Monday, August 27, 2007

Johnny Law may be on our side...

Friday, August 24th...long, productive night. No Landon or Chuck tonight, but we did have the always helpful Rich F. We abandoned our attempts to get into Forest Hills cemetery. Too much last-minute legal hogwash. That is to say, I completely understand the need for copious amounts of legal hogwash in today's trigger-happy-lawsuit culture. I just don't want to have anything to do with it. All in all, a great learning experience. Rebekah did a great job of getting us in contact with the folks over there, and now we know the need for location insurance for these independent features (apparently my Delta Dental contract was insufficient...)
So this evening marked our triumphant return to gorilla film making (and a boom microphone thanks to Rich). We used some camera trickery to get a few establishing shots of exterior and pseudo-interior cemetery scenes, then we went in for close and medium shots of the actors for the dialogue. We may have to play with the light a bit in post, but at this point the footage looks pretty good. Film making is truly a string of blatant lies told to an audience of countless strangers...tonight was no exception.

With the gorilla model of film making comes the inevitable crossing-of-paths with the local cops. I've found that, as long as you're keeping a fairly low-profile and not doing anything loud, stupid, and/or brazenly illegal, the cops are pretty open to short shoots in public places. Their only question was if we were "those guys a few weeks back running around with the fake guns". Gripping the handle of my barely concealed snub-nosed .38 Special starter-pistol, I smiled and replied "Don't you need a permit for that sort of thing?". They bid us a fond farewell. Nice guys.

After that, the final 3 scenes were shot in a location just happened upon (thanks again to our location manager Rebekah). Great existing light...with that blueish tint that has been the prevalent color of the film. A bit anti-climactic, as we have one more day of re-shoots. This was Brian's final scene, tho. I'm positive he'll be happy with the results, as I am ecstatic.

Brother can you spare a (Shotgun Microphone)?

Wednesday, August 22nd
Big scene...our last with Daniel, whose character we still (somewhat misleadingly) refer to as the 'Zombi'. Sound issues bogged us down a bit, as the camera mic proved to have too large of a signal response (I believe that's the term. In any event, way to much ambient sound pickup). The alternative was to setup the wireless lav mics. We had 2 available that worked fairly well, but we'll have to clean up the unevenness in post.
This was a fairly emotional scene for Brian...the most transformative his character experiences in the whole piece. We had originally planned on several other scenes, but we rescheduled those for Friday. I believe it's always better to never rush a scene to get to the next. As much planning and organizing that goes into making these films, when you're there on the set and everyone is ready, the scene you're doing is the only one that matters. As obvious as this may seem, it gets harder to maintain that axiom as the end of the shoot grows nearer. I'm sure no one gets excited about re-shoots.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Shave and a Haircut...16-bits"

Well, at least we warned everyone it was going to be a late night...
Friday August 17th was an evening rife with selfless sacrifice, great performances, and an overwhelming assortment of Clubman products.
We started with a very light crew...myself, Rebekah and Peter. Rich F. was kind enough to hop in his car and perform behind and in front of the camera, bringing a magical strangeness to the "weird guy in the background" character, The Professor. More than just a moving background object, these types of characters tend to be a difficult balance of un-obtrusive placement and subtle, almost subliminal movement (I wanted to use the term mise en scène really bad there, but I resisted...)
Speaking of placement, we filmed at Erik's Barber Shop. Erik was kind enough to provide us a key and full-access to his time-warp barbershop. When we first walked in there to set up, my first instinct was to sit down in one of the chrome-plated, red-vinyl cushioned seats, flip through a copy of Highlights magazine or 3-2-1 Contact, and wait for my "young man's haircut" to be completed by a smoking, fleet-fingered barber. The smell of talc and alcohol saturated aftershave invading my nostrils...the mesmerizing red and blue spiral of the spinning barbershop pole in the background as my hair clippings fall into view towards the floor...

But alas...we've got a movie to film. Great location. Sarah finally got to bring about the Attendant, bravely delivering perhaps the most difficult mini-monologues in the entire piece. The pen is a cruel, shameless beast, isn't it? Nevertheless, a job well done. Definitely a funny scene. Hopefully we got enough coverage as far as cuts of barber-shop details and minutia. So shiny...

Off to the warehouse. New England Network Group was kind enough to let us film in the loading dock/warehouse there in Salem (thanks Sarah!) Nice high ceilings, stacked piles of stuffy-stuffs, and the unexpected added bonus of the gentle patter of rain against the metal rooftop. A large enough space, we were able to block 3 separate "rooms" out of the existing layout. Brian and Stephen, once again, gave magnificent performances, jumping back in time (in terms of script-chronology) effortlessly. It almost makes me sick how talented these gentlemen are....sick to my stomach...

This was a very late night. We wrapped at 3am-ish, confident that we got what we needed. I couldn't have asked for a more dedicated team of pro's on this project, and I believe we'll have a film that we can all be proud of. We may even wrap this Sunday...right on schedule.

More later...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Mystery of the Phantom Barbershop

Friday, August 10th started off with a fun little diversion I have affectionately come to call the "Frantic search for entry to the Barbershop". Unfortunately, the owner forgot we were filming that evening and locked the place up. Rebekah and I went there and spoke with neighbors, other store owners...anyone that could give us the guy's home phone number. No luck. All that separated us from filming our one (very) important scene was a thin layer of painted brittle...

In any event, no hard feelings. We were denied the pleasure of seeing our attendant character on film (played by the clearly very understanding Sarah, all the way from Rhode Island in her 2005 Mustang...), but we can reschedule. We went on to film some transitional scenes with Barney and Harv.

"Walking scenes"...they tend to be a tedious but necessary evil for getting the story from here to there. Sure, they provide a perfectly appropriate nesting ground for music...but it almost always seems like a cop out or filler. Chuck and I tried to find some interesting locations and framing choices, and I think we did an ok job. We finally got a chance to use the old mill area near the tracks in malden. Nice angular structures and moody (existing) lighting gave us a sort of noir-ish feel that doesn't feel put on (as the buildings themselves could believably exist in almost any decade from the last 100 years or so). Plus, I won that bet where I said I would get Chuck to lay on the street with a towel and a camera. I didn't care one bit about that's just a power-thing with me. One-hundred percent ego. I don't care who knows. That'll be $5, anonymous bar patron.

As a side note, I had put together a rough 18-minute edit (very unpolished) on DVD for some of the crew. I found myself hesitant to show it to the lead actors. I had read somewhere that actors often avoid watching "dailies", as they feel it may affect their subsequent performances or make them start second-guessing certain abstract aspects of the characters. Ultimately we all decided to watch the footage. We'll see next week if the actors were affected by it and if they decide to spontaneously change sexes of their respective characters...or play them as trees.

More later...

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Those planes...

Friday, August 3rd
Are you kidding me with these planes?! That coupled with the fact that I was on-call made this a frustrating shoot in Winthrop.
During the preliminary scouting, the overhead planes landing in Logan airport (just about 500 yards away) seemed to come in once every 5 or 6 minutes...but now here we were on a Friday night. We had about 35 seconds of quiet to shoot a take, then we would wait for the plane to fly overhead (about 100 feet above us), land, then wait for the still-audible air-brakes to stop. I guess that's why they call it an International airport.

Ultimately, it was still pretty fun...and we got to work with the super-talented Daniel as the "Zombi". His stagger was something to behold. Everyone was incredibly patient, and we got some fantastic shots. Chuck was back in the camera-driver's seat, and he brought some battery-powered lights that worked out perfectly. no's a great spot visually and I got my "Great Pumpkin" shot on top of Deer Island. We didn't even have to fight our way out of there. I guess I still believe the children are our future...even the publicly intoxicated ones...

More later...

Filming 'round the campfire...

Sunday, July 29
Landon made yet another massive contribution to the production by finding Crystal.
Aided by Crystal's effortless make-up wizardry (magical references are so in vogue these days, aren't they?), we welcomed our 3 'students'...Jess, DJ, and Patrick. After Crystal transformed Jess into a goth princess (and a last minute addition of 3-d glasses to Patrick's character, thus morphing him into the one known as "SIX-D"), we packed up the troops and headed to Tewksbury to the home of Mike's Tree Service (thanks Dad and Jo Anne!). This served as our cemetery hilltop, as it was doubtful we could actually start a fire in a real cemetery (nor would we want to...)

Chuck was gracious enough to allow the use of his XL-2 in his absence, and our friend Rich F. stepped in and provided his much-needed skill behind the lens. Rich is busy these days (working on his own film) but was nice enough to give us his time in between his current shooting schedule. After some fumbling with the audio settings (I should have known where that panel was...sorry guys), we were on our way. Everyone gave excellent performances (and DJ also offered his patented "Disdainful head-shake", to much awe). It's unfortunate that we only had the one scene with these cast members. Hopefully we'll see them again in
future Burning Snowman productions...

Rebekah did a bang-up job of creating a very realistic Gothic well as getting authorization for filming in the gorgeous Forest Hills cemetery later in the month. As always, very, very impressive. She definitely didn't deserve Poison Ivy for her efforts...

Besides the bugs and the poison, a great shoot on a lovely evening.

More Later...

Filming of 'Bystander' begins

Our latest pic 'Bystander' began filming Friday July 13th, 2007. After a 3-day audition process (thanks to Bob Bear at the Spiegal Performance center in Cambridge for the rooms), we found our talented cast to represent the witching hour denizens of this 40+ minute featurette. (That's right...just long enough to be a broadcast ad-ready episode of Rod Serling's 'Night Gallery'. Coincidence? For now, let's not linger...)

The audition process was by far a much more difficult undertaking than previously experienced. We went through a myriad of hugely talented actors from all over New England, and choosing just 5 or 6 was tricky. Luckily, we remembered to film the individual auditions for archival purposes and we look forward to working with some of the actors not chosen hopefully in the near future.

Friday the 13th (!!!) was just like any first day of shooting, only this time we had a super-crew of enthusiastic pros easing us into the transition from pre-production to the blissful production stage.

Rebekah - our invaluable AD and hugely sucessful Production Coordinator
Landon - our Script Supervisor with his ever watchful eyes on continuity and notation
Peter - our impossibly talented Recording Engineer and Production Designer
Chuck - our Director of Photography (we are blessed to have him)

Technical issues popped up here and there (as they do), but the speed and efficiency in which they were tackled was particularly impressive to me and makes all the difference in the world. Confidence abound...

Stephen (our co-lead) was solo on Friday, doing some non-dialogue scenes (the opener and others). Things looked and felt great...the colors of dusk through the windows, the lighting from the Tota's just right. The film's tone seems to have been set right there. Chuck does amazing work.

Sunday the 15th brought our other lead Brian into the fray. It was pretty exciting to see Stephen and Brian interact on screen...two very talented actors doing their thing. It always impresses me when, during those magic moments in rehersals (sometimes weeks prior), when the actors seem to have really captured the page and rendered the characters in reality, they are able to bring it back for the camera as though the rehersal was only an hour ago.

More, of course, later...

Welcome to the official Burning Snowman production diary! Now with DIGITAL ADDITIVES!

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