A lot has happened since the first entry in this diary, but because the next entry you’re likely to see from me will come from Buffalo during the shoot, let me fill you in on the highlights of my first visit to the city.
(Note: This is a long one, so I’m splitting it into sections…)
On May 22nd, I awoke, slightly hungover after an unscheduled get-together with some friends the day before, tossed some clothes and essentials in a small suitcase and boarded a plane at Columbus International airport, bound for Buffalo, New York.
I know now that I had subconscious expectations of what was going to await me at the other end of that plane ride. All along, the director Greg Lamberson had made a point of emphasizing that SLIME CITY MASSACRE was going to be a low, ultra-low budget film (which I guess in Hollywood terms means anything less than seven figures.) A good film, he would say, but low-budget nonetheless. This conjured up worst-case scenario images of badly-lit home movies shot in a tool shed with appalling production values and atrocious acting. Even so, I didn’t care. Like I said in the last entry in this diary, I loved the concept and wanted to be a part of it. Nobody goes into these things with notions of red carpets, Variety spreads and Oscar nods. It may be the one and only film I ever do, and that won’t bother me in the slightest. I’m not Brad Pitt, or even Steve Buscemi. I have no delusions of grandeur. I’m a pasty Irish guy who smokes too much, has too high a tolerance for alcohol, thinks he’s funny, and plans to live as much as possible until the day that priviledge is revoked.
So, fuck it, I thought. A new experience. Off I go.
I arrived at Buffalo airport right on time, and after a brief scare that the airport had gobbled my sad, single suitcase, I emerged into the sweet air and gave silent thanks that suicidal geese had not flown into the engine of the plane.
A few minutes later, Greg Lamberson pulled up to the curb. I hopped in, we shook hands, and five seconds later, despite this being the first time we’d met in person, we were chatting and laughing like old friends.
Greg’s an affable guy, seemingly uncomplicated and unassuming, but it’s pretty clear from the outset that the guy’s a human hurricane lamp, and there’s a fiery passion for what he does constantly fluttering around inside him. His tone seldom wavers, no matter what the subject, but when it turns to filmmaking, no amount of stoicism can hide the enthusiasm and excitement the guy feels for the artform.
In the back seat of the car, strapped into a carseat, was Greg’s 2-year-old daughter Kaelin (and yes, the similarity of her name to mine caused quite a bit of confusion over the weekend), a little cherub with golden ringlets and big blue eyes that melted the hearts of all who met her. She was shy at first, as all kids are with strangers, particularly those who talk like the guy from the Lucky Charms commercial, but she warmed up soon afterward, a development that led to me running around Greg’s house with his daughter on my back, playing horsie while I pretended to look for her.
At the hotel, I checked in, and then promptly stepped out for a breath of fresh smoke, and spotted Sephera Giron making her way toward the lobby. Though very familiar with Sephera’s work, both for the HWA (for which she was finally honored with a well-deserved award this year) and as an author, I had never met Sephera in person. As was the case with Greg, it was an effortless affair, and soon we were ensconced in comfy chairs in the hotel lounge and chatting up a storm while Greg returned to the airport to pick up yet another guest, seasoned actor Lee Perkins.
As was the case with Sephera, I had never met Lee Perkins before, though again I was familiar with his work, having seen his wonderfully unsettling turn in the underrated if slightly overwrought Katiebird: Certifiable Crazy Person. And just like his character in that movie, the real life Lee Perkins proved to be unreadable, seemingly reserved and distant. Initially, the conversation was stilted, and only really got comfortable once we gathered at a local greasy spoon. As it turned out, Lee and I have a mutual love for the golden days of Formula 1 motor racing. In fact, he drove in Formula 3000 with many of the big guns and when they moved on to the majors, Lee moved on to stuntwork in Hollywood.
It wasn’t until much later that Lee and I really clicked. But we’ll get to that.
After the diner, Greg, Kaelin, Lee, Sephera and I took a drive to the location, where the majority of the movie will be shot. On the way, I kept an eye on the skyline, wondering which of the monolithic buildings that crowd Buffalo’s redbelt was the one we were headed for. Then it came into view, Buffalo Central Terminal, and it very literally sucked the breath from my lungs.
For more background history on the place than I can possibly fit in here without dividing the post into chapters, check out the building’s website.
It’s impossible to adequately describe what the interior of this place is like, and the pictures don’t do it justice, because the one thing they cannot capture is the sheer enormity of the location. It’s immense, a veritable self-contained ruined city, which of course makes it ideal for the purposes of our movie. As soon as I walked past that endearing swatch of yellow crime scene tape (apparently once the sun goes down, it’s a popular hangout for the kinds of people other horror movies are made about), I knew Greg had found himself the kind of location other directors only dream about (or pay a sizeable portion of their budget for.) Every chaotic room was different in its degree of decay, and each told a story.
As we engaged in a walking tour of the location, stepping over debris, scaling ancient stairs, and sidling into narrow openings in cracked walls, it was difficult to take it all in. There’s a pervasive sense of age and sadness to the place, which makes it unsurprising that famed ghost hunters TAPS have investigated the place twice. But whether or not the place is a legitimate haunting ground for the dead, there are clear signs that the living occupy the building, from the stained mattresses and broken beer bottles, to the graffitti and rooms with broken glass mosaics on the walls.
(Photos courtesy of Sephera Giron, because this dumbass forgot his camera…)
Stairs end in deep black water. Collapsed roofs leave gaping maws that cast hazy spotlights on the floor. Cryptic messages tell tales decipherable only by their authors. Trees grow up through the floor. Ominous figures are tattooed on long-dead generators. Rooms are crowded with furniture, with filing cabinets, with safes. Tunnels vanish into darkness. Crawlspaces hide behind every turn. Hallways stretch into forever. It seems like stepping into a separate universe. And being in that incredible building, knowing we’re going to be spending over two weeks in there up to our necks in dirt, dust and slime, making a movie, making monsters…it’s almost too much to register.