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January 06, 2006

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, January 06, 2006

The brothers grim The brothers grim (January 06, 2006)

Menlo Park twins and fellow filmmaker premiere their horror flick on Friday the 13th

by Douglas DeVore

Slimy squid, raw hamburger, and liberal amounts of artificial blood are just a few of the ingredients Tyler and Nathan Logan Hanley used to make their latest feature-length horror flick, "Rehearsal."

"Well, it was the pig intestines that really made it," co-producer and actor Tyler said of a scene that features a character lying against a tree with his stomach contents spilling out onto his shoes. "The smell was horrible."

The 30-year-old Hanley twins, roommates who make digital features in their spare time, teamed up with fellow filmmaker J. Jesse Harley to produce their third feature film. It premieres Jan. 13 at the Aquarius Theatre in Palo Alto.

In a recent interview in their Menlo Park home, the twins talk excitedly about the production process as they screen their latest cut of "Rehearsal." They're surrounded by movie posters, superhero sculptures, and the life-sized cardboard Humphrey Bogart occupying a corner. Their affinity for films is showcased by the walls full of DVDs, which are arranged not alphabetically, but in order of preference.

Their 70-minute horror/suspense tale follows an ill-fated film rehearsal taking place in an isolated cabin deep in the mountains. The cast of eight quickly begins to dwindle as mysterious and often gory cast-reducing events take place.

The digitally shot movie does not just focus on the macabre, however.

"I think it's really a social commentary about our fascination with fame...and also our fascination with media," writer and director Nathan said, alluding to the villainous motives and allure of notoriety that draw the characters to their ultimate demise.

Nathan, who works full-time at the day spa Watercourse Way in Palo Alto, began writing the screenplay in the summer of 2004. Inspiration for everything from locations to music came from very local sources.

"Somebody at Watercourse has gotten a massage to the same music we used to kill people," Tyler joked of the loop of music that plays as the cast discovers the hideous murders.

Once writing was complete, Nathan teamed up with Tyler, a film reviewer and assistant to the editor at the Palo Alto Weekly. Besides acting in the film, Tyler served as co-producer, helping organize the locations, gear, and crew. Harley, one of the actors, joined on as a co-producer to take care of casting the rest of the actors.

The feature was shot on a small budget of about $10,000. Much of this went toward transportation, food for the actors, a professional audio engineer and a camera.

"Things that we otherwise would have liked to be able to do, we had to find a workaround," Tyler said of the tight budget during the three-and-a-half month shoot.

Locations were chosen based on their relevance to the script and, perhaps equally as important, their likelihood of being used free of charge. These include Palo Alto's Rose and Crown, the Palo Alto Weekly offices, Harley's Bear Valley family cabin, and the Hanleys' own home.

Harley laughs as he explains how the van featured in the movie was borrowed from a customer at the video store where he holds his day job -- a customer who now has significantly fewer late fees.

Despite the low budget, high production values such as advanced camera techniques find their way into the piece. For example, where some features might call for a prohibitively expensive track and dolly system, the Hanleys simply placed the camera atop a skateboard for a smooth dolly move in the opening restaurant scene.

Nathan chose to shoot on digital video, using the mini DV Panasonic DVX100 for its ability to shoot progressively at 24 frames per second, a look that approximates the motion of film. Harley supplied Nathan's editing suite, which consists of a Macintosh G5 tower running Final Cut Studio.

"If you get 75 percent of your vision, you can consider that a success," Nathan said, referencing a formula of Alfred Hitchcock's. "I got about 70 percent on this one. This is the closest I've ever come to seeing my vision on screen."

Staying close to his vision, though, didn't mean his actors couldn't give creative input, Nathan said.

"I'm always open to it. I like to take it in and think about if it's going to be better for the film or not. And hopefully they don't get pissed off if I shoot them down," he added with a laugh.

After the premiere screening, the production team plans to submit "Rehearsal" to the festival circuit. If it's accepted, they hope to use the opportunity to meet others in the industry to possibly license the rights to Nathan's stockpile of six other scripts.

"What I'd really like to do is write a script that's not budget-conscious," said Nathan who, along with his brother, hopes to form a production company that would allow their dreams of a high-budget feature.

As for Harley, his role in "Rehearsal" has inspired him to follow his dreams 400 miles further south in pursuit of a full-time acting career in L.A.

And until the Hanleys find that multi-million dollar opportunity with a special effects budget that doesn't rely on the current price of raw meat, both twins plan on more independent productions.

Tyler explains their goal: "Just to make movies that people want to see -- to tell good stories and tell them well."

What: Premiere screening of the feature-length horror film "Rehearsal," followed by a Q&A with the director and cast

Where: Aquarius Theatre, 430 Emerson St., Palo Alto

When: Friday, Jan. 13th, at 11:59 p.m.

Cost: Free

Info: Reservations are required. Call (650) 814-4254 for free tickets or e-mail [email protected] For more about the film, go to

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