Archive for June 2008

The Cavalry Just Arrived!

June 30, 2008

I can’t tell you how much Susan I both felt a tremendous lifting of our spirits with the arrival this afternoon of Lila Javan (Director of Photorgaphy), Keith Coene (Line Producer), and Parker Lonbaugh (First Assistant Director) — honestly it felt like the cavalry coming over the hill.  Susan and I have accomplished a lot during the early prep — but now we’ve got help.  In a larger movie, everybody preps for 12 weeks.  In indie films, it’s a lot shorter … you just can’t afford it …. so you have a very small contingent out here for 4-5 weeks and then the rest come in two weeks in advance.

Sometimes people ask — what is all the prep about — and it seems to me that it’s just not clear now many decisions go into every minute of screen time when you see a film.  Every location, every piece of wardrobe, every decision about where the camera goes — all of that reflects creative decisions, and business decisions, and deals, and oftentimes government coordination.  Whatever – a lot of stuff.

But anyway — so great for them to be here.  We had a wonderful dinner… are some pix:



June 30–Two Weeks to Go

June 30, 2008

Today is two weeks out from the first day of filming and the intensity just went up a notch…maybe two or three.  Susan was up at 3:30 sending dozens of emails … I thought she was up early but evidently it was more a matter of being up late.  She crashed for 4 to 7.  I got up at 4:45 and have been pounding non-stop since then on shotlists, shot diagrams — trying to get as many as possible done before Lila (cinematographer) arrives tonight.  We also have incoming Line Producer and First AD so I’ve been jamming getting stuff ready for them — schedule stuff for the AD … budget and cost report stuff for the line producer.

Meanwhile, here’s an indication of what Susan was doing in the middle of the night.  Her ‘to do’ list for everybody — and some people out there wonder what a producer does!


(Keith) – All crew deals should have been made by Jay.  We are currently planning a 5-6-6 shooting schedule.  Deals should reflect that.
(Keith) – Please deliver all crew deal memo information to Angela/Siobhan for each deal memo.  Siobhan should enter all information and print them out for you to approve before each crew member sees it.
(Keith) – Kit rentals.  We told Mike Germaine he could have kit rental for  3 weeks.  I don’t know what other box rentals have been discussed with crew.  Please check with Jay.  We have very little in the budget for this, so let me know when you know.
(Keith) – BB Electric.  We are replacing our previous BB Electric.  Haven’t spoked to the new guy – and don’t think anyone has. Please check with Imre.  Also will need his passport info (for Cornelius who is doing work permits) and for travel.  We need to book his travel.
(Keith) – G/E Swing.  We had hoped to use Julian Lord from Nassau, but he may not be avail.  Please check with Angela on this.  If he isn’t available – we should replace him out of Miami or Ft Lauderdale.  Check with Mike Germaine to see who he knows (even though this person is technically the 3rd in Electric…maybe check with Imre as well – but don’t think he knows Florida crews.
(Keith) – 2nd 2nd AD.  Don’t think we have anyone….don’t know about PAs either.
(Keith) – Stand Ins – we need a male stand in…and to make Lauren’s deal.  Please check with Angela re: Lauren.
(Keith) – Don’t know about Security guys either.  Check with Angela.
(Keith/Angela) – Need local crew – hair/mu assistant, wardrobe assistant, pas, what else?
(Keith/Angela) – Think we have van/driver on next week.  Please check.  Needed for airport runs, cast runs, etc.
(Angela) – Crew travel.  Everyone should have their travel movement/itineraries by now.  Please make sure we have covered everyone.  (Everyone except the BB Electric and the G/E swing)…
(Angela) – Car service/transpo to airport.  Please do a travel movement for car service in LA and cc me.  We have everyone’s addresses at this point – except Paul Wesley’s in NC (think he is getting to the airport on his own, as is David Keith).  Check with me to get addresses.
(Angela) – Cast travel.  I am booking a couple today…the rest when I have a schedule (but no later than tomorrow when James has a sec to breathe re schedule).
(Angela) – Would like to schedule a scout for the morning to show Keith, James and Lila all of the locations.  Michael and I should be on that scout.  We don’t need a van (can take 2 cars).   Please schedule it with Unexso so they know we will be coming by.
(Angela) – Would like to schedule the following meetings for Michael/Me for tomorrow:  3 hours with James to do a page turn; 2 hours with Keith and Cornelius and maybe the Assistant Accountant person to go over the budget, cash flow, protocol.  Suggest an 9am scout (meet at office), 10:30 am scheduling (through lunch – bring lunch in) and then check with Michael about his schedule re doing a budget/accounting meeting.  ALSO – need to schedule a couple of hours with LILA to discuss shot lists.  Again – please figure it out with Michael.
(Keith/Angela) – will need to publish a one-liner to the cast (and department heads) tomorrow as soon as it is ready.
(Angela) – Next week:
Need to schedule 1)dolphin swim  2)trainer for a day  3)diving certification classes for Caitlin and Paul next week.  Depends on what the amount of water work is (hours) to schedule.  Would ideally like to have us in the water Wednesday a.m. for diving and dolphin work, and have them do “trainer for a day” on Thursday.  
(Keith/Angela) – Need to do cast physicals.  In LA?  this week?  How?  When? How much?  Please let me know, and schedule them with their agents.  Michael needs one as well for insurance.
(Angela) – Need to schedule hair/make up tests next Thursday/Friday.  Caitlin will need to be colored and cut.  Should do that Thursday.  Ivana will need color – and will be done the first day of filming (while we are on the water with other cast I think).  FYI – Rockets and Tara are interchangeable.  One will always need to be on set.  Others to set for Friday:  Craig (Paul), Kita (Samantha) and Leah (Duvey).  David, Christine, George & “Blaine” wont’ be here yet.
Cleaned and ready to occupy when? 
Do we have gate clickers?
One side should be the green room, the other hair/mu & Wardrobe.  
The green room side should be stocked with water and craft service.  We should do it – not crafty.  Healthy stuff for actors…fresh fruit (apples, bananas, oranges), etc.  I will do a list – remind me.  In fact if I have time, I will shop it…just need PC.
The Hair/MU/Wardrobe side needs to have the furniture removed in both bedrooms.  Where are we putting it?  Please have all of the Wardrobe racks set up in one bedroom before wardrobe arrives on the island, and have the hair/mu mirrors/tables put into the other bedroom.  Both sides will need extension cords/strips most likely, and garbage cans.  Please check with Keys re other needs.
Make sure bathrooms are stocked please.
Per above, need to set up a meeting asap to discuss cash flow and accounting procedures.  Meeting should be Michael, Me, Cornelius, Keith and accounting assistant.

We should now have complete hotel lists for each hotel, along with arrivals and departures.  Please make sure the hotels are up to speed with list, dates and check-in procedure.
Please put all crew close together if possible.
Please hand pick rooms for cast and let me know what has been chosen.  Note adjoining room needs.  All rooms should be ocean view, top floor.  Need to make sure A/C and internet works in each room as we have had issues with that in the past on this show.

We need to set up an approvals meeting please…and see props, etc.
Need to set up final looks next Friday.
It’s all Angela.  Let’s find out where we are with each location, and what she needs from us re paperwork, cash flow, help.   
Ang – need an update on each location – what is locked, what is needed.

Please discuss with Michael and set up per his requests.  Please cc me.  Where are they rehearsing?  Need a nice cool space.  Will wither hotel GIVE us space?  Comped?  For a few hours Weds – Fri of next week?

Need to schedule both.  Production meeting should be in the big room at the Yacht Club.  I THINK Jay discussed this with them?  This meeting should include food…let’s discuss.
What?  When?  How much? Would like them in their rooms when they arrive.

What?  How much? Would like them in their rooms when they arrive.
Are we on track and what about the Port Lucaya days?  Where?  How much?  Let’s discuss.
(Keith) – Please discuss with Crafty person.  We have very specific numbers for this – and need to go over with her what she will be preparing.  We can’t go over budget here – and liquids are a huge part of this budget.  Will need micro-managing.
(Keith) – All certs done?  Have we covered anyone/everyone/everything?  EVERYTHING?>?>??>
Ahhhh…the constant update.  Everyone should have an up to date crew list, schedule, map of the island, Unexso pamphlet with a note that we get 20% off for crew…what else?

June 28th: Eureka Moment at Last

June 28, 2008

It finally happened.  I figured out how to put together a shooting plan for the big water/dolphin days that is clear, not intimidating or confusing, and still lets me/us navigate our way around the problem of how to maximize the “dolphin time” without having it totally disrupt the rest of the shooting.  I am going to spend a little more time with it tomorrow then post the first big day, and distribute it here.  There are about 5 big days that have to be dealt with.

After I got that done, I took a break and just did some regular days — and that made me feel a lot better too, because I kind of got back into a groove of sorts, rolling through it without feeling like I was stuck in traffic.

One thing I didn’t get done today was the cost report.  Have to deal with that tomorrow but at least the phone won’t be ringing — it’s Sunday.  Not sure I’ll blog tomorrow .. we’ll see.  Off to dinner now.

June 25 Log: Another Jittery Morning, Better Afternoon

June 27, 2008

Lots of good accomplished during the afternoon.  We settled a half dozen things with the art department that are going to streamline our production and save some money; we did, however, take a hit on our grip/electric package and I’m still trying to figure out how it happened.  I thought we had it locked about a month ago at a price the production could afford and then suddenly yesterday it was $10k higher.  Part of that was a requirement for a $5k deposit that the vendor never told us about (we are insured, so the other vendors aren’t requiring such a deposit).  And the rest are “add-ons” that the gaffer and key grip have asked for, plus expendables (gels, things that get used up).

One thing that’s really shaping up nicely is the house for Hawk and family in the movie.  You can see all the location photos at the following link:  WODLocationPhotoGallery.

Meanwhile here is an overhead view of the layout of the facility and Hawk’s house in the story (in reality the house is somewhere else but this is how we will “sell it” in the story, then photos of how it looks now and a sketch of how it will look very shortly.  The art department is going to get this set ready ASAP so we can use it as a “cover set” … i.e. an interior we can go to if we get hit by bad weather.  Oh – and this will also double as the hospital/clinic (a different part of the building you don’t see in the pic)  … so we have three days of interiors that can be shot at this location.  (Click for larger image.)







Susan and I are both waking up earlier and earlier with jitters and nerves.  She was online sending emails about some problems with the grip/electric equipment package at 4:52 AM, and I couldn’t sleep past 5 …. first wakeup at 3:24, rolled over, catnapped — then finally gave up at about 5:02 and was onto my shooting plan at 5:15….so now — at 10:56 — we’ve already had a pretty long day. I’m frankly having trouble with one particular day — the first day — because there are too many “moving parts” in the equation — we have issues about a) when the dolphins are going to be there and when they’re not (mostly not), b) wet-to-dry and dry-to-wet turnaround issues for the actors.  It can take an hour to turn around an actress from wet to dry ….the problem is — the need to shoot out every shot that doesn’t have dolphins in it separately from the shots with dolphins is causing a conflict with the management of the wet-to-dry and dry-to-wet issues in a way that’s got me pulling my hair out.  I think I’ve almost cracked the code on it but I feel like it’s taking far too much time.  Anyway , it was quiet enough until 9 or so….then questions started getting asked over the internet from the staff here — today’s payroll and per diem day so I had to deal with that.  Now I’ve spent about an hour dealing with admin stuff … and it’s 11 — so there’s a chance LA won’t start calling/emailing for another hour.  I’m going to go back to being a director for that hour if I can. 

log out 11:08

“Our Bahamas”

June 27, 2008

People are asking about where we are in the Bahamas.  Here’s a screen grab of a page I wrote a while back about Grand Bahama Island and our areas here.  Might be helpful to those who’ve been asking. Click to see it full size.

June 26 Log: A Very Weary Update at 7:43

June 26, 2008


Where…and I mean WHERE did the day go?  This is frightening. It always gets like this in pre-production.  I think I already said that yesterday but today was even worse.  Up at 5:15AM with this huge day stretching ahead and this sense that you can move mountains … and then 14 hours later you’ve gotten done about 25% of what you wanted to get done, and you’re feeling panicked.  That’s me, now.  I’m making progress on my shooting plan but not enough.  I feel like I’m stuck in a traffic jam just because I’m not zooming through it like I think I should.  It might be because I’m dealing with all the tough and complicated scenes first….but I feel like I’ve gotten about 10% of the movie done in 2-3 days and at that rate I won’t be able to get it done before we start because starting Monday people are going to be arriving and much more of my time will be spent talking, talking, talking.  

Well … for the record, let me try to remember what happened after my 10:43AM update:

  • I did get to to another hour, sort of, of shotlisting and whatever but the emails and phone calls were starting to come in, so it wasn’t that good.
  • Had lunch with Susan Johnson…went over her budget revisions, talked about schedule issues, talked about some location issues, talked about some crew issues….then it was 2PM.
  • Went to the art department meeting at 2PM.  Figured out some solutions to some issues/problems and ended up saving some money without sacrificing production value.
  • Met with the production staff after that … payroll, per diem, rental cars, cost reporting, all of that. 
  • Back to the hotel at 4:30. Maid was in my room so I set up shop in the lobby.  Got back to shotlisting….but phone kept ringing, emails kept coming (primetime in LA) and I don’t think I got much done.  Finally left there around 6.  
Since then I’ve been in the room trying to get some traction again with my shooting plan. Ordered room service….discovered they’ve got a killer broiled chicken breast/portobello mushroom sandwich.  I hadn’t ordered it before because they call it a “burger” and I imagined ground chicken…but it’snot — it’s a chicken breast and it’s really good.  
Onward….It’s 7:53 now.  Can manage another couple of hours maybe, although my brain is really seriously fried now….happens at 14 hours or so.  Same thing happens with crew when you push them too far….the concentration just starts to crumble.  We’ll see.  


10:43 AM

Just got a huge chunk of work done from 6 AM until about 10:15 without any interruptions. Advanced the shooting plan dramatically — although I wish I could have gotten more done than I did.  For me it always seems that what I can get done in x amount of time is less than I hoped to get done in that time, and that leaves me feeling a bit stressed — especially in a situation like this where the clock is ticking down.

I also just did a quick summary of the UNEXSO shooting schedule, with a diagram, for our final submission to UNEXSO.  This is extracted from the overall shooting schedule which is going to be published today.

I’m going to try to go get one more hour of solid work before LA gets up and starts calling.

Here’s the UNEXSO schedule and diagram. This may be of interest not just to UNEXSO, but to any of you who may be coming to visit during the shoot.  This is NOT fully confirmed yet — UNEXSO has to agree to the dates.  But there’s a good chance it will be okay.

25 June Log: Gnashing My Teeth (Updated 6:12 PM)

June 25, 2008

6:01 PM

This isn’t supposed to be just a cheery ‘life is wonderful’ account of the joy of making a movie.  I’m trying to make it real.  So I’m going to admit that this has been a day from absolute hell.  Not because of things here … but rather because of things back in LA, where I have to allocate a certain percentage of my attention.  Some of the issues were little ones that were just irritating.  A couple hit a lot deeper and I just have to say that my entire afternoon was spent fighting brushfires in Los Angeles that had nothing to do with the actual making of the movie. I accept the fact that this will happen from time to time. I’m essentially a CEO trying to take a 7 week sabbatical to make a movie…and I can’t completely escape.  But I guess I can complain — not expecting anyone to particularly sympathize.  Still…I’m gnashing my teeth.  I’m not going to go into details…some is confidential and although I want to make this real, I can’t just share everything in the open.  But some situations got my goat today and I’m pretty seriously cranky at the moment.

One thing I will mention and that is SAG. One of the things you have to do when you’re shooting a movie under SAG (i.e. using SAG actors) is you have to abide by their rules and regulations which are quite stringent, and you have to go through a pretty serious ordeal of submissions of personal and corporate data prior to being given “clearance to film”…..We’ve been going through that over the last week and have almost completed the process…just a few stray pieces of documentation (or I should say, documentation of documentation already sent)…..but the thing that set me off is — there is the matter of the SAG bond.  SAG, in order to protect it’s actors, requires that independent producers supply a “bond” which is basically designed to minimize the risk that their actors will not get paid.  

However … when shooting overseas like this — we end up having to escrow the entire amount of the actor’s salaries  before filming anyway … so there is no risk whatsoever to the actors.   But the deal is – that should result in a small bond — $5,000 to $20,000.  So you can imagine my thrilled reaction when SAG came forward today with a very brusquely stated requirement that we put forward a bond of $169,000!  That’s right.  Now I want to be clear — I’m not just trying to trash SAG.  I understand their desire to protect their actors.  But I also question whether making it hard for independent producers to hire their actors is really serving the best interest of the members.  In this case .. it turned out it may not be as bad as it seems since the bond will be reduced by an unspecified amount if and as they confirm our escrows.  Will it go all the way back down to something reasonable?  Or will it still end up being much higher than we expect and have budgeted?

I really debated whether or not to put that in here.  There will be some stakeholders out there who will e upset by the info and worry about it … worry that we will somehow crash and burn over this….and therefor ethre will be others who say I shouldn’t have disclosed it. On the other hand … I believe in my heart that a little straight talk is generally appreciated by the kind of people who, for whatever personal reasons, support an endeavor like this.   Look — we’ll get through this.  The SAG bond issue will not derail the project.  But it may increase the stress in the system…it may consume contingency that is better allocated for “real” costs, not something like this.  And IMHO — SAG should really take a strong look at its policies and manner of interacting with producers who are out there in the trenches trying, against rather overwhelming odds, to provide employment in good faith for SAG members.

Okay.  End of rant.

Other than that — I did manage to get some useful stuff done during the regular part of the day (as opposed to the 5:30-8:30AM shift).

Marine Coordinator Meeting

We had our first production meeting with the Marine coordinators.  Looked at proposed picture boats — some good, some just okay, some not quite there yet.  Talked about work boats…discovered that when shooting the big finale scene (which involves multiple boats, jet-skis, and other vessels) I will have my own jetski to scoot around and do my thing as director.  Kind of like having a horse to ride when directing a battle scene…..that will be okay.  Also came up with some solutions to some of our “Navy Boat” issues.  One happy moment … we found a Navy Patrol Boat which we can replicate with a little help from the Art Department.  Here’s a pic: (Click to see larger version).

Meeting With Doctor Alan Bater

This is a meeting which under normal circumstances I would have absolutely enjoyed had I not been getting phone calls from LA every 5 minutes about those “brush fires” referred to earlier.  I feel like I probably came off as an LA jerk to Dr. Bater … who is a wonderfully intelligent and charming individual who has been here since 1972 and who played a critical role in the dolphin/whale strandings of 2000 that inspired certain aspects of the script.   Dr. Bater (a veterinarian) was the first medical professional on the scene when beaked whales and dolphins were stranded in Grand Bahama.  He conducted autopsies on the beach, then cut off the heads and took them back to his facility where he did cranial work and cut off the ears and sent to Woods Hole for further analysis.  This event was the one which precipitated the debate over Navy Sonar and Bater was a key member of the group who eventually brought the US Navy to the point where it acknowledged, for the first time, that Navy Sonar (the new Active Sonar) does in fact cause marine mammal deaths.  

I want to mention something here.  The “Navy Sonar is killing marine mammals” storyline in our movie is what is usually called a “B” storyline…it’s not the main story.  But it’s important.  Beyond that — I want to make clear that we are not taking a hysterical view of this.  It’s a legitimate issue …that’s why the Supreme Court is hearing the California case.  How do you reconcile National Security needs on the one hand, with respect for the environment on the other?  Our treatment attempts to present both sides of the argument.  

Here are some photos of the on-beach work that Dr. Bater did.  Some of these may be a bit disturbing but I think it’s worth putting them here:

Further reading:  There is a ton of stuff out there to read about this stranding.  Here are some keywords which, if you search, will turn up articles and so on.  “bahamas whale strandings”, “ken balcombe whale strandings bahamas”, “navy sonar whale strandings bahamas 2000″….and variations on all of that. If I had more time I’d pull up the links and list them but I don’t.  Here’s one pretty good overview–an interview with Ken Balcombe:

7:54 AM

It’s starting to happen … I can’t sleep very well and I’m dreaming about directing–in this case, director prep, the shot  diagrams.  In the past when I’ve been in the midst of directing it seems like this happens, although then the dreams are about the actual on-set part of directing and they almost always involve being caught in the middle of an um-makeable day.   

Anyway … I’ve always been an early riser but it’s getting worse.  Can’t make it past about 5:15 the last day or two.  The good news this morning was that this gave me almost three good hours of work on the shooting diagrams and shot plan. It’s slow going in part because I have to figure out how to maximize doing everything we can without the dolphins — then when the dolphins come, we have to shoot ‘all dolphin all the time’ while we have them — then after they leave, back to the ‘no-dolphin’ stuff.  This is counter-intuitive and not the way you normally do a shooting plan, but for the open water scenes, the dolphins can only stay on set for one hour at a time and we’re out there shooting for 12 hours.    What makes it even worse or more complicated anyway are the wet-to-dry and dry-to-wet issues for the actors, particularly Caitlin.  If, for example, we need to shoot two different scenes of her diving into the water with Rasca during one dolphin session — it’s impossible because we can’t turn her around from wet back to dry in less than 45 minutes.  Anyway, my brain has been somewhat turned into a pretzle over this kind of calculation for the last couple of hours.

Now it’s 8…emails are starting to come in and so it’ll be herky jerky from here on.  I have a phone meeting with David Keith at 9:15 and a marine meeting at 10. 

logoff 8:03 am