A thick haze filled the dimly lit room.
In one corner, stuntmen clung to a cable, ready to hoist actress Kara Luiz into the air. Nearby, a crew member poured fake blood onto actor Sam Ausden's lips.
At the word "action," the stuntmen lifted Luiz several feet off the ground. Ausden, dressed as a vampire, held his hand to her throat and shouted in her face.
"Blast," someone off-camera yelled, simulating a gun shot. "Drop. Drop."
Fake blood shot out the back of Ausden's head. He dropped to his knees and collapsed, seemingly dead, as the stuntmen brought Luiz down. Blood puddled on the floor.
"That was good," director Mitchell Altiere said from his seat behind the cameras.
"Moving on," assistant director Joel Pincosy said.
With that, crew members quickly removed a harness from Luiz. Ausden got to his feet and had his photograph taken in his vampire costume. Another crew member mopped up a large puddle of fake blood, clearing the way for the next scene.
Welcome to the set of "The Night Watchmen," an independent vampire movie being filmed in the former Capital newspaper building in Annapolis.
Filming began Feb. 2 and was set to conclude early Sunday morning.
The movie, a mix of comedy and horror, is set in a tabloid newspaper office where three inept night watchmen have to fight off vampires. The film is scheduled to be released around Halloween.
Filming has taken place throughout the building, from the newsroom, where the desks reporters used remain exactly as they were left when The Capital moved out in September, to the room with old printing press, to the mailroom in the basement.
Producers said the furniture and equipment The Capital left behind make the tabloid office set look authentic — and saved them thousands of dollars.
"There's a wealth of stuff we've been able to reuse, repurpose and recycle," said production designer Chester Stacy of Baltimore.
In The Capital's break room, chairs rested on their side. A table was upside-down. Playing cards and fake blood covered much of the floor.
"Vampires died here yesterday," said producer Demetrea Triantafillides.
The Capital's old photo department is the laboratory, where fake blood is being concocted from ingredients including corn syrup and dye. That liquid is splattered throughout the building, though it will be cleaned up by the time cast and crew vacate the premises, Triantafillides said.
Set design headquarters is The Capital's former circulation department. The old library is being used as a makeup room. Production offices are in the paper's old classified department.
Dan DeLuca, one of the writers and lead actors, described the building as a "studio in itself."
"There's barely a room we haven't used in this place."
The only bit of the movie not done in the building — a rock concert scene involving 30 to 40 extras — was shot Friday at Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge in Annapolis.
About 45 people are working on the movie set, said producer Cheryl Staurulakis. Fifteen are from the Annapolis area. A number of them are interns and casting and production assistants.
"We've tried to hire as many locals as possible," Staurulakis said.
Out-of-town cast and crew, from all over the country, are staying at hotels and local bed-and-breakfasts. Crew members are working 12-hour days, six days a week.
When shooting concludes, there will be three or four months of post-production, including editing, DeLuca said.
Annapolis resident Ken Arnold, another one of the writers and lead actors, said the plan is to screen the film at festivals, with the hope it will be picked up by a major distribution company. The film has a budget of less than $1 million.
A screening is planned in Annapolis around Halloween. Producers also hope to hold a blood drive with Anne Arundel Medical Center near the release date, Staurulakis said.