When you make an independent film you spend months making up the schedule. That is because every day costs money, and when you make films with a budget that comes from kickstarter campaigns and micro investments from friends and family, you have to be creative. That is how we came up with a schedule of two weeks, when really we needed two months. If someone happens (it always does) you have to throw the schedule out the window and start over. That literally happened over night, since not shooting everything on the schedule for the day was more the rule than the exception. It also seemed like there was one disaster after another we had to solve on the spot
One of the things most people probably don’t know about what it is like to make a film, is that it is very hot. At least if you make it in Atlanta in the summertime. For those of you who have not been to Atlanta, it can get over 100 degrees, and the humidity can be oppressive. You get used to it after a while, as long as you can escape to an air conditioned room a couple of times a day. Unfortunately you cannot use air conditioning while filming, because (you guessed it), the air conditioner makes noise that will affect the sound recording. Sometimes you try and turn it off but with about 8 scenes a day and 40 takes per scene after a while you just give up. So you are either standing around in the sun baking away or standing in an oppressively hot house with no air conditioning.
Another thing about making a film you don’t realize in advance is that it is like doing logistics for a moving army that is invading a foreign country. One day my house was inhabited by my wife and kids and the next day it was invaded by an army of people that had to be fed, hydrated, nursed, and attended to, an army that created mounds of garbage and required bathroom facilities. They needed breakfast, lunch (and if we went over 12 hours, as when we shot the night time “I love you banner” scene, dinner. That one called for an emergency pizza delivery. They also needed a table for snacks, because, um, the cast and crew get real hungry on those 12 hour days, with all that lifting, acting, etc. We must have made 20 trips to Target for ice, chips, crates of bottled water, etc etc. We had a routine down where we would get ice in the morning and crate around coolers in a u haul van whereever we went.
One of the jobs on the crew is the boom operator, the guy that stands there with a microphone attached to a pole and holds it over the actors heads to record the sound while he tries to keep it out of the shot of the camera. Needless to say your arms get real tired after a while. One day when we were filming at the Sotto Sotto restaurant in Atlanta the boom operator keeled over in the 100+ heat. I ran to the cooler to get him some water (one of my many duties as a director) only to find that… there was no ice! No wonder he got overheated. After that I wouldn’t let the (volunteer) production assistants come to the set without ice in the morning.
After that incident we wrapped the scene (two hours behind schedule) and went over to Baraonda restaurant to film the next scene, and waited for the “grip truck” that carries the lighting to arrive. And waited. I got a call that the grip truck… had broke down! without lighting were were up the proverbial creek without a paddle. After an emergency mechanic visit and a couple of hours we started the scene way behind schedule. I could hear the kitchen getting louder and louder as I desperately tried to finish the scene, knowing that with our tight schedule this was our only shot. My cell phone was flooded with calls about the actors who were waiting at the next location for the scene we had yet to shoot. Arg! I almost got in a car accident driving out of there I was so distracted.
That’s me in the picture under the umbrella with Dawn Campion and Caroline Granger who played Mallatta and Natascia. It was rainy that day at Frogtown Cellars in Dahlonega, GA, but we finished our “vineyard” scene! I never thought I would enjoy working with actors so much!