Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Crew Awakens

Here’s my second entry on “prep,” this time focusing on our crew.  There’s a whole lot that goes into it, and there are more jobs to fill than one might think.  But The Hunter’s Anthology is running on crowdfunding, so we definitely went with the bare minimum.  Lucky for us, you’d never know, because the result is incredible.  Here’s a breakdown for some key positions.  For those in the business, you probably know this already, but for those that aren’t, introducing these key positions could prove interesting:

Camera: The first thing to get covered is making sure you have a good director of photography, or DP. The DP is responsible for several key elements, most importantly translating the director’s vision and overall look to the screen.  They also have to know all the technical aspects of the camera (if they don’t it’s gonna be a looooong shoot) and hopefully adding their creative ideas to enhance what the director has originally planned.  I was lucky in that way.  I was prepared with a clear storyboard, but Ben added to those ideas and helped me take it to another level. He also was able to tell me what I could and couldn’t do based on the location and equipment the production could afford.  Just as important, the director and DP have to get along.  I was lucky there too.

1st AD: The first assistant director is very important.  They basically run the set, making sure everything is running on schedule.  We were on a pretty darn tight schedule for The Hunter’s Anthology, so I did have limited time for setups (camera department) and the amount of takes shot (me), did have a time limit.  It’s rare that a director feels he got everything on such a small budget film, but I really did feel that way.  That’s a heck of a feeling.  No reshoots required.  Trinidy, our AD, really was aware of the time we had left on our days and was diplomatic about it.  Diplomacy is huge for an AD.  Their attitude usually reflects everyone’s attitude.  That and the attitude of the director.  Trinidy, and Nicky, and I are pretty positive and friendly in general, and I think that made for a happy set.  And trust me, happy sets are awesome!

Scripty: Attention to detail.  That’s the most important thing for a script supervisor.  I thought I knew my script inside and out because I wrote the damn thing, but believe it or not, I just don’t have every line and movement memorized.  When we’re shooting, I’m so busy looking at the shots and performances that I can’t follow along with the script.  Scripty is there to tell me what’s supposed to happen and when, if there’s any lines skipped, or if things are happening differently than what’s on the page.  I think an even harder part of the job is keeping up with continuity so the editor doesn’t lose his mind in the editing room.  Daniella, our script, was very on top of things.  She’d say something like: “Madame Renee’s hand was there in the last shot so it has to be there now,” or “that candle was here while Tabitha was tying up her hair.”  Or, “Wait, doesn’t she have to look to her left before she says this line?  That’s how we did it yesterday.”  This is soooo important.  Actually, the big continuity nightmare of shooting “The Fortune Maker” was the Tarot cards.  We had to spend a lot of time rigging them for consistency the whole shoot!  Which cards are face up, which are part of this reading, how are they placed?  We had three decks: The first reading, the second reading, and the random cards to shuffle.  It was quite the challenge, but we did it!

Production Designer: The production designer is in charge of the set.  He or she doesn’t actually shoot the film, but he or she creates the world that is shot.  We hired our production designer Jack literally on the first day of shooting.  We thought we weren’t going to have a production designer at all, but I’m glad that didn’t happen.  He helped us turn an Airbnb basement apartment in Brooklyn into a fortune teller shop in Manhattan!  It was very convincing: hanging sheets to hide the bed and kitchen, lighting candles (real and fake) to create the mood, and providing strange mystical stuff to hang on the walls.  You’d never know it wasn’t a fortune teller’s place onscreen.  One of my favorite props he created?  The lust potion.  Not sure he liked it so much, but that’s a funny story for another time.

Sound: What good is a beautifully shot film when the audio quality isn’t good?  Scratching, background noise, improperly placed mics, these things can kill the credibility of your film real fast.  In my opinion, sound is the most underrated technical part of a movie.  It really makes or breaks it.  Bad sound takes an audience completely out of it, so good sound is really, really a big deal.  I was lucky enough to find Andrew, someone who had an ear for things the rest of us couldn’t hear.  He also was able to mix on the spot, and was skilled with wireless mics and boom.  All of this is critical during shooting and he did it all.

Those are just some of the many jobs on set.  I didn’t mention grip and electric, hair/makeup, assistant cameramen, production assistants, special FX makeup, and everything else.  Considering we worked with about as small a crew as possible, I’m grateful to have the product I have now.  Next up: location scouting.