Final Days of the Film – Murphy’s Law

Sorry this is so late, but I decided sleep was a bit more important than a blog post. So on Wednesday night, I think, our director found out that the apartment was going to be worked on at eight in the morning. This meant we couldn’t shoot our big climax scene in the morning like we originally planned. The clim scene had about… over a hundred different shoots if I remember correctly. This meant scrambling everyone together that night and get it done.

Alex, Tony, and I went through a shoot list in an hour. We were supposed to shoot about 130 something scenes, but by the end of the night we only did 84.

The first few hours of shooting went… smoothly if not under a lot of stress, but I can say that everything was looking pretty good. The crew, even though we didn’t have everyone, had it down pretty well with audio and lighting, but then we got to the sofa scene.

I’m not sure how the actors didn’t just throw their hands in the air and yell at the crew, the director, and the executive director because we were asking a lot out of them considering that they weren’t getting paid and it was close to midnight at this time I think. This was also the point where Tony “shoved” a camera into my hands and told me to go with it while he worried about audio.

The sofa scene looked horrible for some reasons beyond me. I think it was because everyone was tired and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight. It was then we called it a break, I think, I could be getting the order wrong of events at this point.

We went on break and I sat on the balcony as I smoked two cigarettes. It was kind of cold out and I wanted nothing more than to just curl up and sleep. The cigarettes did make me feel better as I tried not to think about how a possible of two weeks worth of work may have been proven useless because of one day.    

We went back to work and shoot the scene differently. Sleep deprivation makes everyone a little crazy because Nick started throwing out ideas to tie the whole scene together and it was brilliantly creepy. 

I’ll post the movie, or a link to it, on this blog in August. Oh and we got to use fake blood. We didn’t get done filming until five in the morning and I hit the bed as soon as I could. Of course I had to wake up in three hours to work, but I’ve been through worse. Though I feel sorry for anyone who had to work with me.

 At five o’ clock we went back to the apartment. Everyone was a bit cranky. No one wanted to be there. Not in the apartment that nearly drove us all insane. I even started snapping at Tony since he kept pushing me and pushing me. Which on a day where I got more than five hours of sleep, it would’ve been much appreciated. 

Not so much on three. 

We rushed over to go and film the party scene which was me walking through a crowded house party that apparently didn’t have air conditioning. Another cigarette was used in the process before walking in. Sweat made my tank top stick to me like a second layer of skin. Tony trusted me with a shoulder rig and a camera with his 12mm lens and I just wanted to get the scene done. I’m not a big party person in the first place with a lot of people crowding around me and I didn’t sleep much so my nerves were already raw and exposed. 

However, this scene was oddly fun. I just knew I could do it. I knew it. I wasn’t worried about screwing up. I was confident. 

Or loopy from lack of sleep, the jury is still out on that. 

We got it done and I wanted nothing more than to sleep, but I felt content beneath the new bruises forming and a nice scab forming over where Nick accidentally stabbed me with a machete on my leg (I didn’t notice it until later).

I kept thinking, “Oh this happened yesterday.”

Nope, it happened THAT MORNING.

But I don’t… I’m so excited and happy. I mean, I know the stuff I got wasn’t amazing. Actually, I know I can do better now and I can’t wait to start on the next project. 

On Monday I’ll tell you how editing is going.  

Day Seven and Eight of Filming – My Dad & Cemeteries

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F*cking lens caps…

But in reality, if that was my biggest problem and the only big problem we faced yesterday then I can’t complain that much. It’s a tiny piece of plastic and the shots yesterday… oh magic, magic, magic. And I started doing something that I should’ve done from the beginning.

Mimic Tony when I’m not doing something. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this early, but I just started that today and it turned out well. I think that was the biggest lesson I learned on the sixth day.

Everything went oddly smooth considering that we, the cast and crew, had a few days off. I thought it would throw everything off, but it didn’t. We had a few bumpy starts, but nothing too major if I remember correctly.

Dad came in and naturally delivered his lines according to everyone there.

“My dad’s a badass!” Nick said as I scrunched down in the back, getting audio.

Half the time I’m used for scenes because of the fact I’m small. It’s the only reason everyone tolerates me (I kid, I kid).

Everything turned out well and we may have done some questionable driving on a country road. Oh and apparently the actors and actresses talked about how good looking my dad was. Of course, my dad didn’t look like he lived in Missouri with his tattoos and shaved head.

Dad insisted on showing everyone pictures of me when I was a kid. Tony and Alex got a real kick out of it after shooting.

It was perfect. Oh sure, we almost lost a lens cap, but we found it today hiding in someone else’s car. Oh yeah, I may have nearly banged my head against a wall to find that damn thing, but we found it.

Today was a bit rougher around the edges. I learned the valuable lesson of replaying your film after shooting a scene. I also learned to pay attention.

The audio messed up again. It’s something we can fix, but it’s something that I’m not going to mess up again. The problem was that Tony’s camera, which was the one I was using, was synced up to using the boom mic and we were using a stereo mic. It didn’t capture, but visually the scene looks better.

I climbed in a tree to get an aerial shoot. It looks pretty cool and I’m excited, like always.

Later this evening, we did a few quick scenes in one of Columbia’s cemeteries.

(This is a big deal since cemeteries aren’t all that keen on letting people film there. “It involves strippers and casinos,” Tony tells me whenever I ask how he pulls off certain tricks.)

I wasn’t thinking and was more focused on getting a good shot. I wasn’t thinking that I was in a cemetery where people came to mourn the dead and wasn’t acting all that… respectful. I didn’t let the scene play out naturally. Which makes sense. When people are in a cemetery a certain feeling of respect and reverence comes with being around the dead.

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t programed with that sort of thoughts on cemeteries. To be fair, my family is the sort of type to joke about death. (My sister and I always “swear on mom” when we’re making a promise to each other and we joke that if we break said promise that our mother will come out of the grave).

So I learned to replay film as often as possible and to be aware where I am. I think I was more embarrassed then upset at myself about the cemetery scene.

Tomorrow is going to be interesting, but our tough day will be on Thursday.

 

Sixth Filming Day – On my Own

I was by myself when it came to the camera today for a basketball scene. I learned a lot.

We had to reshoot the basketball scene, but the lighting was creepy and I got to follow Amber a bit.

1. When following a person, especially a tall person, you have to stand back a bit.

2. Triple check the focus with someone else or get a baseball cap so I can see the screen better (the focus wasn’t too bad, but it’s a little off). Definitely need a baseball cap. I’ll add that to my list of things I need on camera equipment list.

3. The wide angle lens is your friend when you’re following someone, but do not use it on a close up. You can, but it’s a bit more difficult.

4. Work your ways around the actors without breaking character. This seems kind of weird, but I had to work my way around an actor without fucking up the shot and I don’t think I did. It was rather graceful I think.

5. Work on foot work. Alex, our executive producer and the guy who knows everything in the movie biz, taught me a new walk to walk so my feet don’t make a noise.

6. Remember that human relationships are complicated. This one might seem out of place, but I have this horrible, horrible habit of trying to be a people pleaser. It’s a long complicated  story that comes with bad stereotypes from a Lifetime movie. Or a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Anyway, I’m a people pleaser and I’ve desperately have been trying to break this habit by telling myself over and over again that I’m proud of the things that I have done even if it doesn’t make everyone happy.

It’s difficult when you want to make the person who’s been teaching you happy. I’m proud of the work I’ve done with this shoot. It was fluid and I wasn’t timid. I made tiny mistakes, but I can fix them.

Since I’m a people pleaser I wanted to prove to Tony and everyone else that I can do this. During the tougher days on this project I have felt like an utter failure. I will beat myself up to the point of stupidity even though no one else has pointed it out and said, “this is horrible.”

It’s just strange when someone who’s your friend goes from being your friend to your teacher. I’m not great with reading people. I’m really, really not. My sister has always told me that I miss the point sometimes when it comes to what people think of me.

So it’s just hard to read when your friend now teacher is annoyed with you or just being hard on you to learn. So I felt really….self conscious around them because I want to prove that I’m getting it and feel like I’m just falling on my butt all of the time. Yeah, I think that’s what I’m getting at.

Enough of that.

Anyway, I got a few good close ups. I just wished I had more time because I wanted to switch my lens to a smaller tiny lens, my thirty-five lens and get a close up of a actress’s hands clutched the gate, but you can’t win against time.

Worlds will be clashing for me tomorrow with my dad coming to play Eric’s dad. So strange.  It’s going to be so weird. So, so weird.

Oi! By the way, I have a few short video ideas that I’m hoping to try after I’m done filming the movie. I’m going to use my family for this first and then start asking random people about their tattoos and the stories behind them.

Perks of the journalism school, you get used to asking people super personal questions. (Shudders)

Anyway, see you tomorrow!

Day Five of Filming – Eureka!

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I suggest never reading “Silence of the Lambs” before falling asleep. You’ll get a strange dream that involves Eric (Nick) in a hockey mask, Tony dressed as a FBI agent, and our director hiding behind a camera, demanding for something to look creepier.

Anywho, that’s what I did with a good portion of my day off.

Worlds are officially colliding since my dad will be playing Eric’s dad in the movie it seems.

Yeesh, that’s a scary thought.

Anyway, today went a lot smoother. We started on time and I got to take over for shooting on the second location. I needed help still, but I figured it out.

Focusing and steadying are still issues, but I’m getting better at it. I think. Well, slowly. I mean, I didn’t get the dreaded, “Eliza…” with the serious teacher tone that I’ve gotten used to with Tony.

Everyone was basically jumping up and down today because everything turned out well. We did another basketball scene. It turned out better and I got the shoulder rig to work with me more. It didn’t feel like it took very long.

We went over to Peace Park by the university and since I got there first, our director talked to me about what she wanted and we figured it out. I got to direct Tony for a bit.

“You got spunk.” Alex, our executive producer, told me as I smiled. I have never been described as that, but I like it. It helped that in this scene, we didn’t need audio so it was a bit easier to work with the camera.

Alex is the guy who also has a skill at “everything” as he likes to say.

Also, I forgot to mention, the audio from…Wednesday I think was fixed. Tony said that the process involved strippers and a casino. Nope, do not question it and just be happy that it got fixed.

We were done by nine in the morning. Much to everyone’s relief since we were all burned out I think. Or getting to the point where we laughed at whatever good news we got.

Tomorrow we get a break so no blog post tomorrow!

Day Four of Filming – “I remembered why I liked Doing this”

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The quote comes from an actor, Nick, who plays Eric in our film, in the middle of shooting this morning. Everything ran fairly smoothly and something clicked for me. I don’t really know what it was, but something clicked. (I probably misquoted him, but I know he said something like that)

Oh, I still fucked up, but I learned from it and moved on. There’s no point in throwing a hissy fit and beating myself over it.

Focusing is difficult on a DSLR I realized. It was such an amateur move, but it’s still usable. And I will NOT make that mistake again.

 

Anyway, I finally found my more assertive side early in the morning. Everyone was talking and I was crouching down in a corner, my legs and feet going to sleep and I was trying to think exactly what everyone wanted out of me. I’m not sure if I found my voice or if it was more of me being tired of being so damn timid, but I finally screamed, “EVERYONE BE QUIET FOR A MINUTE!”

I’m very quiet. Usually. So to me, screaming like that was odd and scared the hell out of me for a moment, but Tony and everyone basically pushed me to be more like that. Probably not as loud, but to let myself be heard.

I even told Tony, “I can do this!” Okay, sure it was to deal with his stupidly heavy tripod, but still I told him to back off a bit.

It’s so weird.

It’s like finding your footing after trying desperately to stand in the ocean.

We did a cool scene with Sam falling off the balcony and I learned how to get a good shot of that while tricking the audience.

I don’t know what clicked, but something clicked. Oh I’m still a mess up, but I’m rolling with the punches.

Or eating. Yeah, whenever I’m really stressed I forget to eat. I realized the only times I had food in my stomach was when the production team went out to get lunch after shooting in the morning. I devoured a cheeseburger and french fries so any calories I was missing quickly came back.

I did this during my convergence reporting class as well. It just what happens whenI’m stressed. I forget.

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I’m ready for what comes next tomorrow. I found my footing and I’m not as timid.

Yesterday was rough, but now I feel confident in what I’m doing. Yesterday I thought, “I’m probably doing more bad than good. I should just turn the camera over to Tony and walk away before things get worse.”

Now I’m like, “YES! Gimme the damn camera!”

Ready to kick butt with tomorrow. Even if it means getting up super early. These early morning are starting to take their toll on me. I’m super cranky when I wake up and curse to myself when the coffee isn’t ready or when I can’t find something, but suddenly it all disappears when I’m on set.

I’m not sure if that means I found something I’m passionate about or if I’m just too stubborn to give up.

Day three of Filming – F*%cking Audio

 

I’m sore. I can barely lift my arms and I’m embarrassed to say that I’m probably the only one out of the crew. I planted the boom mic on my hips since my arms could hold the mic over everyone for so long. This left little circle

Anyway, the first two days we were shooting outside. We moved inside today in a tiny apartment. Everyone crowded into an even tinier room before going into a tiny bathroom.

During these scenes, I kept thinking, “well at least there isn’t food in here.” I heard a story about how in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the crew and actors sat in a room that was 120 degrees with rotting food.

I’m not sure what it was, but the constant hum/hissing noises polluted all the audio. This means retakes unless our sound guy can save it. I’m still kicking myself even though I wasn’t the only one who didn’t hear the hiss. Well, actually, I kind of just wanted to hit my head on the wall over and over again, but considering I already have a headache, I decided against it. And it isn’t going to do any good. We’ll figure out what happened and what went wrong tomorrow. I think tomorrow will go smoother than today, but everything looks good at least so it’s not a complete waste. I hope. I think.

I’m just trying not to beat myself up too much about it. I kind of find it funny when people tell me that the main photographer was being too hard on me. I am probably ten times worst on myself to the point where he’s told me, “Stop doubting yourself!”

Everyone has told me this.

I always forget how hard learning something new is. It’s exciting, but never easy. I’m not sure if natural talent is true, but I don’t think anyone has a natural ability when it comes to filming.

I could be wrong though. To be fair “Jaws” ran into a billion problems so I’m not feeling too bad. It’s frustrating, but what can I do?

I don’t mind looking over my film, but I absolutely hate listening to my own voice. I’m learning to grit my teeth and focus on the image and not on my voice.

It’s not easy.

The shot from the basketball game yesterday turned out well and we didn’t need to worry about audio as much.

Since we didn’t have to worry about shooting tonight, I was hoping to get a mental break from it, but me being me, I ended up watching a documentary about how one of my favorite movies, Silence of the Lambs, came together.

Looking over at that movie, I got a few ideas for some angles and shots that maybe I can test out on Tony  and T’keyah, the director, to see what they think. Oye, I need a break.

Oh, and hopefully by the end of all this, I’ll be able to post the bloopers and the funny stuff that happened behind the scenes.

Filming Day Two – Pixie Overlord

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Lessons of the day:

1. Being physical strong is IMPORTANT.

2. Be Aggressive.

3. Faster, faster, and faster. (especially if you’re shooting outside)

4. Do not expect perfection.

5. Be Loud.

6. If there is time, take as many shots in different angles.

7. Communication is key.

The most important lesson was being aggressive and loud. I’m not…a loud person. Really. I’m not. I’m very quiet and this is a real pain in the butt when filming because I need information fast and now.

I have to stop being hesitant. I’m going to screw up and I’m going to accept that. I won’t learn anything if I don’t be more straightforward.

Today, at five in the morning, we ended up on a trail with some questionable circumstance which I will not talk about because I don’t want to get everyone in trouble. Anyway, we were in the middle of the woods with ticks crawling everywhere I found and I could only do a few of the shots since I’m still slow.

I wasn’t making myself loud enough and the other camera person, Tony (who I admire and have talked about before) forgot to about me in a way. I was focused on a shot that wasn’t going to happen and he was thinking about a different shot which took up too much time. We ended up getting everything, but it was frustrating.

I’m also a lot harder on myself than Tony is on me. For some bizarre reason, I’m expecting myself to be naturally good at this. I don’t know why I expect perfection when I’m LEARNING. The most I’ve done with video is an interview where everything is recorded on a tripod and a simple mic.

Tony and I as we're looking at how to shoot the basketball scene.
Tony and I as we’re looking at how to shoot the basketball scene.

We’ve only used a tripod for a stationary pan shoot that involved sharp, pointy knives. (See? Now I bet you want to watch the movie!)

Oh and a car scene where some old man yelled at us and chased us down the road.

(I will never complain about Convergence Reporting again after filming this movie. Though this filming experience follows the same thing as the the convergence reporting class. “We’ll through you into the real world and see if you sink or swim.” I think it’s called the Missouri way.)

I love learning new things, but I always forget how difficult learning a new skill can be. And filming a movie is different from filming a documentary or a convergence reporting piece.  It’s easy to get emotionally overwhelmed especially when you care about a project. I mean, I’ll still beat myself up about it, but I need to accept the fact that I’m learning.

“Stop doubting yourself.” As Tony would like to tell me.

“Have fun with it!” As my teachers have told me more than one occasion.

“You are NOT perfect!” My sister has told me this on more than one occasion.

Later that day after I got off work and took a much needed shower, filming takes a lot of physical work, we took a few scenes of the guys and I had to be aggressive as hell since I was the one in control of the camera. I wasn’t perfect, but I’ll be better and ready soon to do it without help.

I felt a lot better and much more control when I was direct and loud. It’s comforting in a way and I found my footing it feels like. Now if I can just be faster, it would be perfect.

We got an awesome creepy shoot and I can’t wait to show everyone when we’re doing editing.

 

Actually, I was so aggressive and assertive that one of the actresses, Sam, nicknamed me “Pixie Overlord.” Kind of like the the ring of it.

Alright, time to go to bed.

 

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