Saturday, April 4, 2009

And How Was Your Day...An Ongoing Sequel

Hey! I've been missing for a couple of days, so you might infer that we had a difficult two-day shoot. You'd be right and you'd be wrong. The fact is that even though they really weren't excessively long by filming standards, they each had their own unique sets of obstacles to overcome.

Usually, I make a point of whining about how the world and nature and various beauracracies and everybody I come into contact with tend to conspire to make my job more difficult. Today, I'm going to try to keep my own whining to a minimum while acknowledging that the conspiracies might have hit my co-workers harder for the last couple of days.

On Friday, we had five scenes to shoot at three different locations in Foley Square. At a glance, they appear to be really close to each other, but the fact is, that Foley Square is quite a sizable hunk of real estate and each time you want to move from one spot to another, you've got a fair distance to move a whole lot of gear and that distance is covered with traffic and pedestrians who care more about getting where they're going than with letting you get where you're going.

Truthfully, though, this is more of a problem for the grips and electricians and camera crew and prop masters than it is for me. They're the ones with a ton of equipment to schlep.

Friday dawned pissing rain. There were a few times when the rain slacked off, but each time it returned, it was raining harder. This went on until about 4:00 p.m. No matter how prepared any of us were for rain, we were all still soaked and miserable very early in the day without any real hope of things improving.

One of my jobs is to keep an eye on things around our set and try to lessen our impact on the general public, and, if not actually alleviate inconvenience, at least make sure we're not actually endangering anyone. This isn't to imply that the crew is unmindful of the public at large, it's just an acknowledgment that they're always under a lot of pressure to move quickly, and get the shot set up. Once we finish one shot, it's likely that the next shot turns around 180º. This means that all of the equipment that was, a moment ago, servicing the shot we just completed is in the shot we want to get next. First they've got to move all that shit again to get it behind the camera's new position and then they have to set it up to actually work for the next shot. When this is going on, one of my jobs is to try to make sure that we've left at least some of the sidewalk clear for real people to get where they're going. You may be able to see where my job may be at cross purposes to everybody else's jobs, on occasion (no matter how conscientious they may be).

If you look at the middle of that little map, you'll see a little dotted series of arrows. The arrows represent the direction two actors would be walking while having a conversation. The camera was to be on a steadicam, leading them and showing an impressive background as the shot progressed. In the diagram, the shot moved from the subway steps up into the middle of the park. In reality, the shot got re-arranged a little bit. The length of their conversation doubled the distance of the shot and it was decided that instead of moving into that wide open spot in the middle of the park, it would just continue up the sidewalk on the west side of the park, ending in a fairly narrow portion of sidewalk. The rain was particularly energetic at this point and the daylight was particularly anemic.

The solution was to have a rather large light on a wheeled stand lighting the actors from just to the left of the lens. Since the shot began at one spot and ended about 250 yards north of the beginning spot, the light would have to be moved continuously with the shot. Lights of this size are not designed to be that portable. I watched the first rehearsal of the shot.

There are three guys pushing the light at a reasonably brisk walking pace (keeping it balanced as it crosses over NY's less-than-pristine sidewalks). There are five guys hauling cable. By this, I mean that the cable which powers the light will, a.) get run over and cause the light to fall over and, b.) get into the shot unless it is continuously pulled backwards to stay behind the light and camera. Cable of that length is heavy. And don't forget that everyone is completely soaked through their rain gear, which by now is doing more to hold sweat in than to keep rain out. When they get to the end of the shot, there is a massive pile of tangled cable (we call it spaghetti), right next to the tent keeping the monitors dry(ish). Of course, there's not an inch of sidewalk to be safely traversed. This is driven home in my mind as I watch an old woman with a cane step into traffic to fight her way by us.

Under normal circumstances, it's my uncomfortable job to go to the gaffer and ask if we can't find some way to get the shot and still leave some safe point of passage for civilians. Under these circumstances...uh...I'd do well to consider what he and his crew are dealing with before opening my mouth. I doubt anyone planned to have to light this shot...optimal circumstances would have had us shooting daylight scenes in...daylight. I doubt any of the electricians woke up that morning expecting to be involved in a 250 yard shot incorporating a choreographed light, camera and attendant cable. Add to this the fact that I counted eight people pushing the light and pulling cable and realized that some of the grips had obviously been conscripted into this dance as well. They definitely didn't show up that morning expecting this to be part of their day. I envisioned pulling the gaffer aside to have this little safety conversation and realized it would be a lot shorter (and equally fruitful) conversation if I just approached him and asked him to go ahead and hit me in the face. (BTW, on Saturday, we did a shot that had the camera on a golf-cart leading two joggers. This time it wasn't raining and the light got to be mounted on the golf cart, but we still needed those poor schmucks to haul cable...and this time they had to run.)

In the end, I decided it would be a better idea to just cone off a section of the curb lane for pedestrians to get around us and hope we'd get the shot completed as quickly as possible.

Another thing that might not be self-evident from the diagram is that Foley Square is a big, giant open vista, no matter which way you look. It's a virtual guarantee that no matter where you park the trucks, sooner or later, you'll have to move a few when they get into the shot. Here, you may be thinking, "Big deal. So you have to move some trucks. They've got wheels and motors and steering wheels...they're made to be moved." Think of those trucks as the different departments' offices. Picture if your office (or cubicle) was on wheels. Before you can let the truck move your office, you need to take everything off of your desk and safely stow it in drawers. Everything that's on a shelf has to be secured so it doesn't fall over and break while your office is being moved. Lots of delicate items actually need to be packed up to make the move. Oh, and while you're preparing to have your office moved, you have a simultaneous presentation going on in a conference room down the hall, and the presentation is the real reason they pay you to show up in the first place. And let's just ignore, for the moment that moving 60' trucks through NYC traffic isn't actually easy. Top this all off with the realization that people driving Mini-Coopers bitch about trying to park on NY streets and the truck needs to end up in the same Zip Code as where the shoot is taking place and it can't block a fire hydrant or a bus stop or park in some area reserved for the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings and can't block someone's loading docks and...moving trucks just flat-out sucks. I may get asked to get the truck out of the next shot, but a bunch of other people actually have to make it happen.

No matter how any of the above made mine or the rest of the crew's day more difficult, the truth is, it's all stuff we've dealt with a hundred times.. Late in the day, however, we had a Close Encounter of the Big City Kind. While we were going about our business, cops started gathering in Foley Square Park just a short distance from where we were shooting. Lots of cops. They were there because a group was holding a march to protest the Government Bailouts and they were planning to end their march with a rally right next to our set. This is the same protest I mentioned the other day, so it wasn't a surprise...any more than the rainy day was. There was always a chance it wouldn't actually happen, but meteorology and predicting protests are both equally reliable. (In the end, I'm not entirely sure what the central core of the protest was about. Some people wanted the money back from AIG and GM and all of those other companies. Some thought the government owes everyone a job. Some thought the government ought to just pay everyone a salary without requiring that they do a job. And since we were steps away, visibly working, we made a convenient impromptu target for some of their speakers. The one thing that kept them truly united was volume. They were loud.)

As luck would have it, though, the rain kept their numbers down and shortened the rally. I'm sure there's a silver lining in there somewhere, but my feet were still soaked, pruney and sore when I got home.

Edited to add:

Our second day of filming took place in DUMBO. This leads to two things.

First, and less important to you, I ran across those pigs from the other days' post which led to me getting linky goodness from Dumbo NYC (last link on the page). And the photo illustrating the page is one of my very own "No Parking" signs for the shoot...a bit of trivia that might lead Dumbo NYC to be less glad I visited the neighborhood when they realize my involvement in both things.

Second...and this one ought to get you all excited, is that DUMBO is home to one of Jacques Torres' Chocolate shops. I don't want to leap into fits of hyperbole, but they make some damned fine chocolate. And I got some for you. The first eight people who comment on this thread and include the sentence, "Send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!", will receive a 12-piece sampler that looks a whole lot like this, (only with less pieces, duh). If I don't know you, you'll have to email me an address to send it to (email address is linked on my profile).


neurondoc said...

I am beginning to think that you location managers work a lot harder than doctors do. At least when you are shooting. Just saying.

Drool (about Jacques Torres, not the pigs, or the weather, or the filming woes). "Send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!"

Did that work?

cjdahl60 said...

I am a new reader to your blog and have greatly enjoyed your sharing what really goes into creating a movie. Even though I'm new here, I hope you will Send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!

vince said...

Oh, oh, send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!

Random Michelle K said...

Nathan, you do know how wonderful I think you are, right?

Please please please, send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!

Nathan said...

Four down and four to go. And 25% lurkers too!

MWT said...

Send Jeri some of that damned fine chocolate!

Nathan said...

I didn't make any rule against requesting that I send Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate to someone else, so I'll honor MWT's request. I'll even overlook the failure to quote the sentence exactly.

Jeri will now be chocolate receiver #5 with only three samplers left to be claimed. (If, however, Jeri shows up and puts in her own claim, she won't be getting two. That'd just be greedy and we can't have that.)

kimby said...

I'm on exams Nathan and I am telling you that chocolate would help me considerably.
"Send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!"

Random Michelle K said...

I think that you should send Jeri lots of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!

Just sayin'.

Tania said...

I quit my job and haven't talked much about it, but I think you should send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

See, I'm thinking that Michelle's second request should be disqualified, cause it's her second request, and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't honor a greedy gussie's second request. Cause, ya know, that's just the kind of guy you are!

So I hereby request that if indeed you are going to disqualify Michelle's second request that you do go ahead and send Jeri some more of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!

Cause, ya know, that would be a damned fine thing for you to do!

Nathan said...

Here's the problem. You guys apparently think I'm a finer, fine guy than I really am.

Michelle's 2nd request is disqualified because it's her second request.

Tom's first request is disqualified because it took him two attempts to spell it right. (Not really...he'd be getting chocolate if he'd requested it for himself, but Jeri already has chocolate coming her way at MWT's, not again.)

This means that there's still one sampler left to award.

BTW, I may as well fess up that none of your chocolates will be on their way for a week. I'm sitting in an airport right now waiting to go to Florida straight through the weekend. Chocolates will be sent promptly upon my return. (Check with previous winners here and you'll find that one-week turnaround is lightning fast for me.)

neurondoc said...

Mmmm, chocolate. Whenever it comes will be fine with me. Drool...

MWT said...

I think that if Jeri does show up to claim the last chocolate, you should honor her request. Then you should send me my request addressed to me (but at Jeri's address).


MWT said...

Just think of the postage you'd save! Instead of chocolate going 8 places, it'd only go 6ish. ;)

Anonymous said...

Send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!

Did i win? Hmmm? Oh, damn. He's in Florida.

Jeri said...

Since my FABULOUS friends are already nominating me, if you have one sampler left, could you "Send my rockin' friend Barb some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!"?

Nathan said...

A conundrum!

Todd is #8 (a winner), but Jeri shows up after having her name thrown in multiple times...and she's asking for chocolate for a friend.

Guess what? You both win (and close out the awards).

Todd, I know I have your address somewhere, but please send it again.

Jeri, send me Barb's info and sweets will be on the way. (But in all fairness, you should make her comment, just so everything is fully on the up and up.

Anonymous said...

damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!!!

I didn't post yesterday because I thought it was all claimed! Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, I guess.

Just in case someone else is disqualified:

"Send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!"

...because, you know, I just gots ta have me some fine choclit.

WendyB_09 said...

Rats! Curses, foiled again...I was going to complain that the link didn't work, so you'd have to "Send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!" so I could see what they looked like.

Tasting would be good too. Maybe next time.


Tom said...

To Whom It May Concern:

Nathan, while protesting that he isn't as fine a guy as many of us seem to think he is, does many fine things for people who simply manage to accurately follow directions.

What a fine, wonderful fellow he is!

He also seems to have a finely attuned Sci-Kick sense, as he knows the reason I deleted a comment that isn't there. Oh, the humility...

Carol Elaine said...

I thought they were all taken, so I wouldn't get the chance to ask you to send me some of Jacques Torres' damned fine chocolate!

Did I do that right? Am I too late?

Nathan said...

Sorry to those who missed out (which includes Carole Elaine who did things exactly right...only too late.)

Awwwww. :(

Carol Elaine said...

Nathan, Elaine may be my middle name, but it should be Too-Late-To-The-Party.

Damn my West Coastness and lack of home computer!