I’ll subtitle this post: How we’re really making this movie.
I’ve touched on this in an earlier post, but tonights work has it in the forefront of my mind. We knew going in that we would have liked two more days of shooting, taking the schedule from 18 to 20 days. 18 days for a feature is really tight. Especially given how many scenes/set-ups we have. It’s kind of a catch 22 on this movie; There’s only 4 locations for the entire film, but theres a ton of different areas within each location. For example, the beach, where we shoot many scenes, is on the same lot as the main house. However, the beach is about 100 yards back from the house down a slope that has a vertical drop of about 20 feet. Getting equipment down there is basically a company move without changing locations. And that move/setup takes about an hour.
You can not rush a company move no matter how big or small it may be. We’ve got an undermanned crew that are working their asses off and rushing will only lead to sloppy work and an accident. These guys/girls are moving heavy equipment in all sort of conditions which range from the sand and water of the beach to the pristine rooms of the house that we’re shooting in; they each require a delicacy that takes time.
So we knew going in that the only way to make the schedule was to limit the amount of takes/acting time. Limit is not exactly the right word, let me expand: we knew that we needed actors who could deliver without having to pull a performance out of them, so we cast accordingly. As I’ve said (read bragged) before, we have an excellent cast.
The other element to making days and being on schedule is the issue of coverage. Coverage, if you don’t know what I mean by that, is shooting the scene from different angles: two shots, wide shots, close-ups, so that in editing the editor can craft the scene. Coverage is vitally important to a film, though it is never something you walk away from a film saying “man, the coverage was amazing”. Coverage only makes itself known when you don’t have enough of it. Coverage can creep up and bite you in the ass in editing because the editor will be looking to move to a closeup or wide shot and not have it.
In preproduction we had many discussions about what the coverage would be and actually sticking to it. This is generally easier said then done. The tendency is to get on location and just say “lets shoot it so we have it”. Generally that’s a good plan but little by little those shots add up and before you know it you’re behind schedule. We knew going in that we had to live and die by our coverage choices. And, as we’re right on schedule, we’ve been able to follow that.
It’s common knowledge/practice throughout the arts that great things can come out of limitation. Tonight was a perfect example of that. We had a ton of work to do tonight over a number of night exterior scenes. Which, as I mentioned, is the hardest stuff to cover. We would not have made the night had we approached these scenes with the classic shot template of master/wide, two shot, medium, closeup. We had too many pages and not enough time before the sun would come up.
Jon went to work with the shot list he had prepared earlier in the day, walking, for himself, the first scene up. It’s a heavy dialogue pivotal scene between two of our main characters. It takes place over a barbecue while they’re grilling steaks. With some simple blocking Jon came up with a beautiful way to cover the scene in a couple of two shots. The scene looks amazing and the spontaneity of performance is palpable since the actors didn’t have to worry about any single coverage. If we approached this scene with traditional coverage I do not believe we would have found these shots. Jon found a fantastic solution to covering the scene, which allowed for the performances to blossom, and allowed for us to make the day. We found beauty through the limitation.
We finished about a half an hour early tonight due to the economy with which we shot and the hard work of the crew. There was an amazing sunrise, the best yet, which everyone just sat around and watched. This was a really special moment. No one talked about it or planned it out, we just sat there. It was a tribute to the fun that we’re having and the bond that has developed over the shoot.