9 - THURSDAY MARCH 15, 2001
BURNT HOUSE -- DUSK
EXT. ABANDONED NEIGHBORHOOD -- NIGHT
INT. MOVING PATROL CAR - ABANDONED NEIGHBORHOOD -- NIGHT
Tim looking very cinematographerish
Tim and I
talked at great length about the importance of planning ahead for
the Burnt House scene. Our goal was to shoot the whole scene within
a 45 minute period at dusk. On a big budget film we would have shot
45 minutes a day at dusk for several days until done, but we didn't
have the luxury of spreading the work over a period of days. We had
an hour, tops.
was 3 PM, providing ample time for rehearsing with the actors,
positioning police cars and the fire truck and testing the smoke
effects. My first mission, though, was to find a cup of coffee. I'm
not much of a coffee drinker between films, but can't survive
without it on set. The nice craft services lady said she had
none. More low-budget blues -- I have never been on a film set
before where coffee wasn't automatic, hot and constantly flowing,
especially at crew call when everyone is all logey and stupid.
sun began to inch toward the horizon, I got the police cars where I
wanted them, chatted with the actors about motivation and blocking
and briefed the SAPD officers and firefighters who were working as
extras. Ron Allen, our special effects guru demonstrated his smoke
extravaganza, impressing us all with the wafting billows of dense
particulate matter. Satisfied that we were pretty darn well
organized, I reinitiated my search for coffee. Still no luck.
the sun was at just the right angle. Tim took a last meter reading
and said he was ready for action. I told the 1st AD to have the
actors fly down to set. The Bills appeared, but Winston (Jace
Phillips) and his wife didn't. Five minutes passed. No Winston
family. Ten minutes, still no Winston & wife. The ADs had
managed to lose the principal actors.
starting to freak out, as was I. Hadn't we discussed the importance
of moving fast when the light was right? Finally, the actors showed
up. It turns out they were in the make-up trailer the whole time.
Lord knows where the AD department was looking.
smoke effects, fire hose. Background action. Action patrol car. We
pan with the car. Morning parks, he and Francis get out, the hose
shuts off. Cut. The first shot was nearly perfect. Time for one more
take before moving on. I only noticed later that Mather, who makes
his second moody appearance in this scene, was not where he should
have been in the shot. No one else will notice, because they won't
be expecting to see him. Still kind of annoying.
finally arrived, although I hardly needed it at this point; I was
pretty jazzed up. The second setup was a hand-held shot of Morning
taking custody of Winston. As the scene unfolds, we realize that
Winston is an ex-cop who inexplicably has set fire to his own house.
His distraught wife attacks him just as Morning escorts him to the
patrol car. She is gently pried away by one of the SAPD cops we
employed as an extra. Meanwhile, Francis shoos away the sullen
teenaged boys who watch and smoke. Mather is among them, notable for
his especially dark aspect and defiance for the law.
second setup took us right through to the end of the scene, as
Mather strolls away into the sunset. We had planned more shots, but
the choreography was working in our favor, so we did it all in one.
This, in turn, enabled us to shoot a few more takes that we had
planned, which was good.
finished by shooting some cutaways of Morning moving Winston's
handcuffs from behind his back (a gesture of respect for an ex-cop)
and Francis telling the boys to move along. When you cover a scene
in a master shot, these kinds of cutaways are essential. They allow
using the beginning of one master and the end of another.
smoke cleared and the sun finally dipped below the horizon, Tim and
I took great satisfaction in completing the scene. It was a battle,
but we did it. The rest of the day would be a picnic by comparison.
* * *
On to the
next location, the Abandoned Street, where we would begin filming
the Carol scene. Today we tackled the shots leading up to Francis
and Morning's arrival at the scene of Carol's traffic accident.
First up was a panning shot of the patrol car driving down a
desolate street. As we got the camera and lights set up, Bill Sage
helpfully began directing traffic. With his SLPD uniform pants
around his ankles. I can only imagine what the neighborhood thought
of that. I thought it was pretty damn funny.
was a shot from the back seat of the patrol car of the boys silently
approaching the scene of the accident. This was an interesting shot
because I couldn't fit in the car, so Tim called "action"
and assured me that it was great. I hung around at base camp,
smoking excessively and listening to the scores of barking dogs in
an otherwise completely abandoned neighborhood.
shots of the night were coverage of Francis and Morning as they
arrive at Carol's pick-up truck. Our video tap was really crappy, so
at night I was barely able to see what the actors looked like during
a take. For most night shots I simply watched the action live, but
when we used a car mount for the camera, there was no alternative to
looking in the video monitor. At one point I asked Bill Dawes to
play the scene for me between takes, just so I could get a sense of
what he was doing. Sound only tells part of the story.
the day with thoughts of all those dogs ruining tomorrow night's
shoot at the Abandoned Street. We would be outside on the street for
the entire night. Of course, the dogs proved to be the least of our
© 2001 Cypress Films, Inc. All rights reserved.