Archive for December, 2014
The title of this post reflects the fact that I made a really boneheaded producer mistake this week that could have ruined a shoot night entirely if not for my co-producer wife saving me at the last second. More on that when we get to the Tuesday night shoot-night recap.
Let’s continue breaking down the episode 9 shooting days.
Saturday, December 6. 6pm-11:30pm. There’s always a little feet finding that goes on when you move into a new location. Not only do you have to bring in, stage, and organize all of the gear, but you have to figure out the parameters of shooting in the new location and set everything up. There’s a section of this episode that takes place in a clothing store, and that’s the location we were getting used to for the night. Once everyone was assembled, we started checking stuff off the shotlist and all of the actors did such an amazing job. We paused for dinner from a Mexican restaurant a few blocks over and got two thirds of the shotlist scratched off before calling it a night and stashing all of our gear in the back office. There’s SO MUCH visual interest all over this clothing store. They have all kinds of colored lights strung up and a myriad of colors hanging all over the place. It’s a great, rich backdrop for all of the action. I love it.
Sunday, December 7. 5pm-11pm. Another night at the clothing store. I get anxious and fidgety if I have to sit around too long before a shoot, so Eliza and I got there an hour early. We started assembling gear and I got the lighting set up for our first shot. Once the actors arrived, we had about a full hour of wound makeup application before we could shoot anything. We’ve been using these pre-fabricated wound makeup applications called FX Transfers. They look really great, and we’ve had great success with the larger wounds, but we had the hardest time in the world getting this small one attached. It should have taken half the time it took, but it ended up looking great, so what are you going to do? Another night of knocking off the shotlist. That’s pretty much what shooting is. Conversations about shooting and then shooting, over and over again. Dinner was from a chicken place across town that delivers in their truck with a giant chicken head with red glowing eyes attached to the roof. The delivery truck alone would be worth the order even if their food wasn’t so flipping amazing. Really great food. It was another great shoot night. Great performances, really great looking shots. I’m just getting a little worn out between work and shooting and Chicago going through the coldest winter since 1904.
Tuesday, December 9. 8pm-10pm. Since I knew we were going to be shooting in the winter again, I did my best to stage as many scenes as possible indoors. We suffered mightily outside in November and December shooting episode 8 and I really didn’t feel like torturing my friends for another series of evenings this year. Of course, some scenes just need to take place outside. It’s the only logical option. This was one of them. Of course, since it’s PoPS shooting, it also starting snowing as we drove down to the location. Little tiny flakes, so they wouldn’t register on camera, but enough to make our footing slippery and dangerous and make all of the proceedings a little more miserable. This is the night the title refers too. One of those things that makes me think—Wow, I really should not be a producer. I spent so much time worrying about packing up all of the gear we could need or potentially need for the shoot that I completely forgot to bring the costume and makeup for our only actor for the night. Luckily, Eliza was travelling separately and left later than I did. I remembered in time to have her stop home and get them, but that is what we call a major oversight, my friends. In my defense, actors typically bring there own costumes to our shoots, so it wasn’t a thing I normally need to remember, but we ALWAYS have this guy’s wardrobe.
So, we tried to frame out the grass as the falling snow actually started to visibly accumulate on it. We got a really complicated and amazing shot, a couple of inserts, and we packed it up. That’s an oversimplification of the evening. Let me break it down further. So, it started snowing and it was probably about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, which Eliza, Ryan, Chris, myself, and our actor David were out in for about an hour and a half. We got to a location we’d never been to before, generously loaned to us by some acquaintances who were not at home at the time, so they hid a key for us. I could not get the key to work in the front door. Neither could Chris or Ryan. So I called and got us another, less ideal location, and started arranging to have everyone meet there. Then I tried the key one more time, and it worked. I had to pull it to a certain position and kind of jiggle it to get it to work. So I called everyone back and had them come back to the first location. Then my phone ran out of battery and it started to snow more. The stairs got life threateningly slippery, but luckily the apartment we were borrowing had a cat. Ryan sprinkled cat litter on the steps making them traversable. We set up a couple lights and by then it was snowing enough to show up on camera. We were supposed to shoot two quick little scenes after the scene at this apartment, but the snow that was starting to collect on cars and lawns would have made those two shoots impossible, so Eliza started calling around letting the other actors know that the second half of the night was cancelled. The one actor who’s phone number Eliza didn’t have, we left emails and Facebook messages, but he didn’t get them until after he had travelled an hour to the location, so he just had to drive home again. After setting up all the lights, making the steps safe, and choreographing all of the moving elements of this very complicated shot, I was determined to try and shoot it despite the snow. We got it in about 11 takes, by which point the snow had backed off again to the point where it was no longer visible on camera. It looked amazing and was totally worth it. We packed everything up, I wiped down the floor, because we had tromped snow-wet shoes across it for a couple of hours, re-hid their key, and went to play video games with friends at a barcade, or “arcade bar.” I’ve got to tell you, there are few better consolations to having to cancel shooting a couple scenes than pinball and arcade games with a group of friends.
Yeah. So that’s what one our one big nights outside for episode 9 was like. Just another production horror story for the PoPS archives. Still, we got most of what we came for.
Thanks for reading.
After shooting last night we have wrapped the largest location in the episode and have shot very close to half the episode. 42 pages down. That’s a lot of road. Let’s do some shoot day recaps.
Sunday, November 30, 5pm-12am. This was a day for making up a lot of little scenes that we had to grab in each room of our apartment. I’ve been designing a lot of shots to hold as many characters in a frame as possible this episode. Really driving home the groups of people that exist in the show, that they’re connected, and how they relate to each other. It’s been a fun exercise in seeing our apartment in a lot of different ways as well. It’s a pretty small space, and I’ve been trying like all-get-out to vary the ways we see it. We paused for a Chinese food dinner around 7:15 and then kept plugging away. We wrapped most of the cast around 11 and then kept shooting for an hour to pick up some inserts that I’ve been pushing back for time since shoot day 3. Then a couple of us sat around talking about relationships and past roommates. It was a great chill way to wrap up a long day.
Tuesday, December 2, 7pm-11pm. Roti Meditteranean Grill for dinner. Friggin’ tasty. Back on November 3, when we started shooting the episode, Eliza and I saw how we looked in the behind the scenes footage compared to how we looked in a video update 4 years ago. We finally decided to take some drastic measures. Over the last month we’ve been avoiding bread, cheese, and pasta, and severely limiting our sugar intake. It’s made a noticeable difference. It’s hard to get to the gym when production is underway because of all the planning that surrounds the nights we’re not shooting, but we also push ourselves on the nights we can make it to the gym. In another month—including some of the weight fluctuation damage the holiday season can do—we’ll be at a point where we can figure out how to maintain instead of actively dropping weight. I know my first celebration dish is going to be pizza. However, this last month has shown the delicious variety of meals you can make with meats and vegetables. Lots. Back to production…
I had been dreading this night. There were enough things we were trying to do that we hadn’t done before and I was just hoping it would all go smoothly. It did. The stuff I had theories on how to do, but we had never done, other people brought great ideas to and helped us execute them smoothly. A shot that I thought may take forever to get properly, Ryan and Chris nailed in one take. I had a stand-in oversight where we needed an extra person to double for a character in one shot and I hadn’t planned for it. A major oversight like that is a big rarity for me and I was trying to figure out how to change the shot. Right when we got to it on the shotlist, an actor showed up with a friend in tow who happened to be the same height and build as the double we needed and she was willing to help out. It was AMAZING. We got our whole shotlist by just after 11. Twenty four setups in 4 hours.
Wednesday, December 3, 7pm-11pm. My mom’s brithday. Also, the last shoot night in our biggest location and there were 22 setups left in the most complex action sequence in the episode. It was our 10th shoot night of episode 9, but we all agreed that it felt like a lot longer. Maybe it’s being in one location for a month. Counting our actual production hours, that’s approximately 45 hours spent shooting in that location in November. Granted, that’s only 4 and half real-length production days, but for this nights and weekends production it felt like a long one. For the previous 9 shoot days, we’d been eating from a variety of places with relatively healthy options, but I wanted to celebrate the last night of this location with a tried-and-true PoPS production meal. Frozen pizzas. A staple of PoPS production since 2009. This was super tempting, as pizza in all forms is one of my most revered foods, but Eliza and I stuck to salad we ordered from a pizza place down the street. The irony of ordering salad from an excellent pizza place and getting pizzas from the freezer section was not lost on me. Around 7:15, we started checking off shots and wrapped just a little before 11. Checking off cool action shots is so much more invigorating for the assembled crew than long dialogue scenes. We hung out for a few minutes and everybody headed home just before midnight. It was a great time and it feels amazing to have so much of the episode shot.
Now we have a couple of nights before diving into weekend shoots in a whole new location. I have five’ish shoot nights left before we start Christmas break and by then, if everything goes according to schedule, we’ll have a vast majority of the episode sitting in a hard drive. And backed up in another hard drive.
Thanks for reading.