Leftovers – Day One

It's Sunday night as I write about the Saturday shoot for Leftovers.  The first thing I want to say is that the title is awful. There.  I got it out of the way.  The next thing I want to say is, I am beat, man.  I woke up at 5am to make a 6:30 call time in Seguin, Texas.  We all busted ass until a little after midnight.  We packed up, and headed out.  I got home at two in the morning.  I made a quick crash into the yielding comfort of my futon, because I had to make a 7am call time the next morning.  I mean, of course, later that same morning.

So, Saturday, the first day of shooting, we met up at our only location for the day.  It's a beautiful house on the banks of the Guadalupe River.  We were shooting only interiors, which was good.  The warm weather of the previous week had turned back to cold and dark.  And we were shooting only in one room.  A roomy, visually engaging kitchen.

Most of the action we shot involved three actors.  Sherri Small Truitt.  Andrea Hallford.  Tasha Straley.  I had only seen Sherri's work previous.  She was one of the stars of Robin's first feature, Water's Edge.  Sherri conveys warm and appealing with seemingly no effort.  She's probably just playing herself.  But beyond her natural charisma, she make a strong mark on Water's Edge with a few very potent emotionally charged set pieces.

Tasha unfortunately had very few lines in the scenes we shot Saturday.  But I had fun watching her reactions to the other performers.  This is one of the perks of crew work on a film.  When I direct (and I assume most other directors work the same way), I pay attention most to the performances which are important to the scene.  And it is only when I look at the footage later that I realize how nuanced a performance I got from an actor who's character wasn't carrying the scene.  But if you're less involved — on this film I'm camera assistant and lighting — you have the luxury to check out everything.  And Tasha was giving a great performance.

Andrea looks incredibly beautiful on camera.  She's got the upbeat apathetic teenage daughter of privileged parents locked down to perfection.  Playful and not yet committed to a direction in her life.

There were times when Sherri, Tasha, and Andrea were running through lines in a very free unguarded, manner.  But when the camera began to run, that magic drifted off.  I think one of the problems here is that when actors are doing film work, a part of their brains are always preoccupied with physic blocking, so they will be in the same place and the same posture for each take and each camera set-up.  You loose a fair amount of that spontaneity.

Later on, David “DB” Brown, showed up to act in a single scene.  I finally understood why they cast him.  I had only met him once before.  He seemed quiet and unassuming … well, for an actor.  But when the camera began to roll, he gave us some unexpected depth on the lovable pussy-whipped hubby of a successful, driven woman.  I'm looking forward to see him do more work with his character.

Sometime around seven at night, we realized that we would have to re-shoot one scene at a later date.  We were too far behind to get one of our child actors in and out quick enough.  The actor was Ayla.  I hadn't seen her since the auditions for Operation Hitman, about a year ago.  She blew us all away at the auditions.  As did Gabby.  I'm not exactly sure why we decided on Gabby, but they were both phenomenal.  I'm glad to see I'll be working with Ayla.

She and her parents came upstairs while everyone broke for dinner.  She wanted to give her folks a tour of the location.  After her tour, I hung out in the kitchen for a while with her and her mom and dad.  It seems that this little girl has been pretty busy … specializing in portraying little girls that get murdered.  She seemed to find the creepy stuff a lot of fun.

She told a great “Hollywood” story about a recent film she worked on which also featured David Carradine and Ron Jeremy.  (IMDA tells me it's the Adam Rifkin caveman film titled Homo Erectus.)  I won't go into the story, it was really the way she told it — and the fact that it was being told by a child.  For a kid, Ayla is funny, smart, adorable, and tough.  And if you have written a script which features a sarcastic ten year old girl who can kick the shit out of, well, David Carradine and Ron Jeremy, get Ayla's people on the horn ASAP.

All in all, it was a long damn day.  The saddest thing was sound genius, Rudolfo Fernando.  He's down with the flue, or something.  He still managed to  show up pretty much on time.  But, in his desire not to infect anyone else, he spent the entire 18 hour day wearing a white surgical mask. 

We were all too busy to generate much pity.  Sorry Rudolfo.  Get better soon.

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