Day 4 of our shoot just so happens to be the hottest day of the year. What a great time to be bundled into a pre-war townhouse with twenty people, a labrador, and an insanely ambitious/presumptuous shooting schedule. Today was our "dog" day. We had nine scenes to shoot, five of which featured a labrador retriever. Nine scenes in one twelve-hour day is already a bad idea, never mind the added time hindrance of being at the mercy of a canine. The morning was slow as we watched in awe as our paid dog and wrangler struggled to accomplish the complex commands of "sit" and "stay". We ultimately got the shot, but it cost us dearly. I was forced to cut certain camera setups for a few scenes just catch up. By the time we broke for our late lunch at 1:00pm, I was stressed, exhausted, and worried that we wouldn't make our day.
After several rounds of ideas and reworking of the schedule during lunch, we took a deep breath and hoped we would get the remaining seven scenes done by the end of the day. Tomorrow is also a big day, and there is no room to squeeze anything if we can't get things done today.
After a salad at Lenny's and a quick rally of the troops, I decided to own my dog-day afternoon and just get to it. Zak and his team set up lights for about three scenes that we would be revisiting throughout the afternoon. This way, setups could be switched fairly quickly. Brad streamlined the scenes further and our two main actors for the day were perfectly on point.
This was a tough audio day for us. With saws, jack hammers, and loud workers in the hallway. We had to hold for silence before or during every take. After a while, I stopped doing takes and just ran series. Whenever I feel pressed for time, I don't call "cut" unless I have to. I find that if I call cut, people start to tweak things onset (lights, wardrobe, makeup) and it inevitably takes five minutes before we are rolling again. When we are rolling, it is my only sacred time with my actors, so I use it. Within each take today I would give the actors their direction whenever it made sense. If we had to start over, we would. But very few real takes happened. This isn't ideal, because you can end up muscling the scene too much. It also makes it hard to organize for editing. I guess I'll have to face the consequences of that later.
My jolt of optimism came when we were shooting one of my favorite bits of dialogue in the film. Watching actors Laila Robins and Kevin Isola crack everyone up in take after take, I felt the room brighten tremendously. It was just one of those moments when you capture something terrific on camera, and it makes all the stress and hard work worth it.
Everything went swimmingly from then on until we came to more dog scenes. Cue the stress and frustration! The dog is cute, but the dog is not trained. With lighting wizardry to keep our "sun" up and the legendary patience and focus of our leading actress, ultimately made our day by around 7:10pm. After a quick preset for the room we are shooting tomorrow, the crew hustled out of the boiling, cramped location and into the cool evening rain.
Home finally. Footage just finished backing up. I need a shower.
Let's do this again tomorrow.