Saturday, May 29, 2010

On Location, Day One

Arriving for my first day on location in El Paso, I found someone's home in a quiet riot of film equipment, props, food, laptop computers, scattered everywhere. A small crew of about a dozen and a couple of actors welcomed me and quickly ducked back into frenzied preparation. The sun was beginning to set and every minute was expensive.

Even so, the mood was happy. The week had gone well, I was told by various people. Apparently the worst mishap occurred during a scene where the heroine and the younger lead male break into a house by smashing a window with a brick. The window pane was far tougher than anticipated, requiring several assaults before the brick finally destroyed the glass and landed square in the director's chest.

Preparation and performance are both very different when working for camera instead of on stage. Being a theatre guy all my life, the film set is still an unfamiliar environment. The friendly atmosphere helps, with everyone moving briskly yet cheerfully along, and the director making decisions quickly and calmly; and, happily, giving the actors the best kind of notes: short, specific, and clear. "A little faster," he might tell me, letting me work it out myself. "Look from him to her, check them both out." I love notes like this.

We worked outdoors until we lost the sunlight. At times, the crew had to rearrange lights, camera, and dollies with all the speed of the Keystone Kops, yet the director sauntered around calmly, teasing his crew and gently deflecting the entreaties of his A.D. to move things even faster.

For the most part, when we had to stop it was because of the sounds around the neighborhood or the nearby freight train. Can't really have these ambient sounds in an end-of-the-world movie.

The other two actors were well prepared and focused, so our work went smoothly.

At one point, the actor playing our heroine squawked in protest. A bird had just crapped on her. Makeup was summoned to her rescue, restoring her dignity (and hair and makeup) in a jiffy.

We lost the sunlight at last, and moved indoors to film a kitchen scene. The lighting for this shot seemed to take forever, but I snuck a peek at the director's monitor and the effect is well worth it. Well past eight o'clock at night, we began shooting the scene, which takes place in the morning. With some deft lighting, they created the effect of morning sunshine coming through slatted windows as the other two actors cook breakfast. It's an impressive illusion.

Sometime before ten o'clock, the director called it quits for the night -- early enough for me to drive back to Deming. Back in my own bed by midnight.


Kelly said...

Interesting stuff. The closest I've come to stage or screen was working lights during a college production once.

Kyle Lovett said...

That is so cool. You aren't going to go all Hollywood on us, are ya? :-)