Laura Stone (stoney321) wrote,
Laura Stone
stoney321

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More adventures in babysitter, er, movie making

Last post about this, honest engine. Wrapped on St. Nick Saturday night and this was such a different experience all around than the other movie. First, it's an emotional drama, not a balls-out (um... literally, ha ha) comedy, there's no 14 hour days sitting in "blood" and the director is a very quiet and calm person, which bleeds into the atmosphere everywhere. That's not a bad thing, just completely different than the first movie. I get why everyone on Blood on the Highway kept saying that they had never had so much fun on a movie - that set was absolute crack in comparison.

I came home Saturday with the beginning of a monster headache and didn't realize until the following day (still completely exhausted and cranky) that it was because I had spent 12 hours being scared and worried. (Um... acting scared and worried, that is. *G*) It was interesting to see how a movie that wasn't really "written" in the traditional sense turns out. I felt very unsatisfied with my performance when I left, but the more I think about what he's trying to do and say, the happier I'm getting.


The Movie
I'm used to doing theater, which is to say I'm used to big things: big movements, big voices (carrying voices, rather), and big scripts. Everything is smaller and quieter on this movie, and ultimately, I think that will be what sets this apart and makes it resonate with its audience. It's quiet - not a lot of dialog, and any dialog is all improv (with the exception of a few single lines from random small characters like "Hey!" etc.) and a lot of closeups. Sometimes that drives me nuts when I'm watching a show that's constantly in the actors' faces. I want the camera to pull back, or I physically sit back to compensate. But this feels different, watching the dailies shot. I think because it's slower paced, the scenery is stark when it *is* in close up, it doesn't feel like you're about to travel up someone's nose.

One scene in particular I thought looked so beautiful. Again, the movie is about two kids running away, with no real reason for it. At one point, they get picked up and "The Dad" and I go to bring them home. The shot was of Savannah, dirty faced and exhausted, curled up in a chair at the police station. The camera is filled with her face, just the barest amount of background showing. I reach over and wipe her hair out of her eyes and caress her cheek, then pick her up. You only see my hand - it keeps everything focused on this little girl, her exhaustion, relief that she's finally being saved, in a way. Very cool.

The actor playing my husband was absolutely delightful. Terrific sense of humor, incredibly professional when the camera was on, and very much an ensemble player. He's done loads of independent movies and commercials and had a relaxed ease about him that I was able to feed off of. I really didn't know what to expect from this shoot, so I was grateful for that. And talk about a class act, he sent me what was essentially a thank you note last night, saying that he hoped we got to work together again one day. Just lovely.

And that was the vibe on the whole set - everyone really quietly pleased and... it was almost reverent. Interesting. So, every day that you're working on a movie you get what's called a "call sheet" detailing what will be shot that day, the approximate time, who's needed when, contact info, etc. On this shoot, I noticed that David (the director) had at the bottom (every time) "We love you for who you are on the inside." Heeeeeee! And the hell of it is, HE MEANT IT. Without irony! Really just a terrific guy.


The... Negative
And this is really small, but I want to record it so I can look back on this and hate myself for being mean. *G* The little girl, Savannah, really attached herself to me, which worked for the shoot, as she was playing my daughter. But off scene, oy. Now, keep in mind that her mom is there the whole time. She and her brother Tucker (this kid... he's really got something. So much vulnerability. And I'm serious: he's an 11 year old VK. He'll be back on screen.) are the only children on set. Everyone else is typical movie worker-type: tattooed, alternative life-style, smoker, etc. I mean, this is a line of work where you can let your freak flag fly, you know? In a nutshell: they are all awesome loud and proud types.

It's tradition (I now know) to have a "wrap party" after the last day of shooting, and it typically means to all meet up at the closest bar after the final "Cut!" (Big budget Hollywood movies no doubt do something a bit more... expensive.) As I was leaving yesterday, I asked the DP (Director of Photography) where it was going to be, as I wanted to hook up with everyone one last time. "Such and such bar, blah blah time." Cool. Savannah, looking up from her ever-present Nintendo DS, whined, "A bar? I can't go there. Let's go to [a local water slide park]!" Uh.... The DP said in a sweet voice, "Honey, it's usually at such and such. And it's a bit cold for a water park. This isn't that kind of party." Her response?

"But I'm the star of this movie, and I want it at [a local water-slide park]!" Her mother??? "She's right, you know." With a knowing look and nod, even.

I gave him a "good luck" face and went home for the night. 45 people working on this movie, but no, let's all bend to a 9 year old's wants. And we had the wrap party at the bar, as planned. :) She was getting a little full of herself towards the end - two weeks of special treatment (they had a tutor on set for the kids) and being told how wonderful she was was obviously having an effect. Her mother was very supportive of her kids, but not much of a disciplinarian. I stepped in to that role when I saw her running behind set where all the cables to the lights and cameras and laptop batteries were. She thought it would be fun to unplug a camera at one point before I stopped her. (!!!) Do I need to say again that her mother was RIGHT THERE the whole time? Hmm, maybe she was helping me be Method. Ha!


Some of the Awesome
The scenes we shot were very specific (as far as the parents were concerned.) One scene that could have been rough but turned out lovely was me washing all the grime off Savannah in the bath tub. I was worried about her feeling nervous. She had a two piece bathing suit on, and they wanted her to just pull the straps down. That didn't work given the camera angle, so I suggested she hold a wash cloth to her front and lean onto her bent legs so I could wash her back. The guys didn't think about making sure no one was lurking around on set (not like... pedophiles or anything just... it's a little girl and there shouldn't be anyone extra loitering to watch the scene. <-- that's totally normal, btw. There will be 10 -20 random folks watching scenes because, hey. It's fun. Please note that her mother was not there for this scene. I honestly found that disturbing. Anyone else? Just me?)

So I'm sitting on the edge of the tub rinsing her off (we made sure the water was nice and warm) and she has her cheek pressed against her knee, and it's very effective, very heartbreaking, this little worn out thing, so numb from running for a month in the winter. Side note on movie making magic: we put coffee, hot cocoa and Silk soy milk into the bathwater to make it look grimy. Wet coffee grounds on her cheeks to be the "month-long build up of grime."

The Savannah and Tucker were really perfectly cast. They made terrific urchins, and once they come home and get cleaned up, fit the "perfect family" mold, as well. They had to argue on cue, and as you can imagine, that wasn't difficult. The chemistry between them was definitely not anything that could have been cast. Which leads to:


Movies: Behind the Scenes
Casting. So I get it, why people say it's who you know. Casting is a pain in the butt. If you know someone who knows someone that will be "perfect," that's a lot easier than having to listen/look at 100 people for each role in a movie. The neat thing was how many other local directors I met - they all like to visit each other's sets and talk shop, look at each other's cameras and sound equipment, etc. One director in particular was just a nice guy with a WICKED sense of humor. Yen Tan, who directed a movie that won all sorts of LGBT awards, Happy Birthday. Be a dear and rent that, would ya?

Hopefully this will lead to other parts. The DP is a director in his own right (he was DP on BotH, and is waiting for funding to start a new movie that he wants me to be in. \o/ And now I really get why the Producers are the ones to accept the Academy for Best Picture. I get why they matter. Without them, there is no movie. They are the ones that find the script and say "yes," first of all. But most importantly, they fund the damn things. Money = movies can be made. They make sure everything is on time, as it should be, that people are happy/comfortable. One of the two producers on this was the kids' tutor, for example. The other producer wrangled us our catering services from his wife's vegan restaurant. The majority of the crew were vegan, btw. (Check out that link for recipe ideas.) Lunch on Saturday was so freaking delicious:

Wrap sandwich with hummus, sweet potato puree, sliced cucumbers, broccolini (the long delicate broccoli), and salad greens tossed in a touch of vegan ranch dressing, finished off with spicy walnuts. Um, get in my mouth every day, please. (I didn't care for the vegan BBQ. Sorry, Texan. BBQ is holy.)


What To Do When You're Not Filming
So there's a lot of down time on a movie set. It takes FOR.E.VER. for lights to be adjusted, for the camera angles to be sorted, sound checks, on and on. If you aren't surrounded by spazzes like on the BotH set (which was awesome) you watch YouTube - and you only watch the best. By which I mean the worst. There were about five of us crowded around a laptop laughing our butts off at some cult classics. Here, let me share with you:

This is the AMAZINGLY ARTISTIC and WELL THOUGHT OUT movie, Troll 2. Prepare to have your mind BLOWN.



Oh my god, it's like bad!fic, but visual! One burning question: what the hell did she do with the weights at 1:30?? Ahahaha! Continuity is for pussies! The interpretive dance scene is THE BEST THING ON PLANET EARTH. Who doesn't like a girl expressing her frustration with her possibly homo-boyfriend? Well, I don't WANT to know who.

One scene that was missing from the montage, and is maybe the BEST DELIVERY OF A LINE EVER (WARNING, JESS: there is a shot of "Trolls" eating creamed spinach that is supposed to be a person. Watch at your own risk, heee!)




Classic. I've watched that clip so many times now, it's redonk. I've even made an icon! Feel free to have it. *beams*



But the one that blew me away, mostly because of how much money they got to make it, is "The Room." If any of you are in LA, there's apparently a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" type following every month. People have scripts they play off of in the audience, etc. Please notice a) the Schwartzeneggarian element ("you ah tearink mee apaht, Lisah!") and that b) any outdoor scene was shot in front of a blue screen, to make it more "epic." Also, this looks like the worst movie ever. \o/



Make sure you stick with it until the end for "A film with the passion of Tennessee Williams." AHAHAHAHAHA!! Wow. I really want to see that one in its entirety.

So that's that, and it was really interesting. The more I think about it, the happier I am with the spareness of it. At first I was bothered by that, but I think it will tell a better story, and I'd rather be a part of a terrific story than have a bunch of wonky lines. :) And now I need to exercise. *turns on Guitar Hero*
Tags: movie magic, st. nick
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