I saw Nikki on set for the feature film Leftovers Saturday. She made some comment that I haven't posted a blog in a while. I explained that my short film I'm doing for Short Ends Project has turned into such a nightmare that I need some distance before I write about that particular part of my life. Last week we shot Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I had problems with rain when I wanted to shoot outside, a warehouse space I was prepared to pay for which evaporated at the last minute, two actors who went MIA on me, and a raft of miscellaneous problems (most too miniscule to bother me when dropped in to my lap two or three at a time, but in a good-sized wave crashing down, well, it can put a guy off his footing).
The footage we've gotten, I hasten to add, it wonderful. Our actors shined and the crew pulled together admirably. I never felt things were veering too far out of control, as I had Martha Prentiss and Laura Evans in the cast. More about the brilliance of these incredible actors later when I get around to giving a blow-by-blow of the short.
But, as I'm giving my take on the Leftovers production, I'll bring it up to speed.
Saturday, I got up at a sane time. Six-thirty. I had an eight forty-five call time in Seguin. I had time for an espresso and some oatmeal while catching up with Amy Goodman on radio over the internet.
When I got to the location, with maybe five minutes to spare, I noticed that one of our actors, Tasha, had arrived. Her car was parked off the road on the grassy verge. I waved, and shut off my engine, and pivoted so I could put my feet up on bench seat of my truck and wait. I fished a tattered paperback of Marcus Aurelius from behind my seat, and waited. The Seguin location is a beautiful house on the banks of the Guadalupe River. It's perimetered by a fence. An electric gate keeps people out. Russ is our contact person with the owners (who are gracious enough to give us full run of the place — they shift to their second home in Austin to keep out of our hair). He has the electric clicker to get us inside. There had been some confusion about the call time. Robin had put it at 8:45 because some of the crew (and I'm not naming names) were always running late. What happened was that a lot of people showed up at 8:45, and we got into the place at nine.
I don't think the ploy worked.
The day started out bad, and it got worse. We were all unfocused. Tracie was down in the carport using my compressor to inflate a prop child's wading pool. The box made it took massive. It was a very involved affair with about six different air compartments. It had an inflatable slide. And this weird giraffes' head that sprayed water from its nose. When finally assembled, it was small enough to fit atop a folding card table. When Robin, in passing, asked how the pool was coming along, I asked if she was expecting the pool featured in a photo on the box. “Well, yeah,” she said. “FYI,” I muttered, “it looks like the models were midget children.”
Upstairs, I found Russ and Robin talking about the best window to shoot through so that our star, Sherri, can be looking through to see her character's husband playing with the three boys thrown into their foster care. I'd expected a shot through the kitchen window. But I found Russ and Robin in the rear bedroom. It was a great view. I would have liked some sense of preproduction planning. Some story-boards. Shot lists. But all I could do as Russ and Robin moved through a series of miscommunications, was to pull out the window screens so we could have a clean shot through the windows. Erin appeared out of nowhere and began cleaning the window glass. Kevin drove off to NewTek to borrow their large crane.
I gelled all out six Lowell lights, and defused them. It was still not enough to fight the sunlight coming in through windows on three walls. We wanted a shot with Sherri in a close one-shot with windows behind her. I used three sheets of 2×2 foot neutral density filters to tame the sunlight. With all the windows at this location, I wish we had huge sheets of ND filters. Sadly, we don't.
We did pretty good on Saturday, even thought we had neither focus nor energy.
We got all of our scenes shot (though we stayed late).
The final bedroom scene took way too long. And I'm still not sure why. We lit it blue for moon light with 2000 watts of light coming through the venetian blinds, and a 250 watt Lowell Pro Light washing in from the bathroom.
There was something about the choreography of Sherrie and DB rolling around on the bed. Robin wanted one thing. Russ wanted something else.
I'd lost interest in the whole thing. I was in the adjacent room, readied if my name was called. I opened a book on table titled Dogwalker. It's a collection of short stories by Arthur Bradford. This guy's good. The power struggle in the other room between Director Robin and DP Russ — it paled under the cunning prose of Bradford.