The Problem with Being Responsible for Everything

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.

–Jake

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