Shooting Diary - Day 17

We wrapped our final Interior location today. Things went smoothly and the scenes were all lots of fun. We started slow, but had a relatively light day ahead of us. After lunch, I made a last-minute decision to cut a sequence from the movie. It was little more than a cute character sequence that most likely would have ended up on the editing room floor. At this point, I also just felt that it wasn't worth the added stress to squeeze it into the day. Tomorrow will be an all day exterior shoot as well as a grueling bonus day of Steadicam on Monday. I'm extremely exhausted today, so forgive the lack of detail. Alex just sent me this little video from some of our Jib shots yesterday. It's just a snippet, but something to consume nevertheless.

 

Tomorrow is our final day of official Principal Photography. I can't believe it. I still feel like there is so much left to shoot. There actually is a lot of remaining stuff to shoot. We have three large scenes to shoot on Monday with a pared-down crew as well as two scenes to be shot later this summer. Our wrap party is Monday night, so it's just around the corner. With only two real days left of the shoot, it's sort of like we're making a short film, only longer.

Shooting Diary - Day 16

Had a late call time this morning for 7:30am. Our location was also a short ten-minute walk from my apartment, so I appreciated the morning stroll with my coffee in hand. I arrived to Nicole's apartment to find it painted with furniture rearranged for the purpose of filming. I must say, for all of my reservations and fears about such a last-minute location loss, juggle, and swap, this worked out extremely well. The cast and crew were comfortable in the air-conditioned building and we had a huge balcony on which we could place lights and bounce boards very conveniently. The first half of the day was spent shooting inside the spacious kitchen. There were three scenes to knock out and we managed to get the two big ones done before lunch. This actually put us slightly behind schedule when we came back from lunch at 2:30pm. After stuffing my face with a hamburger from Five Guys, we plowed through the last bit of kitchen stuff within an hour.

Up next was our jib shot. A lot of planning has surrounded the implementation of the jib. For those of you who don't know, a jib is a sort of weighted see-saw that permits one to place and move a camera over an out-of-reach surface. We absolutely needed one for some overhead shots, and this was the day we had it. It ended up going remarkably smooth, with every crew member on point and the creative juices flowing.

For being in front of the camera all day, I'm rather pleased with the direction of scenes filmed today. So, before I think about it too much and change my mind, I'm off to bed.

Shooting Diary - Day Off 2

kmw

kmw

I slept in till about 9:00am with some effort. I awoke three hours earlier but decided to close my eyes and make a concerted effort to capitalize on this opportunity to sleep. It was ok, I guess. Just not in much of a sleep pattern these days.

After a terrific morning of not directing a movie, I did some "movie work" and met up with the talented Mei Meloncon who is playing "Christina" in the film. She is in from Los Angeles and tomorrow is her first day of shooting. We met for coffee and ran through all of her scenes. Seeing as all but one of her scenes are with my character, "Ethan", it turned in to a full-fledged rehearsal for me, too.

This upcoming week will be exciting and fresh. The bulk of the week is covering a story line we haven't shot too much of yet. There will be a few new actors on set and some awesome new locations as well. Both tomorrow and Tuesday will feature big, inter-borough company moves midday. That means we will shoot one location in the morning, followed by a massive excursion over the East River to another location to film for the remainder of the day. Let's see how we do.

It's an early one tomorrow. Need to memorize and hit the hay.

Shooting Diary - Day 12

Day 12 begins like the rest of them. I wake up from what feels more like a long blink than a night's sleep. I am fresh from a "movie dream" where Brad is yelling at me to hurry up while I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I snap out of it, shower, and shave (on camera again today). First location up is at Deluxe, a large post-production house in New York. I'm sure this is the first time a post-house is so instrumental in principal photography. My good man, Ryan Young has the hookup there, so we score it to shoot for two different locations. A big part of making a multi-location shoot affordable and schedule friendly is using one location as multiple ones. We shoot the first scene (casting office) and then move into the second scene (plastic surgeon's waiting room). I shoot with economy. One shot for each scene and we just roll takes till we nail it with camera and actors. We do it all in a timely fashion before packing up and doing a company move to Flatiron for an afternoon of exteriors.

By the time we land at the second location, we are officially on lunch break. I go to grab a bite with Robyn Rikoon, the actress playing Karen. This is really the only opportunity I have to rehearse with Robyn, so we run lines in between me stuffing a sandwich in my mouth. We nail the scene a few times and head back to get into costume.

I change on the street because trailers are expensive. People look at me, but hey, it's New York. I get dolled up with some makeup and head over to where we are shooting the scene on West 21st Street. Lunch has slowed everyone down. It takes forever to get everyone and everything set for the scene. Right as we are getting settled, the nearby construction crew tells us we have to move down the street. We don't argue because they're loud and ruin our sound anyway. We sneak in a few shots that don't require audio.

After a while, we hit our stride again (that'll teach us to eat lunch). We knock out multiple angles of the scene and then knock out a few more just in case. We finish the scene just early enough to squeeze in one side of coverage for a phone conversation scene. I don't know my lines for the scene, so I have Nicole call me on my phone and tell me what my lines are as I walk. You'd think that if you wrote the words, they'd be easier to remember. Not true. I don't even remember writing this scene, frankly.

Week 2 is wrapped. Laila Robins is wrapped. I'm quite sad about that. Sad to lose a terrific actress, but also sad that I've nothing more to capture for the major character that is Cheryl Blumenthal. That's it. It's in the can. Whatever is in there is what's going to be in this movie.

I suppose that's how I will continue to feel about everything as we move along. The process is long and the days are long, but it all still seems to happen in a flash. Even the sleeping happens faster than I'd like it to. Speaking of which...

The night draws to a close with a session of logging and blogging. Now to sleep!

 

 

Shooting Diary - Day 11

I can't believe we're almost done with Week 2 of shooting. We are a little ahead of schedule and things are going pretty well. Each day has its own unique stresses. Some days those stresses are manageable, other days they can be incapacitating. Today we were at a our second and last day of our "Fiona's Apartment" location. I was filled with stress throughout the day, as we had a crazy long scene to accomplish with lots of coverage and blocking. In fact, this particular scene had more camera setups than any others in the film.

With a 7:00AM call time, we started the day off like we usually do. Brad, Zak, and I all sat down to go through the day's shot list and map out the order and amount of time needed for each setup. After a thorough game plan, we diagrammed the day's shot list using overhead sketches of the room layouts. We then pencilled in the locations of the actors and their blocking for the scene. After that, we drew in all the various camera setups and angles with which we would cover the scene.

One the game plan was in place, I went to Hair and Makeup to check on our two main actors for the day. They were in the makeup chairs running their lines, and of course they had questions for me about the script. Their questions were good ones, and ultimately resulted in me changing a line or two. I'm not usually a push-over for that sort of actor rewriting, but they were making a terrific point (and I was exhausted). After the actor chat, we brought them in to run through the entire scene from top to bottom for the DP and crew. I usually use this as an opportunity to fine-tune blocking and get a head start on how I want to shape their playing of the scene. I usually just take my viewfinder and watch them rehearse the scene from various angles. There is almost always bits of inspiration that pop up during blocking rehearsal.

After the blocking rehearsal we waited another half hour for the Grip and Electrics crew to prep the kitchen for photography. We were only up and running after 10:00am, which is lame. I felt like for all our planning and organization, we ultimately got off to a slow start. The rest of the day would feel like catch-up. I hate doing it, but I end up looking at my watch when I should be focused on the scene at hand.

All things considered, we got some terrific stuff from the day. The performances were top-notch and the crew did their thing like they do it. The last few shots ended up being a bit of a compromise of what we had wanted to get and what we could manage with given time constraints and budget/location constraints. Ultimately, things got done. I haven't seen any daily footage yet because it is still logging.

More tomorrow. I'm tired. I already fell asleep halfway through whatever I'm writing here. In fact, today I actually fell asleep for a second while watching a scene on the monitor. How's that for encouragement? I fell asleep watching my own movie! Then I drank too much coffee and became stressed and jittery. So the cycle goes.

I'm out.

s.

 

Shooting Diary - Day 10

  I foolishly went to bed late last night and it caught up with me today. This morning had a generous call time of 7:30AM. Because I  our location was the home of a close friend, I got there early to facilitate the production team.

The day had its ups and downs, but we learned a very valuable independent filmmaker lesson. If you want to be low profile but are not a low-profile production, leave no evidence whatsoever.

I've been thinking about and talking about productions scale since I first started this blog and it is a recurring theme for us now that we are filming. There is doing things the "right" way, the "wrong" way, and "the way we are working today". All that matters is that last one. The sooner a director and his team can wrap their heads around making adjustments on the fly, the better. Each department on a film shoot has standards to be met, and minimum amounts of resources required to do their jobs. But, on some days you just can't have it. Whether we can't afford it, the location doesn't permit it, or the director simply says no, the best independent film crew is the one that is adaptable.

Today, we encountered a small hiccup that required us to be extremely adaptable. We had to be smart with our equipment, crew size, and overall efficiency. Everyone performed remarkably well. Well, everyone but me. I was so concerned as to whether or not my crew was handling the hiccup, that I found it increasingly difficult to focus on my own work behind and in front of the camera.  This is the crappy part of wearing too many hats. There is no down time. There is no easy part of the day. There is no stress that is not your own.

What stresses me out? Too many people. Too much stuff. Feeling chained to money and equipment and "standards". I love frills and added value as much as anyone, but everything comes at a price. If you want that awesome jib shot, you will need some extra gear and the people necessary to operate it. If you want a comfortable place to put actors for holding, you have to pop open a tent on the street to accommodate and ultimately freak out the building owners for your interior location because they think you look like a hollywood set.

There is no shame in being small. It's hard not to feel like an idiot when you're spending money. Even when the value is good.

I 'm peeking at some daily footage right now and it's looking quite good. Better than I thought. I'm still behind on viewing footage as I am perpetually fried at 11:30pm (now). Maybe this Sunday I'll find a minute to get it all done.

We made our day again today. We even added a scene that was reserved for tomorrow. I'm hoping we can knock out tomorrow's big scene (biggest in the film) in a reasonable amount of time. More importantly, I hope I don't have to rewrite the whole opening of that scene. I'll be making that decision on my way to set in the morning.

I sleep.

 

Shooting Diary - Day 9

With a 4:00am production call and a 5:00am Seth call, today was an early one. We were filming in a restaurant in the East Village and had a monster day ahead of us. The idea was to take this one restaurant and shoot it as three different locations in the film. We had this in our minds for a long time and planned accordingly. We mapped out the day with the shot list, extras, and we were very specific about our camera angles, lighting schemes and design.

First up at 7:00am was the bar scene. I wanted to shoot most of the day with economy, which meant no coverage for each scene. Having minimal setups for each scene also permitted us to shoot the restaurant for one main angle for each script location. That means we need to do as many takes as we require to get the scene and camera work to happen the right way from beginning to end. The bar scene was only two shots that each featured more than one character, dialogue, and our dolly and track. The dolly keeps the camera moving so we don't find ourselves getting stale with one-take shots that are locked off on a tripod. Because the bar scene takes place at night, our crew blacked out the windows and Zak and his team lit the room like a night club. With a little help of Brad managing the background actors, the place looked like a hot night spot in no time. Speaking of no time, we had to jump into our next scene at 11:00m, right after our lunch break.

After we lunched, we let the sunshine back into the restaurant, switched the shooting direction, and re-laid the dolly tracks. The second scene was also a single shot moving on a dolly. We did multiple takes of this one and had a blast. We had three terrific actresses on-set today and none of them disappointed. The only real hurdles we had today were the Avenue B street sounds  and the fact that I was in front of the camera for every scene today. This was the first day to be so acting heavy for me. I enjoyed it, of course, and it certainly keeps me thinking on my toes.

Hair and Makeup and Wardrobe were all stationed in Alex's apartment upstairs from the restaurant. Production management and our DIT also camped out up there in the comfortable air-conditioned rooms. My favorite part was the home-brewed coffee.

Last up was another scene in a restaurant (to be shot in our restaurant). This time, we turned around and shot directly into the windows to have a slightly backlit look. The room transformed yet again and made for a convincing third location. We shot this last scene in multiple setups and coverage, so we felt free to screw up and retry things as needed. Because of our comprehensive coverage, I've no doubt that  I will have many options when editing.

That's it. I'm tired. Good night.