February 2nd (and 3rd), 2001
What really amazes me about this project is that these crazy days that are talked about, envisioned and planned for…actually happen. This will be one of those days. On Thursday night I stayed up very late, trying to wake up late on Friday because our plan is to shoot both Friday and Saturday night from around 8:30 in the evening until 7:00 in the A.M. So when I awake Friday morning at 8am after about six hours of sleep, I am a little worried. But, ah well, I have been stoked about this weekend for months, and I am not about to let a little thing like lack of sleep get in the way of my good time.
We gather at the store and everyone is in a good mood. We are shooting four grocery store scenes over these two nights. Two a night. They happen in the film over about a six or eight month period, so we have multiple costume and hair style changes going on. Luckily there are only two actors, Mike and Anne, so that side of things is not mayhem. The first shots we have planned are going to be among the most difficult of the weekend. We are shooting the characters, Dylan and Madeline, from about their heads as they walk down the aisle. We have rented a jib arm, which is a device that enables the camera to get up high and be very mobile, and a videotap, which basically allows you to see everything you are filming and even videos it so you can have playback. These two tools are awesome, and if we could afford it, I would have them on the set every day. But alas, like everything else, they cost money.
So we spend hours trying to get this first shot off. My goal was to start shooting at 10pm, but it is nearing midnight and we still haven't exposed film. Aaaaargh! My stress is mounting, as it always does at the beginning of a shoot. But I am also very excited because this whole first scene has some of my favorite artistic style. Finally we nail the shot and it turns out beautiful. This flavors the next few hours as we get all these cool shots that I have been really stoked on. We finally finish the first scene at around 3am and break for lunch? Dinner? I don't know. Whatever it should be called, it is awesome, as Holly has come up with the brilliant idea to eat soup in the middle of the night. Everyone is stoked, well almost everyone. Between the stress and the coffee, my intestinal system has actually begun brewing its own coffee and I eat nothing.
It is four before we get to the 2nd scene. This is actually the last of the four in the movie. The most intense emotional scene for the two of them. I ask the crew to please be quiet and respect the actors and Anne and Mike really bring it on. We are in the freezer section and we are cold as shit and tired as shit. Mike is shedding tears as Dylan is breaking up with Madeline. Trying to explain to her that he's not just a greedy yuppie wannabe. Anne is shaking from emotion, from exhaustion, and from actual cold, because the fucking freezer section is cold! Oh, I am so happy. They hit their scene a bunch of times, and then I decide enough is enough. I wanted a little more coverage, but these guys had given it to me and I knew we had a big night tomorrow. So we called it a wrap at 6am and cleaned up. What a night. I couldn't really have been more pleased with everything. The acting, the crew…Now the main job would be to try to get a little sleep.
February 3rd (and really the 4th as well), 2001
I got a little sleep. Not much truly, but so what. When I was shaking the cobwebs off around 2:30, I thought "So I have an 18hour day of work ahead of me, I've had worse…" Denial, the most necessary tool for my mental health these days.
That was hours ago. It is now three o'clock and I am freaking out. Somehow tonight I am not very able to enjoy myself fully. We had a big shotlist at the beginning and we knocked out a bunch of it, but there is a sizeable bunch left, and I am feeling very nervous. Relax, says Scott. We will get it done. Don't worry. Okay, I won't worry. But…I can't help it. I am worried worried worried worried worried. And tired. I am very very tired. But I must not melt down. Okay, fine. Let's get to work. We spend awhile setting up the first shot of the last scene and finally we nail it once, twice. I was going to do close-ups also, but everyone thinks the shot looked great the way it was. Normally I would still do the close-ups, but we are looking at a deadline, so I say, fine, let's move on. We move on.
We get some cool shots in the vegetable aisle. No heads. Fast becoming my style. Headless shots. I say let's take the heads off all the actors. That'll show em some humility. Those shots go reasonable fast. And now we are nearing the last sequence of the night. The food bins. Aaargh. I am worried again. Now I am feeling like I may have sacrificed artistic integrity earlier for speed and stealth. I wish we could go back and spend an extra half-hour here and there for a few different shots. But, of course, we can't. Gotta go forward to go back. So. I ask Scott, what can we do to spruce this up. I want to go out with a bang. Scott thinks for a minute. Then comes up with it. Jib shot.
Okay, let's do it. So now we have turned a potentially last half-hour of work into an hour and a half, and suddenly I am feeling very good. Very fine indeed. It is amazing how creativity can give you energy. We set everything up and it looks great. We introduce Madeline like she's Pinky Tuscadero, like she's Stockard Channing in Grease. Things turn fun. After we do the Dylan close-ups, I tell Mike to fill his mouth with candy from the food bin and we shoot some of the final takes of the night trying not to laugh. We don't succeed on every take and we get some amusing moments. Finally it is 7 in the morning and we are cleaning up and getting out.
The final shot of the night was going to be an insert of Madeline reaching into the brown rice food bin to scoop some out. Hmmm, I think. They didn't have brown rice in bulk in this supermarket and we shot the medium shot with orzo instead. Wait! That's a wrap! We can't have a close insert of her reaching into the orzo bin. Movies, I think, shaking my head. Willie Wonka's words come to me…"We are the magic makers. We are the dreamers of dreams."
I am dreaming a lot of big dreams these days. It is the most insane period of my life ever. By far. As we are standing around in the parking lot, I start fantasizing about playing frisbee in a park somewhere surrounded by friends and grass and trees. I can't wait for that dream to come true. In the meantime, I have a movie to make.