Shooting ‘One For The Road’ by J. R. González Huertas

“A sonnet commands make Violante, but in my life I didn’t see me in such mare’s nest.”

This is how Lope de Vega began one of his best-known sonnets. The truth is that we don’t know where to start our adventure either.

Original poster of the film

To writing this report, I present you with Fernando Rodríguez, whom you will recognize as Mr. Lumley in the short film. Certainly, the choosing to film one of the short stories availables by writer Stephen King was complicated.

“The truth is that we really liked the possibility of making the film adaptation of Stephen King’s story One for the Road,” says Fernando. “When we read it we loved the story, the development it had and the horrifying ending behind those beings of darkness…”

Fernando Rodríguez (Mr. Lumley), before the worried gaze of Marcos Del Olivo (Booth)

The filming location was essential, because both Tookey’s bar and the snowy landscape were characters in themselves in the story. Fernando sums it up: “We wanted to get a place that in itself recreated the atmosphere in which the story took place without having to resort too much to the typical post-production touch-ups.”

Cantalojas Camping Bar where the short film was filmed

And it all happened thanks to our colleague Elena, she played to Mrs. Lumley but she really wear many hats during the filming. She was who got the contact of Pepe, a charming guy who has a campsite in Cantalojas, in the province of Guadalajara. His bar was going to become Tookey’s. Fernando points out: “It was perfect for the project, both for its exterior appearance and for its interior. It had a decoration that seemed to be made on purpose for us. It was fantastic.”

Elena Serrano (Mrs. Lumley in the film), working as a makeup artist with Marcos del Olivo

For all of us, Spanish speakers, filming in English had a certain complication, but it was a challenge that we had imposed on ourselves: we wanted to remain as faithful as possible to the spirit of the characters and the recurring places in the work of the genius of Maine.

In fact, to learn the Maine accent, director J.R. González and actor Borja Fontalva (Tookey in the film) identified the two great references –the interpretation of two geniuses like Fred Gwynne in Pet Sematary (Mary Lambert) or Kathy Bates in Dolores Claiborne (Taylor Hackford) –  for the characters of Maine, the aforementioned Tookey and Booth, played by Marcos Del Olivo.

J. R. González Huertas (filmmaker), giving instructions to Tookey (Borja Fontalva) and Marcos del Olivo

In the case of Lumley’s character, the New Jersey accent was marked by actors like Bruce Willis or Ed Harris. Fernando remembers it like this: “as one can imagine…we had to practice a lot! Luckily we had help: the cinema. Certain films in their original version helped a lot…”

The truth is the rehearsals were a lot of fun – “The emotions flowed in abundance…”, Elena says, but we were looking forward to the filming date. And the expected moment arrived on Friday, January 11. Fernando remembers the most difficult moment of filming: “We weren’t sure the weather would be our ally or not… we weren’t sure we could count on… the snow. In fact, what decided us, among other things, to shot in those dates was the possibility of snowing and being able to shot in a much more real environment tailored to the story…”

Virginia Puebla & Héctor Quevedo(crew), looking for ways to take off the cold when the director is not watching

So, on Saturday we started filming, and after all morning working indoors… not even a hint of snow. And the forecasts were relatively favorable; Borja reminds us what the forecast was: “Weather forecasts for the weekend: On Sunday, maximum of 0ºC and minimum of -4ºC in Cantalojas! Thermal sensation of -9ºC, and snowfall expected from Saturday afternoon, with greater intensity for Sunday morning.”

When it was finally time to shoot outdoors and our worst fears seemed to be coming true… the snow also arrived. Although we would soon learn that filming in snow is not easy. Fernando remembers that: “It was getting colder and colder as the hours progressed, we had a marathon of filming that lasted until four in the morning without stopping.” Of course, the fog was not an effect that had to be added in post-production.

Virginia, Héctor and María Pérez (Sound Technician and Production Director) under the watchful eye of Pepe (the campsite owner) always willing to help us

The post-production work involved retouching all the shots to give it a more interesting visual style and to compensate for the economy of means, but for the most part these are “not noticeable” effects. However, in addition to these small color and lighting tweaks, there are other more complex ones. For example, the snow: 90% of the snow seen in the short is computer generated; like rain, it’s difficult to make natural snow visible on camera, not to mention that the goal was to show a terrible storm.

Filmmaker talking while Marcos “gets into character” and Fernando tries to get closer to the backpack of snacks

The rest of the visual effects work was spent creating Tookey’s van (as can be seen in the photograph, we only had one car) which was superimposed on empty road shots, or creating the Lumley daughter. In the case of the girl it was always our idea to suggest before showing. We believed that showing a normal girl, whether with or without makeup, would mean eliminating the sweetest or most terrifying aspect.

Mother’s character (played by Elena Serrano) had to be the link to the fantastic world. Suspense had to prevail in her appearance, intrigue to know what is going to happen. But that of her daughter already entered the realm of the fantastic. Thus, we opted for a computer-made model that would produce the feeling of unnaturalness that a supernatural being like her should convey, in addition to allowing us to show her in a snowy environment without warm clothing and preventing her health from being in danger.

The director filming exteriors with the actors Fernando Rodríguez, Marcos del Olivo and Borja Fontalva

Héctor Quevedo (Assistant Director, Sound Technician, Lighting Technician and many other things-, to whom we sent a loving hug from the other side of the ocean, left testimony of the feeling that was left to all the participants of the project: “I want to highlight has been demonstrated that you can work with passion, professionalism and dedication, in a framework of joy and fun…”, he said about the weekend of filming.

A photo of the crew in the beautiful Alcarreño landscape

And, as Fernando concludes: “Of course, it was hard but it was worth it. On Sunday, with the sleepiness of the few hours slept and the accumulated fatigue but with the joy of having enjoyed not only the filming itself, but also of having had that endearing coexistence between the whole crew, we headed back home enjoying the snowy landscape, of the snowy blizzards that hit the roads we traveled on and having the feeling that perhaps what was told there was not just a fictional story, perhaps all that was nothing more than the prelude to what one day, in some passing place, almost uninhabited and far from the city… it could happen…

Who knows?

A special thanks to Ricardo Molero for  his wonderful pics.

 J. R. González Huertas  (October 1; 2013)

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