Act One Done

September 30th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. Editing has been a slow process, but it’s definitely happening. Yesterday was particularly productive, and equally grueling. I’m starting to uncover all of the mistakes that I made as director, and it stings when there’s nothing to be done about them. We looked at twenty-three takes of a single scene yesterday and none of them were right because I hadn’t realized or been willing to confront what wasn’t working. And now we’ve got to salvage what we can. Feature films are huge and there are so many different ways to blow it. It’s hard not to lose confidence in the entire machine when one of its parts isn’t working. We’ve pieced together the first thirty minutes, and will hopefully have finished much more by the end of this week. I’m sorry that editing isn’t such a photogenic process as shooting. This blog is starting to lag on the pretty picture front.

I’m going to dedicate a reflection to Nandan, because he’s been studying very hard and doing lots of homework. Also because his mug doesn’t show up too often on the blog.

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This photo really captures my favorite side of Nandan: the miserable side. That particular afternoon we were on one of our signature leisurely location scouts, in search of a country swimming hole. I had already modeled a nice, miniature cliff jump for the camera, but we wanted to see someone using the ropeswing farther downstream. The water was freezing, and I didn’t want to swim out to it, so Nandan stepped up to the plate. I started rolling and he – in classic, country-bred form – went for a dive in lieu of the standard swing-to-drop. And he must have been rusty, because in failing to get his hands out on time he took the unbroken surface of the water straight to the face. Lucky for us I was standing by giddily to photograph the result in beautiful black and white.

It Begins

September 22nd, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Zach here. With exciting news. When I got out of bed this morning (out of couch, to be accurate), all of the footage had finally finished compressing and was ready and waiting in editable form. Jesse and I began reviewing takes this afternoon and have started charting out the film’s course on paper. He even got started on the opening sequence as I ate burritos over his shoulder. It won’t be long at all until our first cut is finished. Get psyched.

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Meanwhile, a reflection. Strolling down Bedford this afternoon, a passing SUV gave all of us pedestrians a treat: “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas bumping from the stereo and out through the tinted windows. Suddenly, memories. Memories of Skateland, where they would play that song at least twice per session. Back west we used to go every Wednesday night…religiously. Once shooting got underway, however, we were either too busy or too tired to ever make it there again. In fact, our very last trip out there was after our very first day of shooting. That’s when I took this photo:

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This is the kid that works the skate rental window. I think his name might be Hunter,  but I wouldn’t bet on it. Anyway, he was and undoubtedly still is consistently there to dish out skates begrudgingly…always with a side of sarcasm. Seeing this photo of him makes me smile, especially on account of what a kook he looks like in it. Here’s to you, Hunter. Or whatever your name might be.

New York

September 19th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. I made it on the Greyhound. It was a pretty grueling trip and mostly uneventful. When I first sat down on the bus in Olympia, I noticed that someone had written in marker on the back of the seat in front of me. “Welcome to hell.” That about sums it up.

But now I’m in New York, and it feels nice to be back. Here’s the view from Jesse the editor’s Brooklyn rooftop:

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Everyone is excited to start putting the movie together. Frustratingly, there are a few days of tedious file compression that are going to have to take place before we’re ready to edit, which we started this afternoon. I’ll let you know once we’ve gotten underway with the real snipping.

Meanwhile, here’s another reflection.

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I always thought this photo was hilarious but for some reason it would never upload to the blog back when it was taken. We needed to create the effect of a smoking engine for our roadside breakdown scene. For lord-knows-what reason, Dusty had packed a smoke bomb and wound up saving the day as he had before and would certainly do again. Anyway, there was all sorts of debate about whether it was safe to light a smoke bomb on top of the engine of my car. I was hesitant, and Julia was downright against it, but everyone else seemed to have a shoulder-shruggy, “let’s see what happens” sort of attitude so we went ahead with it. Anyway, I really like this photo. I think it serves as a nice visual metaphor for our filmmaking process.

Seattle + Family Portrait

September 11th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. Bright and way too early Tuesday morning, Luc and I rode the bus up to Seattle to shoot a scene starring Julia that she could use in her reel.

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It was a fun exercise for me to shoot something in a “conventional” way after having spent so much time riding the boring-ass-artsy-long-take wagon. The scene itself was also fun. Somehow we finished it all in an unexpectedly smooth and brief manner. Wrap-party around a peach cobbler.

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I stuck around for the night and spent the next day shooting an installation piece for my friend Vicci that centered around some large papier-mâché heads she had crafted. Julia came around to return the boom pole I’d left at her house and to drop off a file to be included in her reel. When it was time to go she gave me the good old goofy “well shoot, I hope I see you again someday” goodbye. It’s weird to be exchanging such long term see-you-laters with these people with whom I’ve been sharing this project for the past several months.  Which brings us to today’s reflection.

When we first met with Julia, it was because our friend Lucy (as seen in the fundraising trailer) had dropped out due to a too-busy work schedule. We decided she seemed right for the part, when all of the sudden Lucy changed her mind on us and asked to rejoin the team. This created an uncomfortable situation. We were upfront with both of them by admitting that we were seeing someone else, and asked for a week’s deliberation. On the day that the principal cast was made official, we took this photograph for the blog and yet somehow never got around to posting it. I think it’s nice.

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The Dusty Track

September 6th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. I just uploaded a new video to our YouTube Channel. It’s a clip of us testing out something known as “the Dusty track”. Here’s the back-story:

One day, early on in production, Nandan, Dusty, and I were lounging around watching one of my favorite no-brainer popcorn flicks: Antonioni’s The Passenger. Naturally, we got to talking about that famous penultimate shot (you know the one) and how it was done. I figured it was just a steadicam or maybe a dolly and the only tricky part was splitting apart the bars in the window once the camera was close enough. We looked it up. So much more complicated. Apparently there were all kinds of complex gyroscopic devices involved, and the camera was actually transferred mid-shot from dolly to crane via a mounted hook. Antonioni directed the scene by radio from a van with multiple video monitors.

Dusty’s mouth was watering. He started speculating about all of the complex trick shots that we could rig up. Later that afternoon we were scheduled to shoot the backseat makeout scene, so we joked about the idea of the camera starting outside the car, moving in through one window, tracking across the backseat, and exiting through the opposite window. I explained that the camera moves one time throughout the entire movie – it doesn’t even pan – so such a showy shot would look ridiculously out of place. Dusty was bummed. Sympathetically, I offered him a generous budget of $30 to let him design whatever shot he wanted. We would shoot it, and whether or not it remained part of the movie would be determined later on.

Three weeks later, the Dusty track had been perfected. It was a drill-powered (seriously, drill-powered), camera-mountable, 20-foot-long 2×6 covered with all sorts of screws, pulleys, ribbons, and other things I don’t understand. It was designed to sit across the open windows of my car to track in one side and out the other. We’d been watching the thing grow slowly the entire time. An earlier, undeveloped prototype had come along on our Oregon road trip. I remember being parked on the side of a deserted rural road to shoot a breakdown scene and seeing Dusty making adjustments to it the entire time. Then there was the day we were unable to shoot our scheduled scene for some reason or another and tried to shoot Dusty’s shot instead only to find that the thing still wasn’t ready. Here’s the only image I could find of the track, taken by Rob on that same day:
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The track didn’t ever work until the gray, drizzly day that Dusty left. But it worked great. To all of our regret, it was never used for the movie, but we shot some test footage, which is now up on YouTube.

Done.

September 4th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Zach here. Yesterday, with the generous participation of Maya and Mackinley, I got the last remaining shot of the film. Twisted up in the backseat of a car with one eye on the camera, one eye on the audio levels, and an inexplicable third eye on the actors, I found a whole new appreciation for my ex-crew. I missed the days when my job consisted solely of making serious poses and furrowing my brow as the scenes played out in front of me. Oh yeah, and the shot would absolutely not have been possible without the unreasonably kind Rhian Peterman, who traded cars with me for the day, despite mine having a blown head gasket and spewing white smoke from the tailpipe. Obviously I neglected to mention this to him.
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This was so overdue it’s absurd. There were a couple different times that we had wanted to feel “done” and yet hadn’t quite warranted the satisfaction: first when Dusty left, then when Nandan left. Now, as I’m getting ready to leave myself, I finally feel something like a sense of completion. As has become tradition, we wrap-partied over twist cones in the Eagan’s parking lot.
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The amount of work this little guy has put in is above and beyond. Especially considering that he’s just a punk kid with no interest in acting. Why did he do this for us? It’s a mystery. And the same goes for Maya. She was a last minute replacement when another girl dropped out, and turned out to be an enormous improvement to the movie. Thanks guys.

Now don’t think that just because I’m done shooting means that the blog’s days are done. In order to prevent e-stagnancy, I’ve devised a new category called “reflections”. So many great photos have gathered on my hard drive over the past several months, so it seems like a good idea to share one of them every few days as well as what I remember about when the photo was taken. Coming soon…

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