Monday, June 06, 2011

Shooting An Affair: Day Three (Ugh)

It's 6am, and I just returned from the third production day of my new film. I had no idea when this night's shooting started that it would turn out to be the most discouraging and frustrating experience of my filmmaking career.

We were out in Marlin, TX at a shoddy motel, shooting exterior scenes to go with the interiors we are shooting on the set we built. We were there the previous night, so we had shot a lot there already and were "committed" to the look of the motel that served as backdrop in those shots.

About 11pm on a night when we had one more scene to shoot and five hours to do it, we found out the owner had decided we needed to pay him "a lot more" if we wanted to come back after tonight. He had heard about Hollywood films and said we should be paying more because of all the power we were using. We also happened to learn that the chief complainant against us was the motel's pimp. Apparently we were cutting into his business and disturbing his peace and quiet.

I guess we picked the right place for the look we were going for.

Anyway, finding out that we were going to lose four days' worth of scenes we had intended to shoot there - or have to re-shoot everything we had already done - was disheartening in the extreme. I was so angry and frustrated that I couldn't think straight. I sat paging through my script, trying to see what else we absolutely had to have at this location, but my thoughts were swirling.

I owe a big debt to my producer, Brian Elliott, who calmly laid out several scenarios that we could choose from regarding how to proceed. He also pulled me aside and said a little prayer for me and the production.

I don't think I directed the next scene very well - I was too distracted and frustrated to focus. I'm afraid to see how it turned out, honestly, but after that, I started collating my scenes and figuring out how to make it work. It was going to make for a long night and some creative compromises about which the director of photography and I were not going to be happy. But I felt that if the acting was good, the rest could be excused.

By the end of the night, we had powered through several scenes (or parts of scenes) that we needed to have. The acting was great (and the actors were put in a difficult position by virtue of having to memorize lines they weren't ready for and project themselves into emotional places for which they hadn't yet prepared). The crew was great - they gelled and moved efficiently and effectively.

Truth be told, knocking down that much stuff in those hours was kind of exhilarating, even if I had to compromise my shot selection quite a bit.

So I guess my most frustrating and discouraging experience in filmmaking (thus far) turned out to be something of a triumph over adversity. I'm proud of how we worked together to get this done, especially with a largely student crew.

And I may never go to Marlin, TX again.


Blogger Jonathan said...

So sorry to hear how frustrating the night was, but it sounds like the producer, cast, and crew all pulled through for you. Despite the painful compromises you had to make, it must be good to know all those people so strongly supported you and the project.

Hang in there, my friend!

6/06/2011 9:04 AM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

Thanks, J. It was a lousy night but we turned it around!

6/06/2011 11:43 AM  
Anonymous David McElroy said...

Hey, as long as you got it done, nobody could have asked any more of you. I think it's amazing that you were able to find a way -- on the fly, in the middle of the disaster -- to make it work. You guys deserve a lot of credit for not folding and just finding a new location.

6/06/2011 4:12 PM  

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