Oh my goodness the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are makes me cry a little bit it is just so wonderful. I have embedded the YouTube version above, but you really owe it to yourself to watch it in high definition.
Yesterday, we shot in a news studio! It was very cool and the footage looked awesome! Incidentally, this station, KSTP-TV, was the first full-color television station in the country, way back in 1961. Now they’re making the transition to high definition.
This all came about because The Ultimate Challenge calls for a news studio location, and I figured that before I ultimately gave up and attempted to fake one, I should do my due diligence and send out a shotgun blast of e-mails to all the TV stations in the city, fully expecting never to hear back from them. Surprisingly, an incredibly nice woman who is the operations manager for KSTP got in touch with me and said that we could indeed shoot in their studio. Fox turned me down—just sayin’. (And KARE, whose call letters indicate that they should be the nice ones, completely ignored me.)
But it’s all for the better, because of a really beautiful coincidence. My fictional news station moniker of choice is Eyewitness 2 News, simply because it’s generic while sounding specific (the phrase “Eyewitness News” is in widespread use and therefore cannot be trademarked), and guess what?
Don Peterson as Eddie, news director
That’s what: giant metal signs reading “Eyewitness News” all over the place in the studio. Also, only one piece of trademarked signage for us to avoid, and no copyrighted images printed on the backdrops. I can’t think of a more ideal location anywhere else in the world.
Kathryn Criston (director of photography)
A brief bit of geekery:The studio is set up pretty much as expected (three-camera setup on the news desk), but I did take note of a few things: The overhead lighting is a mixture of tungsten and photo-flo fixtures. The tungsten fixtures seem to be predominately Baby Moles. There are two PC workstations set up so their screens are visible through the glass-topped desk, and a laser printer is positioned a few feet behind the desk for easy access. The backdrop is composed of an array of functioning video screens displayed behind a diffusion screen. My favorite, though, were the cardboard cutouts of video patch bays installed at the top of the set (to help it look more high-tech?)
Andrew Gingerich (director) and Matt Kane (excelsior grip)
The second half of the day was spent in abject misery on the palatial estate of a cycling champion. I wore trash bags inside my shoes and the weather was a bad problem. I don’t want to talk about it.
Sincerely yours (with much gratitude),
Saturday evening marked the first shooting day for The Ultimate Challenge.
Our first shoot of the evening took us out to Cottage Grove, where one of our actors (Matthew Feeney, who is playing the detective Howard) graciously offered up his home as a principal location. I don’t have any photos of this because we were in such a hurry to shoot the scene before the sun set that we just didn’t have time to get any stills. The upside to this is that the sun looks the prettiest right before it vanishes, and since we were pushing our schedule so far, we got some disgustingly gorgeous light for our close-ups.
Our second location brought us all the way back downtown to Pepito’s Mexican restaurant, whose owner (also the owner of the Parkway Theater next door) graciously allowed us in to shoot a quick dialogue scene. You know what this means, guys! Eat at Pepito’s! Go see movies at the Parkway! Tell them… well… tell them whatever you want, they probably won’t remember us. But it’s a really cool place, and it made for a perfect location.
I’m already having a lot of fun with this production. I get to have an idea and rather than sitting for hours, mulling over the dramatic and narrative ramifications of my urge, I can just shoot it and then play with it on the computer. For instance, when we started shooting, Matthew was just moments out of a stage production in which he took a pratfall and banged up his knee. He was icing it between takes at the restaurant, and I decided to put it in the movie as a scene transition. How awesome is that!
The whole thing went way smoother than it had any right to. I’d like to thank our cast and crew, as well as Marlene (she did production design for Tracy McKnightly last summer), who, due to my own geographic ambiguity*, accidentally offered to drive all the way from Colorado to Minnesota in order to crew for me Sunday night. This geographic confusion, compounded by my poor telephone skills and bad cell reception, led to a fun little misunderstanding that resulted in several befuddled conversations with other crew members and concluded with a second, clarifying phone call, a moment of epiphany, and my exclamation, “No wonder she sounded confused when I asked her if she had a car!”
To conclude this post, since I’m shooting digital instead of film this time around, I can show you things like this rough cut of the scenes we shot on Sunday:
The reason that restaurant scene sounds so gravy (groovy, but also as smooth and rich as Grandma’s home-made gravy) even though it isn’t at all mixed yet is because we were worried about location noise, and so we wired our actors up with concealed lavalier microphones taped inside their shirts. It also means that actors can talk over each other and since they’re miked separately, they can be mixed on separate tracks in post. This is how Robert Altman did his magic Altman thing, starting in 1970 with M*A*S*H. It’s my new favorite method of field sound recording, and I foresee doing a lot more of it for this movie.
Next shooting day is this Saturday, then another one on Sunday, then Monday night, and that’s (theoretically) the end of principal photography!
* Much like Winston Niles Rumfoord, I exist as a wave formation that oscillates at random intervals between Fort Collins and Minneapolis, hindered only by the price of airfare and the occasional sunspot.
For Advanced Filmmaking this semester I’m making a short film called The Ultimate Challenge, about a man who is smarter than a potato. First day of shooting is tomorrow and I’m writing this late at night, so I’ll keep it short.
Embedded below is a brief mash-up of some audition footage for two of our lead actors: Tom Danford as Marshall Walters and Al Fiene as The Englishman.
We will be MCAD’s guinea pig, shooting the film on the new Panasonic HMC-150 camera, which is essentially a hybrid between a DVX-100 and an HVX-200 that shoots 1080/24p 21-megabit AVCHD to SDHC cards (if you don’t know what that meant, congratulations, you have a life). It is a nice camera and MCAD has been very kind in letting me play with it.
I am tired because I was ACing for Matt Kane all day on his film Lonelyache, adapted (with permission!) from a Harlan Ellison story of the same name and shot on 16mm; it is going to be super cool.
Finally, to round out the whole unprecedented-access-thing that is the Director’s Pass series, here is a chain of e-mails between myself and Matt Kane regarding tomorrow’s shoot (most recent is first):
ANDREW WROTE AT 12:04 AM:
When are you done on Brandon’s shoot? I’d assume we’ll be loading out equipment starting around 5:30 or so, as it’s about a 40 minute drive to Cottage Grove.
Double darn on the cat shit. I guess I’ll have to make my ornamental dishware out of something else.
MATT WROTE AT 11:25 PM:
Yes to the smith victor, sorry I’m out of cat shit. When do you want to meet tomorrow (I assume we have to load in the camera+sound?)
ANDREW WROTE AT 10:14 PM:
Kathy’s got someone to transport equipment, but I think I’ll ride with you out to the location, if that works.
ALSO: Can we borrow your Smith-Victor? We probably won’t wind up using it, but I’d like to have it at the ready, just in case we run out of lights.
ALSO ALSO: Buckets of cat shit!
That is all I am going to post tonight. It was a beautiful day today and a temperate, refreshing night.