Day 23, the 11th of September, was my last day. I made my plane reservations and arranged for time off from work based on the original shooting schedule. I probably could’ve worked out a few more days off, but the shooting schedule kept getting extended again and again… Anyway, as much as I hated to leave before production was done, I’m not so arrogant to think they couldn’t manage without me.
And my last day was a good one. We made our day for the second day in a row (of course still scrambling to get the last shots as the sun was setting). I stayed late on set to help clean up and by the time I got to dinner at Big Brutus, many people I would’ve liked to say goodbye to were gone. So I said goodbye to the ones that were there and drove off into the sunset.
I learned a tremendous amount from Kevin Willmott, Matt Jacobson and the rest of the cast and crew. I’m glad to have had the experience.
1) Putting together a Magliner cart from incomplete instructions and an improvised rachet set. That cart served the camera crew well, even if the tires could’ve used more inflating. (You couldn’t put too much weight on it.)
2) The magic scissors that never arrived. A few days before filming, the d.p. ordered a $160 pair of scissors to help with blind cutting the film along the perfs. Since they were backordered the whole shoot, I was forced to learn how to do it with the regular sharp and dangerous scissors.
3) Learning how to load and unload Arri BL and “9P” mags. I took pictures of this… Someday I’ll write it all up.
4) Working with new people. Everyone is different. We had two people join the camera crew in the middle of the shoot. One transitioned right in and one was a lot rockier of a transition. But it’s all part of it. The d.p. has certain preferences, be it with camera placement, filters or lenses — and picking up on those and anticipating them became less of a drag and more of a game as the shoot went on.
5) Awesome crew. The people on the crew were universally fun and fascinating people. Everyone is more than just their job. A lot of their side-interests relate to film; and that I can relate to. But I also enjoyed talking with people about music, Texas Hold ‘Em strategies and the politics of abortion.
6) Allergies. Oh yeah, I’d forgotten how miserable I could be in Kansas in August. I wasn’t the only one feeling the hayfever. My supply of tissues was often shared.
7) Places I never would’ve been. You hear about small towns. You hear about small town folks. But crash their gates and make a movie. That’s when you’ll get both the best and the worst the small towns have to offer. The PA’s recruited from Nortonville were some of the hardest working crew members, and the Sheriff’s department of West Mineral single-handedly saved many a take with their traffic-blocking volunteers. Both towns featured some uncooperative citizens — one late afternoon in West Mineral the residents of a probable meth lab refused to turn down their Led Zeppelin; a shop owner in Nortonville complained of lost business and was paid off, so he kept coming back to ask for more money — but in the end it was the generosity of the communities that made the movie possible.
8) Some actors are divas; some actors are dolls. This I knew already. But it doesn’t hurt to have it confirmed on a higher budget level. You’d think that a fat paycheck would smooth things over a little — it doesn’t. Actors need attention. Some seek only positive attention. Some are not that ethical. Either way, it pays to pay attention to your actors. Don’t call them to set until they are absolutely needed — they’ll start coming to set early anyway. The actor who hated to be kept waiting for a scene is the same one who was happy to perform off-screen for other actors’ closeups.
9) Keep your mags clean. And well-serviced. And have plenty on hand. As demanding as working with film is, this movie has made me want to do it more. I’m up in the air on whether I’ll shoot The Farmhouse in HD or 16mm. I guess it all depends on how awesome the RED camera is.
10) Although it was a far rockier shoot, I come away from Bunker Hill with the same spine-splint that I got from Rain in the Mountains. Making a movie is a blast, and totally within the realm of possibility.
Based on what I’ve heard from other crew members, the rest of the shoot has been going well. They continued to make their days. They went to the “beautiful, picturesque” Carrico Ranch yesterday; and to Prairie Henge today. If we had followed the original schedule, I would’ve gotten to go to those cool locations. Oh well, that leaves a few more things to surprise me when I see the finished film.