Tuesday, July 27, 2010


So far I've lost a couple pounds on this shoot. I'm pouring water into my gullet like crazy. And I'm not getting my drink on as 1. it's too hot and 2. I'm usually driving later on to get us home.

We did an 11.5-hour day (including lunch) on set on Sunday in Metuchen, which is 25 miles from Columbus Circle (which is just outside "the zone"). So the trouble I'm having is that's not 11.5 "portal-to-portal" from NYC. Getting cast and crew back over the river at night is a bit tricky.

They're closing the Holland Tunnel altogether between 1am and 5am on weekends. And there's construction on the New Jersey Turnpike. That pretty well leaves us with trains -- either NJ Transit or the PATH system to get over the Hudson River. For people who live in the outer reaches of (say) Brooklyn or Queens, that's still leaving them with a long journey after they get into Manhattan. NJ Transit leaves Metuchen at 37 minutes past the hour. The 1:37am is the last train out to New York Penn Station. And it takes 72 minutes (and you know they're lying and it's gonna take longer than that.)

It's rough. If we could get our days back to 8 hours of shooting and leaving ourselves with two hours of travel -- well then things would be reasonable.

But we have two things which make our lives harder that way. Good makeup and good sets. We virtually never "do" makeup on actors. They do their own, just like in theater. But one character has this whole body makeup thing which adds a bunch to her character. She's only in it a few more days. But it takes a couple hours to apply (although that's getting to be less and less each day) and then a run has to be made to my ancestral home for a shower after wrap, or when she has to go into regular makeup.

The other problem is that we have, for once in our lives, real sets in Metuchen. Indeed, we were going to shoot a bit in the "break room" at my dad's shop, a place we've shot before. I said "We'll never see above these lockers, let's not try to dress that. Our art director Joe said, however, "You could see above them in Alien Uprising". Oh man. He's caught us by the oeuvre. He'd actually ordered and seen the picture the night before. So we dressed it. And we put up a couple panels to hide some other walls. And we put mats on the floor and all of a sudden we had a set we could look 360 degrees horizontally and vertically. I'm still surprised whenever I see the footage. That room looks pretty darn cool.

OK, so... we're shooting in a corridor. In the script was this whole bit where Mozz wrote that the escaping android pops a grate in the ceiling and lifts herself up through it. I was not even skeptical about that scene, I just said "that's never going to happen". But Joe made that happen. And he made it happen safely and elegantly.

More than that, he and Libby built a whole rig which we set on saw horses with the ceiling piece so Helen could pop up and the camera would be with her up in the air duct.

Then when it came time to shoot over-the-shoulders of the guys Helen was spying on, we simply removed that side of the set for camera. That's a big-time movie trick of old, sure. But the fact that lowly we were able to do it was entirely because of Joe Chapman and Libby Csulik. We can actually get the vastness and scope of the entire station with these interchangeable set pieces. And the camera can do what it needs to do and go where it needs to go.

It's really quite humbling.

And of course it also takes more time than we're used to for going from one set to another or for moving camera around. But we're not waiting on lighting and the art department is playing very nicely with lighting (personally, I don't believe they should be different departments but that's another long story.)

We're still unloading a minimum of 80 setups a day single-camera. Probably closing in on 90. It just takes us eleven and a half hours (including lunch and cleanup and wrap) to do it all.

The results are worth it. And we will get faster as we're using pieces we already know and understand. It's all quite lovely. Especially if the weather is kindly to us. When was the last time you were on a shoot and the director was begging the skies to rain? When it was about 100 degrees in the shop that was me. Begging.

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