There’s a lot of things you can do wrong as a film production, and if you’ve been paying attention to our coverage of THE STAGG DO, you’ll notice that they’ve pretty much ticked off all the boxes, save one: we’ve had good turnarounds.
Generally, the rule in film is “12 on, 12 off”. What that means is that a day’s shoot shouldn’t go over 12 hours and the crew should have 12 hours off before starting up again. The first one gets broken all the time in indie film, so much so that it’s always a bit of a shock when a film goes the entire production without going over 12 hours. The turnaround, however, is a little better protected. Crewing on a film is a grind and people get exhausted pretty quickly, so the 12 hours to re-charge is pretty vital. It helps that usually the director and producers are just as tired as everyone else. There are reasons you can push the 12 hours. A big company move is one. Sunrise or sunset is another. But even then, 10 hours is a minimum before people start to get more than just annoyed.
Today’s turnaround: 6 hours. Six hours is insane. It’s flat-out dumb. The only excuse, really, is if you’ve got a location that’s giving you a very small window to shoot, thus tying your hands.
A location like, I dunno, a strip club.
If you’re going to make your crew shoot outside at night in the rain for days upon days until there’s a near mutiny and then shoot the 7th day in a row on a 6 hour turnaround, a strip club is probably one of the only places you could justify shooting. Crews are mostly made up of straight guys and straight guys like scantily clad women. It makes them forget a lot of other things, like how exhausted they are. The concept isn’t very complicated. And I know, it’s horribly chauvinistic and blah blah blah, but these are people who’ve been put through the wringer, physically and emotionally. Plus, it’s in the script.
Just the simple act of being inside is a nice change of pace. All the gear has a layer of dried mud on it (as do we) and smells a little like a wet dog (as do we). Whether or not this is an improvement over the usual smell of the place is up for debate.
We have a hard out, which means we’re getting kicked out at 4pm whether we’re done or not, so the first thing Richy Reay and I do is a walkthrough of the location, to gauge what gear we actually need. The rest can stay in the van, thus saving the time of loading it in and out. We settle on the kino banks and some of the redheads, and that’s essentially it. But when we get back upstairs, the entire van has been loaded into the club. Everything. Stuff we don’t need. Stuff that we couldn’t even use if we wanted to.
Maybe it’s because I haven’t slept. Maybe it’s because I’ve been wearing wet shoes for 4 days. Or maybe it’s because I’m tired of people doing things without listening (or thinking), but I’m kind of pissed. I don’t yell. Yet.
I look at Richy. “I swear. Sometimes I think Simon is the only one listening.”
“Well, that’s not fair,” Richy says. “He’s got professional help.”
I haven’t mentioned this yet, partly because the story of THE STAGG DO has been one of escalating tensions and failures and he doesn’t factor into all of that, but Simon is deaf. Legally deaf. He’s also one of our camera people. I’ve never been on a set with a deaf person before. Film sets involve a lot of talking without looking at people, so I kind of figured it’d be a challenge, but he’s easily been one of the most attentive, competent people on the shoot.
How it works is he can read lips, but he’s also got an interpreter to sign for him. This is kind of essential in dark, or when you’re trying to talk and adjust a light at the same time, the sort of things where your natural actions don’t lend themselves well to eye contact and lip reading. Think of being on a set. How much to talk to people without looking at them? Or without even being able to see them. A lot, right?
But Simon works his ass off. He puts himself in position to “hear” as much as possible, even volunteering to do help in other departments.
Which is all to say that when the deaf guy is the only person listening, that can’t be a good thing.
It goes relatively smoothly, sort of. Well, compared to the stuff in the woods. Maybe it’s just because everything is contained, instead of being flung across all creation. It’s at least a little easier to find things. Of course, it’s all in the wrong place, but it’s easier to track down. There’s not a lot to the scenes. A couple of nearly naked models. Some easy setups and we move across town to a house where 2 more scantily clad women appear, only they haven’t been cast yet.
Enter Nick the runner, who goes around town during the strip club scene, literally trying to pick up women. And the crazy thing is he finds two, one of whom is an aspiring underwear model.
The scene is only a couple of shots, and we’re done while it’s still light out. Tomorrow’s a day off, so the crew heads to a bar, where James buys drinks for all.
Spirits are finally picking up. Is that because there’s beer and cleavage? Probably.
Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.