Film #7: The Shoot

“Never work with children or animals.”  W.C. Fields’ famous quote proved itself half-true in the course of production for my seventh short film.  On top of trying to work with a dog and a six-year-old, I planned stunts, special effects, and a tight shooting schedule that ultimately proved to be a bit overambitious.

We started at 9am on Saturday the 19th.  My brother, Blake and his wife, Jenna came over to my apartment and we started right away by trying to shoot the few scenes I had planned to use a dog.  My Great Dane, Darby, is many things, but one thing she is not is a trained, screen dog.  The scene called for her to look menacing (or at the very least, not happy) while riding in the bed of a truck.  She had never been in the bed of a truck before and would not settle down.  No matter what I tried, she was more interested in our surroundings then she was in putting on a good performance.  In the end, I couldn’t get the shots I needed and I had to write her out of the film.  Sorry Darby.

After spending the first forty-five minutes or so of production unsuccessfully trying to shoot the dog scene, we quickly packed up and moved on to the next location.  We got to my friend Allison’s house, unloaded the equipment and then set up for shooting inside the house.  She and Blake had a scene together and then we shot a couple scenes with just Blake before stopping for lunch.

As of lunch, we were about an hour or so behind schedule and I was determined to get us back to where we were supposed to be.  After everyone finished eating, we packed up a car and drove around, looking for an appropriate shopping center parking lot to shoot in (as one of the scenes called for it).  The one I had originally planned on using wasn’t that great in reality once we were there and planning the set-up.  Looking all around us, we ended up finding a spot that looked like it would work across the street.  For the scene, we followed the direction in the script but I ended up improvising most of the set-ups since the geography of the location didn’t match the geography I had planned on in my storyboards.  All in all though, I feel like it turned out good.  Blake and Allison both gave solid performances and I got some good coverage of the scene.  Even though we were shooting pretty quick, we were still not any closer to being back on schedule.

We quickly moved on to the next set-up in which the second half of the “children and animals” equation came into play.  The script called for a young child and Christina and I have a six-year old niece named Caitlyn who was very excited to be part of the movie.  Christina worked with her on her dialogue as well as her performance.  She took it very seriously.  In fact, I was told that before they came to meet us, Christina overheard Caitlyn rehearsing her line into the mirror inside the bathroom.  Thankfully, her half of Fields’ quote did not prove true as she gave a great reading and did a terrific job with everything we asked her to do.

It was after shooting this scene that I looked at the time and realized that there was no way we could catch up to my original schedule.  We dove into shooting as much as we could in the time we had left.  After shooting one more scene, this one involving some dialogue between Blake and my friend Tom, I took stock of what we’d completed and what was still left.  After talking it over with the others, I decided that the best option was to call it a day and finish the shooting on the following Saturday.  Most of the remaining scenes involved some form of stunt work and the extra planning time would be helpful for that.

One week later, on the 26th, Blake was back at my apartment at 9am; ready to shoot.  We had a full scene to shoot, a couple pick-up shots, as well as a re-shoot on two shots that hadn’t turned out well from the previous weekend.  All in all there weren’t a lot of shots, but since they included some stunt work, they were more complicated and we spent a little more time rehearsing and walking through them.

The majority of the shoot involved Blake and my truck.  My dad helped out all day as my on-screen driver for most of the car scenes.  It was strange, but literally after we got the last shot with my truck, he parked it and turned it off and when we went to start it up again, the battery had died.  Thinking back a bit, I realize that in the seven years I’ve owned that truck, I’ve never replaced the battery.  It was weird that it died the moment after we finished, and fortunate.

By the end of the second day, we got everything I needed to finish the film.  I’ve been working with the footage over the last few days and I’m excited for how it all turned out.  We shot a few pictures on set the first day and if you want to see them head over to my page on Flickr here.

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