What happens when a fictional killer from a horror film suddenly shows up at the crew’s wrap party? Nothing good.
That’s the premise of Quiver’s new horror film, That’s A Wrap starring Cerina Vincent (Cabin Fever), Monique T. Parent (Jurassic City), Sarah French (Space Wars: The Quest for Deepstar), Gigi Gustin (The Retaliators), and Dave Sheridan (The Devil’s Rejects).
The film’s official synopsis reads, “The cast of a film arrives at a wrap party, but someone has dressed up as the slasher in the film and begins to stage their own kill scenes. One by one, the cast disappears until the true nature of the evening is revealed.” Marcus Friedlander served as the film’s cinematographer and to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the film was made, we spoke to him below about his creative process.
How did you first get involved with That’s A Wrap?
I first got involved with That’s A Wrap through two different sources actually. Marcel, looking for a Director of Photography, reached out through his network, and I got recommended twice! The amazing Sarah French, who is one of the lead actors in That’s A Wrap, put my name forward for the film, after we had an amazing experience working together on a film called Dawn the year before. Then, a good friend of mine that I’ve worked with for years, Brendan Petrizzo, who’s also a good friend of Marcel’s, echoed Sarah’s recommendation, and the rest is history!
When you first heard/read the synopsis/script, what was your initial reaction — Were there any images that immediately popped into your head?
My introduction to the story was during my first meeting with Marcel, Joe, and Sarah. They invited me to meet at Wolfpack Studios, where they were already building sets for the film. They explained the rough concept of the film and then gave me a tour of their sets, which ended with us in the room where the premiere party took place.
My first impression was that these filmmakers had a really clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish and just needed someone to help realize their vision!
As a perfect example, when we were checking out the premiere party set, Marcel looked to me and said, “I know something is missing from this set, but I’m not sure what it is.” The problem, I realized, was a large section of the film involved people standing at cocktail tables talking, and could really use some motivated motion to help carry the party energy. So I looked around the room, looked up to the ceiling, looked at him, and said, “what you’re missing is…… a giant fucking disco ball.” And his eyes lit up! From that moment, I knew Marcel and I would have a great time working together!
The film’s director Marcel Walz says That’s A Wrap took inspiration from Scream and American Horror Story. Were you familiar with these titles when you began working on the film, or did you have to go watch to see what Marcel was talking about?
Scream and American Horror Story were both huge references for That’s A Wrap, and, while I was obviously very familiar with Scream, I had unfortunately never seen an episode of American Horror Story before we started prepping.
So Marcel pointed me in the direction of the season premiere of American Horror Story: Hotel and told me he loved how they handled hallways and wanted to recreate that concept. Luckily for me, I absolutely love the research/homework aspect of this job, so I was happy to watch something new with a hypercritical eye!
What I immediately noticed, was how they lensed and framed these hallways, and more importantly how the AHS filmmakers moved the camera through them. From that, I built the look of That’s A Wrap’s hallways, which involved very wide-angle lenses, some of off-axis Dutch framing, and finally, a Steadicam to help float through the space. We played with various degrees of that style over the course of the film, but it really shows best in the opening sequence, where we went full force with that look!
What was your working relationship like with director Marcel Walz?
I’ve worked with 18 different directors across the almost 40 films that I’ve shot so far in my career, and I can comfortably say that my working relationship with Marcel is unique in ways that I could not possibly treasure more!
What sets Marcel apart from the other directors I’ve worked with, is how involved he is with all aspects of the Art Department. He has such a clear idea in his head of what he wants the movie to look like and is so good at executing that vision, that it’s an absolute joy to collaborate with him so closely.
When we turn over to a new shot, he and I discuss practically every aspect of what goes on in front of the camera, and what happens behind it. Then, as he fiddles with the set to get it exactly as he wants, me and my team are given the time and space we need to execute that vision to the best of our abilities!
Marcel is also a HUGE proponent (and I couldn’t agree more) of having the right personalities on set, for the purpose of creating/maintaining an environment that’s most conducive to all cast and crew working at their best! I’ve worked on my fair share of shows where people dreaded coming to set because of all the unfortunate toxicity. But, I’m lucky enough to say, that I’ve never once felt anything but joy when I drive up to a Marcel set!
Was there a shot in That’s A Wrap that doesn’t look very complex, but was to shoot?
When you’re doing a practical effects horror film, the kills are usually more complex to shoot than they would seem, especially when you only have one chance to get it.
Without giving away spoilers, there is one scene that takes place in a white wall set, that ends up getting “painted” with blood during the course of the take. I knew this was going to be a CRITICAL moment in the production as our tight shooting schedule really didn’t allow for the hours it would take to reset and go again.
Luckily, the effects team absolutely nailed it. The actor’s performance was amazing, and we captured exactly what we needed to capture to give the editorial team what they needed to cut one of the best scenes in the film!
Were there any obstacles with the shooting of That’s A Wrap that you had to overcome? If so, what were they and how did you succeed?
The biggest obstacle to overcome in That’s A Wrap, as I mentioned previously, was the tight shooting schedule. While the script was written intelligently to best take advantage of our locations, the reality is we only had 8 shooting days to make a 90-minute movie. Which works out to about one minute of finished film, per one hour of time on set.
That might sound like an impossible task, but, luckily, I’ve shot more than my fair share of movies at this pace, and had my amazing crew there to support the film, so the speed wasn’t outside the ordinary for us.
Do you have a favorite scene in the film, cinematography-wise?
It’s always so hard to pick a favorite scene, but if I had to choose, it would probably be the last scene of the opening sequence.
First, it was the final scene we shot during production, and, coincidentally, the culmination of almost all of our creative ideas into one scene. So, once we wrapped that scene, and we knew we had the film in the can, we couldn’t have been more ecstatic!
Next, it was my first time combining a rain gag with a laser projector. Though it needs to be said that it’s DANGEROUS to incorporate lasers that can fry a sensor into a scene, when done carefully, and safely, it’s a great way to add some chaos into an otherwise clean rain gag.
Finally, this scene had an incredibly happy accident that led to an iconic image for the film. Which eventually became the teaser photo we released to the public! The happy accident involved a 4-foot tube that I placed as a hair light for Mistress’ closeup. As I was switching through the modes to get to the “correct” one, I happened to cycle past the pixel mode that had been preset to “rainbow”.
Marcel gasped when he saw it, and I knew instantly that we had found the real correct color. Luckily, with the rain gag we were using, the rainbow pixel effect happened to be exactly perfect for our backlight color, as each individual raindrop caught its own unique color, helping to create an instantly “Giallo-esque” separation from the background. I was so proud to see a happy accident lead its way into the trailers for the film and as the final shot of the opening sequence as well!
Such a valuable reminder to always stay open to new ideas as they develop on set! You never know where or when inspiration will strike!
Are you personally a fan of the horror genre? If so, what are some of your favorite titles?
Unfortunately, I was never really a huge horror fan growing up. Of course, I saw the classics and tried to keep up with the best of the best horror releases as they came out, but I didn’t dive into the culture fully. Honestly, though, I think that’s been more of an advantage than a disadvantage for me because my influences have been significantly more varied than if I had just focused on horror my whole life.
That being said, I definitely have a handful of favorite horror films, (and in no particular order). I’m a huge Kubrick fan so of course The Shining is high up on that list, but so would the first two Alien movies as well. All three are masterpieces of atmosphere and tension. However, for more modern examples, I think Cabin in the Woods, and the first Saw are both astounding films!
Finally, I can’t make a list like this without mentioning Suspiria since it’s been a MASSIVE influence on my work, not just on this film, but on my entire career!