Call time for my second day on DECORATION is 9:30am. I’m ready to go a little before then, call it 9:20. Call time comes and goes. Nothing happens. And by that I mean nothing. People aren’t ready, and why should they be? We aren’t moving.
10am comes and goes. People start to emerge. They make breakfast. Get coffee. The director has gone for a walk. It was like this yesterday too, but it being my first day, I chalked it up to an aberration. Now it’s looking more like a trend.
When you join a production near the end, there’s a period where you try and figure out the pace of things. Every production operates on its own speed (for better or worse) and when you join one mid-stream, there’s an adjustment, kind of like merging onto the highway. The more times you do this, the easier it gets, and after a while you can sometimes tell before you even hit the on-ramp.
After a week or so, every production becomes what it’ll eventually be, which is to say that things don’t change all that much beyond a point. Sure, in the first couple of days, stuff gets addressed and things change, but eventually it all settles into a routine. Very little changes past that point. Crews know that. Hell, they’re the first ones to figure it out and adjust accordingly. So if you’re on a set and the call is 9:30 and no one in the crew is ready to go at 9:30, that probably means that call time is a myth. Grips aren’t giving up a hour of sleep if you aren’t going to be ready to go on time. They aren’t stupid. A good way to see if something is an aberration or the norm is to see how the crew reacts. Or, you ask them. And then a pause is all you need.
So we finally leave at 11:08am (I know because I wrote it down) after a 9:30 call and head to the police station to shoot the other half of the scene we shot yesterday. This requires a car mount on a police car. Then, we wait while they drive around filming a scene. They come back and we re-mount the camera in a different spot on the car. Nothing crazy complicated, just a question of building the safest thing imaginable with what we’ve got on hand. The car mount is easy enough, because we’ve got one of those, but putting the camera behind the back seat is a little trickier. DP Stew Yost settles on a tower of apple boxes and sandbags, with the camera wedged in-between the top 2 sandbags and the director sitting next to it to ensure the whole thing doesn’t tip over.
From there, we head over to the tiny town of Story, Arkansas where the house location is. In the story, our two main characters (Cheryl Nichols and Rick Dacey) return home from LA when their father dies back in Arkansas. This is his house, a tiny one bedroom structure on a hill. It’s a building badly in need of repair, which makes it a perfect location.
We move some stuff around a shoot a couple scenes, nothing all that complicated. It starts raining and things need to be adjusted accordingly, but all in all, we get everything. We wrap around 6pm.
It’s Stew’s birthday and someone has bought him a pellet gun. The crew spends the evening setting up empty beer bottles. By morning there’s a pile of broken glass on the ground.
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.