Sunday, June 26, 2011

Shooting Where We Started: The Penultimate Day

Before I compose my thoughts on today's shooting, let me just state this: tomorrow is the last day of principal photography on my third feature film.

And that, my friends, is a really nice feeling. The mushy middle of the shoot, when the days and nights have grown long and the shoot feels like it will never reach a conclusion, gave way to a countdown of days where I realized I was doing what I loved, day in and day out, and I didn't want it to end.

Now, to be sure, I am exhausted and couldn't go on doing this indefinitely. But I get to work with committed creative people all day. What's not to love? At one point tonight, while the DP was relighting for a new scene, I was sitting in the green room with the two lead actors talking about the ephemeral nature of theatrical performance, about how a performance on the stage is there for only a moment, captured only in memory, and is then gone forever. This is in contrast to the performance captured in the cinema - which is recorded for posterity and can be seen, always the same, forever and forever. It's an interesting difference, one which Stephen Tobolowsky was discussing on his podcast, The Tobolowsky Files (highly recommended, by the way; Tobo is an excellent storyteller and a really thoughtful guy).

Anyway - that's the kind of experience you get on the set just in the waiting between takes, if you're open to it, if you make yourself available. Like most other people in this day and age, I'm easily distracted by my iPhone, iPad, and other electronic devices. It's easy to waste the hours between shots and setups by focusing on those. But I love chatting with the actors, the director of photography, the producer. I'm a naturally quiet and introverted guy, but the opportunity to engage in these talks energizes me.

Today's shoot was longer than expected. We had to finished scene 27 (we shot about three-fifths of it the day before), and then also shoot scene 29 (which was very simple - a page of dialogue in one or two setup). I knew we would get through those quickly, so I also planned to do several of the next day's setups tonight, so that our final day of production, which features some challenging material, wouldn't be too rushed. But the setups that I thought would be simple were not, it turned out, so simple. I should know by know that everything takes three times longer than what I think it will take (and half the time that the DP wants to spend - no offense to my excellent DP, Taylor Rudd - he likes tweak, as does every DP I've ever met, but he's also respectful of the schedule).

The night dragged on, but since we were working with a skeleton crew today, we just pushed through. We did start to get 'punchy' at around midnight (early for us, but everyone's exhausted from the overnights last week). People were making silly jokes, the crew was tempting me with late night goldfish snacks, and the reading of the slate whenever we marked a shot was turning into an exercise in bizarre non-sequiturs. I'm amazed Matt (the actor) was able to perform his somber scenes amidst such cutting up. We were hardly professional tonight (my apologies to Matt - though I don't think he minded too much).

I made it home by about 1:30am and am once again too wired for sleep just yet. And tomorrow we wrap it all up.

Finally, some more pictures for you. Sorry about the color and quality on some.

As we were tweaking lighting on a shot, Matt decided to turn this into a very different type of movie. Cue the Psycho music...

The next two shots were my attempt to show the DP what the actors and I had decided on for their positions for the next scene. I posed them on the bed and took a few shots while Taylor was working on a different lighting setup in the other room.

To achieve the lighting Taylor and I wanted for this setup, he created what he termed "a Tweaker's Dream" - a maze of c-stands and flags around a light, so that it would only illuminate a very limited space.

Here, Taylor prepares to actually shoot that scene. I wanted a high angle/overhead and very wide shot, so we had a wide angle lens on the camera, and Taylor had to get a little higher on the ladder than he was comfortable doing.

In this shot, Matt and Cora are clearly happy with that shot - they are reviewing it on the monitor.

And the last shot of tonight - some of the diehard late nighters - from left to right: Grant Hall (Postproduction Supervisor), Brian Elliott (Producer), Heesung Song (2nd AC), Tyler Ellis (Production Designer), Rob Norman (First AD). Good work to them and all the others on set. One of the reasons I posted this picture - and one of the things I really like about it - is that there is a real sense of camaraderie on the set. People like each other and enjoy being together. In spite of the hard work, people are having fun. Making movies is hard work, no doubt, but it also can be really enjoyable. It's hard work in the service of art and entertainment.

So tomorrow - did I mention that it's the last day of production?


Blogger Jonathan said...

You have a wonderful record of your production here, Chris. It's been a joy to read. Best of luck tomorrow with your final shot.

6/27/2011 9:07 AM  
Blogger Chris Hansen said...

Thanks for reading, Jonathan - I'm glad you've enjoyed them!

6/28/2011 1:01 AM  

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