Shooting Journal - Day 21

With less than a week to scramble everything together, we had an awesome Day 21 in the studio. We shot at Fireproof/Nutroaster Studios in Bushwick and had a grand time. Lots of last-minute pieces had to come together including:

  • Garrett hiring a crew and securing a stage for the day
  • Alex and Ryan buying and assembling and disassembling  and returning a table from Ikea
  • David pulling upwards of ten outfits for actor wardrobe
  • Alex finding an actor to play our Interviewer, losing him and then finding another actor
  • Nicole flying Brian back to NY from the UK for 12 hours to shoot
  • Me writing and rewriting and hoping no one gets upset about the last-minute new material

Everything went famously. The vibe on set was the most relaxed of the entire shoot by far. The crew and production team were able to set everything up, sit back, and watch the actors work. Because our lighting and set were going to be the same for the run of the day, we set up a few rows of chairs behind the monitor and everyone sat and enjoyed the performances. 

Speaking of performances, I feel like I should have charged admission to the shoot. To watch Brian Cox and Bill Sage sitting at a table working for six hours is exactly the kind of thing I would pay top dollar for. Bill was our last-minute savior for the Interviewer (a small but awesome part, I think) and he really took all of the scenes to their full potential. Brian had actually worked with Bill before so they had a bit of a report together.

 

dsc_0026.jpg

We shot 6-8 takes of each scene with two sizes. We changed lenses only once and I am thrilled with that decision. For 95% of the day we stayed with the 35mm and switched to a 50mm only for the final shot. If I had to pick a single lens to live with for an entire film shoot, It'd probably be  the 35mm.

Technical hiccups reared their ugly heads as they always do on a low-budget shot. We had a couple of issues with some corrupt sound files, but we are sorting that out now. We also had a pain-in-the-ass fly that would fly into frame whenever the take was really great.  That's all though.

After the wrapping the film shoot. We transitioned to a still photo setup, where I took photos of Harold in various different outfits to be used in the film. We used a simple 2 light setup against a gray seamless backdrop. We fired all of those off  within about 20 minutes and then called it a day. A very good day.

Wrapping Harold Blumenthal

Thank you for humoring me while I took some time off from everything. Although, I haven't been blogging or shooting anything in the past week, there has been plenty going on with wrapping Passing Harold Blumenthal. The team at Act Zero has been closing out all of the paperwork and payroll and nuts and bolts of the operation, while myself and my boy Ryan Young have been working to map out the post-production plan.

Post-production is something that is traditionally planned out and budgeted for ahead of time, along with everything else. My approach for this project, for better or worse, was always to throw as much money and production value onto the screen as possible during principal photography and worry about post later. I don't want to offend any post-production artists or technicians and undermine the importance of their work, but to quote Edward Burns, "When I have money, then I have respect." For now, whatever I can get for free is what will suffice.

Some might be critical of that approach but I believe that, although not ideal, it is the smartest way to capitalize on the current affordable technologies as well as the flexible timeline. In production, everything has to happen at the same time for the same consecutive period of time. Everything must be paid for up-front and together. In other words, I can't film a movie on location with a twenty-person crew with my laptop. I can, however, edit the movie with my laptop.

I'll go into the technical process of beginning the edit in our next post, but suffice it to say I am very glad to have taken some time away from the footage and filming experience to clear my head. Part of filming a movie feels like a step forward, but another part just feels like you've lost something. I though I knew what  I had in my screenplay. I could read it, imagine it, and romanticize its potential. Now, I have about 45 hours of footage that needs to be organized and re-purposed for the screen. In some ways, I feel like I dropped my screenplay on the ground and it broke into a million little pieces. Now I have to put those pieces back together from memory and based on what I can reclaim and re-imagine. Don't get me wrong. The footage looks gorgeous and I think we have a great movie on our hands, but there is much to relearn and rediscover as  I venture into the edit. Excited to see what we come up with!

Welcome back, everyone.

Shooting Diary - Day 19

I awoke at 4:45am this morning ready for the final day of shooting this film. Today was our "steadicam day" which called for the shooting of three major scenes throughout Manhattan. The plan was to trim down the crew, bundle into a single 15-passenger van with people, camera, support, wardrobe, etc. The van would serve as our "base camp" and major mode of transportation. I arrived to the location early to  wrap my head around this daunting last day. I was sitting in an empty Starbucks reading through the scenes when Zak happened to walk in. We chatted about the day's agenda and how tough it would potentially be. After guzzling our coffee, we went to meet the rest of the crew to get ready. The team was lean and mean: Cinematographer, Assistant Camera, Steadicam Operator, Sound Mixer, Wardrobe, Production Manager, Makeup, Assistant Director, and three Producers. We had actually anticipated less hands on deck for this day, because we couldn't afford much more than the Steadicam itself. Our team of producers as well as some volunteers came out to flesh out this crew and it was truly all hands on deck.

First scene up was a simple dialogue scene that leads into a running sequence. The second scene was the running sequence itself which took place in Chinatown. In addition to our able steadicam operator, Dave Ellis, we utilized a custom rickshaw built for mobile camera operation. We needed to be able to keep up with a runner at sprinting speed, so we perched Dave in the seat of this metal contraption pulled and/or pushed by Alex and Zak. For those of you who have ever been, you'll know how hard it is to even walk through Chinatown let alone sprint through it with a Steadicam operator ahead of you. I've had anxiety about this day for a long time. But we nailed it. It was insane. Check it out.

 

We captured amazing stuff all day. We stopped around 12:30pm for a Chinatown lunch. I ate very little as I was still pretty nervous and knew I had a good deal of running to do. My legs were killing me from all the running. That, coupled with the heat and exhaustion were taking their toll on me. Brad ran the day like he always does with  deliberate and steady urgency without any inkling of panic. By around 3:00pm we were done with the rickshaw and moving up to Midtown to shoot our final scene of the shoot.

The wrap party followed the day's shoot. Everyone was there from actors to crew to friends. It was truly awesome to sit on this NYC roof-deck and know that we have this thing in the can. (I made Brad promise me that we shot everything we needed to.) We still have another two days of pickups in a couple of months, but they are just for icing on the cake. The story is there. We have it.

I can't articulate much more at this point other than to say thank you to all of the many people who did me the favor of helping me to make this movie. The filmmaking process is massive collaboration and the past three weeks have been supremely fulfilling. More thoughts to come, I'm sure.

Thanks for watching.

s.

Shooting Diary - One Day More

Although we wrapped principal photography yesterday, we still have this crazy day of shooting tomorrow. So today is really just a day off, not the day after wrapping a shoot. In fact, I'm not exactly sure why we aren't calling this principal photography. The basic idea is that we will be a bare bones crew with minimal resources stealing whatever shots we hadn't managed to get in our 18 day shoot. Don't get me wrong, this isn't just a day of shooting leftovers and B-roll. It will be a day of grueling steadicam sequences with an actor sprinting through Chinatown. In addition, there are two dialogue heavy scenes that will be shot around midtown. We have a call time of 6:00am and will be racing to squeeze in everything we need to get done in time for our wrap party in the evening.

Tomorrow night, my movie will be "in the can". For all intents and purposes, the story will have been captured and ready for editing. These are exciting times.

Here's a random video that I took of Zak and he took of me. We were on our 21st take of a one-shot scene and thought we'd roll some dolly videos. Essentially, I am watching him watch me watching him watch me make a movie. Enjoy.