Filming: Weekend One

So long, pre-production, hello production.

Last weekend saw our first two days of shooting. And like this upcoming Sunday’s shoot, these days were light – intentionally so, since I wanted to take it easy at the start just to make sure I knew what the hell I was doing. Turns out I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I’m getting there. These were my “training wheels” scenes, simple bits that allow my crew and me to find our groove.

OK, actually it’s just me fining a groove. Ryan and Jim (our sound guy) were on top of things all the way, Shane’s fancy-goofy spaceship set was a cinch to work around, and Robb’s light makeup work (consisting entirely of dumping meat and green gel on Jacque’s face) came off just fine.

As for me, I spent the day getting used to, well, directing. On Fu shoots, no one person was in charge, really; whoever had the idea took the reins, but only to a point, and always within the realm of collaboration. Now I must learn how to shift that line of thinking – while I still hope to encourage collaboration, I must become more assertive in communicating what I want from everyone.

Add to this a cramped, hot room (a rehearsal space provided by Shane and his band, Swear Jar), a bathroom straight out of Trainspotting, and the distractions that came from creating our own system of keeping track of shots and takes (eventually perfected by Tim, one of our friendly P.A.s). The day was rough, but only to a point, thanks to the hard work of a great crew.

Sunday went much more smoothly, although I did still have a few scatterbrained moments. The Clermont County Civil Court graciously donated some office space (big thanks to Judge Thomas R. Herman for the office, to bailiff Gary Scalf for filling in as an extra, and to cast member Jen Rose for coordinating all of this), allowing us room to set up and get comfortable.

I had decided to ditch the original idea of static shots and go handheld – this goes against the simple camera work of vintage B pictures, but it made the scene look less crappy. This pleased Ryan, who’d been lobbying for handheld shots since day one; he was right.

We also attempted to do the entire scene in a single shot, and, sigh of relief, the cast was up for it, blasting through oodles of dialogue with relative ease. After two days of hearing my overly wordy script recited by the cast, I’m reminded of Harrison Ford’s famous quote to his Star Wars director: “George, you can type this shit, but you sure as hell can’t say it.” Good thing I found people who can say it.

This Sunday sees one more mini-shoot: a quickie scene in Lisa’s kitchen that also needs to be filmed in one take, plus some voice-over recording that should be a breeze. After that, there’s a weekend off (because hey, man, I don’t work on Oscar weekend), then comes March and the weekends from hell, when we must cram piles of pages into every day’s shoot. I know my crew is already up for it. I hope I will be, too.

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