Three Quarters, In The Can

An update on my Treasure Hunt movie (crowdfunding link)…

Due to scheduling conflicts, we had to take two weekends off. We filmed last Saturday and Sunday and will do next weekend, then that’s probably it. There are some insert shots (someone holding a phone, computer, picture, etc.) and some transition shots (showing some iconic shots of the countryside while the characters are traveling) that need to be filmed, but I may not have the budget or time to do pickup shots or ADR (automated dialogue replacement), so it may have to be exactly the way it is.

The weekend was quite productive. We did, though, have a very long day on Saturday. Started at 7:30 AM (everyone was there on time, though the DP hadn’t slept at all Friday night) and I think it was after 9 PM when we wrapped the final scene. It was the day with the most scheduled pages AND scenes. And we dug a hole! The DP actually wound up digging most, he seemed to really enjoy it, but I don’t think the women did any at all. The DP wanted the hole deeper, but we hit a flat slab of bedrock and no one wanted to gamble another location would be better, so we covered the slab up with a little dirt and trusted to movie magic. We needed a couple of shots at the ‘blue hour’ (which was actually only about 20 minutes; it’s the brief time when there’s enough light to film things without lighting them, yet dark enough that ‘practical’ lights show up), which had us racing around a little, but it was almost all at our property.

The one location was at the Zirkle Mill. Naturally the day I choose to film is the same day that the next door neighbor decides to have a yard sale.  Thus, the parking lot we used, which I swear to you has been totally empty of cars for years, had a constant stream of people pulling in to park, then lazily lollygagging their way back and forth across the road between where we were shooting. Oh, there were also like 10x more noisy trucks on the road than I ever remember hearing/seeing since we’ve been there, which included two days we were putting in our driveway and were originally told we needed someone on the road with a flag (fortunately, they backed off on that before we left with the borrowed ‘road work’ signs). I was all set to quit and (possibly) try again some other day, but the DP insisted we give it some more time. He was right; we were eventually able to find the minute-long window we needed to get the shots.

The back of the mill was beautiful and the DP loved it so much he insisted on a wide angle shot that probably means we’ll have to do ADR of the actor’s lines. Boy, was that creek noisy! The DP almost was in the water he wanted to get so much of the mill in the shot. This is supposed to be the exact same physical structure that was there during the Civil War and which figures prominently in my plot and story.

We did a lot of day-for-night shooting. Almost all the scenes on Saturday are, in the script, at night, but I didn’t want to be up all night (neither did the actors) and we convinced the DP to shoot during the day instead. Naturally we had a largely gorgeous, clear, PAINFULLY blue sky, so I’ll have a lot of work in editing blackening that brilliant thing. We did a lot of walking on Saturday, from nearly one end of our property to the other. The driveway is a third of a mile long, so I expect we all did a couple of miles over the day. Which, of course, cut into the time we could be filming, hence the really long day.

I had to drop all my ‘bro’ scenes. The actor who was supposed to be the bro partner to my son sent an email around 4 PM Saturday (which I didn’t read for several hours) that he didn’t have a ride for Sunday. So I delete the parallel scene with the Velma character and am toying with revamping (the now deleted) almost final scene where the bros were going to dismiss the treasure. I’m now thinking of having Max go to the landlord instead, but haven’t made up my mind. Sigh. Getting actors for these scenes has been a nightmare from the very beginning. I’ve probably had at least a half dozen say ‘yes’ to a bro slot, only to back out later. I’ve never been able to get actors lined up for the parallel scene (they’re both meant to be background comic relief for an otherwise dull scene in the foreground; now no dull scene), though had come up with a way to film it later, so I had more time to try and get people (I had two tentative relatives, but they couldn’t make the scheduled day).

On the whole I think I got what I needed. Next weekend will be a challenge as well, it has the second highest pages, but half them are same location and scene, so I hope we can film it quickly.

While the process certainly hasn’t been without frustrations, on the whole, I think I’m happy with how things have been working out. I wish I had more focus to work on editing, so I could catch things we could recover from while still filming, but we’ve largely been so busy each weekend I doubt I’d have the time or energy to squeeze in any shots anyway. But I am learning a whole lot about movie making, lots of little things that can make things smoother. Like scheduling scenes with complicated wardrobe together, or, alternatively, if wardrobe is simple, scheduling all the shots from the same location/setup at the same time and have the actors change several times.

Author: mitusents

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