Behind The Camera
The hardest part of making film is punching out the little holes.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Sans Vie Begins
Matthew Morris has been trying to make this film for about a year now. After a few misstarts he finally has all his ducks in a row and we began shooting some second unit stuff at his house yesterday. I am the gaffer on this one and I get to work with Mark Schapiro again after about 15 years. That was great. So we had two scenes to shoot.
A flashback of Jolie as a child and Jolie's online boyfriend getting rejected for a face to face. this story takes place 50 years from now and most people only interact via the internet. This is about Jolie(Played by Melissa Roberts) who eschues Human Contact and Paige (Dixi Lee) who is trying to get her to come out of her shell.
The Jolie as a child was played by none other then Dylan.
This is the Grown up Jolie and the Kid Jolie
The crew was myself Mark S and Stephan who owned the camera package. and some guy to run the boom. All were good and professional but not on the studio level as we had on FH.
We will continue shooting in September
Friday, July 28, 2006
Day 5 and 6 – It’s a Wrap
I am combining these last two days together as Sunday was really 2nd unit stuff and we did not have a truck aside from the camera truck, just a small assault package of a couple of C Stands, the Jokers, the Para beam, one 2x4 Kino flow and assorted grippy stuff.
With Norbert taking the day off I was charged with driving the truck. It is a small Cab over HINO and a commercial drivers license is not required to drive it. Regardless I used to be a truck driver and I could drive this one just fine. I was just a bit cautious since it’s the largest thing I have driven in a few years. And the clutch was incredibly stiff. So much so that the next day I got in my jeep and pressed the clutch to the floor boards and was convinced that the hydraulics had blown. Today’s shoot was at 3 separate locations requiring 2 moves and a return at wrap to Pacific Grip and Lighting.
A Fortune Cookie Machine
The first location was Tsue Chong Noodle Company and Fortune Cookie factory. This place was really cool and we shot a bunch of stuff around the cookies being made, the title sequence and a woman discovering the incorrect cookies.
Tamia the 1st AC. She was not feeling well for most of the shoot but very professional about her job.
Then we wrapped out of there and moved to the Washington Language academy on First Avenue where we shot the love interest teaching an ESL class. Very funny bit as she discovers the tainted fortunes. After we were done there it was a wrap. The other location was a print shop that they just needed camera and a small assault package due to space. So really we only moved the company once.
After the wrap Neil offered to buy a beer at the Pioneer Square Saloon where the Tech crew all got together and decompressed. Since I was driving the truck I only had one beer and drank water while listening to old War Stories of movies past, mostly related by Neil but all entertaining. My favorite was a story about shooting Skeleton Key. It was in Louisiana in this house but they art dept thought the swamp was not close enough to the house so out come the backhoes and the swamp is now perfect. But along with the swamp came all the swamp life mostly icky and some toothsome, very amusing stuff. And another good one about Carbon Rod Lightning boxes and being temporarily blinded by newer lightning boxes and two guys that do Tesla Lightning, and how in Fire Starter the final burn the house down the burnt the house with lights still inside and the only thing they had to wrap was follow the banded cable to where it had melted off. Out of context these are probably not so amusing but there is a Circus Folk attitude to a film crew and when its time to relax the stories flow like the beer. I had a great time but we had to get the truck back and Neil had to let me into PGL so off we went.
Now I had to go to work in the AM and it was about 10:30 – 11:00 PM so my plan was to drop the truck and Neil was going to drive me home. When we got there Neil offered up a beer and we sat for another hour or so shooting the shit telling our film stories. I finally hit my rack at 1:00 and felt like shit the next day. But it was worth it.
Derek (Think that was his name) 1st and 2nd AC Great guy who came up from Portland to shoot Dark Horse and stuck around to help this show.
Like I had mentioned, this was a real light day even thought we were hitting 4 locations; The Smith Tower, An Office in Pioneer Square; Q 13 news room and finally a boat in Ballard.
These were all shots of random people finding their fortunes. The company moved quickly and we got it all wrapped up before the sun went down. Q 13 was great cause we did not have to light it seeing as it was a stage anyway. And it was air conditioned. After we wrapped at the boat, there was some beer and a speech from Mike and Thom. Hugs all around and we were done.
The camera truck. The girl is a PA who is still in high school and got the sad duty of having to hang out with the truck while all the action was else where.
It was like the feeling you get Christmas morning when all the presents are unwrapped. Not so much a let down but a kind of emptiness.
But we start shooting Mathew Morris', Film Sans Vie, on Saturday and get into primary Photography in September. More on that later…
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Day 4 The Big Tuesday
This was promised to be a long day and they certainly delivered. We went from about 9 am to just before 2 AM. The day involved interiors of Barca, Night exteriors of Barca and a Green Screen shot we staged at the Northwest Actors Studio. the call sheet refered to it as a company move but in reality we did not move it was just a half block away.
The interiors were a large dark room that was to be filled with principles and extras. In order to light it we needed to hang the 20 x 30 rag to block the daylight at the entrance and the we used speed rail and clamps to mount a bank of Baby Babys and Tweenies to light the tables and booths and they also hung some China Lanterns from the ceiling and a Baby Junior in the Balcony and couple of other little lights sprinckled around for the dark corners.
This is Jerimiah up on the 12 step trying to find power. he was a great guy to work with. and a former steele worker from Ohio.
This is an ovely soft photo of Thom the director, The second Assistant Cameraman and
Neil the DP. I am disapointed that I did not get a good shot of Neil and the camera. I like those shots as they look cool Neil was a great guy with lots of cred. He is a gaffer and is trying to build a reel as a DP. Independance Day..He lit it.
This is Todd the 1st AD and Thom and some random woman.
There are times when you just wait around for something to do. This is TJ coping with the boredom. When I saw that TJ was on the call sheet on the first day as the Steady Cam operator I was pleased. I had worked with him in the past. I did not note the Jr in the call sheet. This is actually the son of the TJ I knew. But Junior was a great guy and we had him every so often when we needed a steady cam or crane. Which we did today.
This is some of the crew, L-R some german kid that hung around and helped out, Steve the Gaffer for the day, Dixi the UPM and two of the extras.[Edit-Thanksto Dom Zook it turns out that the Extras are his friends, Eric and Amelya.] I love the pose that Dixi Struck.
WE had to be out of the interior of the bar by 5 so that they could open for the evening. WE wrapped out in about 20 minutes to the street. It was amazing and Thom was happy we were able to do so.
We then setup the green screen shot and I hung out at the truck getting some of the lights set for the night exterior.
In order to get the moonlight effect we place a 1200 HMI Par on a Fireescape at the corner of the block. My rigging Idea but it is pretty standard. Take a Combo Stand and lean it out against the metal rail attaching it to the rail using a vise grip that has a chain instead of clamps. Stabalize it with the rocky mountain leg of the stand(It extends) and then focus the light off the building, We also had to do the same basic rig with a couple of Baby Babys on the roof over the entrance of the Barca. This belonged to a guy who had an apt next door and he was a bit reticent to allow this but he eventually gave in and we got it one. WE then filled with the Para beam and a couple of tweenies.
The Girl in the Red Dress
As the night wore on the club scene of capital hill started hopping. At one point this young woman in a reddress and fuck me pumps sauntered by. Two of the guys went off and started flirting asking if she wanted to be an extra.
Now I am all for these guys trying to get their bone on and more power to em. I mean this chick was really hot. But they were giving her beer out of our supply. This brings me to another point. One of the day players was drinking the beer and smoking pot and generally being useless. I know this is a volunteer gig and all and he could have split at any time. But this is dangerous work at best and this is exacerbated by getting buzzed. I was pretty unimpressed by this guys behavior and I am glad that the DP also noticed. Oh yeah he got invited over to the red hot babes house after we wrapped. Fuker.
So we shot the night stuff and Norbert was getting kind of miffed that it was taking so long. His IA card started burning. I can understand where he is coming from again it is about volunteer work and such and I was getting pretty burnt out by the time we wrapped. See every 6 hours you need to provide a meal according to IA rules. This is fair. After you go over the six hours you go into meal penalties which can be rather lucrative to the guy not getting fed on time. I did a day on the hand that rocks the cradle as an electrician. I was getting maybe 150 for the day but we went into OT and meal penalties so I actually skated with a check for about 600 bucks. Nice surprise to be sure.
Anyway we go a walking lunch of dominos and at that point Norbert had had enough and decided he was not going to return the next day. And he was driving the truck. I took over that duty the next day which was the wrap day. As We were leaving we ran into that Shooting mentioned in a previous post.
Oh Snap! I almost forgot. I invited Lorraine and Dylan to stop by on their journies and they did. Dylan was beside herself with joy over being in a real movie set and I introduced them to Norbert and Thom. Who I have to say took a moment and was very gracious, when in fact he was rather busy. Snaps to Thom.
Dont get me wrong here. There is drama on all movie shoots. I am trying to keep an upbeat attitude in my accounts but regardless of the type of work, I expect a level of professionalism. The kid that got the babe did not display any as far as I could tell. But really that little issue was the only really annoying thing to happen
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
More of the Same Monday
This is Norbert. Sorry about the soft focus but I set my camera to museum to avoid flashes on the set. We have become friends during the shoot and we worked pretty well together. He is an IA member from the LA local and he has to go down there about 6 months a year to keep his union card current. We started getting paying work about the same time so I kind of think that if I had stayed in the business I would be at or above his level. I did manage to gain his respect and trust and that meant a great deal.
So Monday we are still at Sand Point. There was to be a company move today to a fishing boat but that was postponed in order to get the stuff we really need from Sand Point. The day went really long and we had to wrap the truck at the end but we got just about every thing we needed.
Scenes shot were In Arthur’s Office, A lunch room, A Hallway and the Receptionists area for the fortune cookie company. By today we had gotten into the crew groove and had 3 electric, Myself, Jeremiah and Norbert and also had a dedicated Grip, Phil and a kid named Drew who is part of Norbert's extended family. I burnt myself on a 1200 Par HMI that is finally getting healed. We finished after about 13 hours, had a couple of beers and took the truck home to Norbert’s and I went to bed.
Very Tired and not much else to say.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Be Back Later
Sorry I have been busy and its been hot. Ill Post the rest of the stuff on Fortune Hunters soon.
In the Meantime peruse some silly movies I have made over the past couple of years on our DV using my Premier editing system.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Day Two – Sand Point
Sand Point is an old decommissioned Naval Air Station on lake Washington that for really cheap will allow films to be shot in some of its old Admin Buildings. The company was scheduled to be here for 2 days to shoot interiors of Arthur’s office, Mr. Yu’s Office, Arthur’s college dorm, Hallways and a lunch Room. Today we were scheduled to shoot Mr. Yu’s office as we had Gedde only for the one day and he had a flight out at about 7. Then we had some hall way stuff and the college dorm room.
The call was fairly early, 7:30 AM at Pacific Grip to pick up the truck. We arrived at the set about 8:30 and began setting up. The first stuff was in Dads Office and the day promised to be a hot one.
Now when scheduling a film shoot one does so in pages of script. Each scene is measured out into 1/8th page units so a typical scene could be 1 5/8th pages. When the crew is new to each other and or there are multiple setups and scenes or complex camera moves to be made, you try to schedule somewhere between 3 and 4 pages of script a day. A scene may be only 1/8th a page but it will still require a relight and rehearsal and coverage of the different shots required to make an editable scene. The production staff, due to time and money constraints, had a very ambitious schedule. And this is where they began to not so much fall apart but they had to start cutting things in order to get the necessary footage. This in turn turned the day into a 13 hour day which over the next couple of days began to take its toll on the crew. We are all Volunteers and some hold IA union cards. It was not so much taking advantage of us but there were a few times when if felt that they were going over pre production issues that should have been decided before we started working. Having said that, when you sign the deal memo, you really are committing yourself to long hours of hard work interspersed with boredom, particularly on a low/no budget short. I am proud to say that the production was never held up on the part of the technical departments.
Working Electrical or Grip is great fun. I was on the call sheet as an Electrician but we also had to do a number of rigging jobs including building a big tent to block out the daylight for the Dorm room which was supposed to be a Night shot. Basically you build a 12 x12 for frame using screw tight corners and these things called ears that slide into a Lollypop or C Stand Head. You then take a 12x12 foot black sheet of Duvetyn that has elastic corners and strings attached and tie it to the frame. You mount the frame Via the Ears to a couple of Combo stands and rise it up to above the window flush as possible to he walls. This is done outside BTW.
You then take a 20x30 foot rag of the same material and attach it to the table top so that you create walls. Plug up the edges with scrap Duvetyn and viola, you have night in the daytime. You can then add lights to the spec of the scene. In this case we put in a Baby to act as a street light through the window.
The key to doing the job correctly is IMHO being there when your needed and running away when your not. And keeping the gear tidy enough to work or be wrapped up as situation requires. And listening. Once the scene, whatever it is, is lit and they begin rehearsing he camera and actors, Hang out just out of the way and listen to your boss as they work stuff out. He may be talking to the gaffer or key grip and say that he wants a lensor to take a flare off the camera or a particular light to be tweaked a bit. Being there and paying attention allows you to get the stuff in with minimal fuss and time so they can do the job that is key, shooting the performance. That is why you are there.
We shot 6 Pages and cut about 3 scenes that were really inconsequential.
Tomorrow Day 3 Still at Sand Point
Monday, July 17, 2006
Fortune Hunters Day 1
Alright I promised some photo action and words about the show, so here they are. I will likely spread this out over a couple of posts.
Fortune Hunters is the name of the show and you can see in a previous post what the story is about. This is really about the shooting experience.
I was a bit anxious going into this as the equipment is always called by nick names that may or may not have gone out of my brain. And if you don’t know what you are getting it can be a bit embarrassing. So our first day of shooting was at the Kau Kau Barbeque in the international District. (PC Way to say China Town) This is a really cool little spot with BBQ ducks and chickens hanging in the window and supposedly the BBQ Pork is the best in the city. They also have this 35 year old fish in an aquarium that is the size of a small dog.
There was an Asian Themed street fair taking place that day and they wanted to capture the ambiance after we shot the interior of the Restaurant. (Picture courtesy Jpoon.photosite.com)
I show up at the appointed time, I took the bus in to avoid driving and parking, tool belt in hand and found the location. I was taken to the truck where I was introduced to the Best Boy, Norbert. We talked a bit, myself explaining that I had been in the business back in the 80s but it had been 15 years since I shot anything of consequence. He immediately warmed up and we discovered we had mutual friends and that he actually lived 5 blocks from my house. WE unloaded the truck of what we needed and moved carts down the alley to the location, the streets being closed for the fair. The shooting went great and it was a relatively short day that ended in beers at some little café. The camera crew had to go shoot the crowd stuff but we were able to wrap the truck and chill out. The day was hot.
A grip truck is a thing to behold. This image is taken from Day 4 in front of the Barca on Capitol hill. The trucks and equipment are designed to load and unload with relative ease. A good truck will allow an experienced grip to rig just about anything that the film might require. And the gear is an engineering marvel. And this one was well equipped. Our light were pretty simple, HMI for daylight 2 800 watt jokers, 2 400 watt Bug lights and 2 1200 pars for moonlight. Tungsten were Baby Babys, Tweenies and a baby Junior and a good set of Kinoflows which are these great Florescent lights that can fit on a C Stand and are color corrected for Day or Tungsten. We were instructed not to break into any of the expendables as that would cost the company money but Thom, the director, brought 2 boxes of various gels and paper. All in all that was a great start and I managed to get enough respect from those I was working with to be accepted as one of the crew albeit a bit rusty.
More to come
Friday, July 14, 2006
Life on the Streets
There is one thing I want to say about the shoot. Tuesday night we wrapped late, around 2:00 AM. Norbert and I were driving the truck back to our house. We were traveling down 12th avenue behind SU when we heard; POP POP POP POP POP!! We both looked at each other and had the look..Gunfire likely a 9mm. we cam to a stop at a light lookign around commenting we did not see a muzzle flash. when the light changed we continued to get the hell out of dodge, 9mm usually hold 13 or 14 rounds in the clip and the shooter had at least 9 more rounds. We weren't sticking around. As we passed this AM PM mini mart I looked and saw a Cab and a guy with a white Tee shirt staggering outside it and a kid in a blue jersey go in and have em call the cops. Cops were coming the other way in about 5 seconds and we went home.
I read yesterdays paper to discover that one man was killed in the incident and another was wounded. I decided to call the cops and tell em what we saw.
Now my impression of what happened was that the shooting went down in the mini mart parking lot. Turns out I was wrong. It happen across the street and I saw the guy that lived.
Oh yeah the Detective told me that our truck was in the line of fire.
I need a moment.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Fortune Hunters - It's a wrap
We finished five days of principle photography on Fortune Hunters last night about 10:00 PM in Pioneer square. I have a lot to say about this but right now I am at work so I'll post photos and commentary when I get home. suffice it to say that I am beat and every muscle in my poor cubicle dwelling body is hurting right now.
More to come...
Monday, July 03, 2006
A Busman's Holiday
We never really planned a vaction this year but I still get burnt out on the job. So last spring I saw a posting on an Indie Film board asking for crew volunteers on a short, Fortune Hunters, being shot in July. I signed up and once the schedule was finalized I got some vacation days scheduled.
The was a preproduciton meeting last Saturday were we got together. It is a neat sounding show. The Plot essentially is that a Youg man upon graduation decides to breakup with his girlfriend. Afterword he regrets his decision and writes her a love letter asking to reconcile and for her to meet him at an appointed time at a local night club. Here is the twist, he works at his father's (Gedde "Long Duk Dong" Watanabi) fortune cookie factory. The love letter gets cut up into fortunes and distributed around to various lonely hearts enjoying their Kung Pao or General Tso's Chicken. They start looking for the companion strips of paper and all wind up at the night club on the appointed night. Like I said it is a sweet story and actually kind of original.
My role will be to dust off my Grip/Electric skilz and hang lights. That will be fun.
The Space Station is REAL
Yesterday the child went to go see a movie with one of her firends. Upon her return, her friends uncle stayed to chat and he mantioned that the International Space Stations was scheduled to be over head that night at 10:29 PM PDT. He gave me a copy of the NASA printout showing the schedule.
So at 10:25 or so the neighbor, spouse, child and I gathered in the front of the house to see if we could spot it. And sure enought right on schedul a tiny, bright dot appeared in the west and proceeded to travel east for about 3 minutes until it orbited out of the sunlight and slowly faded away to nothing. Very cool.