Thursday, August 26, 2010

25 Months Ago: Day 17

DAY 17 – July 26, 2008

Today – a Saturday – was one of the longest shooting days. In hindsight, I find it extremely difficult to believe that we actually shot all this material in one day, but my notes, receipts and old emails indicate that we did.

This shooting day would be spent in Buffalo, and I spent part of the trip there getting some more shots of J.D. driving. Apart from this, our first destination was the Shadow Lounge, where Liz had gotten us permission to film a scene in which Liz's character is performing onstage as a musician.

When I originally wrote the script, I'd envisioned the character of Laurel as more of a tattooed punk chick. With Liz cast in the role, however, it seemed more sensible to make Laurel an indie folk musician, especially since Liz is a poet herself.

Tom's friend John Reinbird played a guitarist in this scene. He and a drummer, played by Ian Belknad, improvised a minimalist riff while Liz ad-libbed some beat poetry as “lyrics”. Impressively, Liz kept this up for ten whole minutes while the camera rolled – obviously, not all of this ended up in the finished scene. (Don't worry, you'll get to see more of it at a later date.)

We had two background extras for this scene, although Wendy and Sean stepped in and thus brought the number up to four. Sadly, you have to look quick to even notice that there were other people in the club at all, so obviously I wasn't positioning people on camera as creatively as I'd done on previous shoots. However, one of the extras seemed to fit another small part that still needed casting later on. (More about him later …)

My memory insists that the Shadow Lounge scene was the only thing we shot that day, and that everything else was on another day altogether. Apparently, my memory is wrong. We got lunch at Super Fuji Buffet again – maybe this was the day I had my nose buried in the schedule instead of socializing.

After this, I checked into a hotel room that I'd booked for filming another scene, and dropped off some excess equipment that wouldn't be needed until then. We then hit the road in J.D.'s van to film the longest and most complex of all the driving scenes, which concludes with a lengthy monologue as J.D.'s character, Josh, explains the story arc of the sci-fi novels that he's so obsessed with.

When I wrote this scene, I'd envisioned it as being sort of like the Indianapolis speech from Jaws. My idea was that Josh would describe these fictitious events with grave importance, as though he himself had experienced them and lived to tell the tale. J.D. had a funnier idea, though, which was to play it as an overly intense fanboy who was determined to finish his anecdote even while realizing that his unwilling audience had no interest.

J.D. also insisted, understandably, that he should pull over before telling the story, since performing this complicated scene while driving would be too difficult. This turned out to be a good idea, as the driving portions of the scene turned out to be a continuity nightmare.

Due to the sheer amount of material we were trying to crank through in a short time and under awkward circumstances, I figured it would be absurd to demand that the actors deliver the lines in this scene exactly as written; the most I could ask was that they hit all the essential beats of the scene in their own words. Nonetheless, I think this was J.D.'s finest hour as an actor. He nailed both the tone and the content of this massive scene, and stuck closest to the script out of anyone.

We then went back to the hotel to film a scene there - actually two scenes, one set in the evening and other taking place the next morning. Since the sun was setting as we shot, we actually filmed the morning scene first, then filmed the evening scene after we lost the light. In a well-meaning attempt to save time and cut costs, I relied on available light to shoot these scenes – fine for the day scene, somewhat less fine for the night scene.

Finally, we shot another driving scene, this one at night, as the characters arrive at the hotel. As originally scripted, this dialogue was originally going to play out in a hotel lobby, with a concierge listing in amusement to the characters arguing, but it was simpler to play the scene in the car instead.

This last scene of the day was one that I have almost no firsthand memory of shooting. Obviously I did shoot it, since the footage is in the movie, but I must have been just dog tired by this point, and I'm sure the actors felt the same way.

Still, we shot an impressive eleven pages of material today – about a tenth of the shooting script – and I must have breathed a lot easier knowing that these scenes were done.

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