Woke up later than anyone else on this movie at a cozy 5:29AM. My wife's backup alarm clock beat my own alarm by one minute. Just as well, time to make a movie. I grab a shower and a shave because I have to be on camera today. Then, I grab my bag and giant bottle of Emrgen C pink water and head off to our first location, Saul and Cheryl's Apartment. After a long wait for my F train, I arrive to West 9th Street just before 7:00AM to meet a small army of fifteen or so people on the street. They are mostly the familiar faces of my producers, designers, and production staff, but there are plenty of new faces and names to learn as well. After a quick meet and greet on sidewalk, Garrett reminds me that I'm here to direct a movie. I enter the building and head upstairs.
I spend some time surveying the production layout and the "hot set" for the day. I find Zak, my cinematographer in the kitchen with Luis, the gaffer. The kitchen is the location of the day. Our goal: shoot out every scene that takes place in the kitchen. Because our apartment location has a long narrow layout, we've elected to shoot our way through it room by room. This way, we can manage equipment, staging, and holding. It also saves us time by not moving back and forth throughout. Zak and Luis are feeling good about the day's schedule ahead of us. Good. I'll take that.
By 9:00AM we are revving up, setting up, lighting, etc. Actors are either in makeup or wardrobe, producers are fending off angry co-op board members, and I am trying to leave behind the past six months of figuring out how to make a movie and shift into how I might go about making a good movie. I got through the first scene's shot list with Brad (AD) and Zak (DP). Things look good .
By ten, we are rolling on our first scene. Our "video village" consists of one decent monitor that seven people crowd around to manage what's in our frame. I like what i'm seeing. My actors are nailing it. The design and the cinematography are gelling beautifully. I call action. I call cut. We are making a movie.
Before I know it, we are in the thick of things, moving from setup to setup, scene to scene. Marie's production design is meticulous and textured. Zak's lighting is crisp and natural. The muted palette that we've been talking about for months is now something tangible. Everyone seems to be in their element today. First day luck? Probably, but I'll take that anyway.
After a quick lunch of a turkey sandwich my good man Pete ran for, I go through the script and shot list of what is yet to be tackled on today's schedule. Up next, one of the final shots in the film. An overhead camera move that requires more equipment than we can really afford or fit into this West Village kitchen. Through some wizardry of Zak and his crew, the camera is set on a 6-foot slider mounted on a 10-foot ladder and a kitchen cabinet. We test the camera move several times and then bring in the talent: two humans and a dog.
It's definitely odd to shoot an ending sequence on the first day of shooting. I quickly bring up some music on my iPod that I had been listening to when writing the scene last November. I play it for my actors, my cinematographer, and for me. I soak it up so I can get what I came for, the right tone and the right tempo. After less takes then you'd think, we get it in the can and move on.
Up next is a scene that I have to act in. I run back to wardrobe and get into costume. It's hot, so I immediately start sweating. Who is the idiot that wrote a dark wool suit onto me? No time to fire the writer, I have to do a scene. The crew transitions into "director is on-camera" mode and our planned protocol works surprisingly well. A few more takes, sure, but we moved along swimmingly.
We wrap the the day around 6pm and the crew was quick to tear down, clean up, and pre-set some things for tomorrow's first shot in the same location, one room down. I wait for thirty minutes talking through the day with Brad and Zak while the footage is backed-up to two drives. One drive is a smaller shuttle drive that I can bring home with me to watch the daily footage and backup once again on another massive hard drive.
I get home before 8:00PM, which is surprisingly early. I down some dinner and a gallon of water and then begin to transfer my day's footage. Everything looks awesome. Boy am I tired. I forgot to sit today. Time to bang out this blog here before sleeping.