WILMOT — While everyone else cursed the polar vortex Wednesday, independent filmmakers Richard Blake and BJ Rayniak took advantage of weather conditions they couldn’t have staged.
It was if Mother Nature arrived on cue with snow and then began to ad lib as the western Kenosha County natives began filming their second feature film together.
“Blame” is a murder-mystery thriller in which five college friends seek shelter in an abandoned school after being stranded in a snowstorm.
“The script is written to be set in a blizzard and intolerable cold,” said Blake, who is the screenwriter, producer and an actor in the movie. “What’s better than using the real thing? There is nothing worse than an actor pretending to be cold. Their performances are so true.”
Blake, a 2001 graduate of Central High School, wrote the script more than 12 years ago when he and Rayniak, a 2001 graduate of Wilmot High School, were roommates in Los Angeles. He sold it to a production company that eventually folded, at which time he regained the rights.
“This is my directorial debut,” Rayniak said. “It is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be filming in this historic cold.”
The previously unseasonably dry winter had Rayniak worried. They are working with Academy Award-winning special effects artist Dieter Sturm, who invented a non-toxic snow for production purposes. But, they had planned on some of the real stuff.
“About three weeks ago we had no snow, and we were freaking out,” he said.
What they got are actors who not only look cold, but actually are cold, as they break into the former Wilmot Grade School building off of Highway W.
“It’s been quite the climate difference,” said Laynie Mitchell, an actress from Los Angeles who plays the role of Andy in the film. “But, it is beautiful.”
The cold has presented some challenges for the camera crew.
Stephen Wester, director of photography, said it makes it difficult to focus the cameras, and batteries die more quickly in the cold, for example.
L.A. casting call
Pre-production started about a year ago. There was a SAG casting call, which resulted in the hiring of several actors out of Los Angeles, including Rachel Lynn David, who was on the Disney show “Game On” in 2013; Austin Brook, who made his television debut on “Dexter”; Roberto Jay; and Lauren Elyse Buckley. Blake plays a detective.
They started filming last week in Burlington, meant to serve as a suburb of Chicago. They filmed at The Coffee House and in the Chestnut Street loop.
“It looks just like a Hollywood set,” Rayniak said of the quaint downtown streetscape.
Tuesday they started filming outdoors in western Kenosha County and they expect to be done by Sunday.
It is the second collaboration of their respective production companies, Amberock Productions and Rayni Day Productions. Their first movie, “The Rocket,” a sports-drama, was also filmed in western Kenosha County.