Cinematographer William Miller on the set of Ghoul (Photo: Joshua Aaron Stringer)
Ghoul, based on Brian Keene’s bestselling novel of the same name, is about three boys growing up in a small town in the early 1980s. Someone or something has been unearthing fresh graves in the local cemetery. The boys have to fight this unknown evil, while each struggles with his own problems at home. This is the summer they’ll never forget.
Ghoul is being pulled off the page and brought to life by cinematographer William M. Miller and director Gregory M. Wilson. The two first collaborated over 20 years ago on Wilson’s thesis film for New York University. The film was a success, earning a nomination for a Student Academy Award, and a steadfast filmmaking team was solidified.
“The best way I can describe Ghoul is as a cross between Stand By Me and Goonies, only much darker,” says Miller. “Greg and I knew early on that we wanted to use camera tricks and do as much as we could on set to avoid using any CGI. We had 210 pages of very detailed storyboards before production started. The storyboards helped all the departments by clearing up any questions people had about what we planned to show in the frame.
“I also designed overhead floor plans based on location photos for each camera set-up that corresponded to our master shot list,” adds Miller. “That allowed everyone to know the direction the lens was going to point, which really helped our lighting team stay ahead and prep the next area without interfering with the current shot.”
Chiller, an entertainment network devoted exclusively to the horror/thriller genre, mandated that the project be shot on 35mm. “Chiller wanted their big films for this year to be on film to make a statement about their quality and dedication, and to separate their product from some of the other channels that are shooting digitally,” says Miller. “I was more than happy to accommodate.”
The filmmakers chose KODAK VISION2 200T Color Negative Film 5217 for daylight scenes, and KODAK 500T Color Negative Film 5230 for large night exteriors. “The price for the 5230 was very attractive, but I was initially hesitant to use it because it was a new stock. However, after getting footage back, I was blown away at the latitude and tight grain, especially on the lower end. There were details in shadows that I could barely see with my own eyes which the 5230 picked up perfectly.”
Miller selected two Moviecams, the SL and the Compact, in an effort to save time. “I had the Compact built and ready for all our Steadicam and crane shots, and the SL was my main A camera on the dolly and sticks,” explains Miller. “This system allowed us to get many more shots done per day, because we were never waiting on a change-over to balance anything. For fire effects and stunts, we could also use both cameras simultaneously while sharing lenses to save money.”
Miller knew because of the amount of nighttime work that they would need Super Speed lenses at T1.3, and went with the older style Zeiss Mk IIIs. The benefits were two-fold; the production saved money, and since the Mk IIIs were utilized a lot in the ‘80s, they contributed to the look for this period piece.
Production for Ghoul was a little over four weeks, and included a large sound stage at the Celtic Media Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, along with some pick-ups in upstate New York.
The film will premiere on the Chiller cable channel later this year.