Ep7 Shoot Days 5 & 6
So when I last left you we were getting ready for shoot day 5.
Day 5. Wednesday, June 6. After work we drove down to a new location for the first time, a crew member’s apartment that we hadn’t used before, rearranged all of the furniture, set up a couple lights and got our first shot off around 9 p.m. We had about 3-ish pages to get through, including a location move, but my shotlist was very minimal—I don’t like shooting coverage, that’s lazy storytelling—and the core PoPS crew is hard core, so we moved pretty quickly. We wrapped our second location at around 10:30 and decided to go out for a drink and some dinner. The only main cast member we weren’t shooting with that night was Craig, but he lives in the area so he came down to join us too. We so rarely all get together like that when we’re not actively shooting; it was nice to have us all at one table.
Day 6. Sunday, June 10. Another day in a basement. Turned out to be the hardest day of the shoot so far. Got to location at 10 a.m. and had quite a bit to put together before started rolling shutter. Once we did get going, some of the shots that I wanted were a little complicated and we were also trying to invent a new methodology to integrate practical elements inside complicated VFX shots on the fly. By lunch at 3:30 we had only gotten a handful of shots. Granted, they looked amazing, but we were beeeeeehind. I had Monday and Tuesday nights set aside as backup days, but I also don’t care much for spilling over onto backup days. We picked it up after lunch and got through everything mandatory on my shotlist by 9:30 p.m. Or so I thought. Once everything was packed up, I realized that we had missed something crucial. We do a ton of compositing on the show, meaning locking down the camera and filming different elements separately and then merging them into the same shot in After Effects through rotoscoping. It’s the way we do the Sebastian clones and a ton of other things. So the climax of the sequence we shot relies on a composite shot. The shot worked beautifully, great performances, everything, I just forgot to have the actor I’m compositing into the shot do his action separately while we had the camera set up and locked off. By the time I remembered, everything was broken down and everyone was exhausted. I probably could have saved the sequence in the edit by cutting into the shot later, but that’s not how I designed the sequence to play. I ended up using the Tuesday backup day. Ryan (D.P., producer, VFX dude extraordinaire), the actor, and myself got together, we hung up the lights in the same places, repositioned the camera in the exact same angle—I brought a printout for reference—and the actor did his motions. Three takes took all of two and half minutes. It was a half hour (minus the hour and 45 minutes it took to drive to and from the location) from set up to break down and I got my shot back.
Side story: Occasionally, making independent content leads to strange incidents that an unassuming, middle-ish-class fellow such as myself wouldn’t otherwise experience. Take, for example, the evening prior to day 5. One thing that bothers me about low-budget movies and series is prop repetition. There’s no money, so things have to be used over and over. If it’s something innocuous like a pen or a briefcase, that’s fine; I can see a coincidence like that. But the one that really bothers me is gun repetition. If two completely different characters are using the same gun in different environments, I’m going to notice that and it feels cheap. Guns are very loaded (tee hee) props, meaning the appearance of them immediately changes the course of any narrative, so they are SUPER noticeable. Since good-looking replica guns are expensive, I started looking at rentals. Chicago is a very gun conscious city, there are no gun shops, shooting ranges, or anything, so you can’t even get your hands on decent-looking Airsoft guns within Cook County, so I started investigating property masters. I found a dude with a gun replica arsenal on the Illinois Film Office website with an IMDb page that scrolls forever and starting talking to him. Having not done the fundraiser for episode 7 yet, we couldn’t afford the rates to have him on set or the rates for his cooler gadgetry, but his replica rentals were by the week and reasonable enough for us to rent a couple of the more conspicuous guns in the episode. Once we reached an agreement I found out the dude lives in Indiana. We agreed to meet halfway. That’s how I ended up in the parking lot of a strip mall of the south side of Chicago trading an ex-cop cash for a couple of guns. As I leaned against my car waiting for him to arrive, I had one of those—Yep, this isn’t my usual Tuesday night—moments that a guy like me only has due to the unfortunate collision of imagination and ambition. (Of course, I mean by making up content that involves shootouts, but now that I think about it, REAL gun hand-offs in shady parking lots are probably the result of imagination and ambition too.) It felt all kinds of shady, the only difference was that I got a receipt and the guy—really really really nice guy, Kyle Holden Props—said he checked out the show and was really into what we were doing. Much less shady.
Wow. Pretty talky this week. Thanks for reading.