Sunday, July 20, 2008

Nourishing the Rosebud by Working for Citizen Kane Part III: The Bud in Bloom

When we last left our hero he was feeling elated about landing the freelance gig, but will there be enough time for his own creative work? Find out now...

After some 12-16 hour days of juggling freelance work for my friend the media mogul and bringing things together for my film which started shooting in three days, I thought there was a slight chance I would have a meltdown. I had to switch into my production cyborg mode. We were down one location, the other location had a floor that was unsuitable for dancers, and the crew I had thought would come rushing forth out of those previous productions I had worked on was rushing away to work on the other 5 shorts (out of the 65 total this summer) shooting this weekend. I wrangled two man days out of a producer/director team by agreeing to AD (Assistant Direct) on their film August 1st and 2nd--oh the things we do in desperation--but there was still the challenge of the remaining days.

I prayed, and prayed, and prayed--and then I sat down to pre-viz.

We started on the first day, in the classroom that magically transformed itself into a Doctor's Office (the Columbia Clinics said no, and the other places charged too much per hour)--with a little leftover gauze, hosptial-ish doo-dads, some bed pads, and a few anatomy charts from a discount book my producer found the night before we were able to make it work. The cast was great, the DP was dynamo, and we got our first day.

Day two--Central Park--92 degrees and humid, exhausted children, a cast-member had an audition for the latest John Patrick Shanley play in the middle of the day that we had to work around, we had 78 shots to get through, and toe-shoes plus concrete equaled not-so-fun times for our Swan Princess...but the result was magic and I can't wait to see it come together in post!!!

Day three--the Fantasy--an old Columbia sound stage, concrete floor and toe-shoes suffering nĂºmero dois, no air conditioning and our Producer coming down with a fever...but again, magic, miracles, and I am ecstatic to start cutting!

Day four--7am, the car is supposed to arrive at our apartment for equipment transportation, I am down to a crew of four plus one maybe in the afternoon--the call comes in "I am going to the ER"--my producer was promptly admitted to the hospital (she is still there)--with pneumonia. So, with now three crew, a cast which includes 7 children and a full day of shooting outside on sixth avenue and inside a dance studio I am beyond production cyborg now--it is full on auto-pilot, no human emotion whatsoever or the meltdown would surely shut us down.

Well, thanks to: number one, miracles from the Divine, and also the father of our lead actress being a Steadicam operator (he agreed to crew during the times he was not doing Steadicam--awesome!), two Columbia undergrads who offered support, one in particular was an invaluable asset, and AD number four (my previous three were also last minute miracles) who swept us through the rest of the afternoon once we had gotten two hours behind schedule, mothers of other cast members, our choreographers turned grip-electrics, and a generous location called the Joffrey Ballet, I was able to come out alive, human, and no meltdowns whatsoever.

Granted the film is a bit over budget (don't ever forget anything at home when shooting in NY, it'll cost you to go back and get it qucikly), but the result is something I am delighted with and can't wait to screen for any who read this someday.

A dear friend of mine I worked with at the LDS Motion Picture Studio shared some wise words with me once. He said you can do two of three things on a film production--cheap, fast, or good--and since it already cost more than I expected, we pushed through quickly with every opposing force coming at us (opposition in all things=filmmaking--but just as in life, the blessings are worth it), I truly hope that the one thing I can adhere to in the end is a good film.

For those who wonder, what is it all about? The film is called PAS DE DEUX, and it is about an imaginative little girl who struggles with the fact that scoliosis is threatening her dream of being a ballerina.



charrette said...

WOW! What a schedule! (Bless you all for surviving it.)
Almost makes USC sound like a picnic. Almost.

Justin, your project sounds amazingly like a short film Jeff wanted to make in grad school....even the title. Strange. But it looks and sounds WONDERFUL!

And hooray for the freelance gig -- isn't that just the way? They threaten to kill you and save the day at the same time!


Erika Hill said...

Man, what an adventure. It seems like you must know my best friend Katie, who always dreamed of being a ballerina, but who had severe scoliosis. When she was 17, she had two 16 inch titanium rods surgically fused to her spine. Before that, she always wore braces and things, and she learned to swing dance but not ballet. Now she's at BYU, and she just finished their intermediate ballet classes and bought her first point shoes. There are things she can't do (bend from anywhere other than the waist), but she loves it and she's doing it anyway. So your story? Completely plausible.

Tammy Lorna said...

Justin Justin Justin!
I know it almost killed you, but it all sounded so fun at the same time :) I'm still completely jealous that you're there, but the other part of me thought 'this is perfect - with experiences like the ones we're having, our little company will do great!' :)
Well, okay, so maybe your paid gig was more like the experiences I have every day... But you get to be at Columbia! :)
Remember to stop and realize that you're excited to be there even when things are meltdown-esque :)

And I want to see the film! Can you mail me a DVD?!

:) Tammy

Parker said...

Sounds like pure, unadulterated madness. Gloriously fulfilling madness, but madness nonetheless.

Eric Anderson said...

Your whole production story is both inspiring and frightening.
Remind me again why we decided to get into this line of work?!

You're a star Justin, keep up the good work!