Posted tagged ‘Dolphins’

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.


Supreme Court Agrees to Review Navy Sonar Case

June 23, 2008

Now this is interesting.  It just came out that the Supreme Court has agreed to review a California Appellate Court ruling against the U.S. Navy regarding the use of mid-range active sonar in California coastal areas. 

For us, this is quite fascinating because this is a story which plays a significant role in our film story for Way of the Dolphin.  First of all – here’s the AP story on the Supreme court decision. And then afterward, some comments from me: 

Supreme Court agrees to review Navy sonar case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday stepped into a dispute over the Navy’s use of sonar off the Southern California coast and its potential harm to dolphins and whales.

Acting at the Bush administration’s urging, the court agreed to review a federal appeals court ruling that limits the use of sonar in naval training exercises.

Sonar, which the Navy uses primarily to locate enemy submarines at sea, can interfere with marine mammals’ ability to navigate and communicate. There is some evidence that the technology has caused whales to strand on shore.

The administration says the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco jeopardizes the Navy’s ability to train sailors and Marines for service in wartime.

The government also says national security interests can trump those of marine mammals, and that its use of mid-frequency sonar in training exercises hasn’t caused any documented harm to dolphins or beaked whales.

The Navy applauded the high court’s intervention.

“The Navy’s position has been the same since the first court case. This is an issue that is essential to national security and we welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case,” said Admiral Larry Rice, the director of the Chief of Naval Operations’ Environmental Readiness Division.

Rice said the restrictions placed on the Navy in earlier court rulings, if not overturned, could cripple training exercises.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, who along with four other advocacy groups sued the Navy over the issue, contends there are ways to use sonar and to protect wildlife.

“It’s clear … that the Navy can reduce the risk of this harm by commonsense safeguards without compromising our military readiness,” Joel Reynolds, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal program, said in a statement.

Although the science is inconclusive, there is strong evidence that sonar affects marine mammals. The Navy’s own environmental assessment of the use of sonar in 14 training exercises off the California coast found it could disturb or harm an estimated 170,000 marine mammals, including temporary loss of hearing in at least 8,000 whales.

Some environmentalists said the Supreme Court’s hearing of the case will finally settle what takes precedence — national security or environmental protection.

“This will decide whether or not the Navy is fulfilling its security goals in a way that doesn’t leave massive collateral damage,” said William Rossiter, president of Cetacean Society International, one of the plaintiffs in the case.

Lower courts concluded there would be near certain harm to marine life in Southern California if the Navy proceeded with sonar exercises as planned.

An injunction by a federal judge in Los Angeles early this year created a 12-nautical-mile no-sonar zone along the coast and ordered the Navy to shut off all sonar use within 2,200 yards of a marine mammal. That prompted President Bush to step in and sign a waiver exempting the Navy from a section of the Coastal Zone Management Act so training could continue as the government appealed the decision.

But the 9th Circuit sided with the lower court and said the Navy must abide by the injunction. However, while the litigation was under way the appeals court gave the Navy leeway to lessen the restrictions if it determined it was in a critical maneuver point, so that sonar shutdown would begin at 1,000 meters (about 1,093 yards) and full sonar shutdown would come at 200 meters (about 219 yards). Those are the restrictions the Navy is currently operating under.

Arguments will take place in the next court term, beginning in October.

COMMENTS:  It’s important to understand that one of the reasons the California Court decision happened the way it did, is because a big piece of it is simply that the court felt the Navy should use use reasonable precautions to in effect “clear the range” before releasing sound bombs into the water that can kill marine mammals.  One of the things that really struck me about this issue is that on the one hand, you can easily make the case the national security trumps the welfare of a few marine mammals — acceptable collateral damage, right?  But on the other hand, if what is required is simple common sense precautions, why would the Navy not be willing to exercise the same care in “clearing the range” of vulnerable marine mammals.  I think it’s important to understand that in the movie we don’t demonize the Navy … rather we present the two competing arguments and frankly it’s not an easy one to figure out.  That complexity is evident in the fact that the Supreme Court has agreed to review the issue — it would never have gotten elevated to that level of consideration if it were not an interesting and compelling issue with meaningful arguments on both sides.

Sunday: A Day Off (Sort of)…and Some Quiet Time With the Script

June 22, 2008

7:00 PM

I got in a good 5 hours this AM with no phone calls, no emails, no interruptions — and was able to put it toward developing the shooting plan for some of the key scenes. I started with the open water scenes and did a narrative shooting plan and some sketches. These will be examined by the others in the production, and with their help troubleshooting we will refine them into a final plan. Here is a sample from one scene: I got about 10 scenes done today:

SC 3
SYNOPSIS: Craig and Gwynn arrive, talk, watch Delphinus leave.

We start with A CAM on the Diving Platform (where it was at conclusion of scene 2 previous)
We start with Dolphins on hand, continuing from scene 2, so we have to shoot out the dolphin portions first
Later, after the dolphins leave, A CAM moves to Delphinus for additional coverage w/o dolphins.

Note: To avoid wasting time with the dolphins in the water (and they will be here in continuation from scene 2), our initial coverage of this scene will pickup from the point where Gwen and Craig are already stationary on their jet skis, and will end before Daniel fires up the engine and the Delphinus begins to move. So we will skip the arrivals and departures and do them separately, at the end, after the dolphins are gone. Also, for the same reason we will start this scene with both cameras in same position they were at the end of Scene 2 — i.e. CAM A is on the diving platform, and CAM B is in the water.


1A) A CAM: Wide Classic Master on Craig/Gwen from high enough angle that it could be POV from deck of Delphinus — wide enough to show Craig/Gwynn and Rasca in the same shot.
1B) B CAM: Grab dolphin pieces as possible, taking care to stay out of A CAM’s shot, which is pretty wide. Might get some underwater shots wide enough to show the two jetskis from below, and Rasca in the water around them.

2A) A CAM: (LENS CHANGE; SAME POSITION AS 1A) Lively master, tighter, panning from Craig to Alyssa
2B) B CAM: In water, can be closer, trying to get Rasca and Craig/Gwen in same shot. We’ll take whatever pieces we can get that tie them together.

SHOOTING END OF SCENE ONLY (from point where Daniel fires up the engine

5A: A CAM: From Delphinus, closer shots of Rasca

1A) A CAM: From Platform: Clean classic master on Craig/Gwynn from Delphinus, mainly for the beginning and end of the scene. We need to get the jets skis approaching, stopping, and beginning of dialogue; then we need the end, a two shot of Craig and Gwenn watching the Delphinus and Rasca disappear. If we can get all the dialogue too, that’s great – but not essential and becaue of jet-ski maneuverability issues, it will be necessary to shoot the “dialogue master” separately, without showing the arrival, so we can implement procedures to keep the jet skis stable during the dialogue.

1B) B CAM: From water, catching 2 shot master of same action. This would be Rasca’s POV of the arrival; at the end it would just be another angle of Craig/Gwynn watching, since Rasca is no longer there. During this take, B CAM can also free lance some underwater shots of the jet skis arriving and, while talking is going on, maneuverng in the water as seen from below – presumably as seen by Rasca from Rasca POV.


Note: This setup starts with Craig and Gwynn on their jetskis after having arived. This is so that we can implement procedures to keep the jet skis as stable as posslbe during the dialogue, with the engines off for sound purposes. There may be some special rigging to keep them close together and pointed in the right direction.

2A) A CAM: From Delphinus, 2 Shot of Craig/Gwynn
2B) B CAM: From water, lively master panning from Gwynn to Craig and back, simulating Rasca’s POV


3A) A CAM: Lively MCU master, panning from Alyssa to Kita to Daniel — try several takes, various combinations.

3B) B CAM: Simulate Rasca POV, swimming around actively while watching Craig/Gwynn from above and below surface, freelance closer shots on each.

18 June Log (Updated at 5:40PM)

June 18, 2008

Updated 5:40 PM

Spent the last two hours on the phone with the 1st AD going over the detailed production schedule. For anyone not familiar — this is a very intricate process in which every scene is broken down into a “strip” and then all the strips are assembled into a “board” (kind of a linear jigsaw puzzle) which eventually depicts what you’re shooting, in what order, day by day. The trick to scheduling is that you have to consider a lot of variables–which actors are available which days; how to minimize unnecessary moving around, which locations are available which days, day/night and “turnaround” issues (you can’t shoot until 3 am one day and start at 6 am the next … need 12 hours “turnaround”….and on and on. Here’s what day one looks like on the strip board I created before sending it off to the 1st AD for him to do his thing. (And any indie film-makers out there, this looks slightly different than what you’re used to because I did it in Excel, not Movie Magic Scheduling. I actually prefer Excel for first pass scheduling because it allows me more flexibility in the design of the strips and the elements you can sort for — also, for example, I can color code the strips which also helps. In this case, blue means open water … it makes it easier to go through the whole board and capture all the open water days when they’re color coded like this.)

Anyway … the good news is, it’s now 5:51 and the fish fry at Smith’s Point is about to start. We’re all going down.   I’ll have some pix to post when I come back.

Updated 3:40 PM

Had a working lunch with Susan Johnson, Jay Smith (co-producer), and Angela Carroll (production coordinator) where we went over some of the drudgery of production — shipping arrangements, vendor payables, plus some discussion of location site rentals and catering.

Afterwards Susan and I had what was supposed to be a fairly major script conference to talk mostly about the character of Hawk. I had spoken yesterday at length to David Keith, who will play Hawk, and had gotten his notes on the character and the role. Had processed these and sent them to Susan — thinking that maybe we were going to have a bit of a struggle to get everyone (producer, director, actor) synchronized. Turns out, no big dramas — the Susan Johnson-Michael Sellers mind meld seems to be working okay.

So … finishing early meant we spent more time on other production details — housing for actress Christine Adams who wants a condo rather than hotel because she’s bringing family; the deal for the local casting director which is just now being finalized; discussion of a looming communications problem (Sheraton seems to be about to change their internet system and may go down for up to a week); discussion of on-set cooling arrangements (it’s going to be quite hot in July and actors need to be able to really cool off between shots without having to go back to their dressing rooms. (End entry 3:46)

Updated 12:06 PM

Okay, finished with the meetings — all went well. Took some video of the art meeting which I’ll post later. Major debate at the art meeting was whether we’re going to build a house at the research facility or have them living on the beach in another location. The art dept and Susan are kind of pushing to use a beach house that they like. I’m pushing to have them at the facility on the corner point, looking out through the inlet to the ocean. I just feel that it ties together everything they’re doing with the dolphins to see them living there with the dolphins with that inlet to the sea. The cost differential is about $5,000 to do it the way I want to….although I think that analysis may be off because they haven’t done “deep analysis” of all the cost factors such as the cost of moving the entire shooting unit to the house on the beach (10 miles away from everything else that we’re shooting), and things like that. Anyway — we set a deadline of the weekend to get this decided. We also decided to set up an online google document for tracking location locks.

Second area of major discussion was where we’re going to do the hospital room. Turns out shooting it in a real hospital here doesn’t work to well for a number of reasons. Trying to come up with viable alternatives.

And the big “get” of the meeting was that they (Production Designer/Art Director) came up with a GREAT lab — I mean really great. Don’t have time to explain why, but it was awesome. Love it love it.

Casting meeting with Pepper Johnson, our lovely Bahamian casting director, was productive. Main point was to make sure she’s on board and understanding that I want to use real residents of Smith’s Point for the scenes depicting Smith’s Point. Got that idea across. Also sorted out some issues about our US Navy extras and bit parts.

Phone meeting with Jack Scanlon re product placement and promotional tie-ins also was productive. Working on dolphin tie-ins and jet skis, a few others. (Actually he had a long list of others but we ran out of time…I have 30 minutes to grab a sandwich and do this blog post, then I’m on to location scouts and stuff this afternoon.)


I’m down in the lobby of the Sheraton, cup of coffee and a banana, reading about as much of the news coverage of the Celtics blowout of the Lakers as I can stand (about half a dozen articles and I was done, what a disappointment but kudos to the Celtics). I’ve got about ten minutes before Susan and I are off to a morning of meetings.

First up is an art meeting with production designer Gabor Norman and his team. He’ll be showing us some sketches and budgets and photos of some alternative locations. The big issue on the table is the Hawk family house and whether we can create something on the site and UNEXSO or not. I’m very partial to making it work at UNEXSO. We’ll see how it goes on that one.

Second is local casting … we’re doing pretty well in that regard. We have most of the more significant local roles cast, but it’s important to get every one of them right. One lousy actor generating one lousy moment can really wreck a movie. And there’s really no excuse for it — even when you’re out ‘in the field’ like this. There are people who can do the small rloles and give them authenticity and life.

Third is a promotional meeting by phone with Jack Scanlan in LA who’s been doing a great job pursuing product placement and promotional opportunities. On the table at the moment is a situation with the Whales and Dolphins Conservation Society. Jack has been pursuing a rather large sponsorship deal with them, and felt that he had been getting some traction. It now looks, however, like they are going to pass. We shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed in this. As enlightened as we believe our story to be — the waters of dolphin conservation are very turbulent and groups like WDCS are inevitably going to be conflicted by any film that has any hint of captivity in it, and even interactivity is questionable. We have a chance on the issue of captivity because of the Third Phase program we depict in the movie in which the dolphins are not held in pens, but are free to come and go. But we can’t get around the “no interaction” position that WDCS and many conservationists have — a position that basically says not only should dolphins not be held captive, but any interaction with them is inherently detrimental to the dolphin’s welfare. The movie takes the position that scientifically managed interaction can bring benefits to both humans and dolphins…..and there’s no way to sugarcoat that. So I dont’ think anything wll come of it but we’ll see. Meanwhile there are many other things to talk about — jetski deals, boat deals, etc. (Finished 12:14 PM)