Saturday, August 18, 2007

Day 5 and that's a Wrap!

Today was our last day of principle photography. All I could hope for was good, clear weather without the persistent smoke lingering in the hills and valleys. Let’s just say we got lucky. Very, very lucky today.The art department, with me and Pete in tow, got to location at 7 a.m. to get the set built and everything ready for shooting to start at 10:30. Doug also met us out there so we could review the day’s work.Today, we built a border crossing where our two main characters have their last moment of the story. Stil, the father, drops his son, Joey, off at the border to be picked up by his mom. Since Stil is paranoid about his ex-wife possibly calling the cops on him, he decides to have his son walk the last quarter mile to the crossing into the U.S.When we started location scouting for the border crossing, I thought we could find a park entrance or similar location that would be the basis for our border crossing. The more we looked, the more we realized that we might need to build our own crossing. Jason Puccinelli, our production designer, stepped up to the plate and made a faux crossing happen. With the help of Oscar Lofgren, they built a set and created signage that really sold the whole idea of a border crossing. The trick is that we just can’t get close to it or it’ll look fake. Jason built it all with the idea that the camera would always be a quarter mile away. I think he nailed it. The border crossing set had real people just driving by ready to show their IDs!We got going on time with today’s shooting. We marched through the work pretty steadily. I was getting great performances from James and Nathan, feeling good about everything. We moved from interiors of the car to exteriors of the two in front of the car. Just as we were wrapping up insert shots, the clouds decided to open up almost like a warning. We decided it was a good time to break for lunch. We returned to get back at with an ominous cloud over head, but it never rained again!As we got into the last of our shooting, we noticed a ribbon of smoke forming off in the distance. That little ribbon turned into a full-fledged forest fire as we continued to shoot. We saw flames shoot out of the wooded hillside when the winds gusted. Luckily, it was out of our shot and the smoke was not an issue. We dodged another bullet!At the end of the day, we raced back to our location from the day before and picked up a couple of shots that we didn’t get Friday due to weather. With the sun slipping behind the horizon, we pulled off the last of our shots with Nathan and James. We called Wrap at about 7:30 p.m. on principle photography for Dry Rain. What a fun ride. We sent James, Nathan and Nathan’s mom off with hugs and well wishes. It was a pleasure working with them.
Of course, the work wasn’t over. We still had gear and vehicles to button up before we could dip into the infamous Dry Rain Pale Ale that Doug and Jessica Hostetter brewed. In the midst of all the work, someone that will go un-named put the Motorhome in an irrigation ditch. Brian, I mean the un-named one, got some friendly locals from the bar to pull him out with their backhoe. They saved the day and we bought the house a bunch of free rounds down at the Copper Queen Saloon.I’m sure I’ll have time later to reflect on everything. Right now, I need a beer and my pillow. Doug and I start Second Unit work tomorrow shooting all over Montana.

Thanks to Jake Warga and Mike Prevette for the photos.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Day Four

Yesterday was a nice break between some hard days. Wednesday was a marathon with all the pages we had to cover. Today was challenging with several pages to shoot, but it was all exterior and pretty easy to cover. At least in theory, it was easy. Today was all about dealing with changes. We had changing weather that kept us on our toes until we wrapped.
We started off with a beautiful day with little smoke in the air. It all quickly degraded into a day with two major storm clouds moving over us. The first one moved through and just dumped rain and zapped lightning in all directions. The second one pushed the first one out and brought just a little rain and a couple cracks of lightening. The light shifted from full sunshine to overcast to an amazing filtered light that snuck through the ominous rain clouds.

The changing weather and changing light kept Doug on his toes as he worked to keep it all consistent. He had all kinds of things going to make the light feel right. In the end, it was Mother Nature’s light that was just right. We just had to wait for it.

Dusty started his day with promise. The little picture car that could just couldn’t. He died repeatedly, he stalled, he smoked and he hesitated. Amazingly enough, we got our shots off with Dusty, but not with out a lot of tinkering. The last shot of the day, we had to push him into shot! He wouldn’t go under his own steam.
We wrapped on time, today. I think I would have shot more if the weather would have cooperated, but we got it all in the can and it looked amazing. Our next challenge with this scene is to color correct it all so the varying light all looks the same and consistent.
After we called wrap, we all went into the Copper Queen Saloon for a tasty cold one. I learned my lesson from Wednesday night and only had a couple. I didn’t want to wake up on the last day of shooting with a headache!
If you are ever in Helmville, you got to check out the Copper Queen. It isn’t much of a place, but the people are great. Say hello to Tami, the owner.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day Three

We were up at the crack of dawn packing and getting ready to move the entire company two hours down the road to our next location. I started regretting the extra beer or two I had last night. As a thank you, we took Scott, the owner of the Home Cafe, to his local watering hole and bought him a few rounds. It all quickly escalated into more rounds. I escaped at Midnight, but not before at least 5 rounds.
Today, we shoot the driving scenes with James and Nathan in Dusty "driving." We basically put the car on a trailer and tow it down the road. This allows the actors to perform while not worrying about driving. Our road is a lonely stretch of tarmac between highway 200 and I-15. It sees little traffic save for the random Harley and farm truck, perfect for shooting. We owned the road with official flaggers on either end of our mile and half stretch. Our trailer is about 6 feet wider than a standard trailer. We've made a poor man's process trailer adding wings that stretch out from either side making a platform for Doug to operate the camera from. Tom, the sound man, stays in the tow vehicle and monitors his wireless mics from a safe distance. I hide in the back seat so I can listen to the performance and give input where needed.

As we headed down the road to location, this morning, the weather didn't look great. Over cast skies with smoke mixed in wasn't our preferred look for the day. We'd hoped for sunny, clear weather. You could tell it was smokey when the sun poked through the clouds and cast the ominous orange glow over everything. The sun did make a showing now and then while we shot.

Today, we had my Uncle Chuck on board with his son Jake. They were the tow rig/process trailer guys and in charge of moving the whole shooting match down the road. My Uncle has years of experience operating heavy machinery making him the perfect candidate to drive. He moved that trailer around with no a pro.
We shot for most of the day, but got shut down a little early. The clouds really starting moving in around 5 p.m. and made the day turn into evening faster than we expected. We were able to finish most of the shooting we had planned. The rest of the work that went un-shot will have to be picked up in the second unit work next week.
At the end of the day, we all rolled down the road to Lincoln. Home of the Unibomber. Oddly enough, the guy that owns the hotel we are staying in owns the land where Ted Kazinski lived and cranked out his manifesto.

Tomorrow, we shoot in Helmville. Let's hope the weather is sunny and the smoke is gone! Thanks go to Pete Fromm for the photos.

Day Two

Today was our biggest day of shooting in terms of sheer number of pages to cover in the script. We managed to knock out six pages. It was a lot of realestate to cover, but we plowed through it and got it done. Everyone was extemely patient as we covered the scene. It looked great. Doug did a great job of capturing a naturalistic look that felt right for the interior of the Home Cafe.

One of the main reasons we chose this location was the look. The interior styling in the place probaly hasn't changed in 20 years or more. It offered all the things we needed in a location including close proximity to other locations, great windows, easy access and a cafe that was only a cafe. Many small towns in Montana have cafes, but they tend to be combinations of cafes, bars and other businesses all rolled into one. We wanted a cafe that was just a cafe as to not confuse the viewers as to where we were or what kind of place it was.

Highlights of the day include: amazing performances by Nathan and James, Jodie Harwood on set today playing the role of the waitress (she was great), and Pete Fromm's kids, Nolan and Aidan, on set helping out both on and off camera as stand-ins, hand models and body doubles for Nathan.
My mom has been on the shoot. She's our official Set Teacher. She's been hanging out with Nathan, keeping an eye on him and reading books with him between takes and set-ups. I think she is having fun. She's always wanted to come hang out and see how the crew works. She might have gotten her fill after this job!
We pack up in this morning and roll to our next location and to our next basecamp in Lincoln, Montana. Lincoln is famous for being the home town of the Unibomber. I doubt we'll see any hooded madmen on this trip.
Another great day of shooting went down. We tackle all the driving stuff tomorrow. That will be fun. Thanks To Christine McBride for the on-set photos!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Day One Complete

We did it. We pushed through hot sun, semi-trucks and smoke and ash to complete day one of our shoot. We had a beautiful morning of sun and clear skies. By about 3 o'clock, a huge smoke plume poured into Pendroy the tail of a dragon. At first the smoke hung together in the plume, then it dissipated as if a blanket drifted over the small town. Ash rained down on us as we moved as fast as we could to get the last shots we had planned out. The quality of the light was highly affected and yielded this unworldly amber glow to everything. It actually could work really well with in the story.We always thought that Pendroy would be ideal for shooting with no noise or traffic. Well, it was quiet, but when a truck or car was coming, you'd know for miles before they showed up. Its so quiet, the smallest unnatural sound like a vehicle stands out on the sound landscape. In addition to the sound of vehicles, we also had to just deal with cars and trucks coming and going. At least everyone was very nice out there.James and Nathan really out did themselves today. Between a long-ish day, hot temps and just the fact that it was the first day, it was a hard day. They proved their skills as talented actors. They bonded well and had a great energy on screen. It was a pleasure to work with them. Most importantly, we got some great stuff today. I love the look we've made and the performances were great. We're on the right track so far in telling this story right.Our crew really hit the ground running today. Every department is running smoothly. The only thing not really running smoothly is Dusty. He's going to get a new starter tomorrow. The old one finally up and quit. That is going to be a problem if we don't get him running properly. Tomorrow, we shoot in the cafe. Its a big day with about 6 pages of script to cover. It'll be a long day, but at least Dusty has the day off to get that starter fixed.

The smoke will hopefully dissipate for us in the coming days. Our last two days are the days of most concern where I really want no smoke and big beautiful landscapes. I glued to the weather reports at night. I'm trying to make a prediction about the smoke which will impact where we shoot. We have a back up location where the smoke might be less of an issue, but the location is just not as cool as my first pick in Helmville. I'm keeping my fingers crossed about the smoke.
If you haven't already checked out Mike Prevette's Flickr site, than go see it. He's got a great collection of images going from the shoot including these two up above and below. Thanks Mike!

Monday, August 13, 2007

We Shoot Tomorrow!

Today was a good day. Everyone got here for our final prep day. No one got lost (not really), no one got bumped from their flights(OK, just a little), no one had mechanicals preventing them from showing up and we all made it to Conrad in one piece. The gang's all here and we'll start shooting tomorrow.

The day started with several of us eating breakfast at the Home Cafe. Not only is the cafe one of our shooting locations, but it is also our go to spot for Breakfast. Great bunch of people down there at the Home Cafe. They've been taking good care of us.

Nathan Gamble was first into wardrobe fittings this morning. He was so fired up and ready to get to work. His great attitude is a shot in the arm. He's already blending in well with the crew.

James LeGros arrived today. His original flight plan had him coming in last night, but delays out of LAX kept him from us until this afternoon. He was eager to get after it and get things done. He's super easy going and totally on board. I think he's already been slinging the jabs at Pete Fromm already. So he's fitting in well, too. Rose, Pete's wife, would be proud of James.

While the crew did final tech scouting and prep work, Nathan, James and I worked through a rehearsal and visited our location in Pendroy. It feels like we're all on the same page.

Jason, our production designer, was out working on prop phones today. One of the central props is a broken handset from a phone booth. Jason worked on crafting those. Funny the little things you have to do for a shoot.

You gotta check out Mike Prevette's photos from today. He's our camera assistant and focus puller, but he's also an accomplished photographer, editor and cinematographer in his own right. He's a great asset on our crew. His photos are cool.

So here we go... We shoot Tomorrow! I can't wait to get the first shot off tomorrow. What a fun ride this will be!

Here's some more action from today: