Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Promised Final Report. Plus Some Pictures. And Reader Question(s?) And Answer(s?)

Last night, I said I'd be doing a final report on my my most recently completed celluloid escapade. 

And I've got some pictures for you.  I was going to add an adjective before the word "pictures", but that might be presumptuous of me.

And at the end of the post, I'll be answering question(s).  So far, there's only one, so I'm including that parenthetical plural!  I do try to be accurate.  You guys can even ask some more and make the plural true!
Our last day of filming on location, at least the last full day on location, took place at what's actually a parking area for overflow parking from a Buddhist Monastery overlooking Woodstock. We went there for a few really good reasons.  1. The woods were sparse enough to stage a scene going through them and actually be able to see the characters in the scene.  You'd be surprised how many types of "woods" you can run across when searching for "Ext. Woods".  Lots of them are really dense and lots of them have way too much undergrowth.  2. There was a really lovely pond there and we intended to do a shot across it of our lead character walking alone and reflected in the water. (That shot got dumped when the fog grew too dense to see more than three yards across the water.)  3. There was actually enough room to park the trucks and the crew at the location.  This may seem an obvious consideration to most of you, but you'd be surprised how many place the "powers-that-be" wanted to shoot that had nowhere to park the trucks in the same zip code.  Oddly enough, the Camera Department wasn't eager to hump their gear a mile or more to some locations and the Electricians pointed out that they'd need a two-day pre-rig and another couple of trucks full of cable to be able to reach the generator.

Here's a shot of us parked there.  It's early in the day and the fog (read dense cloudbank) hadn't had a chance to really get its act together.
There was another picture that included actual equipment trucks (making it more appropriate to a post about filming), but I deleted it by accident.  Oh well.  The fire truck is there and you'll see why shortly.  Also, I'll mention that the Honeywagon and the Makeup/Hair/Wardrobe Combie Truck still ended up 2.1 miles from set.  There would have been plenty of room for them nearby, but the two of them always need to park together (dressing rooms go with wardrobe -- d'uh), and one of them didn't have the requisite Ooomph to make the trip up the mountain.  File this under "lessons learned":  When planning a shoot in the mountains, don't rent trucks that have anemic automatic transmissions and are really designed for city driving.

The reason we had the fire truck on set was that the day's scene was the opening of the movie, in which our heroine is having a nightmare about a witch burning in 1668.  You'll note that the wood for the pyre is actually a little distant from the actress so that we don't actually end up burning the poor woman.  Viewed from the front, with a narrow depth of field, it looked like the flames really were licking at her ankles.  And in a bow to the actress's tender sensibilities, our First Assistant Director instructed everyone to refer to her as "the falsely accused witch".  This inspired me to suggest that we refer to one of our crew members as a "falsely accused   fill in job title here   ".  (He wasn't very good at his job, but there's no need to out him here.)

Here, you see the upright townspeople dragging their neighbor to the stake.  It's much foggier in these shots than it actually was at the moment.  Since you can't count on the real thing, we were surrounded by fog machines to make things just right.

And here are some shots of that magic moment when the townspeople save the poor woman's soul from perdition. 
 I'll put this woman's screen scream up against any in the business!

As the day wore on, the fog grew denser and denser.  The top of the mountain, where we were shooting, was firmly planted in the middle of a cloud.  At the end of the day, you had to drive down the first quarter-mile at a crawl and then, suddenly, you were in clear air.  It's not often you need truck drivers to be instrument rated.

Here are a couple of shots from before it got too dense to see your own feet.  Nothing particularly relevant about them...I just like them.

And here are a few more random shots of things that have nothing to do with anything...I just liked them too!

This is one of the cutest churches I think I've ever seen. It's not quite as grand as St. Patrick's Cathedral, but it's got a certain charm!

Here's a rocket ship by the side of Route 28 in Boiceville.

And here are some shots of the gate to a place that doesn't seem to exist anymore.

Speaking of stone gates, here's a shot of one our Construction and Scenic Departments created for one of our locations.  I'm constantly impressed with what they manage to do with plywood, styrofoam and paint!

Two more things to leave you with before I start answering the voluminous queries that have come in so far...

First, it would appear that the diner next to the hotel where I was living got a deal on some placemats from 1956.  Not only might it inspire customers to try a drink that may have waned in popularity, the bartender could use it to learn how to make a Gin Rickey!  All around WIN.

Second, I noticed that the sidebar on my blog has developed quite the potty mouth!  This, too, shall pass.
And now, on to the question(s?) and answer(s?):

Megan asks:

We get to ask any questions we want? Yes, you most certainly do!

Okay, here's mine:

When you watch those "behind the scenes" extras on DVDs or late-night TV specials, do they generally ring true, or are they bullshit?
They ring true with me, but I'll admit that I'm as gullible as anyone else when it comes to movies and stuff about movies.  When I was in film school (at Emerson Daycare Center), I found myself analyzing every bit of film I watched to figure out how they did it or why they did it or if I thought I could do it better.  This made for a "not fun" viewing experience.  Over time, I was able to revert to just being some schmuck watching a movie.  I only notice technique if it's spectacularly good or spectacularly bad. (The uninterrupted steadicam shot that follows Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco to their Copacabana table in Goodfellas is ridiculously impressive.) When a filmmaker wants to make me cry, odds are I'll sob like a little girl, right on cue.  And I know why the music is swelling.  I know why the camera is lingering on that extreme closeup.  I'm a sap...sue me.

As to the "behind the scenes" stuff, I suppose I choose to buy into it.  Granted, I'm sure the lead actor giving an interview isn't spilling the dirt about what an asshole the director was during the production. And I doubt the Wardrobe Supervisor will go into detail about the macho action hero who refuses to work without wearing his favorite silk bra and panties under the costume. On the other hand, I doubt there's all that much actual lying going on either...except maybe lies of omission. 

I've never rented the DVD for Roger Dodger, but I sat down for interviews for the DVD extras on that one. If I recall, the main area of interest we talked about was that this was one of the first films issued a new permit by the City of New York after a two-week shutdown caused by 9/11.  During one day of shooting exteriors on Park Avenue, there was a fairly massive scaffolding collapse in the courtyard of a building across the street from where our trucks were parked.  The building was about 14 stories tall and they had been doing stonework on the facade facing the courtyard, so it was a lot of scaffolding.  It sounded like an explosion and, while I'm sure there would still be a massive Police and Fire Department response if it happened today, the response that day was certainly enhanced by post 9/11 jitters. (This happened in November, if I recall.)  Fire Trucks and Police Emergency Services Units flooded the streets for about 5 square blocks and, naturally, we were shut down.  The collapse also managed to tear out a bunch of electric lines in the building, so we ended up lending lighting to the rescue units and running in cable from our generator so they'd have power. (It took almost a month to track down all of the lights that left with the various fire trucks later that day.)

If any of you ever rent the movie (and it's one of the ones I'm actually proud of), let me know if I made the cut...and whether or not I come off looking like a twit!

Now, I'll just stand by and wait for more questions to flood in.  Maybe I should warn Blogger that their servers might not be able to handle the traffic!
Vince asks: (actually, he asks a little more than what I'm gonna answer, but I'm ignoring part of it!)
I notice on IMDB you appear under "Other crew" above the office production assistant but below the teamster captain.

SO, a) does this reflect your actual standing?
No.  IMDB uses that catchall "Other Crew" thing for a lot of job categories and then just lists them alphabetically by last name. As you might guess, I'm just thrilled to be relegated to "Other Crew" with the guy who gets a special thanks for the really fresh bagels.  b) what's a teamster captain (yeah, yeah I could look it up, but you're the one who asked for questions) The Teamster Captain is the guy in charge of all transportation.  The truck drivers, van drivers and people driving cast around in cars all take their orders from the him.  Any type of special equipment that is self propelled is ordered by him. Generally, if it has wheels and a motor, it's in his jurisdiction. (I would have been less gender specific, but I'd have to think hard to recall a female Teamster on a movie I worked on and I'm certain I've never worked with a female Captain.  and c) does your name normally appear in the ending credits on movies you work on? I never actually read them (especially in the theater) so I'm curious. And if it does, is that under the company contract with you, or the union contract, or the whim of the movie jinn? I've been credited on most every movie I've ever worked on, including when I was a Production Assistant.  For some categories, getting a credit is at the Producers' discretion.  As a DGA member, I'm contractually entitled.  As to where my credit appears in that massive list, that's a bit more capricious. I've had my name show up really large and almost alone at the head of the list and I've seen my name whiz by somewhere in a crowd populated by the guy who plowed snow for us and and one of the Director's childhood friends he wanted to mention.
Janiece asks... 
How's the Zombie Pancreas? It's been behaving quite nicely of late.  Flareups have been fairly rare, and of short duration.  Are you still drinking your coffee from a sippy cup? The ignoble photograph to which Janiece refers you is from when I met up with her and John The Scientist for dinner in Danbury, CT.  Two things to note here:  1.) Danbury was chosen since it was equally inconvenient to all of us...roughly 90 miles from where each of us started.  and 2.) That sippy cup was the only thing the restaurant could offer when I asked for a coffee to go at the end of dinner.  Did they bury the neighbor on hallowed ground? Try as I might, (and I'm sure I'll catch shit for it), I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.  I'll leave it to your discretion to decide whether to remind me publicly here on the blog or to send me an email.

Eric doesn't so much ask a question as let fly with a string of F*Bombs.  You can read it in the comments, but suffice it to say; he found my sidebar inspirational.


vince said...

Did you warn Blogger? And how did that work for you?

I notice on IMDB you appear under "Other crew" above the office production assistant but below the teamster captain.

SO, a) does this reflect your actual standing? b) what's a teamster captain (yeah, yeah I could look it up, but you're the one who asked for questions) and c) does your name normally appear in the ending credits on movies you work on? I never actually read them (especially in the theater) so I'm curios. And if it does, is that under the company contract with you, or the union contract, or the whim of the movie jinn?

Janiece said...

How's the Zombie Pancreas? Are you still drinking your coffee from a sippy cup? Did they bury the neighbor on hallowed ground?