Filming: Weekend Six

In bold defiance of W.C. Fields, we worked with children (well, one child) and animals (well, one animal) on Saturday. It was both enjoyable and difficult, but it would be the least of our worries over the weekend.

We know going in it would be a long day – I had planned 38 separate set-ups, and while many were quick handheld shots easily done with minimal (if any) lighting changes, that’s still way too many to cram into a day. But you know something? I think we could’ve actually pulled it off, if given the chance.

But first, a primer on the day: We were setting up at the home of Jon McEwan, better known to Friday Night Fu fans as “Jonny Mac.” He donated his place to serve as the “Billy’s house” setting, where the Creature attacks a family and our heroes arrive to investigate.

Our first setback: my brother-in-law and his family were running late. This was partially expected, since they were driving from Columbus, and with a four-year-old in tow, it was unlikely they’d make it out the door in time to get to Cincy by 9 AM. Moving their scenes (they play the attacked family) to midday would be a hiccup in the schedule, since everyone else would have to sit around for about two hours (including some actors who wound up waiting longer than they were needed on set for the whole day). Add to this delays caused by needing a little boy to pretend to be scared and get a beagle (my own, the adorable Sarah Jane) to bark on cue.

They finally arrived noon and went to work a little while later. Dealing with young Kaiden was a struggle, even with his parents’ help, but it was also great fun – the kid’s enough of a ham to know how to keep everyone laughing, and with a face that adorable, how can you not love him for trying? I’m not sure how any of it will work in the final edit – Matt’s going to have to find a way to paste together the few quick shots where he’s getting it right – but I’m cool with it so far.

Besides, the delay wasn’t a total loss; we were able to work in plenty of other shots before noon, so it’s not like we were sitting around waiting all morning. Also, Dave Davenport, the intrepid “Dr. D” from the Fu, stopped by early to film his brief cameo. He’s an old friend and a good sport, and it was good to get to hang out with him for an hour.

The second setback is what killed us: Robb was MIA all day. On a bigger production, this wouldn’t be a too problematic – someone else in his department could easily cover for him. But on a production of this scale, it’s disatrous – he’s the whole department. He had with him most of what we needed for the shoot: the full skeleton body, Jack’s skeleton legs, and the coloring we’ve used before to make twenty pounds of oatmeal look like a goopy meat trail. Without any of this, we couldn’t shoot anything on the porch (which needed the skeleton), or the driveway (which needed the “meat”), or the end of the scene (which needed Floyd’s skeleton legs). This amounted to about half of what needed to be filmed.

(The rest of this story straddles the line between what can be openly discussed in a warts-and-all blog and what would be unprofessional to discuss in public, so I’ll err on the side of the latter and leave it at that.)

To avoid having to reschedule the entire day, we attempted to shoot everything else, effectively abandoning a tightly planned schedule. (The day was plenty of me looking over the shot list and muttering “um, OK, what else can we get now?”) This did allow us the breathing room to try different jokes and fine tune some stunts; we also killed more time shooting some unscripted filler of Army guys running around, some of which had enough laughs in them to possibly warrant getting crammed into the movie wherever there’s a lull.

One of the day’s plusses: Don – playing one of our Army guys – was able to round up three extra BDUs, effectively eliminating a major problem of us not having enough costumes. He and his veteran friend became lifesavers for the day.

Setback number three: Sunday had to be scrapped entirely. The call was made late Saturday, after it became clear Ryan’s “I hate shooting in cold weather” whining was legitimate for a change. The overnight snowfall (snow in late March? curse you, Al Gore!) would have made the Sunday shoot not just uncomfortable, but unhealthy, even if the snow were to melt – one of the characters spends half the scene face down in a creek, so you can see why we opted against it.

The rest of Saturday night was spent frantically contacting various cast members to figure out when best to reshoot the scene without overbooking any single day. Fortunately, everything worked out (although our last weekend is now jam packed with marathon days). Unfortunately, we’re now out of reshoot days, so if anything else goes wrong, we’re kinda screwed.

Now, the important question: does anyone want twenty pounds of four day old oatmeal?

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