Last night shooting was amazing, painful, exhausting and exhilarating. After may failed attempts to get that last scene in the can its finally done!
Lately weather has been bad for outdoor filming here in Oregon and no improvement was in sight. Every weekend was getting colder, wetter and less accessible. The day job\career is undergoing some upheaval and I have needed to apply a good bit of my limited focus and energy on maintaining the status quo. In other words, keeping the littlens clothed, sheltered and fed!
When I woke with a sugar crash hangover on November first, I looked out the window and saw a mostly clear sky! I checked a weather app on my phone and saw that we MIGHT get a break tonight. With one eye still stuck shut from morning eye sand not unlike the texture of ground up Halloween Candy Corn, I thumbed a quick message out to Matthew Carey, AKA the “talent.”
ME: Free this afternoon and tonight?
Matthew: This evening... maybe. I am definitely not free this afternoon, I have to meet someone and then take care of some things here.
Matthew: I can probably do 5
With that exchange we were off! There were a few small details that I really needed to resolve.
The over thinker I am, I had been mentally planning this shoot for weeks, I had tons of theory and many possible options to peruse, the only trouble is that I hadn’t actually decided or confirmed anything. This meant I had 6 hours to pull it all together. List of to-do’s:
Test the gas powered electric generator.
Test powering the lighting equipment from generator.
Decide what gear to take.
Charge the camera batteries.
Secure a location.
After wading through drifts of candy wrappers and the sleep over blankets strewn across the floor, I chucked empty soda cans into a plastic bag , yelled at somebody else’s kids to start cleaning up this mess, loaded the first load of dishes into the dishwasher and set out for the car port to pull out the generator.
Now, I knew the generator was in all right condition, I did start it up earlier this summer to make sure it survived the winter in working order. You should note that this is not one of those itty bitty little 500w camping generators, no, this monster I bought to run my house in the event of a sustained power outage, which when I lived out in the sticks three years ago was a regular occurrence. I had this guy wired into to my main breaker panel in the old place. It was nicely outfitted with handles and wheels so it’s easy to transport on the ground. Vertical movement is an entirely different issue. With only hours to spare I pushed the start button, she turned over nicely, but just kept turning over. Trying to start it I drained the starter battery.. sigh, there is a manual start option.. pull rope! Before I really started yanking on it, I double checked the fuel.. sure there was some in it.. but it seemed really low, so I found a few dribbles in a nearby gas can, dumped that in the tank and commenced to yank. She started up after the third pull. It ran for 2 minutes before running out of gas. I would need gas, but since I was about to leave the house to get gas for the “genny” as my UK friends call it, I might as well double up my trip to find a new location.
Earlier in the summer I had found a couple of really good locations but since the rain started, they were now muddy bogs and no longer “optimal.” In the back of my mind as I watched the weather changing I realized that a simple change to the script would open up my location options. The script originally called for a “wall of forest trees” on the edge of a cleared field\pasture. The character in this scene is fleeing towards the woods where he encounters “something.” I moved this “encounter” further along the imagined timeline where he is actually in the woods and is crossing a deserted gravel road. This had the needed “open area” (the road) as well as the “wall of trees” (the forest growing on side of the road) needed to get the shots I was visualizing. This meant that all I needed to do was find a stretch of mostly deserted road in the forest. This is something western Oregon has an abundance of, so I threw the empty gas can in the back of the minivan and headed for the forest. I knew one area that I thought would be good. Close enough to not be too much of a drive, but really in the woods enough to sell the idea. It had the bonus of being an area where off road vehicles were allowed, I imagined that a small film setup would probably not really raise any eyebrows. As I cruised along the various roads in the “Browns Camp Off Highway Vehicle” recreation area in the Tillamook State Forest I saw many people out bombing around on dirt bikes, quads and side by side’s ,there were also many mushroom pickers out an about, the place was crawling with people! I knew that this was mostly a day use area and that this place would be deserted later that night. On my scouting I saw a couple of County Sheriff tucks parked, so I pulled up next to them, got out of the van and moseyed on up (that’s what you do in the west, mosey) I asked the officers what they thought about me and my buddy shooting a little movie along one of the roads in the middle of the night. They replied that it would be fine. Don’t block the entire road, and watch out for late night odd balls, but other than that have a good time. The Sherriff passed along the news to other agencies that we were shooting in the area so that other first responders wouldn’t show up thinking they were busting a rave. A generator and lights in the middle of the night looks like a “rave” to many passersby. As I stood there describing what I was looking for to the Sheriffs, I realized, “well, here is good,” just like right where I was standing. With that, I had my location, and permission to use it.
Back at the house I dumped a gallon of gas into the genny, fired it up and started connecting lights. First the two 2k’s, then one by one I added 1K open faces.. I started tripping breakers at 6k but realized this was due to the poor choice of power cords, a few changes and I knew Id be able to get a few more thousand watts on line. The generator is rated 8k continuous and 10k peak. Back into the house, unloaded then loaded the next load of dishes. I found that there were STILL other people’s kids at my house. I “encouraged” everyone to call their respective moms for a pickup. I also continued the haranguing about picking up the mess. Side note: These were really great kids, I loved having them over, my son said that Halloween night and Saturday morning\afternoon and evening were about the best 24 hours of his life!
That’s it for this installment. It gets way more interesting.. at one point Im sitting in a camp chair along the highway freezing to death waiting for AAA tow truck.
At about 6:30 Matthew arrived at my house, we decided we could fit everything we needed his little truck with a canopy. I realized that if we couldn’t get the genny loaded by ourselves the shoot was a “nonstarter” so I thought it best we should get that out of the way before packing anything else. Now came the vertical lifting challenge. I rolled the genny out to the truck. With herculean efforts and grunting we got it loaded into the truck! We would have to do this at least one more time and I felt we were up to the challenge. At this point I really have to give all gratitude and thanks to Matthew, his willingness to help in anyway necessary and more importantly his great attitude would prove a great comfort in the channeling hours ahead.
Since we were the entire cast and crew, we sorta laid back on the hustle.. it’s a night shoot, it was night. So far so good, and we had many hours to spare. The shoot itself would be slow with just us, but we didn’t really have that many shots to get, so we figured we’d be wrapped by 2:00 am. We had a nice leisurely meal at Subway near the gas station along the highway finally hitting the road in earnest at about 7:30 pm.
The weather had been raining on and off all day, but we were committed, and so we traveled on.
As we arrived in the general area, the fog rolled in and made navigating the dark deserted complex of roads a bit of an unnerving experience, but we found the spot without any wrong turns. We pulled up to a stop, cut the engine and turned off the head lights… darkness. There is a certain kind of heavy darkness in the Oregon forest that can smother your very will to survive; it kinda makes you want to cover yourself with leaves and hide until day light. At this point I realized, gee, a flashlight would be great about now, I probably should have put that on my list.
I cant claim any foresight, except for a maybe a freakish flashlight buying spree I went on two years ago, turns out I had a decent strap on head lamp in my sound gear bag! Batteries were even good. Can I just mention that LED flashlights are about the best outdoor equipment advancement ever! With Matthew using his cell phone flashlight app, and me in my silly, but entirely perfect for the tasks strap on, we unloaded everything that we had previously piled on top of the genny. We didn’t quite prepare for the genny download very well and it came off the truck with a bit more momentum than was strictly necessary.
As I setup the 2k as a work light and was about to start the genny.. BOOM.. BOOM.. large caliber gun or perhaps explosives. I later heard the unmistakable crackle and fizz of small fireworks. I guess these were some of the “odd ball” folks the Sheriffs had mentioned. No worry, we weren’t recording sound anyway.. the roar of the genny made capturing any useable production sound impossible. That said, I think the gun shots\small explosives were actually salutary in nature. Upon my scouting visit I noticed there was a small camp site situated rather close to the chosen location, I again completed the “mosey up’ maneuver and apologized in advance for running the generator all night, the camper was cool with it and we had one of those masculine “I can be up later making more noise then you” type of moments.
After a few more busts of gun fire from our neighbors, I gave a friendly shout into the night, fired up the genny and blew away the darkness! Man, after stumbling around in near pitch black with only a little circle of light to guide you, the sudden burst of generator noise and world filling light thrown out by just one Mole Richardson Junior Solar 2k is stunning.
It was official, we were on location and things were gonna get freaky up in here..
well, lights is lights.. the script called for three lights.. Im just following orders! lol..
I know you can see the barns doors in a couple of shots, but I noticed in playing wtih some grading, blowing out the whites so they overflow the barn doors works quite nicely.
That said, few non filmmakers will realize the barn door thing.. but regardless Im cool with fixes. But remember, this project is long way from done! Tweaking those things now doesn't make sense. heck the shot might not even make it into the final edit!
If you game your on the hook for some post clean up once were mostly through with edit.
If your thinking of more along the lines of visual effects, rather than tidying up, I can see how that's a temptation, heck I did some of that for fun this morning! However, I believe there is something very unsettling about the unmoving, uncaring lights looking down on Samuel. The exchange feels like an ant raising his fist to a steam roller. No need to decide though, once the edit is done, we can start working on visual effects, cc, etc. Sound is REALLY necessary for this scene you have to imagine the HUGE.. MAKE WAY .. MAKE WAY . blaring at the end..
yea i was basically talking about the barn doors (was blank on the name in original post) but if grading fixes it thats cool. Sound will make a massive difference. If we get to the end with a locked edit and feel some subtle vfx things (dust, cam shake etc) will add I dont mind taking that on. But i agree may as well get it down and go from there
1) Shoot looks fantastic.
2) Your perseverance is incredible. I enjoy reading about your titanic struggles, even if I don't envy them. I'll just stay here, behind the keyboard...
3) I agree with Jooble that the barn doors need tweaking out but I'm sure that'll be no problem. I can't wait to see the first cut of all the different scenes together. I'm still not sure how seamlessly they will fit, and whether you'll be able to tell the difference, in terms of tone and feel, between the sections. In CF we trust!
EDIT: And, yeah, that last scene is going to look/sound awesome with the sound design on top of it. That's a cool project for our sound design team, eh?
I think its important to set reasonable expectations on CF.
The shots WILL look different, trying to fight that is a losing battle. What we want is for the viewer to believe that the story demands the different styles and looks. Having one editor will naturally reduce the impact of the visual differences on the story. Shots will look different of course, but it will seem to be a single piece more or less..
Along with a single editor we should have a single composer, a single sound editor and a single colorist. Having each of these key individuals put his or her virtual fingerprint over the entire project will bring even more cohesion.
It seems to me that as long as there is a unified score\sonic foot print and a gentle hand on the final color grade, the different styles \ looks will feel "right" for the project and not an unfortunate byproduct of the distributed process.
Dang, wheaty, that looks beautiful! You're kinda a filmmaking hero of mine, not blowing smoke up anywhere.
Ok, seems like the pressure is on me now. I never plan it this way, but I've always worked best with deadlines looming. Though we don't have an actual deadline, I can tell you that I definitely feel that many people are now waiting for me to do my part. You have my word, I'M ON IT!
Artificial self-imposed-deadline, for the purpose of lighting a fire under my ass -- 1st rough cut done by this Friday.