May 22, 2007

Close Relations, The Shoot Part II

As you can imagine, yours truly was so exhausted after three nights of filming that I could barely speak in coherent sentences and thus I let a few images tell you a bit about the shoot.
It seems to have gone well, considering it was my first outing into the wonderful world of do-it-yourself cinema. The only horrid thing that happened which is eating up my entrails as I speak is that we had problems downloading all of the digital information into our hard drives, which complicated things considerably after the shoot. I still need to see if everything we shot is safe and downloadable.
In the new world of HD video everything is a digital file. No more rolls of film, no more celluloid, no more tapes, no more film purring through the camera as you shoot (I really miss that sound). This is very practical and saves a lot of money. But as everything that's to do with technology, it is a ghost in the machine kind of thing. It feels much less tactile and in a sense much more fragile than good old film. As long as the material was saved, I will be relieved. If not, I will be armed and dangerous.
I think I surrounded myself with mostly utterly professional, talented people. Starting with my fantastic actors, Dick Latessa and Annie Meisels, who were real pros and extraordinarily talented. It also helped tremendously that they were extremely nice to everybody and seemed to bond instantly. I can't imagine what may happen when actors don't like each other. It must be hell on earth. But these two got along like a house on fire and made all of our lives quite easy.
My DP (director of photography) Manuel Billeter was very thorough and it looks like he did a great job. Of what I could see from some footage, it looks great. He had an amazing crew of three or four, who worked fast, and fabulously. I was particularly impressed with our gaffer, a super talented chick who solved every problem in a second and had great creative ideas.
My producer Susan Leber, did a great job putting the production together. She was unfortunately stuck, among her other responsibilities, to making sure we were fed because we had no catering person, a thankless, boring job.
My friend Marta was my art director/wardrobe/propmaster and she was fantabulous. Marta is so dedicated and thorough and meticulous, she could do this job and excel at it forever, like she excels at other matters of creativity and style. My friend Laura helped me with script. Continuity is the bane of my existence, people. Never again will I make fun of a movie where a character enters a scene with a hat and leaves without it. And neither should you. That stuff is a tedious bitch, because you have to constantly remember where were things before you moved them around. Was the curtain open or closed? Was she wearing the scarf or not. Did she use her left hand? GEEEEEZ. And don't get me started with the eye line business and the crossing the line business. I know for some people this is easy as pie. Not for me. Poor Laura tried heroically to keep me honest in this continuity business, but I just don't have the head for this minutiae. It's the last thing you want to think about when you have to worry about keeping the performances fresh, the camera moves meaningful.
Bea drew magnificent storyboards (which came in really handy) and helped with the boring job of downloading. Our sound guy was an eccentric character from somewhere in Eastern Europe called Andrej, who made strange pronouncements and warbled Beethoven's Fifth incessantly. The sound seems fine so far. I hope it is because we won't know until we edit the monster.
In any case, everybody was fine except for an asshole assistant director who made it his business to be thoroughly disliked by a few people, including myself. He talked a good talk, which is why we hired him, but he was always late and worse, thoroughly disinclined to be respectful or cooperative. He was one of those geniuses who thinks he knows better than anybody else, an arrogant wiseass with no class, no manners and no discernible talent. He kinda knew what his job was, but he didn't do it well. He was incredibly inconsistent. As I said to Laura, his personality got in his way. I hope he is reading this. If you are, Josh, let me put it this way: The name of your job is ASSISTANT Director. That means that you assist the director. You are at the service of the director and you also make sure the director is aware of the realities and constraints of timing and production issues. Your job is not to question the director's or the DP's decisions, or to harass the director when she is taking five minutes to finalize wardrobe after waiting five fucking hours for the set to be ready because you are not doing your fucking job. Neither is it your responsibility to give unsolicited, snide directing lessons. Your job is not that the director has to ask you where are the actors and to tell you where to go fetch them because you don't know. And if you are supposed to show up at 1:30 for a pre-pro meeting, you don't arrive at three and without one word of apology. Truth is we should have fired your ass that very day, but I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt and I will not forgive myself for this one. I should have talked to Susan immediately, who also complained of your rudeness the next day and we should have sent you packing. But we didn't. Lessons learned. I learned other lessons as well. Some of them technical, interesting, some of them painful. All of them useful. At one point I was thinking that directing was wonderful, except you have to deal with people. But in general, most people who converged for my little vanity project were fantastic.
Marta asked me if I didn't feel a bit of post partum depression after it was done. I did not. I was hugely relieved and happy it was over. I think I will feel the baby blues when I edit it and finish it and send it out into the world.

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