Thursday, September 9, 2010

25 Months Ago: Day 22

DAY 22 - August 9, 2008

A Saturday, and by my reckoning one of the most packed days of shooting.

Two days earlier I had sent out a revised schedule to the cast, announcing that only 33 pages – about a quarter of the script – remained to be filmed. This included an early scene in which Josh stops at a truckstop diner and starts to befriend a waitress, but kills the mood by going into a fanboy tirade. This was to be filmed on August 10, and the previously-mentioned sci-fi convention scene was scheduled for August 16.

By today I must have given up on the diner scene, which would have been a nice character moment for Josh but was not essential to the plot. I don't remember when I abandoned the sci-fi convention scene, which was an essential exposition scene in the shooting script but needed to be replaced with something simpler.

The day before today, I'd had lunch with my mom and sister in memory of Dad, who had passed away one year ago. I was feeling like Josh, a once-carefree guy now worn down by the pain of adulthood. The strain of keeping this production going while holding down a technically demanding day job was taking its toll. But I was determined to finish what I'd started.

Sean Sherman, who'd pitched in on previous days as an actor and crewmember, made a final contribution to the main shoot by providing the location for a scene in which Josh attempts – unsuccessfully – to get himself hired by a temp agency. Val Perkins, a former RIT classmate of mine, played Josh's would-be employer. Val did a great job, despite only being given her lines the day before – I really must have been running on empty at this point.

J.D. and I then went off to Pittsford so that I could reshoot some of his monologue from Day 17. During that shoot, J.D. said that he thought we had skipped over a section of the speech, but I thought we had gotten it all, until I later reviewed the footage and discovered that he had been right. So we stopped at a park that looked vaguely like the original location (which had been in Buffalo) in order to shoot the missing section.

I don't actually remember shooting that on the same day as the temp agency scene. Nor do I remember shooting a brief outdoor scene of Wendy storming out of the office on the same day. But I guess I did.

And I really don't remember concluding this already-full day with a night shoot out in Buffalo. But apparently I filmed not one, not two, but three scenes that night, all at Liz's home. She was renting a room from her friend Roberto Petrilli, who'd played a professor in previous scenes. I drove Reuben – and, I feel sure, Wendy – out to Buffalo for this shoot.

We first shot a scene in Liz's bedroom between Liz and Wendy. It was raining a bit when we shot this, which made me worry about the sound, but fortunately the mic didn't seem to be picking up any rain noise.

We then shot two pivotal scenes with Liz and Reuben, filmed in Roberto's living room. These two scenes took place months or years apart, and I was concerned that – apart from costume changes – it might be obvious that they were shot back-to-back. To avoid this, I shot the two scenes in totally different styles. One was shot from low angles, using a tripod; and the other was shot handheld, using high angles.

The first scene had Liz's character saying to Reuben's character, “Where have you been?” and I couldn't resist saying on set, “Where have you been, Reuben? Steuben County?” Amazingly, Reuben was still willing to work with me after this. Seriously, though, this scene marked a point when the tone of the film changed from comedy to drama, and I remember having to spend more time than usual explaining to the actors what kind of tone was needed, and how it related to the scenes that came before and after.

The second scene was an argument scene that required far less coaching. Liz and Reuben performed brilliantly, delivering three complete, unbroken takes of the entire scene. I filmed the scene with a constantly-moving camera, being sure to shoot the scene slightly differently on each take. This allowed me to cut among the different takes in the finished film.

It was something like 1 a.m. when I got Reuben home from this shoot, and I remember feeling a bit guilty about that. I must have been relieved, though, to be so much closer to the completion of shooting after today.

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