DAY 5 - FRIDAY MARCH 9, 2001
A DAY WITH THE COACH
INT - PATROL CAR - High School Practice Field -- DAY
EXT - PATROL CAR - High School Practice Field -- DAY
INT - PATROL CAR - High School Practice Field -- DAY
EXT - HIGHWAY -- DAY
The Coach and his boys
Today looked like an easy
day on paper -- three scenes, all continuous, in a parked patrol car and one
scene by the side of the highway, again with no moving vehicles. There were
elements, however, that made it a difficult (but theoretically makable) day.
Some were anticipated (15 set-ups altogether) and some were not.
We started out with
coverage on the coach and the high school football players we had enlisted for scene 24. It was
a lot of work,
especially since I was working with a relatively inexperienced 1st AD. This
meant that I had to do all of the arranging of football players for their
background action and their group moment talking to Francis. I know nothing
about football (a crime in Texas), but managed to set them up with some
realistic action with the help of the real coach, who blew his whistle and barked orders.
Miller, who plays
the coach in the film, showed up on set with the most wretched tight tan spandex
shorts on. I told Yvonne (costume designer) that I was picturing sweat pants or
something like that. She allowed as how she had none. I suppose the script did
say "tight lycra coaching outfit," but jeez, poor Joe looked like he
was ready to play the coach in some kind of creepy gay porn flick. As I was on
the verge of panic, Joe said that he had some blue windbreaker pants of his own.
The aborted U-turn
Then, one of the key
vehicles that was scripted didn't show up. The scene calls for some boys to skip
practice and drive away in a Jeep. Morning calls to them over the PA in the
patrol car to scold them for attempting a U-turn, which leads to him talking to
the boys on the field. The scene eventually ends in a nice awkward moment with
the coach. No one could adequately explain why the Jeep wasn't there, so I
enlisted the 2nd AD's pick-up truck, which was better anyway. Second crisis
Bill Sage getting ready for a two-shot
The meat of scenes 23
- 25 is Morning talking wistfully about his days on the high school football
team. It's a nice opportunity for some exposition on Morning's character and
Francis' (and our) first chance to see the vulnerability behind his
facade of cowboy cop. We covered the scenes with eight separate set-ups, which took
a considerable amount of time. Tim and I discussed 3 PM as being the optimum
time to be on the move to our next location. This is where we would film scene 104,
Francis pulling the coach over for speeding six months or so after Morning has
been killed. But, by the time we were done with 24 - 26, it was 4:30 PM. Not good.
Any company move,
whether it's 2 blocks or 10 miles, is a big deal. By definition, all the
equipment needs to be loaded onto the trucks, the hatches have to be battened
down in the motor homes and the entire crew has to wend its way to the next
location, repark all the vehicles and unload all the necessary equipment. No matter how near or far, it's always at least an hour by the time
the crew is ready for action again. The net result is an hour's less sun.
The location for sc.
104 was a service road off highway 281, chosen for it's proximity to the highway
and because the San Antonio skyline provided a nice
backdrop. Tim and I arrived first and discussed strategy for shooting the scene
as efficiently as possible. We agreed that we could only afford one or at most
two takes of the transitional stuff -- Francis walking to and from the coach's
pick-up truck, etc. That was our only chance of getting the important shots:
Francis' first (and unexpected) release of emotion after the death of his partner, Morning, and
the coach's reaction.
Francis returns to the patrol car
Once the crew and
equipment arrived, we powered through several shots of the vehicles and Francis'
walk from his patrol car to the truck. Then, we shot Joe's coverage. He was
excellent, providing a great foil for Francis' surprise emotional moment. When
it came time for Billy D's coverage, however, we were really fighting the
Francis doesn't write the Coach a ticket
Now, normally, one doesn't shoot the lead actor's coverage last.
They work the hardest, and it's most important that their coverage be good.
After all it's the leads that carry the film. If they're tired or unhappy, it
hurts the film more than if a day player is inconvenienced by sitting around
all day doing off-camera work or just plain waiting (of which there is always a
considerable amount). In this case, however, Joe came from Dallas for this, his
one day of work on the film. We hadn't budgeted for an additional day's work or
him. If worse came to worst, we could pick up Bill's coverage on another day at
no additional cost to the production but for a tighter schedule. And, of course,
worse did come to worst.
were finally set up for Bill's coverage, there was just a sliver of direct sunlight left
in the sky. After the first take, we had to reset a few feet away to chase the
sun. This was
repeated for every subsequent take. The most annoying thing about this was that
the changing background meant that I would have to use moments from one entire
take, as opposed to using pieces from several; if the background changes without
the actor moving in a motivated fashion it becomes a continuity error
that distracts from the content of the scene. A secondary problem was that we had to move closer to
the highway to chase the light
and the rush hour traffic on 281 was growing steadily louder.
problem, not to be dismissed lightly, was that Bill was finding it difficult to
concentrate with the constant moves and readjustments. Film actors, under the
best of circumstances, must work with innumerable distractions on the set, such
as the camera, lights and crew surrounding them at all times. But, an experienced crew
will avoid eye contact during a take and a courteous director will make every
effort to provide an atmosphere conducive to good acting. Jumping around a
highway median with the roar of traffic and failing light doesn't exactly accomplish the latter.
finished Bill's coverage and wrapped, but I was not pleased with the problems we
encountered with the last set-up and it was clear to me that Billy D. was not
happy either. Alan Green, the sound mixer, confirmed that the sound was lousy and Tim felt that the light had
dropped to the point that the picture
quality was probably not up to his standards. By the time I gathered this
information, Bill had left the set. I didn't want his weekend to be ruined,
though, so I called him to let him know that we would commit to reshooting his
coverage the following week when an opportunity arose.
things considered, the day went excellently well. Another several steps
forward and a tiny step back. Not a terrible way to end week one.
Ron reflects on the lack of light
- Joseph Pierson
Copyright © 2001
Cypress Films, Inc. All rights reserved.