France Location Day 2: We wove our way back to the gas station, the first place the main character stops for directions. Got lost on the way several times. No rain at all; a glorious sky, with deep, textured clouds like a huge softbox diffuser. You can’t buy clouds like that in LA (well, you can import them in post- now, I guess).
The Total station was more perfect than I remembered. It’s occasionally eerie; the degree to which aspects of this trip approximate my own experience, which is still so different in many ways from the script. The gas station owner readily agreed to the shoot and hit almost all his lines perfectly. What he changed, we can easily live with.
Headed into Paris, to the office of Sycomore Films, our local production partners and frequent lifesavers. Jonah rigged up a narrow plywood sheet with screws threaded in at various points; it’s now our camera mount and steadicam in one. Works perfectly in the car, espectially in combination zith the memory foam.
A quick lunch (well, quick for France, anyway), and we were on our way to pick up the Miniflow light kit, which throws just enough natural daylight to even out the exposure within the car. AND it plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter. All this time hit us, though, as we raced to get dialogue scenes done on the autoroute before the sun went down at 6:30. (Of course, Jonah kept shooting in the cloudy Magic Hour, which looked fantastic but doesn’t fit into the story at all; it’s supposed to be a single morning/afternoon, no dusk.)
Location Day 2 (actually; Day 1 in France): Things are off to a good start. NYC crew arrived a bit early, as did I, so we began shooting in Charles deGaulle immediately. The French crew (prod. exec. and sound engineer) arrived an hour or so later, by which time we’d covered everything that didn’t require dialogue/sound. Fred, the sound guy, got set up on a luggage cart (standard equipment on a shoot as faar as I’m concerned), and we were off. Got it done with no problem, really. CDG shoots so well, too; beautiful concrete, lots of reflections, very interesting.
Hit the road with the intention to shoot –in sequence zith the script, basically–the phone calls between the couple. Unfortunately, the Audi didn’t have the glass roof it was advertised with, so it was too dark to shoot inside, even in daylight. AND the camera was a bit unstable for dialogue, anyway. The memory foam pillow I’d brought to use as a car/hood mount proved invaluable for cushioning the camera, though, so we got great driving shots.
Oh, did I mention the rain? It started out blindingly sunny on Sunday morning, then turned to downpour for the rest of the day. We’ll have to work it into the story somehow; it’s supposed to rain all week. We’re staying in Albert at the Best Western; it’s a classic hotel box with stone facing and turrets all over–a prefab castle. We were the only guests on Sunday night(“Just like The Shining,” I told the nervous clerk.)
The landscape is tremendous; flat, featureless fields, slight rolling hills, narrow roads with large embankments blocking the view. There’s a banal easy sublimity/awe which is tempting but difficult to capture. And it can kill a film. Town after town, all with buildings from the Twenties and Forties. Once you know the styles, you can’t help noticing them everywhere. Everything dates to one of two distinct waves of (re)construction.
Early dinner and a night reworking the schedule to fix the light and vibration problems and to make it through the rain.
I just got home from our first night of locations, here in NYC. First, thanks to everyone. It went extremely well, even if it took over twice as long as I’d originally planned. Some headaches/highlights:
I reserved the sound equipment without checking/confirming with the sound guy, Slane. Result: no XLR cables (we had to have them messengered down. 45 min. lost); half-charged battery on the Mini-Disc (run out for add’l batteries. 20 min lost); an annoying buzz from the Mini-Disc, which we finally traced to the AC power cable (thus, run only on batteries. 20 min lost, 2 takes reshot). The moral: confirm equipment with the experts; check equipment before leaving the rental house.
ConEd began tearing up the sidewalk and streets DIRECTLY in front of the location. Jackhammers and concrete saws right out the window. The entire time. We declared it authentic, changed some dialogue to incorporate 24/7 emergency workers in the neighborhood. All in all, a fortuitous crisis-turned-story-element.
Evanne, one of our saintlike hosts, was under the weather, but both she and Ed were so gracious. Check the movie to see shots of their sweeet loft. And then remember that they’ve had to live with 24/7 emergency/construction crews in their neighborhood for the last five months.
Rebecca was incredibly natural (she’s a singer, not an actor. at least until now.) and made the evening.
Preparation was enough to make quick decisions about how to get it all done, what to cut, when we got enough coverage, and how to improvise/add some real creative moments. That’s praise for Jonah (DP) and Alice (amazing producer expertise).
Dinner at Odeon, which somehow felt right. And it was empty. Nice.
‘Night. Gotta get up early to return the equipment, the van, and to screen/make adjustments for France.
This morning I was researching changes we may need to make to consent/release forms to enable us to shoot in France. I was reading through the WIPO site, when I searched across a memo written by an old friend and former roommate. He works at the MPAA, so in a sense, he’s the boss of the WIPO. If I didn’t know what a tough lawyer he is, I’d sing It’s a small world after all.
Oh, and I haven’t found any analysis of how a babelfish-based translation of a legal document holds up in EU courts. We may be the test case.
Yesterday’s B&H Photo haul (Total cost: around $400):
Sony MDR-7506 headphones
40 – DV tapes (added to the 20 on hand)
20 – 74-minute mini-discs for audio recording
After asking and studying both DAT and MD options, we’ve decided to use a combination of DV and Mini-Disc for audio, editing all on DV in Final Cut Pro and then laying down the superior MD audio on the final…cut. LAFCPUG’s review of the HHB MDP500 Portable MD recorder was the clincher; the HHB’s USB port helped close the deal.
And we’ll have two cameras (bonus!), my Sony VX1000 and a Sony PD-150, which is a couple of rungs up the evolutionary ladder. Two cameras should help speed along the driving shots, landscape shots, and maybe dialogue scenes as well.
Another way things have changed: I made the bed. Pulled the long, blonde hair off the charcoal wool blanket. It’s just like the one on the floor. On that Jil Sander coat over there. On the seat belt strap when I got into the car for the first time in a week. Ubiquitous little signals of a life shared. And now I think of them as potential sources of DNA. Such as those the families of the missing only wish they had more of. [NYTimes, full article requires purchase]
License plate spotted out and about yesterday in NYC: WTC TWIN
Spent the last few days reworking the script, adding New York scenes. As Jonah suggested, it would be stronger to show the wife’s own search as well, so we set out to find an actress who would do well on camera, not just via voiceover.
Yesterday, I scouted out some friends’ apartment, which is perfect; they graciously have agreed to let us shoot there this week. It’s in Tribeca, and they have a great art collection, so it’ll shoot really well, I think.
v2.0 of the script is available, which will be substantially the same one we shoot from next week. Here is a corresponding version of the location and shots list, where most of the scene/shot numbers changed after I added NY scenes. It’s another heinous MS-generated html page.
Friday night we went to another friend’s opening and then to dinner following. At dinner, MoMA Architecture Curator Terry Riley told us about speaking about the history of the WTC rebuilding debate recently in Colorado (story from Denver Post).
Last night I went to the opening of German painter Gerhard Richter’s retrospective at MoMA. Over 500 people shoehorned into dinner, while another 1500 or so poured into the galleries. It’s the last major exhibition before the museum closes for a three-year renovation. In his speech, Glenn Lowry, the Director, likened the show (and the artist) to the museum’s landmark exhibits of Cezanne and Picasso.
Even at such a weighty, important, and exciting occasion, it didn’t take more than one course before our table was engrossed in sharing personal experiences of September 11. (Don’t look at me; I was talking about Nazi-stolen art and the growing imperative for schools to ban dodgeball.) The stories were familiar, similar to ones we all had/heard, but it didn’t matter. We apparently still need to remember these things.
Found this on Slate: An interesting proposal for a World Trade Center memorial by Fred Bernstein, an architecture writer (for the NYTimes, among others, it seems). Basically, it’s twin tower-sized piers with the names of those killed placed on the appropriate “floor.” The piers would be oriented toward Ellis and Liberty islands.
While I’m dubious of the mirror-like conceptual similarity to Maya Lin’s Viet Nam memorial, which we visited last weekend (i.e., the orientation, the name placement mechanism), the simplicity and outside-the-Bathtub siting/thinking are very welcome. [q: Why is there no search function on NewYorker.com?] I will not discuss (or link to) the hothouse proposals on display at Max Protetch Gallery.
I got on the web in 1993. So what? In my almost nine years, I have never published an uglier, more bloated, less web-credible page of html than the one created by MS Office, the location & shot list, which originated as an Excel spreadsheet. This maps all the shots/scenes from the script to their respective locations. I’m using it to build the shooting schedule, which is tight. very tight. I may have mentioned that before.
Had the first reading of the script with the main actors (more about them later) to see how they fit/relate to the parts. It was unexpectedly nervewracking to hear the words I wrote being read by someone else as their own words. Would it suck? Would it sound likeme talking to myself?
Turns out, it felt and sounded good. As they settled into the roles, and we talked about the characters between readings, they kept getting better and better. By building familiarity with the characters, not just the words, the actors started getting into the roles. Interesting process. And the presence of outsiders (i.e., people other than me) who didn’t cringe or seem to struggle for something to say was also encouraging.
On another front: I put together a detailed list of locations and corresponding shots. It included time estimates for each setting and getting each shot. THIS then rolled up into a shooting schedule, which is D*#M tight! We’re looking at shoehorning 30.5 hours of shooting (including setup) into 4 days. Given the sunrise/sunset in France in February, and the difficulty shooting outdoors when the sun’s at strong angles (early and late), there’s not really 7.5 hours/day available. It’ll be close. stay tuned. Fortunately, we don’t have any Project Greenlight-style swimming scenes.
My daily Baz Lurhman and Martin Scorcese encounter: They’re both in this NYTimes article about rampant botox injections “playing havoc with facial expressions.”
One of many priceless quotes, this one about the only-temporary effects of treatment:
“You could marry a woman with a flawlessly even face,” one doctor said, “and wind up with someone who four months later looked like a Shar-Pei.”
The writer, Alex Kuczynski, formerly of the Times’ business beat and the NY Observer, which first broke the Botox story (to me) five or so years ago. She’s turning back the clock on her writing subjects, and she’s never looked better!
Update: Met with DP two nights in a row, discussing casting, scheduling, the script (which may go through another revision very soon), and some ideas for adding a shoot day in NYC. We’re also going to do some readings/camera tests to help finalize casting. Alice, friend of Jonah’s was along tonight; look forward to her joining. She’s got some good experience, connections, and her french is excellent. The script’s been downloaded far more than I expected (I never download pdf’s).
Other: DV audio tips search turned up another film weblog, this one from Dallas-based Bare Ruined Films.
And it turns out the master of the no-budget blockbuster, Robert “El Mariachi” Rodriquez, beat us all to it with his book, Rebel Without a Crew, which includes his daily production journal as well. There’s a webring around here somewhere, I can feel it…
10 downloads (and a few failed attempts. the link should work now.) And I just broke out a separate index for highlights from the short. New visitors, thank you for your confusion and comments.