Archive for August 2008

Getting Ready for the LA Shoot

August 26, 2008

We’re pretty deep into the planning for the four day LA shoot now.  Susan has been emailing all the agents for the cast, establishing availability for the dates we want — and also looking for a good studio deal here in the Los Angeles area.  So far the only major snag has been that Paul Wesley is not available until September 29th because he’s working for four weeks on the show Army Wives.  Otherwise cast availability seems to be fairly good, although as always this will be an exercise in getting all the chickens under the mother hen — something that’s never easy. 

We are also finalizing the details of the Michael Ironside deal — and all of that seems to be proceeding smoothly.  We can’t finalize with him until we get locked dates, after which we’ll have to make his deal pay or play.  We’re really happy to have him — feel he will bring great value to the film. Here are a couple of pix of Michael.  

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The Shipping Saga Continues

August 25, 2008

After all of the issues and dramas – the good news is that our truck, generator, and container with all the camera equipment, are on US soil in Miami.  We’re now waiting for all of it to clear customs and hoping that will happen today.  I’ll post an update here as soon as we get an ‘all clear’ that it has cleared customs.

UPDATED 11:15AM PST

Now we’ve learned that Customs has ordered an X Ray examination of the contents of the container.  This means the container has to be moved to the X Ray Examination location, where it will be X-rayed, generating a printout report (and I guess, X Ray images) that are then presented to Customs who will either clear it based on the X-Rays, or they will require that everything in the container be taken out and physically examined.

UPDATED 1:00 PM PST

Once again — a maddening setback.  We were assured earlier by the shipper G and G that they were immediately taking the container over to the X Ray location — but now we just discovered that they didn’t do that.  Turns out there was a problem with the “chassis”  — the wheeled device the container is mounted on.  G and G now tells us that they had to have some repair work done to the chassis and as a result did not get it over to the X Ray location, which closes at 3:30 PM.  Another day lost.  They have promised they will have it there and be “first in line” at 9 AM tomorrow.  We’ll see.

Shipping Rage….No Other Word For It

August 21, 2008

As you know if you’ve been following this, we have been mounting an absurd SWAT-team all-out effort to get our items finally shipped off the island.  So finally today it was all coming together — three items (grip truck, generator, and container with all our other gear) were fully cleared by customs; we had Bills of Lading already issued — this after a two week ordeal of one problem after another.  Just to be sure, I sent our production coordinator Siobhan Antoni down to the docks to confirm that it had left.  I talked to her an hour ago and she said all seemed well but she wasn’t able to actually get on the docks for another few minutes.  Then, when I tried to call her again, her phone was busy.  And busy again.

So I called our customs brokerage company and that’s when I learned the following.  The shipping company, G and G Shipping, it turns out, did the following.  Apparently when you ship there is one agent on the docks repping the stuff being loaded, and another on board – both from the same company in this case.  So it turns out that as they were about to load our truck on board, the agent on board discovered that there is a charge for $32.50 pending against the truck.  Now this charge has never been presented to us, and as recently as yesterday we were at G and G paying cash for all outstanding amounts (cash because the reason it didn’t ship last Friday is because just before loading, G and G decided that they wouldn’t ship until our check, which had been released to them on Wednesday, actually cleared their account)………

So … this morning, with our production coordinator on the docks trying to verify that everything went on, somehow the G and G agent on the ship refused to accept the truck because of the $32.50 due (which we had no knowledge of)…..and so now the truck is going tomorrow.

UPDATE 8:54AM PST

I just got off the phone with Siobhan who gave even more details.  Turns out the $32.50 was actually payable to “Freeport Harbor Services”, the company the provides dockside services, and that company had given the okay for the truck to be loaded on the boat.  So G and G had a situation where there was a $32.50 payable and it wasn’t due to them and the party to whom it was due had given the okay — and they still wouldn’t take it.

Rage is the only word to describe the feeling.

Lila’s Personal Behind the Scenes Pix Are Online Now

August 18, 2008

Lila Javan, our Director of Photography, has posted her behind the scenes snapshots (285 of them!) online. Here’s the link:

http://gallery.me.com/ljavan

Also, here are a few of the selects I downloaded from Lila’s collection, with some comments. (You can see the pic full sized by clicking on it.)

This one is part of a sequence where, at the end of a shooting day, Lila ended up on the camera boat while I and a small crew took the camera aboard the diving platform that figures prominently in the story. Obviously we couldn’t take too many people on the platform…..(but I wish Lila had been there)….I’m there, in the green shirt, sitting on an apple box in this photo. At this point we were filming a “date” scene where Paul Wesley and Caitlin Wachs were lying on the platform (i.e. daydreaming, lying side by side, talking).

But check this one out which is later, when Paul was standing on one end of the platform, and because of balance problems I had to take my rather large carcass and lie down on the opposite end to try and balance things out. I barely kept us afloat, as you can see……


Anyway … here are all of Lila’s selects that I downloaded. (Disclaimer: Rena made me download the pix of me, since I don’t have many of those.)

Our Stolen Generator Has Been Recovered

August 18, 2008

Okay, so there was another drama going on during wrap which I didn’t blog about because it was kind of sensitive but now that it has a happy ending, here it is. In the early morning hours (pre dawn) Friday morning, a few hours before we were transferring all our stuff to the docks for (we thought) shipping that day, our generator was stolen.  This was a rented generator — a $50,000 item that we were renting from Filmtrade in Miami.  We had insurance, of course …. but with a $7,500 deductible so it was pretty painful.

Anyway, I got a call from Siobhan Antoni, our “last person standing” in the Bahamas, that the police found it today and she went out in the middle of the hurricane to reclaim it — and now it’s safely locked inside the gated compound where Siobhan lives, and will go to the docks tomorrow.

I also understand that Donna Mackey of the film commission was instrumental in keeping the police focused on this and that this helped facilitate the recovery.

Thanks, guys!!!!

Whew!

Phase 2 Begins — Back in Los Angeles

August 18, 2008

First of all thanks for all the emails and messages of encouragement….didn’t realize there were so many of you out there following this, and I appreciate the good words and thoughts that have come my way.

I arrived back in Los Angeles over the weekend and am now about to plunge back into the normal flow of things — which means not only dealing with the preparation for the LA shoot, but also getting back up to speed with all the other aspects of film, business, and familyl that have been on the back burner the last couple of months.

At the moment — there’s one big open item on the Bahamas wrap of the film, and that is shipping all of our equipment back to Los Angeles.  I’ve debated whether to write about this, and how detailed I should be.  We are generally very supportive of the Bahamas and have been treated very well there by the film commission and just about everyone.  But the shipping situation has been, or has become, a nightmare of epic proportions.  I want to be fair in anything I say and frankly at this point the reasons for the ongoing delays and problems in getting the items released and shipped are not entirely clear to me.  But — this is rental equipment that is costing us $15,000 a week and it’s been delayed for two weeks getting off the docks and out of the Bahamas and this is a very significant problem.  It has been a situation where we’re believing it will leave “tomorrow” for a long succession of tomorrows that never materialize.

Other than that … we’re in a brief hiatus during which we’ll regroup and get the Los Angeles shoot up on its feet.

Putting It All In Perspective

August 8, 2008

As I write this, it’s Friday of wrap week and most of the crew are gone.  I’ve been doing some second unit filming while Susan Johnson, Angela Carroll, and my wife Rena have been heavily engaged in the wrap of the show — ensuring that final payments are going out to everyone and that things are being shipped where they need to go, and so on.

For me, I’m at a point now where it’s possible to start taking stock of what we accomplished — what we did well, where we could improve, what we’ve learned.  I am pretty committed to this sort of a process because each production is a learning experience and advancing up the learning curve is an important one.

As I think I’ve indicated before – when I think about this, I think in terms of two things: process and content.  Process refers to how we get things done — how the production is organized and staffed; how we set up and manage our transportation, housing, communication, and how we also set up and manage our shooting day each day – call sheets, production reports, etc.  Content refers more to what we actually got “in the can”…..the performances, the look, the amount of coverage per scene (i.e. how many camera setups and takes).

Broadly – here’s reality number 1.  We set out planning to shoot 16 days in the Bahamas, and 2 days in Los Angeles.  We ended up shooting 16 days in Bahamas, and it will take 4 days to complete the Los Angeles scenes.  But what this means is that we really, definitely, got what we needed from the location shoot in the Bahamas — we decided to leave no doubt about that.  So we took the time we needed to get all of the things which can only be gotten here.  The scenes left for Los Angeles are all shoot-able on a sound stage — office scenes, an underwater lab, a hospital room, and a forensics lab.   I think we made very good decisions in this regard and maximized the use of our unique location, which is a major asset of the film.

In terms of why we ended up kicking two extra days back to LA —  in the first place,  we hit real weather problems in the first week that cost us a full day.  We had more bad weather in the first two days of filming this movie than we had in the entire previous film.  The weather gradually improved during the first week, allowing us to minimize the damage so that we were basically one day behind after the weather passed.  Beginning in the second week we tried everything to make up that day – but we found that our open water work in this movie was just too intricate and complex to allow that to happen.  We found, for example, that the work required of the dolphins this time did not happen as quickly as before, and in retrospect I think we know now that it’s because last time our work with the dolphins in open water was just dolphins, and one girl — the only boats involved were the camera boat and the dolphin boat.  This time, when the dolphins arrived, there were as many as six boats in the water, plus a diving platform — and as a result the environment was more confusing for the dolphins.  They still did very well, mind you — but not as well as previously and everything seemed to take more time.  We ended up having to schedule extra openwater sessions with the dolphin, and two extra openwater days overall.

Reflecting on this, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.  On the one hand, being less ambitious with the schedule would have reduced the pressure on everyone — but on the other hand, in indie film-making, if you’re not scheduling the days to get the absolute max out of each day, then you’re basically wasting someone’s money.  If you think about it, a film like this, when you break it down, ends up being a certain number of days of first unit shooting (20 in this case), 13 hours a day, so you’re basically talking about 260 hours to get an entire film in the can.  Each of those hours is precious and each day needs to be very full and very productive.  It’s just that if you overschedule, you then find yourself having to make very difficult decisions as the day unfolds — do we sacrifice coverage to make the day, or do we allow scenes to drop off and be rescheduled in order to make sure the scenes that we’re getting are good?

I’m pretty confident we made good decisions in this regard.  We had a wonderful cast so performance was relatively easy to get — it wasn’t like we needed 8 or 9 takes to get a good performance.  We had worked through most of the scenes in rehearsal so the actors knew what we were looking for, and the really delivered.  That said — in any given scene in an indie film, the director typically is not able to get all the coverage he would like, even when using two cameras as we did.  I know that in the previous film, Eye of the Dolphin, that was a major issue — I was really deeply concerned at the end of the shoot that we had some scenes that were under-covered.

Otherwise, regarding the process by which we made the film — there were a lot of really positive aspects that allowed us to be more efficient and save money without sacrificing speed or pace of filming.  We made creative arrangements for the cast to be housed in local houses in Smith’s Point during the filming day instead of bringing in trailers from the US, which would have been very costly.  This also helped our relations with Smith’s Point, as it brought more money to the community and we felt good about that.   We also made arrangements for all of our vehicle fuel to be bought at one gas station nearby, with daily monitoring, and that resulted in an overall savings in vehicle fuel and better control — which was good, because it turned out that we needed the savings in vehicle fuel to offset an overage in marine fuel.  I also felt that our use of the Red One Camera — two of them — helped tremendously with our efficiency and has given the film a “look” that is shocklingly good …. and leaves us with more control in post production to fine-tune the look of the film than would have been the case with any other camera.  We have all become huge fans of the Red camera, and I expect to continue to use it in the future.  (For those not familiar, this is a newly created more-than-hd digital camera, each from of which contains 4k worth of information compared to roughly 2k for HD.  This means it has, arguably, more detail and information than 35mm and yet the system has been configured to have virtually all of the characteristics of 35mm so that – particularly when using 35mm film lenses as we did–the end result is indistinguishable from 35mm but in fact contains more information, and thus makes it possible to do things like punch in from a medium close up to a closeup without creating grain or anything else that would compromise the image.  To make a long story short, we had two great cameras and our images were beautifully captured.)

I will add tho this over the next few days.  Have to move on now.