Leftovers: Day Twelve — No Fish

It's a miserable cold, sloppy day.  It's 10 at night, 35 degrees.  I don't think it ever got over 45 today.  Those days early in the week that got up to 85 spoiled me.  It's freezing in this place.  I got home from Robin's shoot about an hour ago.  And with the heat up all the way in this drafty place, I'm hunched up at the keyboard, periodically warming my hands with my breath.  It's well into April, this sort of weather is supposed to be little more than a vague, unpleasant memory.

I was far from thrilled getting up this morning at 5:30 to make the 7am call-time in Seguin, but I knew it'd be warmer there then it'd be at my house.  I was correct, and no matter how much our cast and crew carped about the location house being cold, I was happy.  At least I wasn't able to see my breath.

We had five scenes to shoot.  Really, four.  One was broken up by an insert scene.  But we had to drop three scenes (that broken-up one as well as the insert).  It was, as I've more than amply made clear, cold and raining.  So, we didn't bother shooting the bit where DB and the boys are fishing at the river.  And as the scene connected to this exterior bit was where one of the boys brings a wriggling fish into the kitchen — a fish he had just caught from the river —  we found ourselves without the live prop fish.  Someone from Robin or Kevin's family was apparently in the neighborhood dangling a baited hook into the Guadalupe River.  Kevin received the occasional fishing up-date.  It just wasn't happening.  The fish were torpid and huddled down in the mud, probably a good sight more miserable than myself.  So, we concentrated on the two other scenes, and brought in a third, alternate scene.

We began the morning with a night scene in the master bedroom.  We blacked out the windows and threw in some blue-gelled lights to give the impression of moonlight.  We added a practical reading light to warm things up, and let some light spill in from the bathroom.  The information conveyed in this scene is that David and Carol have taken in three young boys until their irresponsible mother can be found.  As David and Carol are starting to get PG frisky, the youngest two boys rush the room and tumble into bed with them, wanting to play and share knock-knock jokes.  As they're led back to their room, the high-strung of the two gets over-excited and vomits.  David escorts the two boys into the bathroom, and the third boy comes in to apologize for his brothers.  And then, David and Carol's granddaughter comes in to see what all the hubbub is about.  When she see the mess on the carpet, she gets grossed out, and also vomits.

It's maybe two and a half pages.  Three at the tops.  Yes, there was a fair amount of blocking.  Six actors, four of them children.  But, damn!, it sure as hell shouldn't have taken us six hours.  I don't know what happened.  (Well, the problem all along has been that we lack a whip-cracking AD.)  We should have knocked that whole scene out in three hours.  It was involved.  But not to that degree.

Here's one thing that worked against us.  We realized that we had significantly fewer pages to shoot because of the weather.  So instead of getting out of there a few hours earlier then our 12 hour maximum day of shooting, we found ourselves in this weird scenario where we kept to that 12 hour schedule and just shot much … much … much … more… slowly.  In fact, we put in a 13 hour day.

We didn't even have a kid vomit on camera.  Not that I thought that we should.  But it would have helped justify that endless scene.  I should point out that we (production/crew) were the problem.  The cast gave us whatever we asked, and never disappointed.  Somehow we just got caught in a funk.

The next scene was more straight-forward.  Less lighting needs.  More simple blocking.  Less dialog.  It still dragged a bit.

Our final scene was the only one I was really satisfied with.  We shot in this incredible bathroom that's bigger then my whole apartment.  It was a short, basic throw-away scene.  It's the other side of a phone conversation which we'd already shot.  The fact is, we could have shot Carol's side of the phone call almost anywhere, but because Robin (wisely) decided to use that amazing bathroom, me and Russ put some significant work into lighting and deciding camera set-ups.  Hell, we already knew we weren't getting out early.  Besides, we were working with Sherri (who plays Carol), and she's getting ready for a bath when the phone rings.  Sherri is a very beautiful woman.  And that's all that is needed to make me and Russ slow down and begin to tinker with lighting and camera set-ups to make the whole scene with the pretty girl as aesthetically pleasing as possible.  I recall that Robin had initially praised the bathroom because it was so large, clean, and white.  But by the time the camera rolled for the first take of the first set-up, we had that bathroom lit warm and intimate.  I mean we had candles around the edge of the tub.  The robe Sherri first had on wasn't working.  Soon we had her wrapped in a towel, and nothing else (well, I suspect Sherri had something on under that towel (we'll analyze the footage later)).  It looked great.  The lighting.  The candles. And, especially, Sherri.  That was the fun scene to shoot.  Cozy, warm, intimate.  And Carol receives a panicky phone call from her daughter.

Things are moving along well.  We only have a handful of shooting days left.  When you run the sorts of feature film productions where the crew are working for free, points, or a pittance, it's often the case that by the halfway mark, the crew is lean, stream-lined … because some people have dropped away.  Often it's understandable.  Things come up in peoples' lives.  Such as, well, paying gigs.  And sometimes you have to be understanding and let these people go do their thing somewhere else.  So, we've become a bit smaller of a production.  Mark is still working on a paid gig.  That's a shame.  I don't know what his specific designation was on Leftovers, but he did a bit of everything.  Perfectly.  Mark is one of those folks who knows all aspects of production.  You need him to do that, he'll do that.  Perfectly.  Mark is worth five standard crew people.  And I'm sure the production he's currently working on has also learned this fact.

Since Mark has been on hiatus, Erin continues to be the most valuable crew member.  Yeah, sure, she's our art department, but she's there when you need her to do everything else.  Said it before, I'll say it again.  Before you have to ask for something, Erin's there with it.  When we were in the cold bedroom (we had to turn off the heater while shooting for audio reasons), poor Sherri was in a skimpy nightgown.  After a take, it became clear we needed to adjust the lighting scheme.  Russ was just about to ask someone to get a blanket for Sherri, and there was Erin, as if by magic, draping a blanket over Sherri's shoulders.  Also, Erin's kid sister Karli is still coming to help us.  She's there with the slate, our little clapper girl:  “Scene 53-G, take 7!”  SNAP!

Man, it's late.  I'm still cold.  Even with my oven broiling with the door open and two burners on high on the range-top.

It's pushing midnight.  And for some reason, I said yes when Matthew Jasso called up yesterday, asking if I could help him shoot a scene for one of his films Sunday morning. That's tomorrow.  Easter Sunday.  8am call time.  My life of pro-bonery never ends.  It'll be beastly cold.  And we'll be shooting in some River Walk bar — it calls itself an Authentic British Pub.  Sounds ghastly.  Don't people realize that the only authentic British pubs are to be found in that island nation, thousands of miles away?  Fuck.  I need to make a stand.  You know, where I refuse to shoot video or film in a location where I'd not otherwise go.  That would rule out all of Bexar County north of highway 410; homes in gated communities; apartment complexes; fast food restaurants; shopping malls; house built after 1940; and god damn quote unquote Authentic British Pubs.

Oh, man.  My bed's going to be so warm and cozy tomorrow morning.

What have I done by saying yes?


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