Monday, May 30, 2011

Director John Botelho

I have a guest blogger today, Director John Botelho who has filmed three book trailers for me; Into the Basement, Blood Bar and the just released First to Die. He does such great work. I have people send me emails with questions every week so I thought what the heck, lets get John to explain his process a little bit. I've added the trailer at the bottom, enjoy!

O.K. Folks. Here are some answers to the many questions I have had about the "First to Die" book trailer. 

The trailer was shot on HD digital video with a Sony HDV 1080i/mini DV camera. We did have one back-up camera on the set for secondary shots and cross shooting, but we never used it. I felt that each clip should be simplistic to give the feeling of a documentary style film.

The set was located on a secluded ranch in Harper Texas. We shot from about 10PM till 12AM. There was no electricity on the set so we used numerous flash lights. Our cast and crew consisted of only nine people. Since it was such a small shoot, the cast doubled as set crew. 

The Cowboy/Hunter in the opening shots is Producer Tim Taylor. He showed up to the shoot wearing the best shoes and outfit for the project, so I chose him. 

The females vampires were: Jacy Vickers, Cori Taylor (Daughter of Tim Taylor), Deanna Brandt, and Ashley Wahrmund. Cori Taylor brought her Boyfriend Nik Tarsikes to the set, and we used him for our dead body in the foreground shot. Nik is the guy that does the death twitch at the end.... We loved it!!!

We used chocolate syrup for blood. I chose this because of the low light shots, and the film degradation technique I use in post production. The intestine strands used on the dead body were made by Production Assistant Sean McRea. He combined chocolate syrup and toilet paper to get the effect. YUM YUM!!!

Horror Writer Norm Applegate ran slate (or also know as a "clacker"), and Producer/Director Happy Gray was my Assistant Director. 

We averaged about three takes per shot and filmed less than 20 minutes of footage. Everything was shot in sequential order because we wanted the do the messy blood shots at the end (chocolate syrup dries fast and attracts Texas Fire Ants). 

The film was edited on a Apple Macintosh using IMovie HD 6.0.3 (we dislike the later versions so we use this older version). The entire piece (including the lettering) was purposely color degraded to give it a documentary/creepy feel. 

The two music pieces used in the film were taken from ILife Sound Effects and the background jungle noise was take from Skywalker Sound Effects (both applications are public domain and can be found in the IMovie media section). 

The vampiric scream was a "guttural style screech" I found on the internet. I filtered the sound and changed the pitch qualities thru the IMovie Audio FX application. The original pitch was low (it was performed by a male), so I had to bring it up to give it female qualities. I did not bring the pitch up too much because I still wanted to leave a hint of male masculinity.  

I hope that answers most question about the "First to Die" book trailer. If you have addition questions feel free to email us at


-J.L. Botelho


  1. I would also like to give credit to Producer Wolfboy Gillespie for coming up with the dictionary concept for the titles. When Happy Gray and myself pitched him the initial idea for this film, he came up with the "Predator" description.

  2. If you're wondering about the dead body violently shaking at the end of the trailer, here's how it was done. I saw Directors John Botelho and Happy Grey lie down on the ground and position the camera about five feet from the body. At the time I didn't give it much thought. But more importantly they had the camera at the same level, ground level with the body. Now when you watch the trailer you'll see the POV. The viewer (us guys) are looking up at the body like we are on the ground with him. Like we have been splayed out by the vampires.