PRODUCTION JOURNAL


DAY 2 - TUESDAY MARCH 6, 2001

A MESS OF COPS & A DASH OF MATHER


INT. POLICE PRECINCT - OFFICE - DAY
Scene #65

EXT. POLICE PRECINCT - BRIEFING ROOM - DAY
Scene #34

INT. POLICE PRECINCT - FRONT DESK - DAY
Scene #10

INT. POLICE PRECINCT - LOCKER ROOM - DAY
Scene #9

EXT. POLICE PRECINCT - MAIN ENTRANCE - DAY
Scene #68


Today was our first day filming in the East side SAPD substation. A big budget film would have created an elaborate set to resemble a real police precinct. Here in the low budget world, we had no choice but to use the real thing. Real is better in many respects, but in the case of a busy police substation, there are a number of potential problems. The biggest is that the real cops need to do their jobs. As amusing as a film set can be, it is also very intrusive; there are lights, cables, trucks and crew everywhere. The novelty wears off very quickly when you're tripping over a 40-person film crew and all their gak.


Morning makes his announcement

Our first scene (sc. 34) was set in the briefing room. We had to set up right after the 7 AM shift change and be done before the 2 PM roll call. This was also the first scene to involve several SAPD officers working as extras. As discussed in an earlier journal entry, I decided to use the same uniforms as the SAPD with badges and patches for our fictional San Lovisa Police Department. So, first thing in the morning, our crack wardrobe staff made themselves busy sewing San Lovisa patches over the San Antonio patches. Props then removed the cops' SAPD badges and replaced them with our own -- which are much better looking in my opinion. Simply replacing badges and patches saved us a huge amount of money in wardrobe purchases, and all the SAPD boys and girls looked great.


Yvonne sews on a San Lovisa patch

One discovery was that finding off-duty cops willing to work for our paltry "extra" wages wasn't easy. We had a number of no-shows, but were able to pull some officers from the substation to fill in the gaps. It all went fine until the Captain started hovering and asking when he could get his guys back -- they were due out on the streets. We were able to get our last set-up finished before things got tense. And I especially didn't want to piss the cops off on the first day of several filming in the substation. A frequent occurrence in the low budget world is not getting invited back to a location after the first day of shooting. Having a signed location agreement is all well and good, but if they're pissed off you've got a problem.


  Lou visits San Lovisa for the day

The locker room scene (sc. 9) was the first that required actual performances from the real cops. The timing of entrances and exits was important and one or two of them had actual lines of dialogue. Seasoned actors make hitting a mark and saying a line look pretty easy, but it's is harder that one might imagine. The best you can ever do with non-actors is pray that they come off naturally; there is no direction that will help someone with no experience. Officer Mike Ross stood out as a natural talent, and we ended up featuring him in several other scenes over the course of the film. He had some excellent cop stories, too, which I'll tell in a later journal entry.


Morning (Bill Sage) contemplates Mather


Mather returns the look

The only disaster of the day didn't reveal itself until the following week. The lab called to report that several takes from the substation shoot had severe gate weave. Gate weave is just what it sounds like: the filmed image stutters and weaves, and is essentially unusable. When a report like this comes from the lab, it strikes terror in the hearts of directors and DPs. At first, you don't know how much of the day's work has been affected by the problem. And until the negative report comes for the following days, you don't know if you've lost further work as well. Once Tim's staff reviewed their paperwork, though, they determined that the bad footage was specific to a single film magazine, and that it was one that we hadn't used again since that day.


Mather gets interrogated

As it turns out, there were other circled takes of everything that was ruined but for one setup, scene 65. Scene 65 is Mather being interrogated by one of the officers that arrested him, and was a "oner," a single shot (with minimal lighting). Since we were planning on returning to the substation anyway, we could just add this one shot to the end of that day. For having a bad mag, we got off pretty easy. Still, problems like this give you a feeling of taking two steps forward and one step back. Well, at least the net result is a step forward.

- Joseph Pierson
 


              



Copyright 2001 Cypress Films, Inc. All rights reserved.