Dangers from Within
A new movie
Written, Produced, and Directed
They thought it would be good
for Abbi to move in with her aunt.
Nobody expected what she’d find there.
Think Nancy Drew and Indiana Jones meet the DaVinci Code
in a small Midwestern college town!
Submitting to various international Film Festivals
“The Indie Gathering” - Summer 2008 - Cleveland OH
held at the new River Cinema 12 in East Grand Forks MN
22-March 6, 2008!
Matinee daily at 4:15 for two weeks, plus a 6:25 pm evening show the first week (Feb. 22-28)
SPECIAL GALA PREMIERE
was 7:30 pm Friday,
December 14, 2007 at the historic Empire Theatre
415 DeMers Avenue, downtown Grand Forks ND
was 3:40 pm Saturday,
December 1, 2007 at the sixth annual Forx Film Fest
Empire Arts Center, Grand Forks ND
The gothic-flavored story begins as a character-driven drama, but soon shifts to a suspense thriller and later adds a touch of the supernatural. A troubled young teenage girl kicked out of a boarding school moves from New York City to a small Midwestern college town to live with her aunt. There she befriends a graduate student renting a room from her aunt, and who is hoping to publish his translation of a controversial ancient papyrus he smuggled out of the Middle East. Others are also trying to obtain the document by any means possible, however, believing the ancient text has a mysterious power that they want control over. The two soon must rescue his kidnapped girlfriend while dealing with threats by various parties attempting to obtain his document and/or sabotage his work. Meanwhile, the aunt has some secrets of her own about her house that will ultimately affect everyone. Is it really haunted, or is it simply coincidence and a vivid imagination?
Dangers from Within was shot in the HDV format using a Sony HVR-V1U at the 30p setting. Sound was recorded primarily with a boom-mounted Audio-Technica AT897, as well as the camera-mounted Sony ECM-NV1 shotgun microphone. For some scenes the AT897 audio was recorded at 48k on a Marantz PMD-670 recorder, and for others it was plugged directly into the camcorder’s second XLR input. A few scenes also used an ElectroVoice N/D 257A microphone. Editing was done in native HDV using Final Cut Pro 5.0.4 on a Mac G5 with 4 GB RAM and a terabyte MyBook firewire drive. Music scoring was done with SmartSound’s Sonicfire Pro 4. The HDV movie files were converted to standard DVD format using Final Cut “Compressor” and authored using DVD Studio Pro 4, with separate editions prepared for home users and for festival submission (including a PAL version). Ultimately a Blu-Ray high-definition DVD will be made, once prices on blue laser DVD burners come down. (TECHNICAL TRIVIA, now that the HD-DVD format has been discontinued: DVD Studio Pro’s HD DVD files play back fine on a computer, but on a Toshiba HD DVD player, while both mpeg2 and h.264 video files at different compression rates played the video portion and all the multiple audio tracks were recognized, none of the audio tracks would actually play -- neither h.264, Dolby Digital, nor Linear PCM -- and the menu that worked fine on a computer would display but was not functional on the HD DVD player.)
The script was begun in February 2007, and written mainly during April, with revisions throughout May, June, and July to adjust to the final casting. The basic plot was inspired by a number of specific things: by initial willingness of several people with old houses to have them featured in a movie, by news stories about recently rediscovered ancient documents such as the Archimedes palimpsest and the Gospel of Judas, by the available pool of local actors and usable locations, and by various current world events. The original six characters were gradually increased to nine by the time the first draft was completed April 30th, and five additional characters were created after the open auditions in July. To facilitate production with an anticipated limited availability of supporting cast, most of the script was designed in advance to have only two or three characters appearing in any given scene at the same time. Except for the two leading roles of Abbi and Jack (either or both of whom appear in almost every scene), characters were written so that actors would have easily manageable time commitments. Four to seven scattered shooting days were enough to cover the necessary scenes for most supporting characters, and several needed only one day to shoot all their scenes. The script was also designed to be shot entirely on location in Grand Forks, North Dakota, incorporating location footage shot during an earlier trip to New York City (in April 2004, at the time that Dark Highways and its music video were playing at film festivals there). As time approached for actual production, it turned out that several personnel originally planned for the cast and crew were unavailable for various reasons, but others soon eagerly stepped in to fill their roles.
While extending over a two-month period, the movie was completed in 29 days of active production, including one day that needed to be reshot due to casting changes, two days of auditions, two days of screen tests, one day of just audio voiceover recording, and a day shooting second-unit footage without any actors. Preliminary shooting began June 8, 17, 23 and 26. About eight minutes of the estimated 95-100 minute running time were shot and edited by the end of June. After a public casting call July 9-10, regular daily production began July 12 for three straight weeks.
Although a few days had eight to ten hours or more of shooting, most shooting days stayed within the three- to six-hour range or even less. This permitted all the footage to be captured to computer the same night or the day after it was shot, and quickly arranged into script order. By July 24, about two-thirds of the 100-page script was shot and over 40 minutes of scenes were edited in roughcut form. By the time principal photography wrapped on August 1, 2007, about 55 minutes of roughcut scenes had been assembled. Some brief insert footage was shot August 3 and postproduction began in earnest.
A full-length preliminary roughcut (with tentative opening and closing credits but only a partial music score and about 20 percent of the scenes still only in simple master-shot form) was put together by August 5, running about 80 minutes. The first edited cut was completed by August 11, running 81 minutes and requiring only some color corrections, audio adjustments, and minor editing revisions. This was screened for the cast on August 15. It took about 17 hours for the computer to convert the HDV Quicktime movie file into an mpg file that could be used on a standard DVD. However, it only took a couple of hours for the computer to prepare the same file for a real-time export to HDV tape, which could be simultaneously recorded by a standalone DVD recorder through the tape deck’s analog output. This resulted in a slightly sharper but also slightly darker DVD image than the one created through Final Cut’s “Compressor” software, and of course lacked the elaborate menu features and multiple audio tracks possible with DVD Studio Pro. A second cut running several seconds longer and containing much more background music was done by August 24. A third cut about a second shorter with a revised audio mix, a few alternate shots, some color correction and gamma adjustments was finished by September 21. The fourth and final cut was finished on October 29. While only seconds shorter in total running time, this version added a few more shots and sound effects as well as some brief ADR, slightly shortened some scenes, and remixed more audio levels. Later, a PAL standard-definition DVD was also prepared (although the conversion from 30 fps to 25 fps results in some jerky motion). The public premiere was December 1, 2007 as part of the sixth annual Forx Film Fest, held at the historic Empire Theatre in Grand Forks (where some of its scenes were shot). A separate gala premiere was held at the Empire the night of December 14. Two months later there was a two-week theatrical run at the River Cinema 12 (across the river in East Grand Forks, Minnesota) from February 22 through March 6, 2008. A professionally replicated NTSC all-region DVD with audio commentaries and other bonus materials is available for purchase in the gift shop of the Empire Arts Center and at the vending stand of the River Cinema 12.
Christopher P. Jacobs teaches “Introduction to Film” and “Creative Movie Production” at the University of North Dakota, where he is a Senior Lecturer. He also writes a weekly column as Movies Editor for the High Plains Reader, and was a part-time projectionist at the local tenplex, having previously managed movie theatres for nine years. He has made movies sporadically since junior high school, on both film and video, as well as working on independent films shooting in the area. The lower costs of digital video production have stimulated him to complete six feature-length movies and several shorts in six years. His features include Dangers from Within (2007), Music to My Ears (2006), Miss Mystic (2004), Dark Highways (2003), Vengeance of the Sorceress (2002), and The Threat of the Mummy (2002).
Cast mini-bios and movie credits
Ellie Unkenholz (Abbi) and Ali Scrable (Jessi) are active in the North Dakota Ballet and in local theatre productions. They wrote, directed, choreographed, edited, and acted in the movie .chanceaux., as well as acting in The Boa and The Haunting Color Red. Ali also operated the hand puppet in Puppet Without Pity. All four short movies were made during the June 2007 UND Summer Moviemaking Camp for Teens. Dangers from Within is the first feature-length movie role for both girls.
David Henry (Jack) works as a night manager at a local motel and has an extensive background in radio and local theatre productions. He appeared in Music To My Ears and narrated the trailer and TV spots for Miss Mystic, as well as doing some of the audio recording for both movies. He co-starred in the short Duck/Duck/Goose directed by fellow Dangers from Within cast member Debra Pflughoeft-Hassett.
Tara Ulness (Aunt JoJo) works for the Grand Forks Public Schools system, and has had experience in regional theatre. This is her first movie role.
Sarah Phillips (Julie) works at a local restaurant. She also appeared in Vengeance of the Sorceress as a television reporter, and helped work on props for The Threat of the Mummy.
Paul Kelly (Charlie), a familiar DJ voice to area radio listeners over the past decade, is part of a local rock band, has worked in retail sales for a local department store, has sold cars at a local car dealership, been maitre d’ at a local restaurant, and has a long background in radio and theatre as well as independent movies. Other movie roles include Professor Casey Wallace in The Threat of the Mummy (and, via TV news flashbacks, in its sequel Vengeance of the Sorceress), an antique dealer in Ole and Lena: The Movie, Trevor in Working Nights, Alex Montana in Dark Highways, and Bill Warren in Music to My Ears.
Mark Landa (henchman) was executive director of the Empire Arts Center from 2002-2009. He has previously appeared in Dark Highways, Working Nights, and Music to My Ears, playing a bartender in each movie. This is his first non-bartender movie role. He was one of the co-writers and co-producers of Music to My Ears and is working on a new screenplay of his own.
Jeff Kinney (Dr. Whittaker) runs a business in Manvel, ND, and is a trained archaeologist who is often hired to analyze planned construction sites before work is undertaken. He has been deeply involved in the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre, and also worked on Ole and Lena: The Movie.
Michael Harvey (Frank Griffith) is retired, and enjoys writing and acting. He portrayed theatre owner Hubert Sorensen in Music to My Ears, played a boatman in the short Lewis and Clark, and has recently completed a feature-length screenplay of his own. He wrote, produced, and directed a short comedy, The Jury Is Relieved, for the 2008 UND Summer Movie Camps.
David Raymond (Herb Thompson) recently moved to Grand Forks and works at a local restaurant. He has had some theatre experience but this is his first movie role.
Caroline Gray (Carrie) has been active in local theatre. She appeared as “Emily” in the movie Music to My Ears.
Robin Loegering (History Professor 1) works in the medical field, had done theatre in school, and has her first movie role in Dangers from Within.
John Nordlie (History Professor 2) works in the UND Weather Information Center. He previously appeared in The Threat of the Mummy, Vengeance of the Sorceress, and Dark Highways.
Debra Pflughoeft-Hassett (History Professor 3) works in the Environmental Energy Research Center at UND, and is hoping to produce a documentary about uses for recycling lignite fly ash. This is her first movie role. She also served on the movie’s crew as a sound recordist and boom operator. In May 2008 she co-wrote a short drama with Michael Harvey, Duck/Duck/Goose, which she directed for the 2008 UND Summer Movie Camps.
TRAILER 1 (1:47)
Quicktime trailer (8.3 MB) 213x120 pixels – Sorenson codec
Windows Media Broadband quality (9.7 MB) 856x480 pixels
Windows Media Dialup quality (678 KB) 216x120 pixels
TV SPOT (:29)
Quicktime (5.4 MB) 213x120 pixels – Sorenson codec
Quicktime mp4 (1.8 MB) 427x240 pixels
Windows Media Broadband quality (3.6 MB) 856x480 pixels
Windows Media Dialup quality (205 KB) 216x120 pixels
PHOTO GALLERY (Production stills and video frame grabs)
THE MOVIE’S MAGUFFIN – Read for yourself the ancient manuscript everyone is in such an uproar about!
palimpsest pal-imp-sest (noun) : a manuscript, often on papyrus or parchment, whose writing surface has been used more than once, with its previous writings scraped off so it can be used again but usually still legible to varying degrees. From Latin palimpsestus derived from Greek palin (palin) “again” and yaiw (psaio) “rub away,” “grind,” “scrape.” Many ancient works have survived only through copies that had been erased and reused for other documents.
The particular document of the plot contains a significant variant of a certain Biblical text, along with a palimpsest text of a Graeco-Egyptian magical spell barely legible between the lines. Egyptologists and papyrologists may (or may not) recognize the names of the movie’s two antiquities collectors as a light-hearted homage to a pair of scholars in the field over a century ago. The pages used as props in the movie were inscribed with a close approximation of first-century paleography onto genuine Egyptian papyrus, although not ancient material but sheets manufactured in the 1990s. The authentic magical spell was written first, then scraped off with sandpaper, and the theoretical Biblical variant was written over it with a wider pen tip, carefully leaving space so that the original could still be read. Papyrus is actually very sturdy and resilient, so much so that when a portion had to be burned for the movie it kept putting itself out and would not stay lit!
WEBSITES FOR OTHER
DIGITAL FEATURE-LENGTH MOVIES by
Christopher P. Jacobs,
each featuring cast members of DANGERS FROM WITHIN in roles of various sizes
Music to My Ears (2006) with Paul Kelly, Michael Harvey, Caroline Gray, David Henry, and Mark Landa
Working Nights (2005) with Paul Kelly and Mark Landa
Miss Mystic (2004) trailer narrated by David Henry
Dark Highways (2003) with Paul Kelly and Mark Landa
Vengeance of the Sorceress (2002) with Sarah Phillips, John Nordlie, and flashbacks of Paul Kelly
The Threat of the Mummy (2002) with Paul Kelly and John Nordlie
OTHER REGIONAL MOVIE
from eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota