August 29, 2009
This particular date marked the end of the bulk of principal photography. I was looking forward to this particular day, and there’s quite a story behind why. My cast and crew were supposed to have shot this on the first scheduled day, but because of outside circumstances that were beyond my control, I ended up having to reschedule that day’s shooting for August 29. This day ended up being the only part of the shoot where we had an actress on screen. I tried hard to get one for the science lab scenes that were shot about four weeks prior, but couldn’t get anyone. Thankfully the access coordinator at the public access studio, Bob Cantara, was able to take an hour of his time away from the studio to come over to Dean College and be an extra for those particular scenes.
But what can be said about the rest of the production? It was fun as hell, exhausting at the end of the day for most days, but it was totally worth it. Working with all my cast and crew was an absolute joy. I was able to get a more clear idea of my directing style and pace, just from the first actual day of shooting, which wound up being two sequences at the Franklin Police Station conference room. I had scheduled with them for us to be there for five hours, including a half hour at the beginning to set up, and then a half hour to break our equipment down at the end. We started at 7 in the morning. Since I gave myself the jobs of financier/producer and director, I wound up getting up that morning at roughly 4:30 to be at the studio for a 6:30 AM call time. But it went smoothly, and largely because of my shot list. Without my shot list, I would have been completely lost. But because I knew what we needed to do, we were able to move very quickly, but not so quickly that we didn’t get the drama of the two scenes we were doing taken care of. We were done by 11AM at the conference room.
I went out of my way to be a responsible filmmaker on this project, and I think it showed to everyone involved. I was largely influenced by a number of people as far as my behind-the-scenes duties were concerned. Peter Jackson certainly comes to mind. As far as independent filmmaking is concerned, there is none higher than George Lucas. While I’ve always respected him as a film director and storyteller, I’ve never been one to talk much about the effects in my movies. We’re using two particular techniques to achieve the effects in the movie, one of which was quite comical to the people that were on-set. I’m sure you’ll hear about it later. Effects are a way to tell the story, but bottom line is that its about the story. Even when I had my lead actor in front of a green screen playing his characters for two rather effects-heavy scenes, I never thought of him as a special effect. My biggest influence of all has to be the master, Steven Spielberg. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you that I’ve idolized Spielberg all my life. E.T. is my favorite film, and it still makes me want to cry when Elliott is watching E.T. ‘dying’ near the end of the film. The scene used to scare the hell out of me when I was a kid, but now that I understand what’s going on, it still gets to me. The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, is a very close second in my book. I’m not a hard-core fan of the Batman comics, although I do own most of the Knightfall series, and a few other select books, but I am a huge fan of the Batman movies, and have been since 1989 when the first Tim Burton Batman movie came out. The Dark Knight solidified the deal in most fans’ heads about the definitive Batman movie. The fact that this film got snubbed in its Oscar nominations, with the exception of Heath Ledger, is a crying shame. But no one ever said that everyone is smart. They let Titanic win the Oscar for Best Picture back in 1997, yet they didn’t even give a Best Picture or Best Director nomination to The Dark Knight. My own opinion is that The Dark Knight is a hell of a better picture, and about 98% of people who have seen it have loved it, ‘nough said.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Doubles went as smoothly as one could ask. We shot for about 13 days, stretched out over a month, not including an extra day’s worth of reshooting the green screen elements of Nat for one of two walking scenes. Action-wise, the biggest scene involved my lead actor, Nathaniel Sylva, playing two characters, and we staged a small fight between the two characters. How we pulled that off will be revealed later. But that big scene took an entire day to shoot, starting at 8 in the morning, and we were done an hour early, largely because we were running out of tape, but also because we were pretty much done with the scene at that point. We shot in real locations in Franklin and Bellingham, MA, cause that’s what we had to do, but it worked out nicely. We shot at the Franklin police station for short stints over three days. We shot in a couple Dean College science labs over the course of two days. And both of these locations were made possible largely due to my connections in working public access. We shot the majority of the picture at my apartment, and we got some background plates for effects sequences on nearby streets.
And the final day culminated in the scene between Nat and Diana, which we shot at a relative’s home in Franklin. I was really looking forward to that day, and as far as the mood of the scene is concerned, it came out pretty much perfectly. I can only hope that when people see the scene in the final cut, that they’ll feel a small sense of heartbreak but hope at the same time. Unfortunately it won’t be anything like Orlando Bloom saying to Keira Knightley at the end of Pirates 3 that, in reference to his heart, “It’s always belonged to you.” But I can still hope that people feel sad but hopeful about Hans and Alicia on screen.
There is no doubt in my mind that this movie had all the right people on screen to play their respective characters. There’s an old saying that if you cast a movie properly, then you don’t have to worry about the intricacies of directing. If you’ve ever seen The Usual Suspects, in the special features, Gabriel Byrne says this about Bryan Singer. I’d like to think that happened on this project. If my actors or crew needed any extra direction outside of what the scene dictated, I made it happen. But beyond that, all my cast and crew were on top of their game. And I sure as hell tried to be on top of my game, as much for my sake as for theirs. We had a ton of fun while getting our work done. As is the case with any movie, there were some creative compromises that were done on this project, but unless you have all the money in the world at your expense, and I’m not entirely sure I’ve even like that, not everything is going to happen exactly the way you thought it would, and I knew that would be the case. Whatever issues we had on the day, we managed to get around them for the most part. And now it’s largely up to the post-production process to see what we have, and try to make it jump off the page and into people’s hearts(man is that a cliché).
I could go on and on about the production of this picture, but I should save some of it for later on down the road. So until then, take it easy and enjoy future updates.