Day 1 of Paul Osborne’s FAVOR by Lucas McNelly

I’m not entirely sure where the rumor originated that I wouldn’t take A Year Without Rent to Los Angeles. Sure, one of the project’s primary goals is to see indie film outside of the major hot spots, but who’s to say that you can’t be outside of a major hot spot, but right in their neighborhood? It seems obvious to me that some really interesting indie filmmakers would exist in Los Angeles. It’d be pretty impossible for them not to.

Also, I know a lot of people in LA. And the weather is nice.

So that’s kind of how I ended up at a place called Chili John’s in Burbank to work on Paul Osborne‘s second narrative feature FAVOR. I qualify it with “narrative” because you probably know Paul from his documentary work, the seminal indie film documentary OFFICIAL REJECTION, which chronicles the festival experience for his film TEN ‘TIL NOON.

I have not seen it, but a lot of people think I’ll really like it. Probably because one of my pet peeves is the festival system.

I kind of imagined that Paul, being an indie film celebrity, would have this massive crew of people working on his next project, essentially just to be there. But when I arrive on set, it’s pretty clear that Paul’s going a different direction and has a skeleton crew. The light kit is equally small. It’s surprising at first, but makes sense when you think about it. FAVOR, a film about a guy who accidentally ends up with a dead body he needs help moving, is very much in the noir camp, which allows for a bit of “dirtiness”.

Paul is operating the camera himself, which is our second film in a row to do this, and the word from the production is that the film is moving fast. Sound guy (and all-around right-hand man) Joe Pezzula tells me that on a couple of days Paul has added shots and still finished the day early.

I can’t remember the last shoot I was on where the day finished on time.

Chili John’s is a cool little diner in Burbank, a very old school picturesque place where you’d imagine regulars have been coming every day for years. Naturally, we have to greek a bunch of stuff. The art guy has brought these generic label stickers, which are helpful up to a point, but they haven’t been sized to cover what we have to cover, so we end up resorting to the standard indie techniques of just hiding stuff with other stuff.

Part of Paul’s motto to move fast involves recording sound directly into the camera (Panasonic AF100), which is something I haven’t seen in a long time. It eliminates the need for a slate, and it definitely speeds things up, not just in production but in post as well.

We shoot our inside stuff, then move outside (but not without eating some fantastic chili first), where we’re using gelled LED lights in a variant of a 3 point lighting setup.

This being a night shoot, it becomes quickly obvious that in Los Angeles it gets cold at night. I wasn’t prepared for this. I lived in Tennessee for a year or so and the nights were pretty much as stifling hot as the days. Here I’m really rather cold. Not as cold as the shoot in San Francisco, but cold nonetheless.

And sure enough, Paul wraps the day early. Go figure.

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.