Our final day in the studio went well enough, though we ended up calling in three extras who we paid to sit around and then go home, because we never got to their scene. It’s an expensive lesson to learn about the importance of realistic planning, and I guess I have learned it now.
We did the first half of our day in studio – two weird and challenging shots, a stunt of a woman falling to her death (in reality her falling about six feet onto a mat against a black background) and a scene of her dead body being found in a freezer (an actual walk-in fridge that we rented for the day).
Both were fiddly scenes with lots of details to consider, so they took a bit longer than we hoped. By the time we got to the second, more physically demanding half of our day, everyone was already pretty tired.
The second half of the day was all exteriors – driving shots, mostly. It would have been a breeze if the eve of June friggin’ first wasn’t freezing cold and super rainy. Standing outside under a leaky tent (or under nothing at all) for several hours is a bummer. I had immense sympathy for the actress who had to drive a convertible up and down a road over and over again for us to get a shot (with the top down, of course). She was a serious trooper.
It ended up being a really good day. We got most of what we needed and were left set up pretty well for the following two days – incredibly, mind-bogglingly ambitious days that will both thankfully be indoors at a crazy boutique hotel downtown.
It’s weird how quickly the whole production has whizzed by. And at the same time, week one feels like it happened a year ago. Oh, the mysteries of time.
Today was one of those strange days during which I felt like everything was going very smoothly and we were totally nailing it and I had relatively little to do, which felt great, and yet … we were pushing the generosity of our host at the studio a little far. We were supposed to be out of his hair by 10pm, but we pushed it to nearly midnight and I spent the last two hours of the night feeling terrible even though he was being very gracious and accommodating.
We managed to get through an ambitious 30+ pages in three days – nothing to scoff at. The studio time definitely helped us pick up speed, and our host’s willingness to be taken advantage of a little toward the end was deeply appreciated. But still, it was one of those “if we hadn’t had leeway about our end time, we would have been screwed, and that is an important lesson to learn” type of days. I feel like I’ve learned that lesson about a dozen times in 12 days, if not more.
I know I’m not saying anything revolutionary, but it can be very difficult to balance the needs of the actors, the crew and the director all at the same time, because those needs can be radically different – even competing, and that can slow things down quite a bit.
In this case I was also trying to remain mindful of our host, a (pretty brilliant and very generous) working artist whose work and home space we were imposing on. Of course, he’s the director’s good friend and I didn’t need to worry that he would kick us out or that a friendship would be actually ruined, but when someone looks like they really want to go to bed because you told them you’d get out of their home two hours ago and you’re still there, it’s hard not to feel uncomfortable – on behalf of yourself and the entire crew.
I know we have a couple of days coming up when we truly won’t have any leeway about location in and out times, and that does worry me. My friend Jeff posted this article about locations-related lessons learned on an indie shoot, and it could not be more timely. I’m gonna have a book’s worth of “lessons learned” to talk about when I’m done this sucker.
Those minor hitches aside, on day 12 I managed to get a lot of planning work done for the next few days and I witnessed a really gorgeous sunset (me and everyone else in Toronto). So, it was a raging success as far as I’m concerned.
Day 3, March 15, 2015
I was already starting to feel the toll of the midnight lifestyle by Sunday, so I decided to do something radical. Radical for “festival travel” and “business travel” and even “vacation travel”, for me, anyway. I decided not to set an alarm for Sunday morning. I ended up waking up relatively early anyway (9ish?) but the lack of pressure really helped me feel less like a person who is swimming with lead weights on. Sign #56845697 that I’m getting old: an inability to stay up until 2am for more than two nights in a row without wrecking my productivity the following day. Oh well, it’s festival life, who’s complaining?
Colin and I had a leisurely breakfast and caught up on a few emails before heading to the nearby B-Cycle station to zip down to the convention centre for our first panel, “So You Want to Make a Midnight Movie?” which included lots of useful info and a great pitch from an audience member for a slow-burn horror film called The Venison Eater. He had me at … well, The Venison Eater.
“Catching up on emails” is one of those tasks that back home, when I’m on a regular schedule and mostly on top of my work, is no big deal. While I’m away, on the other hand, it feels like a crushing avalanche of busywork that I will never be able to dig myself out from under. I have so much Birdland stuff to do, it’s unreal. Being mostly offline (except in the early mornings and late nights) doesn’t help. It means that if I respond to something at 9am and then leave the house (and its precious wifi zone) until late in the evening, any followup that might have been required at, say, 10am has to wait until the following morning. Losing entire workdays like that is very painful. When I get back, I’ll have to stuff five workdays into two. But for now, I’m in Austin, where the streets are paved with brisket, the rivers flow with beer, and it’s always summertime. Not complaining. Checking my jet-setter privilege, etc.
After the midnight movie panel, we met with Jeff Wright (here scouting for CMW‘s film programming, among other things) and scoped out the technology side of what’s currently going on at SXSW. I don’t understand the Interactive festival at all, but I know that I’m just an old grandma shaking her fist at the sky and grumbling that she doesn’t “get the twitters”. Clearly, some of the stuff being showcased in the huge interactive arena of the Austin Convention centre is a bit nutty, but much of it will just as clearly change all our lives sometime soon.
I shook hands with an amputee who was using a fully-functional 3-D printed arm (each finger could bend and move at each joint, just like a real hand) and met a pair of Swedish composers who create “audio identities” for companies and products (you know how you have a logo and letterhead … well, like that, but sounds).
After checking out the very tip of the interactive iceberg, we went to a beer tent that seemed to me like a very SXSW-ish thing, even though I’ve only been here for a few days and may not have a complete sense of this festival’s identity. The outdoor lounge was sponsored by mophie, a company that makes portable battery packs for iPhones (I use one, it’s great) and they had not only free beer, but a Saint Bernard petting zoo. Yep. A tech company sponsored a patio on which you could drink for free and play with big dogs. A+, SXSW.
From the Saint Bernards we went to a happy hour hosted by VHX, then to another happy hour hosted by the North Carolina film commission, where we drank our fill of Cheerwine and met a guy who was working on a “stripper horror” film called Peelers. Good times!
Dinner was one of those fun, impromptu events that brings together a bunch of cool people – Jeff, Zach Hagen (the producer of He Never Died, which is premiering at SXSW) and our friend Diana, who has a super cool job with a company that holds the rights to a story that takes place in a galaxy far, far away. We had steaks, we had fun, and then we had to keep ourselves peppy and awake for three hours before the midnight screening of We Are Still Here. Luckily, we had the fabulous Nick Robinson to help us with that endeavour.
I was very glad to have stayed up for the film, because the finished product was tense, had great atmosphere, a fantastic look, creepy sound design and was a really fun watch. It’s such a pleasure seeing friends get to make their dreams come true, and watching Ted get up on stage to introduce the world premiere of his film was really touching and awesome!
Some things are worth staying up late for.