Well here we were, the first day of filming for our most recent short “Don’t Be Scared.” Despite all the stress leading up to this day, it was time to get down to business. As mentioned in previous blogs, we went through arduous processes in terms of getting a location set, props produced and to a lesser extent actors and crew in place. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t mixed emotions coming in. Indeed I was excited, but at the same time a lot of things had to be rushed last minute.
Why were some things rushed last minute? Well mostly this had to do with our location not being decided until a week and a half prior to shooting. It should also be noted that the pre-production for this film was organized a little bit differently. At first we were incredibly ahead of schedule in terms of being prepared. For one, the script (written by Samantha Segura) had been finished in August. From there, Josh Paney (DP) and I put together a shot list within about a week’s time and not long after, the cast and crew were all decided on.
However, due to the location not being set, we couldn’t do much else. There was absolutely zero point in doing a shoot order as we didn’t know the layout of where we were shooting. Also, we tend to like to create storyboard stills where Josh, a stand in or two and I will go to the location and take stills of every shot in the film. Obviously we can’t do that if we don’t know where we’re shooting.
On the logistics end we couldn’t create a schedule considering A) the shoot order has to be final and B) we needed to know what shots were going to be more complex than others due to constraints such as windows, room size, etc. It couldn’t be done. Instead, all of us were waiting. In fact we were approximately two days away from postponing the shoot due to no location until we finally found our location.
Bottom line: We didn’t have the preparation we would have liked. This is not to say we didn’t have things in place by this Friday evening, but we definitely pushed things to the limit so to speak.
Our first shoot day being on a Friday night, I had a feeling we would get a bit of a late start. Why? Simply put: a lot of our crew, particularly Josh and Sam had jobs they were coming from, and in the process for the rest of the night we probably put our assistant director Chris Ramirez in near heart attack mode.
Anyways, since we had to wait for the remaining crew, our group gathered our equipment and loaded inside the house after going after a few logistics with the homeowner.
The first shot of the night was pretty damn simple and I’m not going to go too in depth with it. Simply some pickups of the grandfather clock. Once Josh and Jeremy got in, we just moved some lights around and shot. No big problem. Were we over time at this point? You betcha, but we got it wrapped up pretty quick.
During this time, JD Scruggs (gaffer/key grip) set up the jib for our next shot which so happened to be our most difficult shot of the entire weekend. What made it difficult? Well for one it’s a jib shot, so we had to make sure the movement of the crane was smooth. Secondly we had to get lighting right inside and outside. Lastly, we had to coordinate with Eleni Masouras (Catherine) timing just so perfectly where once we crane up to the window, we see her approaching.
On the other side of the wall I had to work with Eleni in explaining what was happening in the scene, which essentially was her walking to the window in a dreamlike state. Once Eleni arrived though, we found a little bump in the road we weren’t expecting…
If you’re wondering why there’s a picture of a cat above, well that’s because our location had a number of cats. During the location scout we did notice them but didn’t make much of it. One thing we should have been is more prepared because that night we realized that our actress was allergic to cats. Let this be a word to the wise for all you other filmmakers out there: If there is an animal on set, check to see if anyone is allergic. I must say though that Eleni was a trooper; granted, she did try to keep herself separated from the cats during the night. Thankfully the following day’s shoot wasn’t as much of a problem due to allergy medication.
Anyways, once Eleni was settled and Josh felt comfortable with the setup outside we tried to take a few run throughs. This is what pushed us back quite a bit. Getting timing down was quite an interesting feat. To get this shot to work, we had to have Eleni approach the window just as the camera is coming up to the window. How did we time this? Well…
Since we don’t have walkie talkies, we had to signal each other using our cell phones. So how this played out is the shot would start, I would hear action, then about halfway up I would be given a signal in which I would signal our actress to start her approach towards the window. Obviously this was not done in one take. It took several and the one shot we wanted to use was unusable because, well, yours truly ended up being in the shot itself. Eventually we got it though.
From then on, the rest of the night went pretty smoothly…for the most part. We were a bit behind schedule, but we managed to get some shots on the side of the house pretty easily.
Then we moved to the front of the house which we felt the neighbors would kill us for. Why? Well we had to create enough wind to make the flag flapping in the wind and more specifically we used a leaf blower to have leaves and papers blowing on the ground to start our final shot, a jib shot of the front of the house. Keep in mind this was at 11 at night too, folks.
We did it a few times and it looked pretty decent, but once we thought we about had it, we lost power to the camera.
Now you’re probably thinking, why don’t you just exchange batteries? Well it isn’t that easy. The black magic cinema camera is an amazing camera. It is great with low light situations and has an incredible amount of detail. It just has one problem and that is it only gets power through a charge. Considering we didn’t have time to blow waiting for it to charge, we had to get a super long extension cord to run to the camera and thread it along the jib.
Once we got all the logistical stuff out of the way, thankfully, we did one take of craning up and down with the jib and were done. Now it should be noted we were slated to end at 10:15, but we ended at 11:30, so we were a little over an hour over. However, the last shot we did was actually slated for Sunday, so we were dare I say, ahead of schedule. Why did we add a shot? Simply put, I wanted to get all exterior and jib shots out of the way.
Anyways, once we got that we wrapped up and tried to head home as quick as we could to sleep it out, because Saturday would be our longest day of the weekend.
– Simon Mounsey, Director/Producer for “Don’t Be Scared”