“I Hope You Like My Present” Production Diary Part 2

Unlike the night before the first day of shooting, I had the perfect opportunity for some sleep. Unfortunately that didn’t quite happen. Not to go deep into it but I don’t know if it was what I ate that day or something else going on with  my body, but I was stricken with stomach problems which basically made me not able to sleep the night before our second day of shooting. Perfect timing, right? Wrong. I didn’t actually start being able to sleep until two hours prior to me waking up. At first, I thought I felt all better but within minutes my pain continued and of course thoughts were entering like “How am I supposed to shoot today?” So I tried to go slow and yes stalled production slightly due to being late. At this point, I was in fear that today wouldn’t go as smoothly.

Thankfully, once I started talking to crew and we started setting up the shots, it seemed to go away. However, I didn’t get overly optimistic as I made sure I ate nothing but relatively bland food all day.

The first scene of the movie features Justin (Justin Kimball) and Jess (Tamara Lynn Chambers) chatting it up as they prepare for the grandparents and possible other guests arriving. This scene had many different versions in my head. At first I was thinking it would be a mix of the brother and sister interacting and going in and out of the kitchen and dining room as Jess cooks the meal while Justin sets up the table. However, I only wanted to shoot in one room, so I decided to do the kitchen. However, Saturday night the more I thought about it, the less this made creative and logistical sense considering the tight space of the kitchen and how it would have a completely different look from the rest of the movie. Instead, I elected to have the opening scene in the dining room with the sister trying to teach a clueless brother how to set the table.

The nice thing about this scene compared to almost all the other scenes is that it is short. Another plus is that it only features two actors, so being able to separate audio of dialogue won’t be difficult in the least. I have to say I’m very happy how things turned out in this scene. As you know, the sister initially was going to be a different actress, so my worry was would the brother/sister chemistry work. I was quite thrilled with how Tamara and Justin played off each other in the scene though. The sister was very playful and intrusive on his social life whereas Justin was dry, sarcastic and wanting to avoid her questions. Needless to say it worked.

The rest of the day though was spent in one location — the living room. As the story plays out, Justin answers the door for every new character or characters and the first half is featured in the living room. At first, while there might be some humorous/shocking conversation, it isn’t until the dining room table scene that things get truly out of hand into full out dysfunctional territory. Because of the fact that things had to build as time went on, the first couple and later on there were some takes that probably went too far in terms of Justin’s uncomfortableness and his potential dates getting a little too touchy, feely which is why despite there being only one location for this, we did a lot of takes with multiple angles.

This was definitely more of a relaxed day I would say as we didn’t have as much to shoot. The only problem for the day was when we had to shoot entrances into the living room and the grandpa (Jim Chudnow) coverage as we see the dining room and initially the dining room was very dark which is a giant contrast to the end of the film where the characters are all interacting with each other at the table. Not to mention we had to take close attention to how the table looked previously to match it for continuity’s sake.

Overall I was very proud of the day. It being an improv film I have a ton of material to choose from which was the intent. The real task of course will be editing the footage which I will be doing for the first time in a number of years; however, that’s for another blog.

 

— Simon Mounsey, Director, Producer, Production Designer for “I Hope You Like My Present”

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