The location for the film shoot had fallen through, and now, a backup site was needed. A backup turkey was needed, for that matter.
Oh, and about 100 new extras for what was to be a crowd scene.
All within the next few hours.
Welcome to the world of independent filmmaking, which means making changes on the fly, with a lot of people to manage and a lot of moving parts.
All was on display on a recent night of filming in downtown Tulsa on a crime drama called “Run With the Hunted,” and most were looking for guidance from John Swab.
He’s the writer and director of the movie that is filming at various Tulsa-area locations, and he’s one of the producers.
He’s also a Tulsa native, so this is his city, and the cast and crew are following his lead.
But right now, he’s dealing with some uncooperative red, white and blue balloons.
They are attempting to fly away, caught up in Tulsa’s most notorious wind tunnel on Boulder Avenue between Second and Third streets, where a southerly breeze on this hot August night is running smack into the renegade winds shearing in from between the pair of Williams Towers.
The new filming site is the Federal Building, with its massive pillars as the background for a scene to be filmed on the courthouse steps and featuring Ron Perlman, the star of “Hellboy” and TV’s “Beauty and the Beast,” and now of “Run With the Hunted.”
He’s playing a bad guy — “He runs drugs and women and this gang of child street thieves,” Swab said — and he’s about to deliver a speech to a crowd of his supporters, made up extras who have been waiting for a couple of hours in a nearby parking garage for a chance to be in a movie.
As a crew member explains to the extras how the scene will work, and when to cheer Perlman’s speech and when to be quiet, a mother can be seen talking to her son: “Can you hear what he’s saying? OK, be ready!”
Where no one had stood an hour before, this entire block is now closed to traffic by police, with 50 or so extras standing in front of the steps. A crew lugging equipment breaks a sweat, and late-night passersby stop to watch the commotion.
The speech will end with the character’s call to “continue the tradition,” which means put on a little show of strength, as Perlman walks down the courthouse steps toward a table where a turkey awaits.
As does a meat cleaver, which he plans to raise up, and then bring down, gleefully, for a beheading — one take after another.
“It really sets the rules of the world, of how things are going to go down in his world,” Swab says, defining Perlman’s character as a send-a-message kind of underworld crime lord.
Don’t worry: No turkeys were harmed in the filming of “Run With the Hunted.”
“Well, they’re going to chop the turkey’s head off in the movie, but we know he’s going to live,” said Whitney Barnhart, who’s been patiently tending to her impressive bird she brought in from her Kellyville farm. “He’s a show turkey; nothing’s going to happen to him.”
This Heritage Bourbon Red turkey has a surprisingly relaxed demeanor considering how many selfies he’s been in with crew members (who named him “Paul”) and police officers.
Not to mention his backup status: The original turkey fell through, and a feed-store contact called Barnhart, who brought a pair of turkeys to town.
“Paul” was in good company, considering that Perlman wasn’t even supposed to be in this movie a couple of weeks ago. But then Oscar-winner Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”) backed out.
When he needed a new star, Swab’s producing partner had a connection with Perlman and made things happen fast.
When Swab needed a federal courthouse for outdoor filming and a street closed, the director’s mother, M.C. Swab, made things happen even faster.
“It’s like she’s pretty much in charge of locations, and she knows people and can talk her way into these situations, so she really is an unsung hero in this whole thing,” John Swab said, with his proud mom watching the filming from a distance.
“It’s been 16 days of shooting, working about 18 to 20 hours a day, and there is only so much time to make the magic happen,” said Swab, a 2007 Edison High School graduate.
This gritty crime drama — shot in Tulsa but not set in Tulsa — follows “Let Me Make You a Martyr,” Swab’s feature-film debut that starred Marilyn Manson and Mark Boone Junior, who is among multiple cast and crew members returning to Tulsa for “Run With the Hunted.”
Boone (“Sons of Anarchy”) is joined this time by Michael Pitt (“Hannibal”), William Forsythe (“The Rock”) and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (“The Wire”).
That’s a collection of intense actors, appearing in what sounds like Swab’s second intense film shot in Tulsa.
Should we see this as defining what a “John Swab movie” will always be?
“This one I thought would be lighter. I still think about making a comedy,” he said, laughing.
“But a ‘John Swab film,’ wow, I don’t even know what that is. I’ll let other people tell me what that is some day. It’s not a dumb question, but I think I’d be dumb to answer it.”
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