The 3rd Floor, one bitch’s beginning

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Leif Erikson Rigney in his role  from The 3rd Floor.  Leif gets his pic at the top of this blog because he’s the one who suggested the topic!

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Steve Hudgins in his role from The 3rd Floor. Steve gets his pic on this blog because, well, this is his first movie.  And he looks funny.

The 3rd Floor is technically not a Big Biting Pig Productions movie, but it’s the film that started it all.  Steve Hudgins (my partner) doesn’t like people to see it – that’s how rough it is – but it’s the one that made all the other movies possible.  Because of The 3rd Floor, we knew we could make a feature-length movie. And we knew we wanted to make more.

I only had acquaintance with Steve as an actor at the time he began making The 3rd Floor.  He’d met some guys while he was doing a theater production in Paducah, KY, and together they cooked up the crazy idea to make a horror movie.  One of them had access to a pretty good camera.  Another had directing experience.  Steve had a script or two in his desk.  And they all had acting experience.  Steve cleaned up the script (based on an unpublished novel he’d written) and they begin looking for locations in Paducah.

I was asked to play a small role, and that might have been the extent of my involvement in the project. I had no experience with movie-making, and though it tapped into several of my interests – acting and writing and even directing – it didn’t occur to me to think on it any further. But I’d only just gotten back into theater, and loved the collaborative nature of it.  I could see this movie-making had a similar energy.

Several of my friends had roles, and I charted the progress from the sidelines. I even helped on set a couple of times. And after a few months, I heard everything had been shot.

You know how sometimes things happen for a reason but the reason isn’t clear until much later?  It just so happened that I’d spent a couple of years learning to video edit on my job, not as anything central to my job but just as an offshoot of being part of a program that had the money for the equipment and a reason to document events on video.  At the same time, Steve and his production team at the time had not considered the editing portion of movie-making.

That seems crazy to me NOW.  They shot a movie with no idea of how to edit it. But at the time, they were just going with the momentum of creativity, not worrying about the next step, having faith it would happen somehow.

That’s where the PJ Woodside/Steve Hudgins partnership really began. Steve asked me if I would edit the movie. I didn’t REALLY know if I could. But I was willing to try.  On a borrowed laptop on my dining room table, we sorted out all the footage, tried to make sense of it, and cut it together. We were both in a play for part of this, and often worked for hours before and after rehearsal. What turned out to be our strengths as a team began to emerge in this creative give-and-take. I make sense of details; Steve fights for drama. For me, a story must make sense; for Steve, a story must have power. The combination is a good one.

I spent some time researching editing, and learned an invaluable lesson or two from a new friend, Nick Faust, who is something of a mentor for us now (he’s a brilliant script and movie critic). I learned about the 180 rule, and cutting on action. I learned how to create momentum or clarity or suspense simply by arranging takes a certain way. This process brought together all my interests – writing, acting, and directing – in a way I’d never experienced before. I was hooked.

We finished the rough cut but realized we would need help on the final mixing and scoring, so we worked with a fellow named Jon Doss to get the final copy created. (It was a lot more work than we knew it would be, and I still apologize to Jon’s wife every time I see her for our late night sessions!) After that, my role was pretty much done. Steve and his buddies set up a screening and I attended.

That, I think, is when the bug truly hit me: being part of an audience watching a movie I helped create was fulfilling in a way I’d never experienced. Though it was rough and clunky in places, it still held together as a feature-length movie. People laughed in the right places. People shrieked (there’s one awesome “hit” that still makes me cringe). The movie made sense and it entertained.

Lucky for me, I guess, Steve’s original production team didn’t want to pursue a second project. So Steve approached me about partnering with him on our own production company, based locally. I accepted. The rest is Big Biting Pig history.

Oink oink.

PJ Woodside is the writer and director of  Lucid, which features Bill Johnson and will be released in 2013.  She is co-producer of Spirit Stalkers and six other movies with Steve Hudgins of Big Biting Pig Productions, and owner of PJ’s Productions.   More about PJ here.

Is there a scene you want to hear more about?  Post with questions!
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6 thoughts on “The 3rd Floor, one bitch’s beginning

  1. […] small short film, costing $300 was actually my favorite submission, about a haunted apartment building.  There were […]

  2. Aunt Mimi says:

    That movie was amazing. Flipping amazing. I actually JUST mentioned this movie in my last blog…

  3. masodo says:

    Is “The Third Floor” in distribution in any shape, manner or form?
    I would really like to feast my eyes on this pivotal film. Do you know of any plans to screen it? Thanks 😀

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