Thursday, September 16, 2010

25 Months Ago: Day 24

DAY 24 - August 16, 2008

“Making a film is like a stagecoach ride in the Old West. When you start, you are hoping for a pleasant trip. By the halfway point, you just hope to survive.”

That's a semi-famous quote from French director/actor Francois Truffaut, in his 1973 film Day for Night. It's a good thing I went online to verify the exact quote (or as exact as a quote translated from French into English can be), because in my memory it had metamorphosed into the following:

“At the start of filming, every director wants to make the greatest film ever made. Halfway through, you just want to finish the damn thing.”

Well, if Frankie-boy didn't actually say that, then I must have created it without knowing. In any case, it's pretty close to how I was feeling about Saberfrog.

Today was a Saturday. On the previous Wednesday I had sent out a revised schedule with several cuts made to it. Terrance's backstory was to be simplified, some other early character/expository stuff was gone for good, and today I was once again cramming several still-needed scenes into one day.

First up was a scene on campus between J.D. and Wendy. We didn't film it on Day 8 (when we were at UB) because at that time I cared mainly about getting the shots that had Karyus in them, so I had put off that section until today.

We went to a small, quiet corner of the SUNY Brockport campus (where I'd taken classes many years earlier), which seemed to match the Buffalo campus well enough. In theory, shooting this scene should have been simple, but it ended up being a tough shoot for a couple of reasons.

In the script, J.D. and Wendy were supposed to run across campus. But since the original shoot on Day 8 had subjected the cast to the hot sun, I thought it would be easier on the actors – and more visually interesting – to stage the scene in a stairwell, where there was shade. It didn't occur to me that making J.D. and Wendy climb a flight of stairs multiple times (so I could get different takes and angles) would be physically punishing.

To make matters worse, Wendy's shoulder bag – which we left outside, thinking it would be safe because school was out and there wasn't a soul around – disappeared mysteriously between takes. Wendy was horrified, and I felt miserable because this damn movie was the reason why we were out here in the first place. Fortunately, it hadn't been stolen after all – some Good Samaritan had seen it lying out in the open and moved it to a sheltered spot. But we were all shaken.

To cap it all off, J.D. badly needed to use the bathroom by the end of this shoot, but we couldn't find a bathroom that wasn't locked. I should have thought of this, but I didn't, so J.D. was still in this unhappy state when the morning shoot completed.

All in all, this was the one shoot that made me feel like an absolute bastard. The only way this shoot could have been any more uncomfortable for the actors was if one of them had been injured in some way.

We went our separate ways after this shoot, and J.D. and I met up again later that afternoon, at a party for Tom's daughter.

I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think that this same day is when J.D., Wendy and I filmed the one remaining scene between them. This was a fairly complex scene in the script, and would have required supporting actors, access to someone's apartment to use as a location, and a couple of special effects. By today I had scrapped that version and changed it to a simple one-on-one outdoor dialogue scene, which we filmed behind the Village Gate plaza in Rochester.

Despite some noise from a teenage skateboarder in the area, we got the scene done and thus completed all of Wendy's scenes in the film. Amusingly, on the way to the location we bumped into Jen Avila, who'd been an extra during the Day 2 shoot. She'd been there at the beginning of filming, and here she was again as we were nearing the end.

In the evening, J.D. and I met up with Reuben at a Subway restaurant in Spencerport, and from here we hit the road to film a driving scene. As I've said before, the long summer days make night shoots a challenge, and waiting for the sky to be pitch-black would have meant keeping the actors up very late for shooting. Rather than force the actors into a vampiric shooting schedule, I opted to start filming when the sky was almost-but-not-quite dark (and in the finished film there are shots were this is noticeable if you look for it).

After this, we parked to film another brief scene between J.D. and Reuben. And with that, the day's – or night's – filming was done.

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