivo Gluck says – funky. This means, more “today” than when the series originally started.

This, I think we’ve managed to grasp that in quite a good detail. The film feels like it’s a product of this time, not a re-heated take of something that was once popular. To make this happen, one needs to be ready to really swipe the whole table clean.

The team here in UK is nothing short of phenomenal. The production designer, props, cinematographer, costume, makeup, AD team… just a tremendous team. There’s of course still the actual shoot to be done, so I can’t really judge anyone’s performance as of yet, but I’m very excited. And most importantly, I’m excited of our cast. A long and complicated casting process which relied on endless Zoom calls as due to lockdown we shouldn’t be meeting anyone, it was quite a strange experience.

We are starting to shoot tomorrow. The shoot is going to last until Christmas, after which we all head back home, then in few weeks back to Louisiana to finish what we started over there.

Other things have happened, too. We are in lockdown, this means, no restaurants, pubs or bars are open. This is a big problem for a hard-working film crew full of artists who need a way to wind out after a shooting day. Luckily, we are all staying in this huge-ass hotel/mansion in the countryside, so we’ve made our own party there. But having said that, we are waiting eagerly for the lockdown to end, to be able to pop our heads out into the public for just a bit…

I’ve been away from home for 72 days, that’s over 2 months. I haven’t had a chance to see my family in over 2 months, and it’s gonna take another 1 month until I’m back home. It’s pretty hard, and alienating. I feel pretty lonely here for the most part of the time. And because it’s lockdown, Covid and all, I can’t even get them to travel here, which would normally be the case. It really wrenches my heart.

But, having said that, I’m excitedly looking forward for the next weeks. We have a great catering of awesome actors, action, some nice gory moments, visual- and special effects and much more. It’s going to be an awesome trip, can’t wait to tell you what it is actually we are working on (but won’t just yet!)

Waiting for the first day.

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn

Day 51: Welcome To The Overlook Hotel!

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Last week, we shot and wrapped the shoot of the first segment of the film in Louisiana. As it so often happens, much of what we had prepped had to go out of the window in the last moments, when there turned out to be a major communication mishap with the road closures, and all the shots we were planning to shoot during the three days had to be re-thought. Luckily, though, we did manage to do the road closure for one of the days, meaning we could pull off some of the more challenging stunts.

All turned out well, though, in the end. The cast I got to work with were just phenomenal, and I was very happy with my team. We canned ten pages of footage, including complicated stunts, studio and on-location shoot in three days and got what we wanted, so it was all pretty much a slam dunk!

Still inside the bubble, we threw a nice wrap party including a LOT of karaoke at Mackie’s, followed by late-night sit-together at the yard drinking red wine and whiskey and listening to some great tunes with the team. But like it always is, all good things come to an end, and eventually I had to stumble to my bed and call it a night.

Post-shoot Rhapsody

Afterwards, we spent several days at the studios, first recovering from the wrath of the wrap party, then by shooting some more. We went out did some drone- and GoPro shots we had missed during the principal photography, and then I was whisked over to Texas, to spend night at Jamie’s place in Houston, to make it an easy one to catch the next day’s flight (and to get out of the way of yet another hurricane that was approaching).

One more shot with a much smaller camera!

Houston to London was a direct flight, quite an easy one, and after that I spent few days in London, just to catch the vibe of the city and spend some time in a nice hotel with proper breakfasts and what not. It was heaven, I tell you. I went to see a play – The Great Gatsby – shopped around for a bit and had few great dinners and enjoyed a nice bunch of pubs, catching up with some friends, just before learning another lockdown is going to come to UK the next week. This means, all the pubs, restaurants and the likes will be closed for one month. This is not going to make our time easier making this movie, but as we survived the Covid Bubble in Lousiana, I know we’ll soldier through this one, too.

Today, I was picked up from the hotel and taken to where I would spend the next couple of months. I call this place The Overlook Hotel from The Shining. It’s a huge, empty mansion. There’s no staff here, only us, the film crew residing in big, beautiful rooms, enjoying the huge empty hallways, drawing rooms and endless miles this estate stretches on. And we are the only ones here. Definitely has some very creepy horror film vibes here…

Well, now off to bed. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn

Day 38: Life In The Bubble

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We are all living in a bubble now. Last week, we went over and did Covid-19 -tests to all of the crew at the production offices (all tested negative, thankfully!), after which the bubble was closed. We are not to leave anywhere where there are other people, and nobody from outside the bubble is allowed to enter. All food and grocery runs are done by a runner who handles everything specifically clear, masked and obeying the social distancing rules to make sure the risk of getting infected runs as low as humanely possible.

Producers and crew chatting on the yard.

Also, we have indeed started to crew up. The first AD arrived last week’s Monday, after which everything started to become more and more real. Schedules, planned meetings and crew lists started to fly around. On Wednesday, the director of photography arrived, making things even more clear. I finished storyboarding our first bit to shoot here, and ever since that, we’ve been running around looking for locations (luckily, which require meeting no people), getting the camera gear and all that. And finally, on Friday we closed the first cast members – and I must say, I’m really excited to get to work with these people, as I’m a big fan of both of theirs.

Other than that, life here at Village Studios has been quite, well, small and closed. Days we spend either at location scouts or at the office, working on shooting plans and by evening, we gather up at Mackie’s, the in-studio bar that’s offering drinks and entertainment. Some nights, it’s a movie night – last night we watched Predator – other nights, we have few drinks, sing karaoke and shoot shit with the awesome bartender John, who has stories that make your ears drop off.

John the bartender
Your’s, truly.

Sometimes, we gather at the porch of the Hearsey House, one of the houses and do some grilling and listening to music. If it’s a week day, we may stay up for a bit, but hit the sack after a while – on weekends, the sit-downs tend to drag longer and whether it’s politics, religion or film business, there’s quite a lot to chat about.

Sometimes, I just walk outside of my little house and sit on the porch enjoying the warm night breeze that’s blowing between the units and look up at the starlit sky. There’s very little light pollution here, so the stars can be very bright – and the brightest of them all is Mars, shining clear and reddish in the sky. Sitting there, I can’t help but think how happy I can be to be working in this business, doing films and getting to see places and meet people who I would never normally cross paths with.

But, all things move towards the fact that one day, the blissful prep is over and we move to shoot this movie. The time is closing: our first shooting day is on Friday, after which it’s time to rock. There’s still quite a bit of unfinished things that need to get done for the shoot to begin, but we’re getting there – so I’m pretty confident it’ll be quite a show. Well, at least the crew seems phenomenal, the cast will be amazing and the script really works.

Now, crossing fingers all goes smoothly to the end, nobody gets sick and we get the thing done!

PS. There’s this one thing I was thinking whether or not I should bring up here, as it’s not related in any way to the film I’m working on here, but I think it’s pretty timely, so I might as well write few words about it. The production company of Iron Sky, called Iron Sky Universe, one which I jointly set up with Tero, is going under. At least, there’s a high potential for it to happen, as a bankruptcy filing has been done on the company – obviously, we are trying to find solutions to prevent it from happening.

This is of course heartbreaking for me, as I believed in the company and hoped it would get past the rough times but unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. We spent several years with Tero building it as an entity to handle the Iron Sky franchise, but now it seems it’s going to need a different approach. Iron Sky has played a huge part in my life for the last 15+ years, so it would be a very disappointing to see it all go to waste, especially after all the effort we built into it, both financial and creative – me, Tero and the Iron Sky fans who are also minority shareholders in the business.

Obviously, of course, the films still exist, and the fandom still exists, so the stories we have planned for Iron Sky can and will continue, we just don’t necessarily know in what exact shape. There’s still possibilities to save the company, which of course would be ideal, and that’s what we’re hoping for. If this doesn’t happen, well, there are always other options – partnering up with some other entity being one of them.

So, it’s not the end of the world but simultaneously, not what I was hoping this year to bring to Iron Sky.