Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Short Film Saga, Part IV

After the second weekend of filming:

The second weekend of filming has come and gone, and we've all been whipped from one extreme to the other. The worst part is that all of the scheduling problems and cancellations are for good and valid reasons, so we can't even really get angry at anyone for this, which just makes things even more frustrating. After we'd rescheduled for the lead actor, we spent Friday afternoon and evening rescheduling our shots (and then again (and then again)) for two of the other actors. That cost us a lot of time that we should have been spending preparing for the shoot itself. (You can't work on prepping the shots when you keep juggling which shots you're going to do, you know?)

It showed Saturday morning, too. We spent far more time getting the lighting set up for the first two scenes than we should have needed. Actually, things just were not clicking that morning all around, when we were shooting the masters for the two comedic sex scenes. Nervous actors and actresses trying to fake orgasmic hilarity with crew crowding the bedroom and either dialog getting blown or my shouting from the monitor in the other room that we had to do it again because the carefully placed sheets had shifted and revealed the sparse clothing they still had on and that should have been out of frame. (Now we know to schedule twice the amount of time for these scenes as we'd originally thought. Some things we just have to learn by screwing them up. )

I wish to God I knew what changed after lunch, though, because once we started shooting the close-ups and the inserts, everything just came together. The scenes were just popping with life, and we were blowing takes because we were all *laughing* too hard rather than trying to fix some problem. This is the universe throwing us a bone, too, I think. Our leads really sell this when we go close on their facial expressions -- and the tighter we can frame those shots, the fewer technical problems we have to deal with!

We still fell way behind schedule, though, and the third scene that we should have started at 1 PM didn't get started until 4:30 or so. But this is where having the much-maligned screenwriter on the set helps, because I was able to drop entirely the fourth scene we'd planned to shoot that day and rewrite the fifth so that we only needed ten more minutes of shooting time at that location. Which meant we actually ended the day on time, with the entire shoot still on schedule, and some truly fantastic footage.

That made me a hero for about six minutes...

With all of us ending Saturday with the feeling that there was no problem we wouldn't overcome, Sunday was a kick in the groin from the great Chicken/Monkey God in the Sky. The caterer bailed on us *again* at the last minute, believe it or not. Valid excuse, again, but it looks like I'm going to take on handling the catering myself from this point onward, just to be safe. (She actually did come through with the meals for the cast and crew on Saturday -- though the huge, fantabulous dinner she was supposed to provide for the dining room scene never materialized, which had us literally *blow-torching* food from the nearest supermarket at the last minute so that it would at least *look* like it had been cooked!)

It just got worse from there. We couldn't start until noon because of the lead actor's scheduling problem. One of our actresses showed up sick to the point of nearly falling over and had to be sent back home, so her scene was lost. We were shooting exteriors, and the sun and all the shadows refused to cooperate. Our script supervisor aka continuity person aka my assistant wasn't there, and the reality of how much I'd been leaning on her so that I could focus on everything else just whacked me brutally in the face. Tempers were rising -- and even I was ready to lose it, for the first time since all this began.

We called the shoot on Sunday after about five hours. Too many things were conspiring against us. If we'd pushed on, we either would have had a repeat of the previous Sunday's blow-up (but this time with *me* blowing up), or we would have gotten half-assed footage we'd all hate the next morning. Even now, I know it was the right decision, but we still have to figure out where we can make up the scene that we missed while staying on budget and still getting the equipment back to the rental company on time.

And I'm still having the time of my life...