Friday, October 19, 2007

LEVERAGE: Production Days 4 & 5

Quick note -- all filming for Days 4 & 5 was done in a private residence. Out of respect for the owner's wishes, I won't be posting photos from those days.

DAY 4

Rollout -- 10:00 am

The more astute of you will notice the roll-out time is slowly creeping forward. This is because of turnaround. All the unions and the actors' contracts have a required time they must be allowed between the time they leave a set and they time they return and are officially at work the next day, traditionally 12-ish hours. Anyway, as we creep longer and longer -- as almost every shoot does -- you need to keep pushing the crew call back farther and farther, starting later and later in order to maintain that mandated downtime. Assuming you haven't completely shagged the pooch, you should be okay for when your "weekend" (on a pilot that's one day) comes around and you reset the clock. As we started on a Wednesday, our "weekend" is Tuesday.

You can ask the crew and actors to ignore their mandated downtime and come in earlier, or force the call. This gets you into some nasty financial penalties, however. Also ... crankiness from exhaustion from all involved, actors and crew. Many times actors will let you force the call and not make a big deal out of it because, hey, we all want the shoot to succeed. But it's tricky.

The location we've found is uniquely useful, thanks primarily to the cunning of our 1st AD and our Production Designer. Our 1st actually found this place, a huge condo apartment, on some rental website. Craigslist or Lofts.com or something. A good trick for the toolbox.

The condo is hedge-fund magnificent and has multiple branching corridors and rooms The main room will serve as the heist gang's homebase. Our Production Designer, Lauren, has turned one spare bedroom into the interior of the white trash home we blew up a few days ago. Another bedroom becomes Tim Hutton's hotel room. The main bedroom becomes a suburban living room with the addition of some overstuffed couches.

Four "locations" in one physical location. I need to give someone a big wet kiss on the mouth.

My joy stems from the fact that the intrepid Bob and Lauren have spared us the monstrous time-suck that is the company move. As noted before, there is an obscene amount of heavy machinery and electrical equipment necessary to make a film. Unpacking and setting up all that equipment is naturally-time consuming. So is packing it up when you're finished with a location. This is manageable at the beginning and end of the work day, but when you change locations in the middle of a work day, the company move knocks a good hour or two out of your shooting schedule. You're burning daylight, losing hours which may force you to go longer and have to force a call, breaking momentum -- generally awful. So four script locations in a single place for two whole days of shooting, is nothing short of golden.

We bang out a flashback sequence in the white trash house. Then we get four of our fve principals in the living room for the "team-up" sequence. As is par for the course, a hellaciously complicated four-hander. There's a reason they stuck the ducklings in chairs while they only let Hugh Laurie wander around the set in that House diagnosis room ... The scene's blocked, then the actors are sent to their trailers to study the dictates of the homo-Jewish conspiracy running Hollywood (they are QUIZZED DAILY, people!) while the DP sets up lights and prepares the first camera shot. Like any scene, there will be multiple camera shots for coverage. Figuring out the most efficient way to cover a scene and still get some interesting camera moves, is one of the challenges of directing.

End of day we shoot Tim waking up hungover in the hotel room, getting yelled at by Saul Rubinek. Tim mentions the authenticity of the tone of the scene. Particularly the bit about waking up and hearing the tinkle of mini-bar bottles hitting each other in the sheets of the bed. Lovely -- another unpleasant habit from my stand-up days moves from "the "shameful memory" to "useful writing tool" column!

End of day, Chris and I have a pint at Dublin's. 12 midnight on a school night, the place is packed and they're cooking sandwiches and fries for people to help them suck up the booze. Good Lord I love this town.

Roll-in -- 12:00 am

DAY 5

Roll-out -- 11:00 am

Ah, finally we get our fifth principal -- who I also cannot name quite yet. Christ this is annoying. Anyway, Gina XXXX shows up and for the first time the show cast, what will be the team from this day forward, is complete. This will be the first day we get the whole cast chemistry. The first shot's a group scene, too, so this is the real test.

Annnnd ... phew. Gina's a hell of an actress, and the timing clicks in. I'm genuinely happy here, and not just because they're saying the lines. Hell, I'm happy if actors land somewhere in the same zipcode as the lines, as long as they're interesting. No, it's just that every writer works a different way. I always hear my dialogue. More then that, I can hear a metronome in every scene, tick-tick-ticking away through the dialogue and action. Directors I've worked with have occasionally been annoyed to see me "watching" the camera feed with my eyes closed, tapping my foot softly.

Why aren't I worried about the visuals? It's Dean Devlin directing for chrissake. The man's movies have made roughly the GNP of the Pacific Rim. He knows how to shoot the hell out of a TV show. In that regard, I'm an occasionally cunning appendix, nothing more.

As I've said, I wish I had the well-honed toolbox other writers carry. I can only write one way, and that's by hearing the scene in my head. It's visceral. So when I hear the actors fall into the rhythm, that's the money for me. That's the whole show.

When we shoot the last scene of the day, it's the last scene you'll see in the pilot. Tim does a speech locking in how the team will work. What the show will be about. It is a speech, too, one of the big bastards I foist on actors. It's just the rehearsal, but as Tim launches in, I can hear it. Tick, tick, building -- when he tosses off the last line with a little head tilt, I actually start hopping up and down silently in the back of the crowded room. The crew turns and laughs as I hop out of the room, punching the air. I could hear it, there, in the speech, the running bass-line for every episode. Hear it for the first time from someone else. My reaction must not be unlike a composer hearing a master pianist play through a solo for the first time ever.

They don't pay me to do this. I'd do this for free. They pay me not to punch executives in the neck.

But after 18 or so years in the entertainment business, that little junkie thrill is what keeps you going.

Roll-in -- 1:30 am

228 comments:

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