Wednesday, November 2, 2011

And away we go...

Just recovering from the shoot.  My God, what a journey...

Spent three days setting up the house.  We mounted six high-end/IR videocams in locked positions covering a 3 bedroom suburban home at an undisclosed location.  Permits?  Hah!  Permits are for straight-arrows.  This was a guerrilla operation from top to bottom.

We wired the cams to our custom-made DVR (aka "The Monster").  This baby's cutting edge; we actually had to push our start date due to the Japanese tsunami!  Seem this monster requires a very rare, very specialized graphics board in order to process all that content streaming through the pipe without dropping a single precious frame.  Probably should have checked the unit for radiation...

Sound was always a challenge.  We decided to go with mics covering every camera and channelled through a big ole stack o' graphic equalizers.  Once we were under way, babysitting the levels would be impossible, but Bryant, our audio wiz, figured if it was dirty on one mic, he'd have 15 other tracks to choose from to clean and filter it in post.

We then hardwired the whole ball of wax to monitors in this gigantic RV we had parked out front. Very comfy and stocked with goodies.  That is, until we found out we couldn't jack into the house-current.  Freaking rental company forgot to throw an adapter in the cup-caddy.  No A/C unless we ran the generator. 

Did I mention we were shooting this thing out in the freaking desert?

The cast arrived late Thursday.  We all sat down at a local Mexican place for an early wrap-party, as it was a dead-cert we'd all be too destroyed for a proper wrap-party after the shoot.  Everyone was jacked; terrified and excited at the same time.  Who's crazy idea was this, anyway...?

Oh, yeah.  Mine.

We briefed the cast on all the dos and don'ts--at least all the ones we could think of.  Kind of tough to consider every contingency when you're doing something that's never been attempted before. 

At 6:00 PM PST Friday evening, Cliff would be calling "action," and two days later, on Sunday, he'd be calling "cut."  Barring a catastrophic technical failure or medical emergency, the cast would be playing the story for as much as 48 hours without interruption.  There was no such thing as "off-stage," unless you counted the hall bathroom, which we had rigged with a little cardboard flap for privacy (sorry, folks, you'll have to wait until the Germans do this if you had your hearts set on watching actors poop).

What if the cops showed up while we were shooting? 

My producing partner, Art, had a stroke of genius (or was it just a stroke?).  He told the cast, "If the cops drop by, just stay in character and brazen it out; remember, you're a paranormal investigative team testing new equipment.  We've got a note from the homeowner that says as much.  Hopefully, we'll be able to intercept any po-po before they even make the front porch."

We all went to the hotel and tried to sleep.  Yeah, right.  I tried counting sheep, but I ended up counting all the things that could go wrong...

The actors would be preparing all their own meals and eating on set, so the next morning, I doled out cash like George Jetson to all the actors so they could grocery-shop for the food their characters would eat.  The crew went up to the house to board up all the windows, finish painting our "additions" to the interior and put final the touches on practical effects with our FX-guy and all-around renaissance man, Jon. 

At 5:00 PM, we were still having issues with the FX, so we called the cast and told them to hold on.  At 7:00, we shuttled them up.  But damn if those pesky effects weren't giving Jon trouble until 11:00 PM.  Cliff was getting very hot; his actors were losing focus, becoming "too comfortable" in the house. 

Finally, at 11:30 PM, Cliff called "action."

Then, it was a trip down the rabbit-hole. 

24 hours in, it occurred to me that I might be killing my actors.  I knew I was killing myself.  The trailer looked like a meth-den, cluttered with fast-food containers and Styrofoam 7-11 coffee cups.  My crew and I had gone slightly mad. 

Between the SFX and practical FX, the cast was fully engaged and delivering my story-beats like clockwork, but the intensity of the effort was burning them up.  I started redlining stuff out of my 2nd act and frantically delivering direction via text-mail, where it became a game of telephone as the cuts and schedule changes were discreetly relayed among the actors.

Then there was the weird stuff: Objects moving and SFX that we hadn't rigged.  For instance, the cast was mightily impressed when we made a pot fly off the counter.  Only "we" didn't make a pot fly off the counter.  With all the energy crackling in that house, I wouldn't be surprised if the cast had generated some parakinesis.  I haven't been able to check the tapes, though.  Maybe they hallucinated it...


Anyway, it was around 11:00 AM Sunday morning when Cliff called "cut."  After over 30 hours of continuous shooting, we only had to do one pick-up because of a blown lighting FX cue.  Unbelievable.

A handful of pros captured something incredible.  Now it's on to the crucible of post to see what we got...

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