After a month (nearly two?) of editing the film – a busy time for our director and editor, but less so for me, unless you count the crushing load of paperwork that needs to be filed to our funders, to the government for our tax credits, and to various other places – we’re back to shooting!
We managed to shoot about 95% of the script during production, and for a while, it seemed like it might be enough. However, once we assembled the thing into a rough approximation of a movie, we realized a few things:
First and foremost, we realized that while we had all the big, crucial, dialogue-and-plot heavy scenes, we were missing some smaller moments. Transitions from one space to another to establish the geography of a building. Intimate moments between characters that more deeply establish their relationships. Additional surveillance footage to hammer home the point that one of our characters really was obsessed with one of our other characters.
Secondly, we realized that those small moments would really flesh out the world of our film, and be the thing that takes it from “noble indie effort that falls a little short” to “really great movie”.
So, what do you do when that happens?
You look at your budget, you figure out where you can squeeze money out of, and you schedule some additional shooting days, that’s what. Or, you spend money you don’t have and hope it’ll all work out in the end! Luckily, due to some prudent money management during production, we actually had real money to spend, which was an immense relief that would allow us to get a lot done.
There are a couple of different types of “additional shooting” – reshoots and pickups. There are probably even more types, but these are the categories all our work fell into.
Reshoots are, as the name might suggest, do-overs of scenes or moments that you have already filmed, but that for some reason just don’t work. Perhaps the lighting was wrong, or you realize too late that there’s a flub in the continuity, or one of the actors was having an off day and it only shows in the edit even though it seemed fine on the day. Whatever the reason, sometimes you just have to do a scene again in order to get it right. Reshoots comprised only about 20% of what we had to do.
Most of our work was pickups. Pickups are scenes that you “dropped” before, and therefore have to “pick up” now.
In our case, about 50% of the pickups were indeed small scenes that were in the script but were dropped for various reasons. Usually, it was because we were running out of time and it seemed more important to get a big dialogue scene out of the way than to capture a bunch of little moments of people walking in and out of buildings, or whatever.
The other 50% of our pickups were moments that we didn’t necessarily have in the script but realized we were really missing, after the fact. An example: two of the characters in our film are having an affair – and their affair is a catalyst for a lot of what happens in the film. When we put it all together, we realized that we just didn’t have enough scenes of them together – walking down the street, holding hands, looking like two people in love. We needed “more affair”.
So, halfway through an otherwise reasonably relaxing summer, we started planning two additional shooting days, getting the old gang back together, as it were. Luckily, at least half of our original crew were available, but unluckily, the other half were not! Scrambling to find an entire camera department on very short notice is stressful. I’m grateful for the fact that my co-producer did most of the work of hunting down a crew while I dealt with agents, actors and tried to figure out how to manage the fact that only about half of the wardrobe pieces that we used in the shoot were still available to us (the rest were unique, one of a kind pieces borrowed from high-end and mightily generous consignment stores, and had since been returned and sold).
For the most part, having to find new wardrobe items isn’t the biggest problem in the world. That is, unless you’re trying to establish continuity between one scene in another in which the actor is supposed to be wearing the same thing. Then it’s a bit trickier. More on continuity in a future post.
We pulled it all together and shot two additional days earlier this week. How’d it go? Stay tuned and I’ll write it all up in the days to come.