Can you see this?


Halloween: H20 has been making a resurgence lately.  The Purple Stuff Podcast guys talked about H20 memorabilia on eBay.  Last year, the Haunted Hangover gang talked about the weird extras in the background of H20Joe Russo was on the Monster Movie Happy Hour talking about why H20 was his favorite of the sequels.  And now that the 'final chapter' of the new trilogy that started in 2018, Halloween Ends, has been released and met with, erm... "mixed reviews," as the kids say, it seems time that I told this story.

Did I ever tell you about the time I got to be in a Halloween movie (sort of)?  

Like-- a Halloween movie.  Italicized.  

We're talking the franchise here. 

Well it goes something like this...

John Carpenter's Halloween has been a big influence in my life.  It's the first real horror movie I ever saw.  It was the gateway film to one of my favorite directors, John Carpenter.  That director's films spurred me on to make my own short films and eventually go to film school.  And from film school I went to Los Angeles to work in the entertainment industry. 


One of the first jobs I had, was working as a Production Assistant on a science-fiction magazine show.  To this day I consider it one of the best jobs I've ever had.  It was a very small production company and this show was its main export.  The production office had a geek-tastic library.  Shelves of sci-fi and horror books, magazines, comics, press kits, and toys with new stuff arriving daily from various studios, publishers, and the like-- all pushing their wares to try and get a plug on the show.  It was the ultimate fringe benefit for a movie nerd. 

So when the invitation to do a set visit of the upcoming Halloween: H20 movie rolled in, I went to my Supervising Producer and asked--- Nope.  That's a lie.  ---BEGGED to be able to go with him.


Consider the context:  I was a huge fan of the original film. This was the 20 year anniversary of the original film, and they were making an anniversary sequel and bringing back LAURIE STRODE!  Jamie friggin' Lee friggin' Curtis!  What?!  I mean--- when is something like this EVER going to happen again?!


Halloween (2018) movie poster.  Used ironically.


Anyway.  He of course let me go (I was the only PA... who else is gonna haul the tapes, get the releases, carry the clipboard, fetch the coffee, etc., etc.?).  

When we received the fax (yes, FAX) with the directions, I pored over every detail.  Hey, Steve Miner is directing!  He directed Friday the 13th: Part 3 (my first entry into the series) and House (which I put on the TV all the time when I worked at a video store back in the day)!  The directions mentioned that not only would we get to witness the filming of a scene with Jamie Lee Curtis, but we were also going to be interviewing her for our show.  

I was going to meet Laurie Strode.  

I was going to meet Jamie Lee Curtis.  

Oh, yeah---and Michael Myers would be there too.

I couldn't even process it.  


La Puente, California is about an hour away from Los Angeles.  Up until this point, the only reason I wanted to go there was that it had an iconic piece of programmatic architecture:  a doughnut shop in the shape of a giant doughnut that you could drive through.  

The map to La Puente, CA faxed in the press materials.

When we arrived at the little Main Street, the first thing I noticed is that the air smelled like-- victory?  No.  No that's not it.  It's... dog food.  Dry dog food.  If you're a pet owner, you know what I'm talking about.  Turns out there was a pet food manufacturer in the area so everyplace you went outside, it smelled like dry dog food.


The Main Street the film was shooting on was considered "Old Town La Puente."  Lots of small shops which had been set dressed with Halloween decorations.  This was the beginning of April, so being immersed in a 'Halloween town' of sorts was pushing all my buttons.

Still:  Halloween H20 showing set dressed window.

The producer, myself, and the crew (cameraman, sound guy) were going to be there for a good portion of the day, with interviews set up with Jamie, Alan Arkin, and Josh Hartnett and lots of time to shoot b-roll of the filming of various scenes by the movie crew.  


Jamie wouldn't be ready for us for a bit so we were welcome to shoot b-roll of the filming of various scenes.  I think one of my favorites that I got to see filmed firsthand, features a trick that Edgar Wright calls the 'Texas Switch.'  If you've seen H20 you probably know which scene I'm talking about.  Laurie's mind plays tricks on her, and she often sees Michael Myers where he doesn't exist.  At one point she stops to gaze into a store window and, in the reflection of the glass sees behind her, sees Michael step up behind her.  

Still:  Halloween H20, Laurie sees Michael behind her in the reflection.

She whirls around and it's only Adam Arkin.  How was it done?  Extensive CGI?  Green screen?  Robot camera booms, and special lenses?  Nope.  I watched Adam Arkin hunch down out of camera view, Michael steps in, Jamie whirls, Michael drops to the ground, Adam stands up, the camera whip-pans.  That's it.  Movie magic. 

After watching a few takes of that scene and thinking "Huh... the mask doesn't quite look right to me..." (seriously, I did), we adjourned to an actual La Puente costume shop that had been turned into a makeshift interview set.  A director's chair for the talent in front of a wall of various Halloween masks.  If you ever watch a vintage interview with Jamie Lee Curtis about H20 and there's a bunch of Halloween masks behind her, you'll know that that particular media outlet was there in April also.

Still of Jamie Lee Curtis interview showing Halloween masks behind her.

At some point in the day, it was clear that Jamie was going to be filming a shot of her walking down the street, and a bunch of kids in Halloween costumes come streaming out of a doorway, startling her.  They had locked down the street to extras and crew only, and as the interview chair and lights were all set up, I had nothing to do but watch from the door.  Turns out, this was the doorway where they had wrangled all the kids in costume.  I got to watch a crew member give them their motivation:  they were to run past Jamie and scream and yell like they were having fun.  The kids nodded and shifted uncomfortably in their costumes.  Suddenly I connected the dots:  this was a scene that winks at a similar one from the first Halloween movie!  

In John Carpenter's Halloween, Laurie hears what she thinks are the sounds of distress, only to look up and see a bunch of trick or treaters coming out of a house.  

Still:  Halloween, 1978:  Laurie hears trick or treaters laughing.

Still:  Halloween, 1978:  Trick or treaters run away from a house.

In H20, they were setting it up similarly:  Laurie would see kids having fun across the street, then be startled by the new batch of kids funneling out of the door right next to her.  And that's when I realized:  THIS is THAT scene in THIS movie!  I'm in the movie RIGHT NOW.  So, like a fly on the wall, I watched a bunch of trick or treaters run out the door, and then Laurie Strode walked by my doorway, right before my eyes.  It was surreal.  

Still:   Halloween H20:  Trick or treaters walk across the street.

Still:   Halloween H20:  Laurie spots the trick or treaters.

So now, whenever I watch Halloween: H20, I get to watch the scene from the other point of view.  The point of view of the actual film.  And I see Laurie walk by that doorway, and I know that I'm in there RIGHT NOW.  Forever immortalized, if just off-screen.  

Still:   Halloween H20:  Laurie gets startled by the kids, and walks past the doorway.

Had we gone home right then, I would have been ecstatic.  But we still had an interview with Jamie Lee Curtis to do.  After this shot finished filming, it was time for Jamie Lee.

For this, I had one job:  get her to sign our standard release.  My producer was very clear though:  if she didn't want to sign it, it was fine.    

I had given myself a second job of not gawking at the star, too.  

I approached her for the release when she sat down to get her lavalier microphone hooked up by the sound guy.  She waved it off with a "Oh no, I'm not signing one of those." and then she proceeded to tell a story about how some publication had taken stills from an interview she had done and created an entire magazine issue.  Clearly she was still miffed by it.  I looked to my producer and he subtly waved me off and I retreated behind the camera.


We all had idle chit-chat as the lights were tweaked.  Topics ranged from her wondering aloud how much money Don Post had made with the Michael Myers mask, to Ms. Curtis saying aloud for audio levels:  "Welcome to Halloween H20:  Blood is Thicker than Water."  As she said the tag line I noticed she was watching for reactions from all of us.  As if she was testing to see if we liked it.  In listening to the Post Mortem interview with her from a week ago, Curtis said she loves the advertising of films and is very involved with them, so this would make sense.

Halloween: H20 press materials using the old tagline.

I can't help but notice that though the line was all over the press materials sent back in the days of production, the line is nowhere to be found on the final key art and movie poster.

Halloween H20:  Final movie poster key art.

Behind the camera, I was failing at my second job:  don't gawk at the star.


In fact as the cameraman did his thing, and the audio guy did his thing, and my producer asked Jamie his questions, I just stood there smiling ear to ear, nodding along to each answer as if she were talking to me.  Enamored?  Sure.  Star struck?  Definitely.  I was 6 feet away from Laurie Strode on the set of a Halloween movie.  I was over the moon.


When the interview was finished, we all started packing up and she said goodbye and thanked all of us.  When she turned to leave I sidestepped out of the way so as not to block the door, and smiled as she left.  She looked at me and said "Oh ok, just give me the damn release.  This was a good interview."  Something like that.  And she scribbled her signature and printed her name on our little piece of paper.  Never underestimate the power of a smile. 

Jamie Lee Curtis's autograph.

So not only did I get to be IN, a Halloween movie (sort of)... I got Jamie Lee Curtis's autograph too.

Sort of.

1 comment:

  1. That is an awesome story! And I bet a lot of fans are gonna be a bit jealous. Lucky!