Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shooting An Affair: Day Eleven (vacant lot = rocky terrain)

I'll be honest: it's 5:30am, I'm tired, and I realize the post title is lacking in wit. But I'm just too tired to think of anything else.

We started shooting at around 6:30pm in a vacant lot where we had set up a swing set. This swing set was supposed to be on the property of the motel where we had previously shot. You might recall from previous blog posts that the motel decided they didn't want to honor their contract and allow us to finish shooting there. So we had to move this beast of a swing set out to Marlin, then move it back to West (where the studio is - because it's the only place we have to store it). Then it had to be brought back to Waco today and set up for the shoot. Did I mention that we were going to give it to the motel after the shoot was done. We bought it and were just going to let them have it. Yeah, that's not going to happen now. And it wasn't easy to make this look like it was taking place just at the edge of the motel parking lot, but DP Taylor Rudd did a really terrific job with that.

Anyway, we got two shots done before the sun went behind some buildings. That was what we needed to get, and we managed, but we were fighting the heavy winds the whole time. Not only does the wind make the actors look funny (hair and clothes blowing everywhere), but it really impacts the sound. Microphones with wind blowing into them don't yield good sound. A good sound person knows some tricks to counteract this, but they only work so well.

So as we waited on the sun to set for our night scene, we circled the taller vehicles of our crew members around the swing set to kill some of the wind. And that helped.

I could tell at the start of the night that people were just moving slow. Fatigue has really set in, and I include myself. I was moving at half speed, frustrated with the compromises and difficulties of this scene (which had moved location three times), and just not feeling well, to be honest. And I could see that others were having the same problem. A few people left early because they were feeling nauseated or unwell.

So once we started shooting the night scene, I was pleasantly surprised when it started going well. The shots looked nice, the scene played well, and we got our coverage rather quickly. I thought (knock on wood) that we would surely be done earlier than our planned 5:30am wrap.

Sigh - it was not to be. Our final shots were on the Steadicam, and between our inexperience with it and the heavily uneven terrain in the vacant lot, this became a really difficult shot to get. We reached take 20 on the main two-shot before we felt confident that we had a few solid options from which to choose. I had planned on doing some coverage in the form of close ups of each of the main actors in the conversation, but we simply couldn't achieve a desirable level of focus at the closeness I wanted. You need a certain amount of light to focus. We were working in low light conditions. We had more lighting instruments, but we were out of power options. We were so far from our power sources that we had run out of "stingers" (extension cords). So we didn't have enough light to maintain sharp focus on the close ups. So we just had to decide to live with the single shot coverage - which means the scene really can't be edited at all. That's frustrating, but it was all we could do.

At the end of the night, in addition to packing up all equipment, we had to take apart that darn swing set. I didn't want anyone to decide to play on it and get hurt. So while the crew was putting up lights, camera, and sound equipment, I hopped on top of the swing set with a wrench and started pulling out bolts from the crossbeam. That's harder than it sound at 5am in the dark. I just wanted that darn thing apart, and if I'd had an axe, I might have used that.

Got all the bolts out, then started in on the many screws holding it together as well. Power drill/screwdriver died, so me and several grips started working the remaining screws manually. Producer Brian Elliott jumped in as well. It was a team effort. We finally got it all apart and laid all the pieces down. No one on the crew has a truck large enough to haul it, so the engineer from my office (who has a trailer) has been helping us move it. Now we just have to determine what to do with the thing. If anyone wants a swing set for free, it's still in the vacant lot on 6th street. I have all the hardware.

With that done, I was more ready to go home than any other day or night on this shoot. Tomorrow night, we at least will be indoors. If you're going to spend the whole night out shooting a movie, it's at least better to be in a nice restaurant with air conditioning and bathrooms (did I mention we had to drive several miles to find a bathroom when shooting at the vacant lot? It being a vacant lot and all, we didn't have much access to bathroom facilities).

I didn't take any pictures because, well, I forgot to and I was tired. Or I forgot because I was tired. Five more shooting days.

Edited to add: I completely forgot that at about take 9 of the 20-take marathon Steadicam shot, some student crew members who were stationed at a corner to make sure our traffic barriers were obeyed came back to the set to report that they were completely freaked out by a homeless guy who came by their station and talked to them at length about killing a congressman who he claimed to have killed his wife. So - I don't have a whole lot in the way of details on that, but I owe it to those kids to include it. And, of course, as soon as it had been reported, the first words out of someone's mouth was, "Hey Chris, there's soemthing to blog about tonight!"


Blogger Jonathan said...

Wow. Sorry to hear how difficult it was; especially sorry you were not able to get the closeups you needed. I hope tonight's shoot goes better and that you and your wonderfully dedicated crew are able to enjoy some tapas.

Just out of curiosity, on average, how many takes do you uaually shoot for a scene? (Just so I know what 20 takes really means.)

6/21/2011 8:26 AM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

I don't want to make it sound like I'm complaining - we got a good scene shot, and I think I was just wasted after a long night.

We normally don't exceed 5 or takes unless there are technical difficulties. On a complicated shot, we might do it 8 or 10 times. This was a 1.5 page dialogue scene done continuously 20 times in a row.

6/21/2011 1:42 PM  

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