Finance globally, shoot locally is the mantra at Random Bench, the L.A.- and Vancouver-based production company and boutique creative agency we founded.
Even Lambs Have Teeth—about two girls, Katie and Sloane, who, after being kidnapped and tormented by small-town farmers, seek violent revenge—was our second film to put this production model into action in a microbudget scenario. Financed through WTFilms and France’s B Media Global, the film was made on such a shoestring budget which meant that we had to take “local” to the limit.
When it came to locations, the tiny budget meant traveling far away from the convenience and infrastructure of the Vancouver area. The Lambs crew settled on Mission, British Columbia, or more specifically the four-way stop of a town on the north bank of the Fraser River, some 60 miles southeast of Vancouver known as Dewdney Corners.
Dewdney was home to exactly two businesses: a corner store and a schnitzel house. A local farm in Dewdney became our hell away from home for the bulk of the 15-day schedule. Here’s how you got to the farm: from the impossible-to-find-on-Google-Maps hamlet of Dewdney Corners (where the streets literally have no names), travel straight down Hawkins’ Pickle Road until you see the farm.
This was challenging enough by day, but our crew arrived and left the location in the pitch dark—and it was October at the foot of the mountains in British Columbia, which meant a grey drizzle permeated what little daylight hours existed.
There at the farm to greet us was David. Little did we know that he would become our film angel. David’s unusual enthusiasm, passion and handiness helped us drop two regulation-size freight shipping containers into the woods on his property, and from that moment on he became part of the team. He drove tractors and dragged wooden boards and ran errands to town for us. We later shot Borys’ (Patrick Gilmore) very gory murder scene on David’s kitchen table.
So there we were, a crew of fewer than 30, at the edge of the world, in the pouring rain, with $1.15 in our pockets, mud up to our knees, all wearing more proverbial hats than should be legal in this line of work. As producers, we became master picture car wranglers (Adrian) and 1st ADs (Liz). Co-producers Robin Nielsen and Danielle Stott-Roy doubled as production manager and production designer. Even director Terry Miles gave up his Volvo hatchback for a day or two to serve as Jason’s (Michael Karl Richard’s) car.
Adrian’s picture car wrangling duty was primarily focused around a rickety-as-hell 1964 Chevrolet C-20 pickup with no wipers and barely functioning headlights, loaned to us from a friend’s uncle. It always poured rain on the way to and from set. One evening Adrian commandeered a very convincing Crown Vic police squad car some 50 miles each way, only to realize that the police-mobile’s functioning cherries were on and it was sporting fake Oregon license plates—no wonder everyone was swerving out of the way so quickly! One night, the actress Debs Howard, who has a hilarious cameo in the general store the evening Katie (Tiera Skovbe) and Sloane (Kirsten Prout) arrive in the twisted little town, found herself hitching a ride back to the city with Adrian. Debs became designated window wiper, ensuring that condensation didn’t obscure what little visibility Adrian had while taking backroads all the way home to Vancouver.
Liz often took up the mantle of 1st AD under tight deadlines and in torrential conditions. Despite best attempts, production was often required to “hold” for a local farm cow named Bueford who, clearly, loved the stage. The cow also loved our gaffer, Mike Martell, and would follow Mike shamelessly through the lighting setup. When Mike fell sick with the flu, Tyler Burrows, key grip, stepped up to put on another hat and won the hearts of our crew, if not the cow. Bueford was so present on our team that he ultimately became the honorary 3rd AD. Sadly we later discovered that he’d been sold to another farm and demoted to hamburger.
At the center of Dewdney Corners was The Schnitzel Haus, run by a man named Jurgen and his alpine German family. The Schnitzel Haus served our location needs perfectly, cinematically and otherwise: First as a location for Katie and Sloane to meet their attackers for the first time, but also as home to the best meal the crew could have asked for after a long hard day’s work in the rain. Mmm… schnitzel, dumplings and spaetzle.
Locations remained the single most challenging aspect of the film due to cost and weather, but also because of story. Despite calling every church from Whistler, BC to Mission and back, it was impossible to find a church that would let us sacrifice a priest at the altar—an important plot point. Thanks to our ingenious co-producers Danielle and Robin, we ultimately found the Chapel by the Sea—once a church, now a community building. And by some heavenly miracle, our day at the Chapel (an indoor shoot day) was the single day of on on schedule that we did not battle wind and rain. The owners were a pleasure and a joy to work with and the scene in the church is one of our favorites in the whole movie. (Check out the trailer for a sneak peak!)
Finally, we needed a family home, a sheriff’s office and an insurance office. Co-producer Robin’s mom offered her townhouse up as our “family home” (for the second time, as we shot our creature-feature Feed the Gods there the year before), and his sister Michelle offered her dental practice as both the offices on two separate floors. Some of the best moments on set were had in the dry indoors, watching twin scene-stealers Joyce and Jackie Robbins (recently seen in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events series) surprise and delight us on every take at the insurance office.
The cast was not immune to the conditions nor removed from our village, in fact—they were the heart of it. Our priest (Christian Sloane) memorized pages of psalms, went through hours of makeup and practiced his pig call (spoiler alert!) ad nauseum for us. Boris (Patrick Gilmore) stood in the pouring rain in bloody underwear, patiently, for at least an entire day. Tiera and Kirsten often found themselves covered in cold sticky prop blood, standing in bikinis in the cold rain. They took solace in the always calm and steady tones of Anna MacDonald, our amazing cinematographer. And our little family didn’t end there: Jeb (Garret Black) blew the roof off the audition room and committed fully to his role, and Lucas (Jameson Parker) not only kidnapped Sloane but stole Tiera Skobye’s heart. They fell in love on our set and are still together.
After we wrapped the movie, it took days to recover mentally and emotionally. By the time we went back to check the shipping containers, they had sunk nearly one foot into the mud of the farm. Everyone tried to help: The tree nursery next door came with the bulldozers, the dairy farmer down the road brought an excavator, the bro with the backhoe across the street checked in every day. Ultimately it took over a month for the ground to be firm enough to send in a crane to airlift the containers onto a semi, bound for the shipping yard.
And despite it all—the cold, the rain, the distance, the mud, the hours, the pain and those godforsaken shipping containers—we made a movie. It took an amazing group to do it: From our director Terry Miles and the committed cast to the folks at Dewdney Corners, our bovine-loving crew, the love affairs of Mike and Bueford the cow and Tiera and Jameson, to the angels we found in David, Jurgen and the local farmers, to Chapel by the Sea and Robin’s awesome family… the film is here, from our village to yours. The team at Random Bench hope you love our lambs as much as we do. MM
Even Lambs Have Teeth is available starting May 2, 2017 on digital/On Demand and cable platforms, courtesy of Syndicado.