Adventures with Spiders and Elle Alexandra in SILK (NSFW)

Adventures with Spiders and Elle Alexandra in SILK (NSFW)

In 2013 I starred with lovely Elle Alexandra in director/writer/producer/composer Rob Himebaugh’s SILK. The 14-minute film, produced by Ben Pollack (along with help from a number of generous campaign contributors) and shot by Scotty Field shocked audiences at film festivals across the country in 2014, garnering a few awards along the way. To start with, here is the film. WARNING: this contains graphic content and is NSFW. Afterward I will tell the tale of how this beautiful little beast came to be.

In Sepetmber of 2012 I was hosting the B-Movie Celebration in Indianapolis, Indiana, and on the first day I made a wonderful discovery in a short film called EAGLEWALK from director Rob Himebaugh. EAGLEWALK takes the bigfoot subgenre inter truly scary territory, with stunning cinematography, a lush score, a scary beast and on point direction. It was all I could talk about throughout the festival, and as soon as I got home I tracked Himebaugh down in effort to get him some media coverage and to see what he had up his sleeve for upcoming projects.

w/ Elle, Rob, Scotty in Elle's Jeep in Lancaster
w/ Elle, Rob, Scotty in Elle’s Jeep in Lancaster

I found Rob and we had an impassioned phone call about genre cinema, bigfoot movies, and a variety of other things. Kindred spirits from the start. He was moving into a follow up to EAGLEWALK called THE DARK DIVIDE. I wished him well on the project, got him some online coverage for EAGLEWALK via Fangoria.com, and we remained in contact. Fast forward into spring 2013. I am situated in Lake Arrowhead, California in the midst of a frenzy of projects, and my phone rings. It is Rob saying DARK DIVIDE was on hold, but he has a script he wants me to read titled SILK. And he wants me to play one of the leads.

Appearing in front of the camera is not a priority of mine, although I have ended up there a few times, mostly for friends who need a body. That being said, I loved the SILK script, and thought playing the character of “Oren” would be fun. I was sold from the get to, and my resolve was cemented when Rob informed me Elle Alexandra would be the other lead as “Kelly.” A fundraising campaign was launched online, which I supported at various appearances, and we were off to the races. We booked three days in November of 2013, and got to shooting.

Day one was spent in the high desert Lancaster area of California north of Los Angeles. We rolled around in Elle’s Jeep for a few shots, then had our dramatic opening encounter and silk transaction with “Feda” (Puya Abbassi) that sets the whole story into motion. It was a beautiful day and we all had a lot of fun. The production value added by this key location cannot be overstated. The landowner had been allowing construction companies to dump their rubble out in the back of his lot to create the look of a destroyed desert city. Perfect backdrop for our story.

Day two had us at producer Ben Pollack’s house in the L.A. area, shooting around his backyard pool. His house made for a perfect location, and the

Day two
Day two

shots moved quickly. Ben himself stepped in as Howzer, the bad guy interested in buying the silk from me, and we had a good time cracking eachother up during our exchange. At one point I was forced to the ground while a goon zip ties my hands together and puts a garbage bag over my head. No movie magic here, and that zip tie was as tight as the bag was uncomfortable. Luckily the actor doing the dirty work was great about making sure I could breathe in between takes. I started to think Rob had it out for me. Little did I know what Elle was going through that evening at the studio space I was to shoot at the following day.

Day three’s studio was in the warehouse district of L.A., and I arrived to find the crew scurrying around getting everything ready. I asked where the bathroom was, and was directed to the little door in the corner of the room. I walked in and was shocked at the horror I discovered within. Blood and slime everywhere. The walls, floor, and sink were all hit. Then I remembered the scene where Kelly first starts feeling her “birthing pains” and realized they must have been tackling that nasty business after our shoot the day before. Poor Elle. I was informed she also got all of her climactic spider “puppetry” (done with a dead spider on filament lines) out of the way as well.

Silk Day 3 spiderThis was the big living spider day, plus it was time inside rented space on a strict time allotment, so everyone was in high gear and focused. Eventually, after wetting the floors down, laying dolly track, prepping the “bedroom” and lights, we were ready to go. The spider wrangler showed up with the two rose haired tarantulas Elle and I were co-starring with that day, and Rob and I got a chance to meet and learn how to handle the beautiful arachnids. It was the first time I had ever had contact with spiders that big, and I was in awe of how gentle and lovely they are.

Shooting with spiders is a neat thing to experience. The most challenging scene involved a spider crawling out from the jar of silk, down to the floor and across the room, up the foot of the bed and between Elle’s legs. This was accomplished by the wrangler directing her little friends via tiny puffs of air through a straw to the back of the spider, telling it what direction to move in. When it came time for it to crawl up the end of the mattress, a light fan paintbrush was employed to nudge the little one up. Then the spider did the last bit by itself. Impressive stuff, if perhaps a little unsettling for Elle who had me hold my hand between her legs as a barrier, “just in case.”

We wrapped and Rob and his team went about assembling the film, which included Rob learning how to do CG animation and adding the little

With Elle outside the studio location in L.A.
With Elle outside the studio location in L.A.

offspring himself. One of the things that so impresses me about Rob is that he is all-in on his project, and handles as many duties as possible himself. And positively shines in every capacity.

We did some ADR dialogue a few months later on a day I was being brutalized with the flu, but it turned out just fine. A few months later the film was done and began life on the festival circuit. I appeared at a number of screenings, which provided me the opportunity to see and hear audience reactions in person, which was as colorful as I had imagined/hoped it would be. At several theaters I had people yelling at me (jokingly, of course) as I made my way up to the stage to speak, asking me things like, “What have you done?!?” In Kansas City someone yelled, “I need a cigarette after that!” It was hilarious and so much fun.

SILK was a great experience for all involved. I made some great friends out of it in Elle, Rob and Scotty, and the film continues to flit about the web, popping up now and then on a website or newsfeed. I am honored to have been tapped to be part of it, and look forward to Rob and I teaming up again someday. Ben and I are discussing another project together, and Rob is currently shooting CITY OF TICKS, and is taking the production to Guatemala in December to finish the production. Elle continues her successful modeling and film work, and I continue exploring the catacombs with my writing. Oh, and there’s a little thing I am directing called ONLY DREAM OF ME coming up soon, too.

Independent film is an incredible universe to play in, and I want to thank Rob, Ben and everyone else that made SILK a possibility. It is a treasured experience, something dear to the hearts of everyone who created it.

Now…did Kelly and Oren die or not? Hmm….

SILK on IMDB.