At around two in the afternoon on a random Wednesday in the spring of 2012, I was standing at my kitchen sink washing a bowl I’d just used to eat a lunch of leftover soup. Looking out of the kitchen window, which was open, I could see a bird taking a bath in the fountain in my courtyard.
Just then Tom Lennon — perhaps best known as Lt. Jim Dangle on Reno 911 — walked up, extended his hand through my kitchen window, and proclaimed, “High-five through the kitchen window.” I obliged and he went on his way. Shortly thereafter Ben Garant — Lennon’s Reno 911 co-star you may know as Dep. Travis Junior — walked by, smiling and waving as he made his way through the courtyard. A little while later, the two sat and ate their lunch on a table in the aforementioned courtyard. You can’t really tell from this picture I took from inside my kitchen, but that’s them sitting out in my courtyard eating lunch.
This sort of thing was not an unusual occurrence for about eight weeks that spring.
Earlier in 2012, a location scout showed up at my house saying that he was working for “the Reno 911 guys” and that they were looking for a house in which to shoot much of a new movie they’d written and were going to direct together, a movie about a couple from Brooklyn who move into a haunted “fixer-upper” in New Orleans.
I suppose at this point I should explain that my house is a large, old house built in the 1840s that for about 30 years sat abandoned and neglected and was heavily damaged in Hurricane Katrina. I live in the back portion of the house — part of which includes what at one point was known as the “servants’ quarters” — a part that’s been completely renovated and will likely one day serve as a guest quarters. The three floors in the front part of the house are still a work in progress, a raw space basically, which is what made shooting in the house appealing to Lennon and Garant.
And so it came to be that — after taking a tour of the house — the two men chose it as the location where a large part of Hell Baby, a horror/comedy, would be filmed. Because it was an extremely low budget project, the production couldn’t really afford to relocate me for a number of weeks, so we agreed that I’d remain living in the house while they filmed with the promise that we’d all be respectful of each other.
Here’s how Variety described the film when it was announced that it was going into production…
Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb will star as an expectant couple who move into New Orleans’ most haunted fixer-upper, where they’re forced to enlist the aid of the Vatican’s elite exorcism team (Lennon, Garant) to save them from a demonic baby.
So the interior shots of the house Corddry and Bibb move in to were filmed in my house. The rawness of the space in the front of the house and the majestic/gothic look of the decaying old Spanish architecture give it a rather haunting look as well, making it sort of perfect for the look of “New Orleans’ most haunted fixer-upper.” All of the exterior shots of Corddry and Bibb’s fictional house were shot at a friend’s house around the corner that happens to be one of the first homes ever built in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans. This is what it looked like, all dressed up — or, should I say, down — for the production.
Hell Baby was released last year to tepid reviews (it scored 34% on Rotten Tomatoes) and barely registered a blip at the box office, though I personally enjoyed the hell out of it. It starred Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Keegan Michael Key, Riki Lindhome, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Michael Ian Black, David Wain, Kumail Nanjiani, and, of course, Tom Lennon and Ben Garant. Since it was recently released on Blu-Ray and DVD, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about the filming of it along with some photographs I took during production.
- Overall the whole production in its totality was a fun experience, but I’m not sure I’d recommend to anyone to live in a house that’s being filmed in. On some days, there must have been 50-75 strangers passing through my house, sometimes as early as 4 or 5 in the morning. I did lose a bit of sleep, that’s for sure.
- This was the first piece of equipment that arrived at the house during pre-production, which makes sense, I guess…
- My kitchen served as the production’s makeup room and holding area since the production didn’t have a big enough budget to provide trailers. Since I work from home, I’d often go down to the kitchen for a drink or a bite throughout the course of the day and cast members would be in there sitting around telling jokes and stories and whatnot. It was kind of neat, I will admit. One of my favorite discussions I remember walking in on was the cast discussing their individual feelings about walking red carpets at premieres. The consensus seemed to be that the only people who actually enjoy walking red carpets are psychopaths.
- Whenever I’d run into him, Tom Lennon would often go, “there he is.” I found this amusing.
- Keegan-Michael Key was shooting at the house the day President Obama name-dropped the Key & Peele show as a show he watches. Needless to say, Keegan was quite pleased, to the point of being a bit shell-shocked by the surrealness of it all. I should add that Keegan is a flat-out awesome dude, one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Everyone in the cast was lovely, but Keegan was just over-the-top lovely.
- Someone tried to break in one night during production. I was alone in the house, watching TV on my sofa, when I noticed someone peering in at me through the window of the door to my living area. I assumed it was a crew member and said something along the lines of, “Excuse me…who are you…I didn’t know any shooting was going on here tonight?!” The man then turned and ran away, which clearly indicated to me that he was a burglar. I chased him out the back yard and called the cops, who arrived quickly but never found him. They suspected he was a copper thief. Apparently, much of the wiring used by film crews is made from cooper, making film locations attractive targets for copper thieves.
- Riki Lindhome told me that Tom Lennon offered her a role in the film when she had him on as a guest on her podcast. She said he walked in, saw her and immediately went, “Oh…I think I have something for you.”
- Rob Corddry smokes a lot. I swear I saw him smoking a cigarette during just about every break he had.
- Tom Lennon and Ben Garant lived in the French Quarter during the production and rode bikes to the set every day.
- I got locked inside the house one day during pre-production and was late to a meeting and had to leave a semi-pissy note. It was probably the only time I felt truly angered about having a film shoot in the house I was living in.
- If you’ve seen Hell Baby, you know that Riki Lindhome has an extended full-frontal nude scene in the film. As you might expect, she barely ate anything for the first two weeks of the shoot leading up to the day when they shot her nude scene. Additionally, she said she worked out with a trainer for two months prior to prepare for it.
- Whenever I’d leave the house to run an errand or get coffee or something, Rob Corddry would often greet me upon returning with some sort of deadpan about what he’d been doing something when I wasn’t around. “You have good taste in underwear” and “You have a surprising lack of drugs in your house” were my faves.
- It wasn’t until the last day of filming that I learned that the “Sam” person Leslie Bibb often referred in conversation (“Me and Sam ate at XYZ the other night” and “I’m flying to NYC to meet up with Sam after we wrap” etc) was Sam Rockwell, who’s apparently been her boyfriend for a while.
- Most days after shooting, Lennon and Garant and the other producers would sit around drinking pain killers, a tropical drink made by a local Caribbean joint called Rum House. They ordered them by the gallon. (CORRECTION: One of the film’s producers emailed to say that they ordered pain killers in 5-gallon quantities, usually on Fridays.)
- Jason Sudeikis apparently dropped by the set one day but I never saw him or got the chance to meet him. Similarly, I wasn’t around on the days Kumail Nanjiani and Michael Ian Black shot their scenes, so I never got to meet them.
- Keegan-Michael Key was so taken by the food at Jacques I’mos after he and his wife ate there that he got up out of his chair when describing how decadent it was. A few days later, he returned with some of the other cast members and apparently ate a bad oyster. He spend virtually all of the next day in bed.
- Paul Scheer bought a $100 bike from WalMart when he got to New Orleans. On the last day of filming, he put an ad on Craigslist to sell it for $60. When the person buying the bike showed up to pick it up, Scheer was in a bloody cop’s uniform. The guy purchased the bike without asking any questions. (This is New Orleans, after all.) Scheer also went to eat at Surrey’s — a little breakfast spot down the street from me — wearing the same bloody cop uniform and hardly registered any notice from the locals. Here’s what the uniform looked like…
-Rob Huebel’s lady is apparently a great cook. He talked at length about her ability to create delicious things in the kitchen.
- Because there was a lot of down time preparing for a small explosion on the last day filming, the shoot ran late into the night and didn’t wrap until around 2:30am. At some point in the evening, I got a tap on the shoulder from Riki Lindhome about all the booze in my kitchen. From there, she, Corrdry, Scheer and Huebel and I killed five bottles of wine in my kitchen. It was a blast and I think they were all a little tipsy when the film’s final scene was finally shot.
- I was actually kind of sad to see the cast and crew leave when filming wrapped. Saying goodbye to some of them was hard. I think I may have actually teared up a little saying goodbye to Rob Corddry. I think he may have even teared up a little too.
- Here’s a cross that was made for an exorcism scene that was filmed in the backyard. I still have it…
Lennon and Garant being interviewed by a local news crew in my courtyard…
Everyone gathered around monitors to watch a scene being filmed in another room…
Rob Corddry being Rob Corddry in my kitchen…
(Many more photos are on the next page, FYI.)