Episode 8 Shoot Days 22 & 23

So, despite our little setbacks and tribulations, we’ve managed another couple of shoot days. And they were great.

Day 22-Sunday, January 12. We gathered in the morning to grab a couple of quarter-page and eighth-of-a-page scenes for the cold open and then got a four-and-a-half page dialogue scene shot. It involved some very specific blocking, and our take number got up into the double digits, but it was indoor, all daytime, and painless. It was wonderful. Early on in the production of this episode, our lens of choice—a 24-70mm EF Canon lens—had a little difficulty. The focus ring started slipping. There was suddenly no guarantee that the focus marks we set up would remain consistent. That didn’t stop me from wanting to rack focus every fifth shot, but it sure did increase our take count as we guessed and hoped our way toward completed takes with proper focus. By day 22, we’d sent the lens in for repair. Still waiting to get it back. Our producer Tim had rented a different 24-70mm for another shoot and we got to use it for the day. OH MY HEAVENS. Having a functional focus ring is so wonderful. And imperative on a day like this. In one of the longer shots involving all four main characters there were four different focus points and a lot of dialogue timing involved. If we had to add blown takes for a faulty focus ring it would have taken forever.

Day 23-Monday, January 20. Martin Luther King Jr. Day! A great day to celebrate a great man. Also, the day a production miracle happened. We’ve been trying to shoot a small fight scene since November. Rained out once, rained out a second time, followed by a search for a replacement location. I searched for a parking garage. It needed to be a location that was open to the public and still feel like it was semi-deserted to legitimately make sense for the scene. Every parking garage I approached either didn’t get back to me, we didn’t have enough insurance for, or it was operated by a shyster. It was a month and a half of dead ends. Finally, I decided it was never going to happen and set up a time for us to shoot it in a basement. We already have so many basements in the show, but we had access to a new one and we could at least get the scene shot. I’d concocted a silly-but-passable reason for the scene to take place in a basement, it was a little bit of a logic-bender, but I thought the audience would stick with us. Everything was scheduled and people were ready to go. The day before the shoot my friend Jill put me in touch with a guy she knew in a little community an hour north of the city named David. I got on the phone with him, he made a couple calls, and we suddenly had the third floor of a parking garage entirely to ourselves. I notified everyone of the change and we were on. After work we headed to location. Of course, there was a weather advisory. The temperature was dropping and it had started to snow. We were in a parking garage to get away from the snow in the first place. Illinois has been blanketed in the stuff since late December and it totally doesn’t match with all of our autumn exteriors. So here we were, heading to the garage and a little blizzard starts. Freezing wind blowing snow sideways. The whole deal. Everyone assembled a little after 7pm and we all headed up to the third floor. We shot until 11:30pm in 20 degree weather. Luckily, there was a heated stairwell nearby where cast that wasn’t being used could huddle between takes. We brushed the snow off of a couple of the cars to use as set dressing (again, to match autumn) and we powered through my two pages of set-ups. The thing that doesn’t quite match autumn is the copious amounts of steam billowing from people when they breathe. But it looks so cool and actually does match stuff we shot in 20-degree weather in October. 20 degrees! In OCTOBER. So steamy breathe is an episode 8 thing, I guess. This was also the first time we worked with a stunt crew. Just for one stunt, but they had the vest harness and a proper pull rope and everything. It looks super cool. I can’t believe it worked out. Last second. Thanks to Jill and David. Amazing.

Completely off topic, but my new favorite invention of the internet is unreleasable movie soundtracks as playlists on Spotify. All of the needle drops in the Donnie Darko soundtrack really help to set the tone for that picture. And despite Richard Kelly’s insistence on demeaning his own career by turning every one of his movies into a buffet of head-scratching what-the-eff’ery, (Just look at The Box, y’all. That concept was great. That was his chance to prove he could walk the line. Should have been a slam dunk. What the hell was Marsden doing in a floating box of water?!) I can’t stop loving Donnie Darko. But the official soundtrack is just the Michael Andrews score because of all the clearance issues involved in the 80s music. A Spotify user named Joseph F. Crawford has assembled all of the needle drops onto a playlist with the original score in film chronological order. Favsies. I’m just going to listen to this forever now. I hope you guys have a lovely week.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

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