Filming: Weekend Four

Every movie shoot has its bad days. I did not expect all of our bad days to happen all at once.

Saturday was, to put it gently, a little on the rough side. It kicked off with some poor communication between Ryan and myself, in which I failed to properly get my D.P. to understand how that day’s shooting, involving one half of a two-day/two-set shoot, would cut together with stuff we wouldn’t film until Sunday at a location he hadn’t seen. It’s an old filmmaking trick, creating geography where it doesn’t exist by editing footage from two locations together to make them appear as one. To him, filming at this angle here and that angle there just didn’t add up, which dropped by own confidence by several levels as I second-guessed my arithmetic.

We also had difficulty figuring out the visuals for a montage where (spoiler alert!) Bert sets out to eat our titular villain, which would have to be created almost entirely in the editing room. Time was lost with the two of us trying to piece it all together. Not sure we ever did. (It didn’t help that we were shooting on the world’s most visually unappealing industrial road, giving Ryan nothing but dankness to film.) It’s now up to our trusty editor, Matt, to cut it all together with the footage from Sunday in a desperate attempt to make it look slightly better than Monster a-Go Go.

Then came the wind. Holy cats, it was a windy day, the kind they make Winnie the Pooh movies about. We had to plow through it, knowing most of the dialogue we’d film would be completely unusable, the inevitable ADR session adding to our post-production workload. Tarps to block out the wind were no match for the gusts, and green screens became increasingly difficult to keep in place. The up side to all the wind was that it made us not care about perfect sound, which made us not worry too much about the nonstop traffic noise, not to mention the sound of trains rolling by every half hour.

Traffic did kick our butts anyway, though, since our road was quite busy for a weekend, which it was not supposed to be. We kept having to pause as trucks and vans rolled through the set.

Then came the extras – or, more to the point, then didn’t come the extras. A little over half the crowd that had signed up to attend the shoot didn’t show up, leaving us with a mob of panicked onlookers that’s ridiculously small. This might work to the comedy’s advantage (I’m reminded of the “please disperse” scene in The Naked Gun), but at the time, it worked only in terms of pissing me off. However, those who did show were great sports about both the waiting around and the silly running away from an imaginary monster.

We also faced a time crunch, not just for keeping up with the daylight, but for Jake, who had to leave by 3:30 PM even though some effects essentials meant we couldn’t shoot his key scene until late in the day. The three o’clock hour was a mad rush where “getting it right” lost priority to “getting it at all.” His final shot managed to be 90% perfect and 10% car driving through the background, meaning we’ve already scheduled reshoots on our emergency pick-up day in mid-April. Told you the traffic was trouble.

Everyone left Saturday tired, miserable, and sunburnt, the latter due to many of us forgetting that outdoor filming means standing in the sun for eight hours. Add in the spring forward from Daylight Savings Time, and Sunday morning saw a parade of pissy, sluggish grumps.

Once we woke up enough, Sunday went more smoothly. P.A.-turned-continuity guy Josh donated his house for the day, and aside from some bitterly cold outdoor shots (the man lives across the street from the Ohio River, adding to the chill), the locations worked fine. But then my daughter went home early due to illness, which tugged at my concentration for a while. And then Jack – already suffering after being forced to freeze his rump off while sitting in a window sill for an hour or so – got a (likely unrelated, we hope) bug himself, meaning we had to plow through his scenes before he’d have the chance to pass out and/or throw up on the carpet. This led to another mad time rush which turned what should’ve been a simple day into another frenzy of “let’s just get it on tape.”

But was the weekend a loss? Perhaps not as much as I originally called it in my post-shoot grumbles. Looking over the behind-the-scenes footage, I see an entire cast willing to chip in as crew. Holding green screens and helping with effects shots is not something actors should have to do, and yet there they are, helping out at every turn. The weekend became a group struggle and a team effort. You only find this sort of thing on small-time productions, where it springs from necessity, and I’d like to think it brings the cast and crew together as one tight-knit unit. Does such community make up for the lack of a larger crew? No, but it’s still kind of cool.

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