Sunday, February 20, 2011

ON THE SET: THE HOUSE—THE WRAP


The shoot ended with a mystery. I had to head home before the last day, but Jon called and told me some very interesting things.
Because they didn’t quite get all the shots completed on Friday’s shot list, they had to add them to the final shot list. To make things more interesting, while Jon was sleeping, he suddenly remembered two other shots that had slipped his mind.
This would make a grand total of sixteen shots for the last day. They had completed approximately twenty-two shots the day before, but they would only be using one camera the rest of the time and this was the very last day. No more room for flexibility. They were running out of time.


The first several shots took place in the bedroom and some time was lost getting a new gaffer familiar with the lighting, in order to match the look of previous shots. “Drewski” (the gaffer up until this point), was not available.
Jon said the last day of the shoot was a lot like the last day of school. Everyone was there, but they were already checked out.
The exhausting schedule made everyone loopy and worn out. On the downside, nothing seemed to work well. On the upside, Jon and his first assistant director Andy began to find everything extremely funny. They began to brainstorm foreign versions of “Alma’s Mantra,” such as the French version “Le Mantra,” in which a small stone begins to speak to the main character Alma.

The first half of the shoot started to drag. Besides chronic loopiness, to make things even more interesting, the owners of the house decided to drop by.
Whenever someone agrees to let a film crew in their home,it always ends up being a much bigger deal than they imagine. The owners probably picture a large camera surround by a handful of filmmakers and the guy with the clacky-board.
The reality is they discover a small commune inside their household. People are perched and draped everywhere, surrounded by dismantled and mantled contraptions accompanied by lights bright enough to give you a tan.

And that’s just downstairs. Upstairs, wires and more lights fill the bedroom and there’s a woman crying in the corner. Or something like that.

Basically, you can tell by the look on their faces, the film crew is much, much more than the owners imagined and many a homeowner has watched with trepidation as a quaint student project becomes something more along the lines of an infiltration.
The presence of the house owners during the last day made Jon a little uneasy, but in the end, they were fine. They stayed for a little while and then left.
One of the key scenes takes place in a bathroom. The bathroom they had to shoot in was so narrow, it looked more like a hallway with two sinks and a mirror.
The camera took up all the space on one end. Jon had to stand inside the bathtub to watch the tap (the monitor, not the sink), during the shots. On the plus side, they did not have to use their own lightning. The actual lights (known as the “practicals”) did just fine.
There were four shots in the bathroom. They finished those and broke for lunch (midnight).
During the Friday night shoot, I told Jon and Andy about the urban legend of Slender Man. Neither one of them had heard of this legend before. But strangely enough, believe it or not, Slender Man showed up at the shoot. Jon and Andy sent me photos to prove it.



Typically, after midnight lunch, it’s a little hard to get back into the groove. You’ve just had a good meal. It’s midnight. You get the idea.
On this last night, the aftermath of lunch was exceptionally difficult. They only had five shots left—it should have gone pretty fast. But the rest of the night was as intense as always.
All five of the last shots took place in the office. Some of the shots were extremely simple and there was no dialogue in any of them.
But they barely finished in the nick of time at 6:00. As Jon put it, “Everybody was just done.”
However, when 6:00 hit, they had finished the final shot.
When Jon called out “Cut” for the last time and declared it a wrap, everyone applauded.
At that point, no one wasted any time in getting packed up and getting out.
They had until noon to get everything out and to arrange the house back the way they found it. By 8:15, most of the crew was loaded up and gone. Jon and the rest had restored the house to its original condition by 9:00. The resetting of the house went surprisingly well. Because of the photos Jon had taken at the outset, they were able to put everything back exactly the way they found it—even down to the order of the books on the shelves.
However, the excitement surrounding this shoot was not over.
In order to haul all of the heavy, expensive equipment, you need a “grip truck.” In this case, Jon had rented a Ryder truck. It was signed out under his name, so he had some concern about its welfare during the time they were at the house. If anything were to happen to it, the cost would come out of his pocket—and they were already over budget.
To make sure the grip truck was safe, once they emptied it at the house, they drove it all the way back to the Chapman school parking lot.
After wrapping up the shoot on the last day, the producers drove to the school, only to discover that someone had hit the front of the grip truck, leaving a large gash in the bumper.
There was no note and no indication of who had done it. The producers gave Jon the bad news and although this meant a significant financial loss to him personally, the need for sleep was the priority. He went home and collapsed on his bed.
Meanwhile, as Jon put it, Libby Green (cinematographer) turned into Nancy Drew. She went to the school parking lot to see it for herself, thereafter referring to the area as the “crime scene.”
Libby Drew eyed the damaged bumper, examining the gash. She noticed tiny shards of metal. This particular detail and the specific height of the damage made her conclude that the culprit had been nothing less than another grip truck.
They called school security to see if anything significant had been caught on the security cameras. Unfortunately, there were five spots not covered by cameras and Jon’s truck was parked in one of them.
However, there were only six other grip trucks in the lot. Libby started examining each one, hoping to find some kind of evidence. After studying five of the trucks she found nothing. She almost gave up at that point, but at the last second decided to give the sixth truck a quick look.
You guessed it.
Truck Number Six—A Libby Drew Mystery was solved. The back bumper of this grip truck had a big scratch. However, Libby realized that this other scratch could be from anything—she didn’t want to make assumptions. So she measured the gash on Jon’s truck with the scratch on Truck Number Six. It was a match. When she took a closer look at the bumper of Truck Number Six, she discovered fragments of rubber, indicating it had clearly hit something.
They then proceeded to approach the truck rental place to ask who had rented Truck Number Six. And just like any good mystery, there was a surprise ending. The truck was rented to none other than Libby’s good friend. She found it hard to believe. Further investigation however revealed that her good friend had not been driving the truck at the time. It had been someone who was working with the good friend.
After a brief discussion, the driver of Truck Number Six agreed to cover the damages. Case closed. Libby Drew cinematographer / detective strolled off into the foggy night.
Jon Byron woke up to find the mystery had been solved and that his crew had not only helped him complete his suspense film—they had also taken on some real life suspense for him.
Cut to Jon smiling.
Fade to black.

3 comments:

Mark said...

Best post yet.

Abbie said...

I love this one! Somehow I missed it before. What a fun documentary you wrote! Can't wait to see the film- if we get to?

bretagne said...

excellent. waiting for the movie.