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Friday, June 17, 2011

Day One Looms.

So, we are a week from shooting. It's been the usual non-stop pre-production hustle. I'm finishing the last of the props. Have just one VHS cover I need to design and print. I will be meeting some of the actors this weekend to hit up thrift stores and the like for their costumes.

Mike and I went around a few nights ago and ran some test footage on the Canon 7D. Here's a picture of the camera above. My landlord was none-too-happy about us shooting things around the apartment complex, so I had to reassure her we weren't spying into anyone's apartments, taking dirty pictures.  Frankly, most of the tenants at my apartment complex spend too much time on their couches eating frozen dinners and fried fast food, so honestly don't I think anyone would want to see them naked.

And as to be expected, we lost an actor playing one of our minor characters but we are on the hunt for the new one. I think we might have found him but will know this weekend.

We secured all of our locations as of yesterday. A car repair garage down in South Austin, with two horses on the lot, and lots and lots of cars.  Even an old vehicle from the 1930s with wood spokes on the wheels and an amazing interior in relatively in good shape. As I stared into the windows, I wondered who used to ride in this old car and what they wore, what was going on in their world when they were my age.

One of my actors, Joe Cheatham, had his hand molded by Meredith Johns and Jenny Lin, both very talented Makeup and Special Effects Artists here in Austin. Meredith has worked on a ton of big productions here in Austin.  Joe's picture is above.

With three producers on this project, one producing this film from out of town, it has been a true challenge to keep up communication.  Pre-production is never an easy time, and my least favorite part of filmmaking. Production is only slightly less stressful but more physically exhausting, but then follows the reward: editing. This is my favorite part of the whole process, where I and sometimes another Editor get to sit quietly in a slightly dark room playing with the images we have all worked so hard to capture, finding the nuances in performances, discovering connections, molding scenes and the pacing, and truly shaping the story into something we had never predicted while in development. 

Every time I am pre-producing a project and trying to get all the elements together in order to make the project happen, I always tell myself I want to make narratively simpler films, remove all the fluff and make things more sparse.  Partially to make this process less daunting, but also just to see what I have in a story when you get rid of the excess, cut the fat from the bone. 

One problem with this DIY/tiny crew approach is that I always spend about 90 percent of my film time towards producing, and about 10 percent of it actually thinking through the creative process as a director.  I've never really had the luxury of just being able to focus only on directing. It is just an amazing amount of work to be having to gather costumes, find props, create the props I can't find, make contracts, schedules, agreements, location hunting, testing equipment, that at the end of the day, my job as a director gets little love and affection.  I hope to shower it with kisses on set.

And being on set is where I really have to challenge the actors to push themselves, allow them to trust their instincts, give the DP some "dance" time as well, meaning let him follow his instincts too, becoming a "ghost dancer" around the actors.  The Canon 7D is small enough to allow him that mobility.  I don't think keeping the camera on sticks is going to work for the majority of this film, and we really have to do some bold things for coverage.  

The next six weeks will be interesting, shooting this film while working a full-time job in addition to my one-night a week part-time job (which will be B-Roll nights). Austin is blazing hot right now as well.  Windy.  They cancelled fireworks on the 4th and that was going to be a night where I got footage of the actors watching fireworks.  So...sigh...must think through this.  It's probably time for me to pull out Werner Herzog's journals about shooting Fitzcarraldo, his book Conquest of the Useless, to remind me this is not that difficult of a shoot at all. 


  1. just use some twinkling Xmas lights in the dark and have your actors look at those like fireworks...then add some sound effects later. :) Good luck, my sweet lady. wish i were on the shoot with you and helping out. xo

  2. Or I could just light matches and throw flame at them. What a good idea!