Thursday, February 10, 2011

ON THE SET: THE HOUSE—DAY TWO


The second day of the house shoot, all of the filming took place in a large bedroom upstairs. One of the first things that needed to be done was to set up the bed so that it could be positioned at different heights.
Then a small dolly had to be carried up the stairs. It was small, by comparison to the one they had been using downstairs, but it was not light. Three guys were able to slowly bring it up the stairs. Libby attempted to carry the large dolly all by herself, but alas—she could not—for she was a lass. But even a bunch of lads couldn’t have done it either.
Once everything was arranged in the bed room, Jon had me stand in for the actor in this scene, to go through the blocking.
Jon demonstrated to Julia what he wanted from her in the upcoming shots.
Several weeks ago, when Jon first saw how large the bedroom was, he thought it would be nice that he would have so much space to work in. But by the time all the equipment was set up, there wasn’t much room at all. It was a tight fit.
It was after 9:00 before they begin shooting.


Throughout the night there were various complications that made it a stressful night. A key prop was missing. During one of the shots, a dog barked. In the middle of a take, the camera ran out of film.

I spoke with the actor Chris Devlin and found out that one of his previous projects was an independent Korean film called HERS. It was filmed in Alaska where he played the love interest of the lead.
Chris said that when he and Julia read the script, they both agreed it was very much like a Hitchcock film. Which is great, since that was what Jon had been aiming for from the very beginning.

I also spoke with the actor Julia Rose (Alma). She was prepping for an audition tape for GOSSIP GIRL that she would be sending in that night. She recorded it in the other room and emailed it. She also told me she appeared in an episode of HOUSE that aired last Monday.
Julia mentioned that Jon was an actor’s director, who knew what it was like on the other side of the camera. It was very clear she respected his approach and was pleased to be working with him.

It wasn’t very long before the shooting fell behind schedule. The crew has a shot list which detailed each individual shot. Because of complications and time constraints, they eliminated one of the shots they had been hoping to get. Jon and Libby good-naturedly mourned the loss of the shot and then moved on.

There were various odds and ends I noticed throughout the night. They would shine the lights toward the ceiling to bounce the light onto what they wanted. They considered using tree branches held up in front of the lights to create “texture” on the walls. Whenever someone from the light crew was carrying equipment and needed to get past people, he would say, “Points” (the equivalent of “comin’ through”).

Jon continued to consult Jeff who was on sound and would also be doing the editing. Jeff did the editing for Jon’s previous film PERSPECTIVE.

Several times, Jon made sure Julia (Alma) was OK with some of the more “violent” takes. He made sure she was not injured in any way.

When everyone broke for lunch, Jon met with the whole crew, emphasizing the significance of some of the mistakes that had been made during this particular shoot. He emphasized they had been doing really well so far, but that he needed their best efforts to get the film done.
I ate lunch with Jon and Andy (1st Assistant Director). Andy grew up in Las Vegas and recently married his high school sweetheart. He often got in front of the camera to stand in for the actors to help the cinematographer (Libby) prep for the shot. Andy has several editing projects in the works that keep him extremely busy.
Libby peeked in to join the “boys’ club” and shortly after that, Jeff came in as
After lunch, there were several inserts to be completed (close-ups of various items that were vital to the movie). In particular, the “stone and the phone” became a brief catchphrase during one shot.

After one particularly stressful shot—in which several takes were required, one of the camera crew told Jon he admired him for being the kind of director who kept at it until he got the shot he wanted. As a whole, there was a consistent respect between everyone that held the project together during extreme tension and exhaustion.

Several shots required Julia (Alma) to act as if she was in great distress. She would often jump up and down before the takes to get physically and emotionally prepped before a take.
A couple of times, everyone was asked to leave the set so Jeff could record “wild lines.” This is when the actor performs the dialogue just for the sake of sound. The acoustics are unique to each location and it’s best to get a recording of just the dialogue to use in editing later.

During the last six hours of the shoot, it was clear the shoot was still behind schedule. There was stress, but there was never any panic. It was a slow but effective progress.

From 3:30 to 4:30, it took about an hour to set up the next shot. They had to remove the bed in order to position the camera as needed. There were only a few shots left, but an hour and a half would be cutting it close.

The shots were relatively simple, compared to earlier ones, but they were hurting for time. Every time a shot was made, they would do a few rehearsals. Then they would have on the average three or four takes. They always took an extra one for “safety,” even if the first one was a good one.

One of the “simple” shots involved the opening of an envelope. Once Jon said, “Action,” they kept the camera rolling, opening one envelope after another until they had several “takes.”
At this point, they had one more shot to do, but it was 5:40—only twenty minutes left. And this last shot was crucial to the movie. It was one shot that could not be sacrificed.
It took about ten minutes to set it up. This gave Jon ten minutes to get the take. He quickly blocked the shot, directing the actor where to stand and when to move.

You will notice that Jon’s hair tends to stick up as each night shoot progresses. This is due to him grabbing his hair with both fists as needed. This is a good unit of measuring his stress. The more his hair is sticking up, the crunchier the crunch time. On this night of shooting, Jon’s hair was not only sticking up, but he was pacing as well.

But they pulled it off. They got several takes and then called it a “wrap.”
The dolly still had to be taken back down the stairs—it was needed for another shoot. But as the sun came up, everyone started thinking about getting some sleep.
Tomorrow night would be a big night. They would be shooting the first of the stunt sequences.




































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2 comments:

The Raabs said...

Thanks for all the little extras (like Jon's hair). Really let's us know what it is like there. This is all very interesting!

Abbie said...

I am loving these. Pretty cool of you to communicate how respected Jon is out there. Not that it was ever doubted, but it's just fun to hear.