DAY 14 - Thursday, MARCH
SWEENY GLASS BREAKERS,
SPARKLE BALLS & BLANKS
RESTAURANT -- DUSK
Scene 106 pt.
EXT. FOOD MART -- NIGHT
EXT. FOOD MART - REAR ENTRANCE-- NIGHT
INT. FOOD MART -- NIGHT
INT. FOOD MART -- NIGHT
EXT. FOOD MART -- NIGHT
Francis & Jessica have a date
first task today was to pick off another piece of the last scene of
the film, 105/106. The scene is set at dusk, but in contrast to our
other dusk shots, we are tackling the shots for this sequence one at
a time. The difference is that these are shots that require more
attention to lighting and composition, as opposed to the Winston
fire scene and the Ice Cream Street,
which are all about the energy and whipping through the setups
before it's too dark to shoot.
The part of the scene we shot today was Francis (Bill
Dawes) and Jessica (Mirelly
Taylor) sitting together in the restaurant. There's no dialogue,
just looks. Curiously, it's harder than directing a real scene with
actual chatting; there's less to grab hold of performance-wise. I
was very tempted to do one take of everything and move on, but there
were subtle differences in the looks and movement of the actors in
the various takes, so I think my patience paid off.
After finishing our three shots in the restaurant it
was time to move on to the tough part of the day, scenes 83-86 in
the Food Mart across the street. These are the scenes where Mather
(bad guy) tries to rob the place and ends up getting shot by Francis
(good guy). We had 12 setups to do, which is not a lot by indie
standards, except for the fact that most involved special effects of
one sort or another.
Adjusting a practical light
(Cinematographer) and I decided to shoot the exteriors first, which
meant that Bill Sage could go
home early since he wasn't in any of the interior scenes. First up
was the cop car arriving at the scene as Francis and Morning respond
to a silent alarm at the Food Mart. Bill Dawes got to drive for a
change and had the added treat of flooring it down South Flores with
the bar lights on. No problems, but for my fear that some guilty
motorist would pull over, thinking the cops were after them, and
cause an accident. A couple of cars did pull over but we were spared
a high speed fender bender.
Tim lines up the shot
up was the weird scene at the rear entrance of the food mart where
Morning loses it. Morning goes "around back" while Francis
creeps in the front entrance. We never find out what happened back
there between Morning and Mather, but it's the beginning of the end
for Morning. As such, it's a crucial scene and one which the Bills
and I talked about constantly throughout production. Bill S. tried a
few different things, but there was one take that was a clear winner
for me. So, after five takes of Bill S. and five takes of Billy D.
we were on our way indoors for the hard stuff.
Francis finds Morning
Morning breaks down
whole special effects thing is completely new to me. The last real
stunt I remember being involved in before EvenHand was when I was
location manager on Five Corners and a scene called for a cab
to jump the curb and ram a phone booth with a guy in it. The guy in
the booth was a dummy, but the cab driver was the stunt coordinator,
a total nut. I was terrified that something was going to go wrong --
it was a dangerous stunt -- and my confidence wasn't bolstered by
the stunt guy's bug-eyed jacked-up caffeinated attitude. It turned
out fine; no one was hurt, but it made for a stressful night.
So now, here I am directing a film with all kinds of
action. Who would have guessed?
The Damn Lexan
first thing I learned today was that nothing happens without the
Lexan. Lexan is a big expensive sheet of plexiglass that sits in
front of the camera and related personnel. When you do anything
involving ballistics, squibs or flying debris in general, everyone
gets behind the Lexan. The Lexan has to be positioned to protect the
crew and it takes forever. The tiniest reflection betrays its
presence on camera and we discovered that a house of mirrors is
slightly less reflective than a mini-mart. The Lexan also scratches
if you look at it wrong. Even the lens tissue used to clean the
expensive camera lenses leaves marks and by the time you get to
paper towels you're gouging divots in it. And after you've used it
one or two times you might as well throw it away because you're
never going to get it clean without making it opaque. As if that's
not enough, it takes on a massive static charge as soon as you haul
it out of the truck and attracts dust motes, hair and an assortment
of small rodents.
So, the grips bring it in, slap some big suction
cups on it, hook those onto some grip stands and then adjust the
damn thing endlessly. By the time they're done, there is black
duvetyn on all 5 remaining sides of the camera as well as above and
below the slit left clear for the lens. Then we get the shot, which
today meant one or possibly two takes, depending on how complicated
the special effect happens to be. The grips then dismantle the whole
rig and we get set up for the next shot. It's a hugely tedious
process, especially when you have to do it eight or ten times in a
night, and it makes a normally inefficient way to make a living
grind to an almost complete standstill.
Francis finger-shoots Mather (rehearsal)
most fun and gratifying shot of the night was the bullet hit on the
beer fridge. Ron Allen (Special Effects) spent days testing
different ways to break a beer fridge door. The variables were: one
pane of glass, two panes; with a layer of plastic film, without;
using a ball bearing shot from a paintball gun (don't ask) or a
complicated system of glass breakers and planted explosive charges.
The final verdict was: single pane of glass, no plastic film and
ball bearing with the glass breakers. Jessica crouched in the
foreground, then after everyone yelled "Fire in the hole!"
endlessly, we rolled camera. On action Ron shot the door of the
fridge with the paint ball gun and Jessica screamed. It was a
triumph! The ball bearing made a small hole which instantly
spider-webbed the whole door. The bearing and the glass breaker
combined to send frothy beer all over the inside of the cooler. It
looked great to me and Tim, so we only did one take. Risky business,
but on the other hand, why waste precious time if it works? We still
had a ton of stuff to do. So, the glass shards were carefully picked
from Mirelly's hair and we moved on.
Sweeny Glass Breaker - a device with a spring-loaded arm that
swings and breaks stuff.
Sparkle balls - You shoot them and they make a big spark when
they hit to simulate a bullet hit.
Blanks - shells with powder and no slug (but you knew that).
Squib - A small explosive charge, often packaged with a blood
bag and planted in an actor's clothing. When the actor is
"shot," the special effects guy sets off the charge and a
nasty spurt of blood flies out of the resulting hole in the actor's
Lexan - a big pain in the ass.
A good crop of spectators
gradually made it through the night's work, but as it got later and
later everyone started getting pretty testy. Fernando and I bitched
at each other about the SAPD extras that we engaged fore the final
scene in the sequence. I was pissed that they were all leaving
before we even used them -- apparently they had to go to work at 6
AM. Fernando was pissed that it was 5 AM and we weren't done yet. I
asked if it was really a shock to anyone that we were in overtime on
this of all nights. Blah, blah, blah.
one of the later shots, Billy D. had to run into the bathroom,
pretending it was outside, in pursuit of the mortally wounded David
Mather. After the second or third take, I called "cut" and
heard a really loud "FUCK!!!" from the bathroom. I thought
Jesus, he's bashed his knee on the toilet or something. It turned
out that he was frustrated because he couldn't get his damn radio
back into its holster. Yes, indeedy, it was late.
We finally got to the last shot of the night, in
which Sgt. Leonard arrives after the dust has settled from the night
of mayhem and asks Francis what happened. Francis is comforting
Jessica, who's bleeding from her mouth (she bit her tongue). Billy
D. was so tired you could hear it in his voice. It was great,
though, because his weariness translated perfectly into the after
effects of a really stressful night of police work. Once again, the
nefarious director successfully manipulated his thespians into
involuntary method acting. And not a moment too soon; the sun was on
its way up.
- Joseph Pierson
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Films, Inc. All rights reserved.