One question I’ve been getting a lot (or, at least, has been asked a lot) is “what exactly do you do on these productions?”. The thinking being that I’m sitting at craft services all day or something. I don’t know. Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to take you through a day that more or less summarized a lot of different aspect of what I end up doing.
10am: Last night was a late wrap, somewhere in the vicinity of 1:30am, so our call is noon-ish. But, there’s stuff to do before the call, and I’m sleeping on a couch in the gathering room, so whenever someone gets up, I’m up. At minimum, I’m awake. Kim Fletcher, our makeup artist slash embedded reporter is working on an article and interviewing the one actor who’s name I didn’t catch. The little bit of footage I saw of him last night was impressive, though. I get up, pop open my laptop, and spend a few minutes editing footage and photos.
11am: Veronica Nickel, our intrepid producer, is off making sure the vehicle that went into a snowbank yesterday is able to 1) get out of the snowbank, and 2) function. So the making of breakfast falls to me. Never fear, I’m given pretty good instructions.
Noon: Everyone is up and fed. Stuff needs to go in vehicles and the crew needs to go to the houses and cabins from last night to load out for the next location. (No one really felt like doing that in the freezing rain the night before was a good idea). So we head to the location, then get in a 4-wheel drive pickup and head down through the field to the cabins by the water. We’re all riding in the back, and Andreas starts tells a story about a bunch of Frenchmen. I whip out my camera.
1pm: The cabin is full to the gills with gear, so we move it out into the truck. It’s 20 degrees out and the wind is whipping around at 30mph. The cabin isn’t insulated. You can do the math. It all has to go–c stands, sandbags, flags, stingers, speed rails, space heaters, you name it. It takes a couple of trips in the pickup, and we have to walk up the hill to then unload the pickup into the production truck. The walk back up is an opportunity to get some pictures of the landscape.
2:30pm: The gear is loaded. And other than the icy patch where at least 3 of us fell, it goes off without much of a hitch. And then a U-Haul gets stuck trying to go uphill. I get the camera out and head down to help push, but they’ve got it un-stuck before I get there.
3pm: On the way to the new location, Steven Harris, the Art Director, asks me to help him wrap out the cabins. Sure, I say, that’s why I’m here.
Steven has a bunch of pictures of the location and we go to work taking our props and such out of the cabins and replacing them with the original stuff. This time, we have a hatchback. How he got it down that field is beyond me.
However, he’s brought in some fantastic props–old typewriters, rotary phones. I get the sense that he spends a lot of time at antique stores and yard sales, looking for that one perfect prop. He’s managed to turn this cabin, which is generally used as a summer hang-out, into something like a monastic retreat, the sort of place you’d go for a month to finish your novel.
3:30pm: Each of the cabins has a metal bed frame and a mattress in it. Only, at some point the production decided to swap them. So the mattress in cabin A has to go in cabin b (about 200 yards away), and vice versa. We’re literally feet from the ocean and the wind is a-gusting. The mattresses have no straps to hold on to. Somehow we get them switched.
4pm: No, scratch that. The pictures don’t look right. Steven stands in a spot where he sort of kind of can get a signal (clearly he doesn’t have AT&T) and calls Lisa Myers. The mattresses need to actually go up in the main house. Fuck.
5pm: The cabins are wrapped. We go to the main house and wrap that, which is significantly easier. Move a few things around. Sweep up. Hang some painting back up. Take out the trash.
6pm: We get to the new location, where they’re deep into the day. They’ve saved us a plate of food, God bless them, and we get to take a break. I pull out my laptop and download the photos from my camera.
7pm: Kit, the AD, calls for me. They need a stand-in for Richard. I’m about his height, so I’m a stand-in while they point lights at me. Audition the apple box, the diffusion, etc. I talk to Patrick as he fiddles with gels. One of my favorite things to do on these sets is to watch the DP and the lighting crew figure out how they’re going to light the scene. On this project I haven’t read the script, so I’ve really got no idea what the scene is about, so it’s interesting to try and guess based on what they’re doing.
7:30pm: Richard comes in and I sit on a spare sand bag behind a wall. I talk to Richard a little bit about yesterday’s water stunt. He does his scene and then he’s wrapped. Applause all around. Richard goes around the room and personally thanks every crew member by name for all their help in making his job easier. It’s a really classy move.
8pm: And that’s a wrap for the location. Time to load out all the gear. I’m a grip again (or something). It’s incredibly dark out and I’m not entirely sure where my headlamp is. Apparently we’re done early, so the wrap out moves slightly slower than normal. Getting out early is really a blessing after yesterday, which was easily the hardest day of the shoot.
The location is a loft in a barn and the owner, an artist and tool aficionado (among many other things) shows up. She’s thrilled to have a film crew in her space and spends a good 45 minutes talking to the crew, showing them her work. She’s got wood working tools from the early 1800’s. Also, she has a swing in the middle of her workspace. She’s crazy, but in an awesome way. Before we leave, she takes us over to her desk, where above it she’s got 2 calendars of scantily clad women with tools. The story is that this calendar alternates two photographers. One year a man does the photos and the next year a woman does. She goes through the calendar, telling us why she likes the woman’s photography so much more than the man’s. And she’s absolutely right. She just keeps his calendar on the wall as a contrast.
10pm: We’re done and on the way back to the hotel. Stuff needs to come out of the car. And then, I open a beer. Time to start editing the day’s photos.