Saturday was a critical day in filming Treasure Hunt, as I had three locations with hard schedules (and a fourth, but that’s at a friend’s house, so could be moved, if necessary (the first weekend’s thoughts)). The Shenandoah County administration offices, where I was going to make use of the Virginia Tech Extension offices (thanks Bobby and Mary Beth!), the WO Riley park in Woodstock (thanks to Mandy!) and the Edinburg branch of the Shenandoah County library (thanks to Sandy and Dallas!). Changing those shooting times/dates would most likely be a long drawn-out affair and one I really didn’t want to have to deal with.
Things started out well at the admin offices. Bobby was already there by 8:30 and I had my sound guy and two of my actors, so being ready to shoot at 9 seemed like a shoe-in. Not. My DP forgot the camera when he left that morning and had to turn back and if memory serves, he didn’t get there to around 9:40. Which took some of the pressure off the other three actors, who were late (I’m detecting a theme here). It was around 10 when we started to film, so we rushed, rushed, rushed to get all the scenes filmed before Bobby had to leave at noon. We manged to get them all, but several were one takes, so not much fodder for editing.
There was an amusing moment (well, amusing in that after all of our rushing we had to wait because of it). A scene called for one of the actors to drink from the water fountain. No sooner did he finish when the very noisy cooling mechanism cut on, for what seemed like 20 minutes. Then, in another take, the actor inadvertently leaned back on the water fountain and turned it on, getting his shirt wet.
We piled everything into the car and hied off to the park, where I had done about 10 seconds of scouting that morning (though I did view a number of pictures online). We set up for the exercising-in-the-park scenes, but it took a while for the actors to get ready and I was getting antsy. One of my leads had to leave by 2 and we didn’t get setup until almost 1, so we did his scenes as fast as we could. We ate lunch afterwards, even though the schedule had us eating first, because the actors, since they weren’t wearing that much, wanted to get those shots before they ate.
We packed and ran off to the library, where we had to arrive before 3, but couldn’t start shooting until after. One of the actresses wasn’t scheduled to shoot anything for several hours and was stuck with what to do with herself. She lives about an hour away, so wasn’t sure it would be worth going home, so hung out in New Market, getting antsier by the hour.
The library scenes went well, I felt, capturing what I had in my mind when I wrote the scene. I intended to be out of there by 5, but it was after 5:30 before we left and headed back to the park to get some later-in-the-movie scenes with two of my leads. We went with hand-hold camera, which is really shaky and I personally hate, but we were running out of time because these scenes all needed to be in daylight and the sun was heading down. And my idle actress began asking if we really were going to hit our later scheduled scenes, since she knew one was outdoors. I was trying to get everyone moving to start filming the park scenes and still held onto fantasies we were going to get those final scenes in, so was a little short communicating with her, through texting, via my wife and her phone.
About half way, she called. While she was friendly and polite, it was clear she was really bored and resentful she’d been wasting her whole afternoon. She convinced me that there was no way we’d be set up in time to get those late shots, so I agreed she should head home. With that pressure off, now I could focus exclusively on getting the park scenes done. For the final scene at the park bench we needed to set up lights because it was getting dark so fast. Then we had to go without coverage (shooting from more than one angle) because we simply ran out of time and light.
A marathon day with travel everywhere, so I was really hoping Sunday would be better, since it was all at our house and most was in one room.
Yeah, right. It rained off and on all day, so my exterior cafe scene became an interior coffee house scene. That went fairly well, so we shifted to the dining room in the house. Because of a wardrobe change, we wound up putting off a couple of scenes, which got postponed all together later when we (well, for sure I) ran out of energy. After that the real fun began…
The actors were all told with the original ad they’d be singing. I had them all sing (except for the first). I sent them a link to the music recorded for the scene. The musicians recorded it in key of G (whatever the hell that means) and asked if the actors were happy with that. I asked them and got no response, so assumed yes. The poem to be sung isn’t that long to begin with and for the movie I cut half of it out, but wanted them to sing the whole thing so I could use it for the end credits as well as a possible music video. I’m sure I mentioned to them all about the plan to record them singing to the music before the camera rolled, then they’d lip sync to the recording when the camera was rolling. And yet, when it came to do this scene, now, ‘all the sudden,’ there were all sorts of issues. They were uncomfortable with the key, they struggled with the words and pacing and didn’t like how they sounded (but they sounded fine to me).
I worked very hard not to let the ‘real me‘ out with all these last minute objections (one of the actresses had all sorts of objections to how I wrote the intimate scenes, many of which were really good, but _all_ of which I wanted to discuss _before_ the cameras were set up; do I sound bitter at all?) and eventually the sound guy suggested we all take a break. Eventually we decided to skip filming that specific scene and get the rest done. Which didn’t include the other two scenes we initially skipped because of a wardrobe change.
My wife ‘complained’ that I wasn’t my normal raging, yelling asshole self around the cast and crew, yet I drop into that mode so easily around her and our son. I’m not sure why I find it so difficult to control myself around my family, though I must point out I was struggling very hard to control myself over the weekend around the cast and crew. I wound up totally exhausted when we got home on Sunday and struggled with the same on Monday (which is why I’m writing this on Tuesday), yet all I really did was stand around all day (boy, did my back and feet hurt!).
So, my overall thoughts? As aggravating as I felt during most of the weekend, we now have around 38 pages filmed out of 84, so almost half, and we’re half way through. I expect things will smooth out a bit as we’ve learned to work together, so I’m still thinking it’ll be possible to get everything filmed in the time scheduled. We have, though, started discussing the idea of an extra day or two to do pickups (scenes that need to be reshot, or angles that got missed), but getting everyone to have the same time available is hard.
I’m really frustrated that I can’t get all the cast and crew to show up early so we can start shooting on time. Car problems, traffic, rain, they all sound plausible, but they happen over and over again and seem entirely predictable (well, not car problems). I’m really frustrated when the actors want to change up how the scene is written when I asked them several times if they wanted to discuss any aspects of the script, and had _specifically_ mentioned that I wanted to resolve any such issues, and alter the script, _before_ we started filming. Which makes me think they didn’t actually read the script ahead of time, which robs me of a sense of professionalism. Not all the actors all the time, but everyone knew we had a very ambitious shooting schedule, so would have little time to have these discussions when the camera was set up. I wound up largely going with what they wanted to do because we have to get the scenes shot in the time allotted.
I’ve read many places that directors often undergo acute depression after they’ve wrapped. I didn’t feel that so much the first weekend, but I sure felt it this last weekend. I looked at a lot of the shots and, almost all the time, all I could think of was how I would rather we did something else. But we just don’t have time. That being said, rewatching a couple of episodes of “Major Crimes” last night, I saw many of the same sorts of shots that we (or, rather, Nate) took, so perhaps things will smooth out during editing.
Which I haven’t started yet. We have the next two weekends off, so almost three weeks to learn to edit. That way, I can learn what pickups I might want to get, so I can get them when the cast and crew are available. I’m getting tired writing this, I guess from reliving the experience. I know every project has its ups and downs, but I feel, on balance, this last weekend was more discomfort and stress than fun and rewarding. I’ve been rethinking this movie making thing, particularly on the long ride home Sunday. If chronic lateness and actors not being willing to put the time in the script before shooting is the norm, at least at the budget levels I expect to operate, then I’m not sure the hassle is worth the reward. And this assumes I have a watchable movie when all is said and done.
Of course, I might feel better later, after I’ve had a chance to work with the imagery and sound…