SANDUSKY – Birds chirped. An engine hummed while an airplane approached the Sandusky airport.
These are all sounds Firelands residents are used to hearing. But for Norwalk filmmaker James Welch, even these background noises – which most of us take for granted – were a sometimes a distraction or a reason to wait this morning as he started filming his low-budget, suspense thriller/horror movie “Curse of the Flesh.”
“Quiet on the set,” the rookie director would say before each of the estimated 30 takes for one scene. One time, he added, “including the damn birds,” when some nearby feathered friends were a bit too noisy.
The scene – the 11th in the film – was shot this morning in the corner of the Skate World parking lot in Perkins Township. The 2 ½ minute scene involves two detectives responding to the report from a homeless man who finds a woman’s bloody head in a box. A security guard meets the two detectives near a dumpster and directs them to the box. The officers question the security guard and homeless man. Later, the younger detective avoids being interviewed by this reporter, who played himself.
Sandy Broker, of Bay View, plays the security guard. The Mix 102.7 FM account executive heard about the open audition that Welch held in Sandusky and wanted to get her boyfriend in “Curse.”
“He said, ‘If I’m doing it, you’re doing it,’” Broker said. “I didn’t run lines; It was more like an interview.
“They were seeing me as a detective or reporter. They weren’t sure which,” she added.
Norwalk resident Nancy Welfle, who plays “Mom” later in the film, was on hand to observe the process. She heard about the audition on the radio and read four to five lines of dialogue.
“He told me, ‘You did a great job for (just) reading it over,’” said Welfle, who has no prior acting experience, but got involved for the sake of doing something different. “Variety is the spice of life,” she said.
Part-time actor Eric Frakas, of Norwalk, also watched the first scene and will have several roles later in “Curse,” including playing a mental patient. He admits he often gets cast as villains.
Frakas nabbed his current roles after performing in murder-mystery dinner theaters last year in Norwalk and Sandusky with the group Shadow Stalkers.
“James had seen me in one and remembered. Those were pretty much improvised. I’m going to be pretty much writing my own script (in “Curse”),” he said.
“Curse of the Flesh” is not Frakas’ first film. His first movie was “Bet Your Life” starring Billy Zane (of “Titanic” and “Tombstone” fame), which premiered Aug. 4, 2004 on the USA Network. The Norwalk actor, who vaguely resembles the late King of Rock-n-Roll in his later years, said he had a “featured role” as an Elvis impersonator.
“It dealt with killers in Vegas,” Frakas said about filming in 2003 in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, which was closed down for the occasion.
“It was supposed to be spring in Vegas, but it was winter in Northeast Ohio,” he said. “It was September or October when we filmed it. It was cold.”
“Curse” will film another scene early this afternoon at Sugarcreek Restaurant. Another, at Berry’s Restaurant, is scheduled to be shot June 9 and 10. Welch earlier estimated that filming will take two to three months.
“It’s what they call ultra low budget,” Welch said about his film, estimated to cost about $25,000. Screen Actors Guild standards classify any film made for under $1 million as “ultra low budget.”
“Curse of the Flesh,” which may not have a family-friendly title, is a family affair. Welch’s niece, Renee Matthews will be directing scenes which feature her nephew and has a small role. Matthews, the manager of Skate World, also will be editing the entire film.
“He threw me in as a security guard. I get killed. That’s not my head,” she said about the fake, bloodied head in the box in scene 11.
“First scene down,” Welch said after filming for just short of two hours. Many more to go.