Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Second Unit Takes Over, Dusty Goes On Strike

Often times, on big feature films, the main unit (comprising the camera, grip and electrical department along with other important departments) will need help getting all their shots done to keep on schedule. Many times, a second unit will come into take care of some shots where the main actors aren't involved like stunt work or scenic shots. It just helps speed up the process to get work completed.On Dry Rain, we had a second unit, too. We had a lot of shots to get that didn't have actors in them and shots that were best acquired with a smaller crew. We has some shots of the car driving through lonely landscapes. We had some shots of Virga. We had some shots to pick-up that set the scene for the road trip. All perfect for a smaller crew.

Dry Rain's second unit was Matt and Doug. Yup, just the two of us. Doug continued shooting and I directed some and mainly drove the car, got in Doug's way and played on the walkie talkie's. Doug managed all the important details like film, exposure, gear inventory and packing and repacking the truck. I made sure we had coffee, got snacks (from our lovely craft service crew! Thanks Jessica!) and lined up our locations and tried not to get into trouble.

Basically, the company wrapped on Saturday August 18th. On Sunday the 19th, the Second Unit, (Doug and I) headed out in search of the right light and the perfect setting for all those extra shots, not to mention always being on the look out for Virga. Our crack team of forecasters (Pete Fromm and his two sons Aidan & Nolan) kept an eye on the doplar weather radar in search of potential Virga producing storms.

The weather turned sour on us on Sunday, so we decided to head east towards Pendroy to start shooting out pick-up shots. Our plan was to drive Dusty, the hero car, up and over Roger's Pass from Lincoln. Go easy on him and not ride him too hard so he makes it at least a few days. Well, Dusty didn't make it a few miles. He just up and quit. He was running very poorly and just didn't want to go over the pass. I pushed him but he pushed back. No going.

We quickly and nimbly changed our plans. See that's what a 2nd Unit can do: move fast. Unlike the fat first unit too cumbersome to do any thing other than plow forward on a predetermined course, our 2nd Unit moved like a cat, ok, maybe not a cat, but at least like a somewhat fast animal of some sort. Anyway, our new plan was to get my truck in Missoula (left there prior to the end of the shoot), get a tow dolly to pull Dusty around and away we go. Of course, all of this takes time and we finally got back to square one and moving east like our original plan late in the afternoon on Monday. Dusty runs just well enough to get a couple of shots off the same day. We crash in Chocteau for the night and find ourselves in Pendroy on Tuesday.

This is where Dusty really decides to go on strike. All we asked of him was to peel out a few times, drive up and down the road a few times and that was it. But NO, he has to dig his heels in and demand some love and attention. All of this comes to a head just about lunch time. We've diagnosed that Dusty really does need a new alternator and probably a battery. Doug heads in to Conrad for some food and fuel and picks up a battery too. I stay back and give Dusty the love he wants. I put in the new alternator we had bought a few days prior, realize the automatic choke is broken and drop in the battery when Doug gets back.

Now, you have to remember that Dusty was a great find, but not the most well loved car in the world. He got some attention before leaving for Montana. We put a new starter into him after day one of shooting. We carted him around on a car trailer like some kind of king. You'd have thought he was gonna be OK for the duration of the shoot. Today, I found out that the little bit of love was all he needed. With all that I did for him on this day, he fired up and was ready to go. We even hit 70 flying down the highway outside Pendroy!

Of course, we still hauled him around for fear of another revolt. I'm sure we were a sight driving down the road. Picture this: Me driving my Bright Red Right Hand Drive Land Rover pulling a tow dolly with a 77 Dodge Volare Station Wagon followed by a white Nissan truck with a camera rig strapped to the front and a bashed in in front fender with deer hair still sticking to the grill. And all of that only going 60mph or so down the "Montana-Bahn" where speeds average 80 or better.

At the end of Tuesday, we rolled into Great Falls to stay with Pete and Rose and the boys. I'm sure the neighbors are still in shock at our ragtag parade of wierd cars rolling into the neighborhood. I wonder if Pete got any hate mail or rocks in his front window 'cause of us? Well, despite visually polluting the street, Pete and Rose took great care of us. They didn't even try to throw us out after the first night. Instead, they fed us and fixed us up with coffee in the mornings and of course, the help of the crack pot meterological forecasting crew was at our beck and call.

Doug and I moved out at the crack of dawn for the next three mornings, at least on the road by 10 a.m., in search of high plains vistas and scenes of isolation and lonliness on the prairie. At times, it was harder to find than we thought. Finding just the right look, with the right clouds and all could be challenging. It was a lot of fun over all. We back tracked over many roads we'd been on in the spring. By Thursday morning, we had checked off everything but the shots of Virga. That was our goal for the rest of the week: Get Virga.

Our meterologists suggested that Thursday had all the right components for Virga formation: low humidity, light to no winds, temperatures in the 70's or above and a new system moving in. And my word, they were right! Doug and I got into a patch of Virga that lasted for at least an hour before it started to really rain. It was great. We got a bunch of different versions of it as it crept across the valley. It was beautiful. Getting that really capped off a great shoot.

Friday would be our day to head back to Seattle. We had to repack and clean gear and sort out the mess we had created during the week. Once we had everything together, we hit the road in our own cars. Doug hit it right back to Seattle. I had to return the tow dolly and put Dusty to bed in a safe spot, just in case we need him again for more pick-up shots. Dusty now resides on the back part of my Aunt & Uncle's property in Alberton, MT, just west of Missoula. I'm not going to give you the exact details of his location. We don't want a lot of people milling about trying to get a glimpse of him. But, don't worry. He's safe and sound and just might make a return!

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