Slash and learn: The story of locally produced horror flick Mangrove Slasher II’s murder, and how the film is now rising from the grave

Published September 15, 2010

Mangrove Slasher II Casting Call
2-5 p.m. Sat., Sept. 25, The Venue, 500 Central Ave., Sarasota, 539-0010 or mangroveslasher2.com, free.

Back in late April when CL broke the story about Mangrove Slasher II, an independent horror movie being filmed around the Suncoast, the two young filmmakers involved had been working on the project for nearly seven months, and planned to wrap up shooting in May with a tentative mid-June release date. Little did co-directors Sean Haitz and Chris Potter know, that date would soon become far more tentative than they had expected.

Potter, who Haitz brought on as co-director after meeting him toward the start of production, was arrested on May 13. According to various news reports Manatee High School, where Potter had worked as a television production instructor for four years, informed him that they would not be renewing his contract, and he later told a fellow teacher that he was going to bring a gun to an upcoming faculty event. This prompted the Bradenton Police Department to confront Potter in the school’s parking lot, where they found Roxycodone pills in his possession. According to the BPD, an investigation revealed Potter had been pawning equipment from the school’s audio and visual department since January to pay for his prescription drug addiction.

After the BPD searched Potter’s residence they confiscated a number of items belonging to the school. One of those items happened to be the external hard drive that contained all the footage of Mangrove Slasher II. “I went through kind of a depression,” recalls Haitz. “I found out from the killer in the movie (Rick “Mangrove Slasher” Svec). He called and was like, ‘The police took the movie, man.’ I was devastated. At that time it was so touchy that I couldn’t get a hold of anybody. They got the impression that I was involved with all that, so I just stopped trying for a bit and let it cool down. I didn’t want to go to jail.”

Once the smoke cleared, Haitz went about the work of trying to retrieve the six months worth of footage he had shot for his movie, and was eventually met with the news that the entire film had been erased. “I had no idea that he was involved with stealing and pawning and drugs,” says Haitz. “There was a lot of footage on there. I don’t think I’ll be able to get that footage back, but I look at it as a learning thing. This time it’s going to be better.”

Now with some experience under his belt having directed his lost movie and working as a production assistant on the Discovery Channel’s PitchMen series, Haitz is teaming up with his sister-in-law, Krista Haitz of BlueDragonflyEvents.com, to start the production of Mangrove Slasher II from scratch. Krista will serve as executive producer and assist Sean in casting the film.

Their first push will be a casting call at The Venue in the Rosemary District on September 25. They are looking for lead and supporting roles, editors, lighting technicians, make-up artists, wardrobe specialists, and anyone else that is interested in getting involved with the project. They will have a drop box at the event where people can donate costumes, latex, fake blood and body parts and any other items that may contribute to the making of the film. Anyone who donates to the project will get a thank you in the credits, and any business that wants their logo in the movie can have it appear in some form. “We’ll have a guy dress up in their gear and just show up,” says Haitz, “and say, ‘I love Applebee’s,’ with a big thumb’s up in the camera or something. It’s great. It adds to the cheesiness.”

The basic plot of the movie is still intact, but the script is now much more solid and lessons from previous filming experiences have been taken into account. “The script is now written,” says Haitz laughing. “It was all over the place before, a lot was improvised and it wasn’t super tight. I had a couple of friends that are screenwriters help me out on that and it’s all tightened up.” Haitz expects a lot more organization throughout the project this time around. All the call times will now be printed out and distributed with plenty of advance notice, and they want to find a lot of back-up actors to contact in case people can’t make it for shoots. Haitz has learned that it’s hard to count on people when everyone is volunteering their time.

Shooting locations are another aspect that will be changing. Much of the previous film had been shot at Emerson Point, but Haitz had run into problems with the city and county over the course of filming. “They say they’re all about the Sarasota Film Festival and all that, then they’re pretty restrictive on letting young film makers get out there and try to do something cool for the town,” says Haitz. “They say it’s really easy but it’s been surprisingly difficult to shoot on the beach or other places.”

Haitz says they’ll be sticking around Sarasota this time around, shooting at Shell Beach and at some private residences in the area. They also want to shoot some scenes inside a classroom and possibly a cafeteria, but they have yet to talk to any local schools about using their facilities. Chances are Manatee High School won’t be jumping at the offer.

The team plans to submit Mangrove Slasher II for consideration in the Sarasota Film Festival, as well as numerous horror movie festivals throughout the country. “I want [filming] to be done in three months and then a month to edit,” says Haitz. “It will be ready for the Sarasota Film Festival.”

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