Day 4 of Nicolas Citton’s DECORATION by Lucas McNelly

There’s no call sheet, but call time for day 4 is 9:30am. True to form, that doesn’t happen. We leave at 10:12am and head back to Nooner’s house to shoot the final day there.

Nooner has no idea we’re coming. He thought we were done. So, of course, he’s started to put his house back together. Luckily, he’s pretty easy-going, so it’s no problem to take his house back over.

Just like yesterday, we have to clean the house out completely to shoot the scene, but unlike yesterday, we don’t have to re-set it later, other than to put the house back together for Nooner and take our props out completely. Why didn’t we shoot the two empty house scenes back-to-back on the last day? I have no idea.

And you know, it’d be easy to go on a rant about this, but I think you see between the lines here.

Instead, let’s talk about the crew, because sometimes when the top of the hierarchy isn’t ideally organized, that pulls focus from the fantastic work being done by the rest of the crew, and DECORATION has a very good crew.

Today’s challenge is to rotate the camera a full 360 degrees on the x-axis as Cheryl Nichols stands on her head. There’s gear that does this, of course, but they’ve got none of it. So, Josh Jones and Stew Yost come up with the idea to try and strap a 5D to a tripod head. This gives them the rotation they need, but takes away access to all the buttons and controls of the camera, so they’ve got to figure out everything, then set the controls, and then strap it in.

Only, if you don’t strap it in correctly, you get a kind of oblong rotation that’s less than ideal.

Oh, and they’re trying to do it on a tight shot with an actress who’s standing on her head, meaning you can’t have her sit there for anything longer than a few seconds to line everything up.

Eventually, they come up with a solution that requires a collapsed tripod laying flat on a bed of sandbags (to give it a little bit of height off the ground, thus allowing the rotation). They have Cheryl stand on her head, then make a note of where on the wall that is and where her hands are to establish the base for that shot. Set the frame, then try and repeat the head stand as close as possible to the last one. Then, they have to get a smooth rotation out of it.

It takes a couple of tries, but they get it.

From there, we move down the hill to a semi truck that’s been borrowed for a sequence where Rick Dacey climbs on it in a bit of childish wonder. It’s a 2 camera shot, one on the ground and one on more of an eye line thanks to a long lens on a hill.

Then it’s some car mount driving shots to finish out the day. Only, when we get the camera mounted on the hood, it’s moving around way too much for anyone’s taste. Enter grip/AC/PA Jimmy, who sticks a empty water bottle under the lens. And you know what? It works. It’s the perfect height. A little gaff tape later, and it’s set. DP Stew Yost jumps in the bed of the truck to shoot Rick on the other side of the scene, and once they double check to make sure the cameras aren’t seeing each other, they’re off.

And that’s day 4, the second-to-last day of principal photography. All that’s left is to shoot the Decoration ceremony. You know, the scene the title comes from.

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.