Topic: Makin' Movies
Saturday (continued from Friday's entry)
Midnightish: Scott now asks me to write up all the notes and send them to Don, whom he has contacted about writing a script. I tell Scott that since it's my idea and I heard all the brainstorming, I'd like to take a stab at writing it, and then will send that to Don, and he can clean it up or totally rewrite it if he deems fit.
1 a.m.: I send Scott to bed in hopes he'll get some sleep. I face the blank page in Final Draft. I have to figure out what the characters should be based on the actors available, and we have two interior locations lined up, plus we can do a guerrilla shoot outdoors somewhere. The film has to be between 4 and 7 minutes. With these parameters in mind, I start writing.
3:05 a.m.: I finish my draft of what is called "Secret Identity". Wow am I tired. I can't even tell if it's funny!
3:30 a.m.: Finishing some notes about the script, I shoot it off to Don. I collapse onto the air mattress Scott set up for me. I actually have a tough time going to sleep. The brain is still spinning.
6:45 a.m.: I'm blearily awake. Scott, who barely slept, has already received the script back from Don and emailed it out to the crew. Apparently, Don didn't totally rewrite it. I guess even at 3 a.m. I don't suck at writing. But the title's been changed to something better, now it's "Secret Identity Crisis".
8 a.m.: After picking up five gallons of coffee and two dozen pastries at Peets, we arrive with the grip truck to the first location: Casey's nightclub. Scott's plan is to shoot the scenes that take place in the bar first, then shoot the opening action sequence, then finish with an evening shoot at a house.
Our first monkey wrench: no one is there to unlock the location as promised, and Scott keeps leaving voice messages. Kelly and Janet and I take a quick survey of the various bits of athletic gear and clothes that have been brought as possible super suit elements, then we hurry off to a local discount store that opens early. We find little shorts to be worn atop the tights, a great jacket we can adapt for our villain's tunic, gloves, and some odds and ends. We then stop at Janet's and grab some costuming bits she has, including a cheap Vegas-era Elvis costume.
9 a.m.: We return to find the crew has moved to a nearby park in front of an official looking structure. Since the nightclub location's still not opened, the plan is to shoot the action sequence first. As the camera crew sets up everything to shoot, we madly scramble to cobble together the super suits for our hero Solar-Man (Kyle) and his arch nemesis Ice Meister (Bill). We throw everything but the kitchen sink at the costumes. I'm using art tape and colored electric tape to add details, sticking rubber appliance feet (don't ask) over unwanted branding on Kyle's shirt, and fitting aluminum appliance knob covers to Bill's jacket chest and to cover the branding on the backs of the gardening gloves. Kyle's arm covers are red socks we slice the feet from. Ka-razy!
Supervillains aren't born...they're made!
10 a.m.: Shooting is underway, but it's slow going. The early hour means the sun is shifting in such a way that the shadows from the building in the background are moving a lot, and the actors marks have to be cheated to keep them out of glare. We have to deal with gawkers driving by (sometimes in shot), and then there are funny little costuming problems. Kyle's goggles are constantly fogging up, and the silver discs on Bill's gloves tend to pop off mid-take during action!
Lunchtime: The nightclub location is finally open, so we hurry over there to set up.
Unfortunately, it's not soon enough for one of our actors, Illya, who has to depart with his scene unfilmed. Something will have to be figured out to get around this.
The nightclub is fairly large, with an upstairs and a downstairs bar, a pool table near the door, and booths. Depending on how we set up, it could serve as a bar or a cafe or even a restaurant. Since the script calls for a bar, we haul the equipment downstairs to that bar and start figuring out how to set up. I'm technically the Property Master and well as the de facto Art Director, so I have to "dress" the set. I arrange bottles and glasses, set up the bottle and drinks for the action (loaded with water or iced tea). I convince Scott that one white wall is much too blank and that they need to break up the light on it with a "cookie". They do that, and also move an animated light fixture to project onto said wall. Someone brings down a gay pride flag, and I tape that to the wall. That finishes it!
After we all scarf down sections of a six foot sub Scott had delivered, we're back to business and the shoot resumes.
Jenny—who plays Sheila the bartender—has some trouble remembering her lines. She's also not quite getting the character as written. I wrote "pushy" and she's playing it too nice. There's a half dozen extras in the scene, in the background and walking through a few shots. Kelly is recruited to play the non-speaking role of the D.J. in the booth in the background, but as the afternoon progresses the black mesh on her outfit's top starts to tear, and we literally hold her outfit together with black gaffer tape!
Mid-afternoon: With the first bar scene wrapping up, Scott pulls me aside and tells me we have a problem. Since our morning shoot got all rearranged because the club wasn't available, we're behind schedule, and we're not even done at the bar, yet. He says it'll take at least an hour to repack all the gear in the grip truck, then the time to get to the next location and set up again. There are TWO setups required there (interior and exterior), plus costume and makeup changes. I also learn that we lose Bill (Ice Meister) at 9:20 tonight. Scott says that if we don't figure out a way to shoot the rest of the film at the bar, we're liable to not finish before we lose Bill! He basically drops it on my shoulders to figure out how to change the script.
After nearly snapping at our D.P. when he gets on me for getting the bar dressed for the next shots, I put Scott's problem aside long enough to take care of the needs of the next scene. That done, I grab a copy of the script and go back to a corner and start rewriting. I have several problems that aren't easily solved, because a big reveal is tied to a costume gag that I now can't do. I struggle with this, but in what seems like 15 minutes I have my rewrite. I try to preserve as much dialogue as was in the previous draft so as to minimize the memorization task for the actors.
This is also the first chance I've had all day to look at the script Don sent back. He hardly changed anything...just a few words here and there. One change I don't like so much, but it's not important enough to fight for.
Late afternoon: The script change requires that the final scene take place in the bar at closing time. As such, the set has to be redressed and the lighting changed. The extras aren't needed for the final scenes so they're all thanked and kicked out. While this occurs, one part of the crew sets up to do an insert shot of Solar-Man's goggles falling to the floor, while most of the crew grabs one light and goes upstairs to shoot Roy's entrance into the bar. This is done all with handheld camera work to speed things up. A big gag here involving the required balloon prop gets changed because we lost Illya, who had been willing to play the scene naked except for a strategically placed balloon, and the guy who is talked into taking the part isn't willing to go that far for his art.
Evening: The bar's been transformed for the final scene. A pile of bottles and glasses covers the bar where our principles are to be seated, and a Kino fluorescent light has been mounted against the ceiling overhead to stand in for non-existent house lights when the lights come up as the bar is closing.
Scott asks me if the actors have been running their lines, and I point out to him that he hasn't even read the new ending to see if it's what he wants to shoot. He grabs my shoulders and says "I trust you", so script supervisor Brandon and I talk, he makes handwritten copies of my changes, and Bill and Kyle retreat to the D.J. booth to rehearse for 20 minutes. Then it's back on set.
It becomes a bit of a blur after that. They run the dialogue and do a pretty good job at it given the last minute changes.
A new gag requires Ice Meister (in his alter ego) to freeze a glass, thus revealing his true identity to Solar-Man. There's no time to actually freeze a glass, so one idea is to use a fog machine in the club to drop vapor onto the glass. Great idea, but the machine won't work. Finally, someone goes to the grip truck and comes back with a chemical fire extinguisher which is used to shoot white powder into the glass with a resulting cloud that looks like vapor. It looks great, but after several test shots the bar is covered with gray dust and the air is suddenly atmospheric with something I don't think we want to be breathing.
Some final action weirdness. The animated disco light can't really be shut off when the lights come up, so it's necessary to drop a flag (black card) in front of it on cue. I volunteer to sit on the floor and do this. Then, as the action is rehearsed, we find the actors keep bumping into their barstools, so myself and another guy also take on the task of yanking the stools away when the actors stand up. Here I am, sitting on the floor, blocking a light and then crawling over to pull a bar stool out from under a grown man. Glamorous ain't it?
Since all the extras were dismissed, Kelly is told to ad lib a good night as she—as the D.J.—exits, so now she has a line: "Sheila, I'm out!"
Oh, and Illya's back. There's no more speaking parts...so he gets a walk-on as the janitor sweeping up.
The last hurdle: The script calls for the two characters to embrace, and in rehearsals it's a hug, and it just doesn't work. The only way this works is if they kiss, but our two male leads are both straight. Scott talks to them, but they're both pros and express no problem doing it. Kelly cheers after each take. I guess she likes seeing men kissing.
Most of the Crew as we wrap (Kelly's taking the picture)
8:20 p.m. That's a wrap! Photography concludes...one hour before we'd lose Bill. The next hour or so is spent packing up all our gear and cleaning up the mess we made in the bar. I daresay we may even have left it cleaner than we found it!
The end of the night: Goodbyes said, a few of us retire to find some food. After some pizza and beer we go back to Scott's to grab a little sleep while we can. Brendan's off capturing the video from the mini DV tapes to a hard drive, so there's nothing to be done until the footage arrives.