First weekend, in the can

So this has been an interesting learning experience.  We started filming Treasure Hunt Saturday morning, but not quite at nine, like I had hoped.  Hopefully I can get people moving a bit faster in the morning, though John, the sound guy, did arrive at 8.  We started off with a continuity error on the very first scene: one of the characters wears glasses (without lenses, as the curved lens was creating bright spots; it looks funny on the closeups), though the rest of the day seemed to go well.  The day went quickly and the material we recorded all seems good (well, not all, of course; we had to do a number of takes on a few scenes).

We tried to do one of the important scenes the way I had it in my head, but without a dolly (basically, tracks to move a cart the DP sits on) it had to be handheld, and I hate the shakiness of handheld, so wound up discarding that approach.  However, Nate (the DP) did a quick edit when he got home and used one of those takes and we discussed the idea of using software to stabilize the image, so maybe I can make use of it.

The schedule proved both easy and hard to deal with.  Sunday started on the schedule with a call time of 4:30 AM, which no one was wild about (for a night scene that couldn’t be faked, and one of the actors had to leave by 5 PM Saturday, so we couldn’t do it during the evening).  Because we seemed to be making slightly better time that I had estimated, I suggested to everyone that if we moved a couple of scenes from Sunday to Saturday, then I could do the zero-dark-thirty scene on another day (got to be sure I don’t forget that!) and we could start at 9 in the morning again.

The only wrinkle?  We were shooting those scenes outside, which proved to be noisy. I picked a location where I had never seen any cars go by, yet there must have been 15 of them while we were (trying to) shoot.  I think we got good audio, though that was interesting.

Wrinkle two was the inconsistent results of asking the actors to turn on/off their lavs (lavalier microphones).  Since they had to hide the recorders, sometimes it was difficult to get at them.  Eventually, we (rather, John, the sound guy) decided, since the file sizes were small relative to the storage medium (100’s of megabytes vs 32 gigabytes), we’d (or, rather, John’d) let them run until we got the whole scene done.  That, of course, means I need to wade through sometimes 10-15 minutes of audio to find the 10-15 seconds I need, but such is life.

My wife/boss/executive producer and I watched some of the ‘footage’ last night and she seemed a little impressed, which bodes well, I think, for the project.  The images Nate is capturing look great and he’s conscientious about getting the shots he thinks are needed for editing.  John offers lots of suggestions as well.

And the actors are doing great.  Sometimes I have to explain what I was envisioning when I initially wrote a scene, then we’ll discuss it, and often they come up with better ideas.  That’s what I was hoping would happen, that the cast and crew would take the raw material from the script and improve it with their input.  I’m starting to get cautiously optimistic that I’ll have something watchable at the end.

We managed to film 8.5 pages on Saturday, Sunday, originally scheduled to be 10, got shortened substantially. We wound up putting off 4.4 pages, had moved 1.5 to Saturday, leaving us with about 4.7 pages.  I figured it’d be a breeze.  Half the pages, half the time, right?  Well the first scene we shot was in a bathroom, and Nate needed a while to light it.  Then, when we set up for the second scene, Nate and I got at cross purposes when we initially discussed it, and he spent a lot of time setting up for a shot I didn’t want.  AND the paint in that room was some kind of avocado or something, which was giving him fits trying to get the lighting right.  So the first two scenes, which together represent less than 30 seconds on screen, probably took around an hour and a half to film.  We did pick up the pace the rest of the day, but instead of being half the time to film half the pages, it took the same 8 hour day.  But less than the originally planned 10 hour day.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we stuck with the original schedule.

The the first real acid test is next Saturday. The schedule calls for almost 18 pages to be filmed.  Which seems absurd on the face of it, but they are three location shots.  The first we can’t start until 9 AM and have to be out by noon, so we must finish the 6+ pages in that time, then we can’t start at another location until 3 PM (relatively short, a bit more than 2 pages), so we have a three hour window (though we’ll need to grab a bite to eat) to try and squeeze in almost 5.5 pages.  I think it’s possible, based on the last weekend’s performance, but it’s going to be hectic.

The poster artist send a work in progress copy end of last week and I showed it to the cast and crew and they all seemed to like it.  Once she’s done (hopefully later today), I’ll update the images on the website.  I also re-recorded the voice over for my crowdfunding video, so that’s going to be the first thing I plan on working on this week.

Now it’s about editing.  I have all week to go through the learning curve and to try and cut together the material already filmed.  I’m really not looking forward to that learning curve, though I totally accept that it will be beneficial, assuming I stick with this whole movie making idea.  The good thing about editing is it’s non-destructive, so if I decide I just can’t get the job done, I can try and persuade my executive producer to cover the added expense.

I was surprised at how tired I got from what was basically just standing around all day (toward the end I had to spend a lot of time sitting; it’s tough being an old fat man).  And sore as well, which initially didn’t make much sense.  I suspect it’s a combination of lots of furniture moving, as we slid stuff around for various shots, and awkward leaning/reaching to work the slate.  I’m still having a great time, though, and am feeling that I can, probably 80% of the time, just let the actors do their thing and all I have to do is call ‘action’ and ‘cut.’  Which is not to say there aren’t 1,001 decisions that need to be made.  One thing I probably do need to do more of is looking at the camera while the scene is being set up.  That probably would have saved some time on Sunday when Nate spent all that time lighting for a setup I didn’t want to use.  Live and learn, eh?

Author: mitusents

Biochemist, MBA, then programmer. Now novelist, screenplay writer and hopefully director. What a strange trip it's been.