Decided I’m going to blog my experiences DPing for Vvinni’s surrealist film noir short. No entry for yesterday, cause I’m tired. This is a long post. At 2 AM, I don’t know whether this is a good or bad thing.
Arrived at the location at 4:30 or so to start setting up. The Hibachi (1051 W. Horsetooth) is a classy place where the chefs come to your table and grill your food right in front of you, and we were allowed into a private room for the entire night, running until two hours past the close of business. How, you ask? Vvinni’s dad plays tennis with the manager, Hai, who is a really cool guy and very interested in the process of filmmaking.
We had to bring in a bunch of equipment (we rented a location lighting kit, plus c-stands and some other odds and ends from Valkyrie Illumination in Denver—sometimes the lights act like they might catch on fire, but they’re cheap), and we tripped the alarm a couple times opening an unauthorized door to bring it in, but other than that the pre-setup was uneventful.
We had a crew of seven today not counting Vvinni and myself, and I must say that was a very nice number. A little crowded for such a small space, but we were never shorthanded and nobody seemed too bored. Many of those present I have not worked with before: Jimmy Bonner was around as a general grip, Tom Krueger of Bulletproof Productions served as our line producer and also a grip, Tim Bessler was our sound recordist. I should also mention Steve Roberts, who was not around today, but is a demon with a c-stand and built an amazing car rig for us yesterday (more on that in a later post). Greg, who now has a degree in such things *la-de-da* was my gaffer (yes, Greg from Wholesale Souls). Patrick and Jeremy from d4i Production Studio were my camera guys.
You see that hunk of plastic between Patrick and Jeremy? That, my friends, is d4i’s Sony PMW-EX1 CineAlta BEAST. Thassright, we be acquirin’ in 1080p24, bitchessss! This thing has everything: variable frame rate, shutter speed adjustable by angle, manual focus and zoom rings plus—get this—a manual iris ring. I have died and gone to heaven.
We clamped a big light to the crossbars between the acoustic ceiling tiles. Greg, who has saved my ass on many occasions, brought his own safety cables, which, I am led to believe, were stolen from a college theater in Wyoming. Par for the course, as we were all using work gloves pulled out of a CSU dumpster. He did not seem to believe me that the shine-through umbrella diffuser is actually a special photographic tool. *tsk* Those theatre people have much to learn about the versatility of the large fabric octagon.
Due to a series of tragic mistakes, I wound up acting in the film as the title character. It’s ok, though, because I always appear as an anonymous silhouette and I’m going to be overdubbed by a real actor.
The Beatles’ “Happy Birthday” kept coming on over the speakers. A lot of people have birthdays, I guess.
In some downtime, I learned that apparently the regent for the Northern Colorado IATSE local doesn’t know what a gaffer is. We are all screwed.
We thought one of the lights was smoking, but it turned out my glove was just on fire. Whew.
Part of the deal for shooting there was that all cast and crew members would also order food. When the waiter came in to take our orders, he looked around at the lights and equipment and said, “Are you guys making a movie in here or something?” Not a good start, but we soon had things arranged into a semblance of order and even found a chef who was willing to appear on camera and even deliver a line (“Neil did the embezzling?”) YES, we got a release. Need you even ask?
One cool thing those chefs can do with those grills is to send up a giant geyser of flame, which our chef did every time we entered at the beginning of the take. It was magical.
We also had some Real actors: Gale McGaha Miller (Mme. Taylor), Sean Cummings (Neil) and Teal I Have A Bad Memory For Last Names (Lilac Alexanders) were all present, and all amazing (as usual).
The rest of the restaurant patrons must have thought we were nuts, because we’d keep the door closed most of the time, but every few minutes I’d come running out and “Neil” (Sean Cummings) would shout out the door, “They’re an excellent source of protein, Mr. McKnightly!”
Try the chicken teriyaki. Best teriyaki I’ve ever had. Tell them Tracy McKnightly sent you.
Rachel, our costumer, also played a waitress. Apparently she was actually asked for something by one of the normals. What do you do in that situation? “Oh, I’m not actually a waitress. I just wear this thing because I have a bizarre sense of fashion.”
10:36 PM. We have shot everything that we needed to shoot in the private room, but we need a shot that shows the entrance of two characters through the greater restaurant. They closed at 9:00, so we can now go out into the large dining area, but we have to clear out by 11:00. that leaves me with 20 minutes to light an entire restaurant. Can I do it? Apparently I can, and it looked damn good if I do say so myself. Not exactly the Mount Everest of DPing, but it might be the Kilimanjaro. I could either thank Jesus for this accomplishment, or I could thank my incredibly competent and resourceful crew. I wonder which will make me sound better.
FINAL VERDICT: This shoot surpassed my every expectation. By far the most fun I’ve ever had DPing, and the most fun I’ve ever had in a restaurant. OK, we did have to push a couple shots to next week because we didn’t get them tonight, but we did an impressive job tonight. Tomorrow: studio shoot! Whee! Less stress!
Andrew (not A.S.C., but feeling hella cocky)