Posted tagged ‘indie film’

Michael Ironside and “Catch A Taxi Productions”

January 16, 2009

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by Michael D. Sellers

As many of you know, Michael Ironside will be joining the cast of Way of the Dolphin for the Los Angeles shoot.  He’ll be playing the role of Captain Elias Blaine.  I haven’t spoken to him yet and I’m not sure he’ll remember me (I’m almost certain he won’t), but we’ve met and actually worked together once, long ago.

It was in the Philippines in 1992.  I was line producing my first bona-fide international film — Fortunes of War — starring Michael, Martin Sheen, Haing Ngorr (of Killing Fields fame), and some others.   Michael worked on the first day of filming, which was to take place at a residence in some very remote corner of “Metro Manila” (which means the whole 15 million population mega-city), probably a good hour in nasty traffic from the hotel.  Although as line producer I was generally responsible for all aspects of the below the line production, which would normally include getting the actors to the set — the American producers (I was considered a Philippine producer because I lived there) didn’t want to entrust this to the Filipino side, and insisted on organizing this themselves.  picture-114

So, on this first day, I remember arriving there before daylight, checking to make sure that the camera truck was there; the grip/electric truck; the catering; the craft services; all the different pieces of production.  Everything was good.  We had cameras; we had lights; we had film; we had all the picture vehicles; the set was ready; set dressing was in place; props were there — you get the idea, it’s a long checklist and when you’re production manager or line producer it’s all your responsibility.

Then the actor’s started arriving and — Michael Ironside was missing. It wasn’t that he was late.  It was just that he wasn’t in the van bringing actors to the set and he wasn’t in his hotel room.

By this time the US producers were there too and there was a big scramble to try and figure out where Michael Ironside was.  The communications weren’t good — we had radios for communicating around the set, but this was before there was any cell phone coverage in this section of Manila (might have been pretty much before cell phones entirely).

I remember standing on the balcony of the house that was our set, looking down a road that was a long, slow climb down a hill. Eventually I saw a decrepit Manila taxi (all taxis in Manila were decrepit in those days) putt-putting up the hill.  It slowed down and seemd to be searching for an address (no street numbers, of course), and my hopes rose.  And sure enough, the taxi stops, the door opens, and Michael Ironside gets out.

I’m pretty sure I was the first one to greet him and he was pretty cool about the whole thing.  Seemed to be taking it in stride.  I thanked him profusely for finding his way to the set on his own (no small feat), didn’t ask too many questions about how it happened, and walked him up the driveway to the house where we were filming.  There I handed him off to the First AD and breathed a sigh of relief.  We were complete.  Whew.

But the PS to all this is the following:  As I said, Michael was totally cool about it when it happened and didn’t show his anger at anyone, and in fact seemed to take the whole thing in stride.  If you’re not in the film biz this may not seem that big a deal — but let me assure you, in a foreign country, on the first day of filming, to somehow miss the pickup of one of your major stars and leave him standing at the hotel with no ride to the set and no way of communicating with the crew — this was a huge screwup and many/most actors of Michael’s stature would have been spitting nails by the time they got to the set.  Michael didn’t do that.  He did, however, get his comment on this when he showed up the next day wearing a T shirt with a beautifully designed logo and inscribed:  “Catch A Taxi Productions, Manila Philippines,” and then the date on it.

Message received, loud and clear.  And, all things considered, it was a very gentle way of chiding the production for a pretty big mistake on day one.

Anyway — I did some searching around the net and was able to find the trailer for that film.  It brings back memories for sure, and it’s worth a look.  It wasn’t a bad film at all.  And I brought in the entire below the line Philippine cost at $297,000 — pretty hard to imagine doing that now.  Take a look:  FORTUNES OF WAR TRAILER

Getting Started (Again)

January 15, 2009

Getting ready to shoot in LA is so much easier than shooting at a distant location. Here, there is just about everything you need within ten minutes of our offices in Burbank. So we got started for real today with a meeting of myself, producer Susan Johnson, and production supervisor (himself a producer in his own right but he’s helping us out as production supervisor) Al Dickerson, my old friend. Here is a pic of Al winning a CAMIE award.
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And here’s one that captures a bit more of what he really looks like:

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Our first couple of meetings were at a coffee shop (“Romancing the Bean”) in Burbank, down the street from our office. She’ll probably make me take it down — but here’s a pic of Susan from the meeting yesterday.picture-106

So that’s the initial team — it will grow day by day until there will be 60 or so of us when we’re shooting.

Prior to all of this there has been a lot work that Susan and I have been doing to finally get confirmation of dates that work for all the actors.   We had to dodge Sundance (going on now), and the inauguration (next week) — but we’re good to go, everyone is on board and all the actors are confirmed, including new addition Michael Ironside, whom we’re very excited to be working with.

The biggest decision we had to make was — where to shoot in LA.  The show was designed so that we would be able to shoot all of the LA portion on a stage, but the question then becomes — what stage?  For those of us in the indie world, the default choice is good old Lacy Street Studios.   But after weighing Lacy and some other options — we settled (as we almost always seem to do) on going up to Santa Clarita, which is 30 minutes from Burbank but (importantly) still within what SAG characterizes as “local” Los Angeles.

We ended up choosing Sets In The City — a facility in Santa Clarita that specializes in medical sets that are fully stocked with set dressing and props.  This is perfect for us becaue the scenes we are filming need the following sets

  • Hospital Room
  • Hospital Hallway/Nurses Station
  • Forensic Lab/Morgue
  • Underwater Laboratory (we have to build this set but tons of the props are available — we’re actually building inside the Courtroom set they have at the facility)
  • Captain Blaine’s Office
  • Exterior Naval Base

The beauty of it all is that we were able to find an office for Captain Blaine that actually has a window out onto the big metal corrugated buildings that totally look like a Naval base and will work for us.  (Somewhere in my computer I have shots of Subic Naval Base in the Philippines that look indistinguishable from what we’re going to be able to show here.

Anyway … today we had our first scout there.  Here are some photos of the sets and the facility:

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Welcome to an Experiment That May Become Mission Impossible

June 16, 2008

Welcome to my experiment at trying to “liveblog” my way through the making of “Way of the Dolphin” — a film I’m directing and exec producing this summer in the Bahamas. If Anderson Cooper can do it during the commercials on AC 360, I guess I can do it while we’re making the film. The idea of doing this came about with some encouragement from those of you who regularly read my private blog for our investors, and some other friends who are blog savvy and thought it might be interesting if I try to chronicle this adventure as we go along. I’m calling it “live blogging” rather than something else (journal, diary, whatever) because I want to ask you all in advance to cut me some slack — this has to be done on the fly, rule number one — no rewriting or editing — because of the time pressures during production. I’m going to just hit this hard on the fly and make sure that I put something in here at least daily — whether it’s a written blog update, posting some pictures, posting video — or even doing audio updates (thanks to the technology I can basically just turn on my computer and start talking, then save it, and post it here). So … not quite sure how this will turn out but here we go.

As I write this post we are exactly four weeks out from the first day of filming on July 13. I’m sitting in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel in Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island, where we have a great rate of $109 net per night and where they have free wi-fi in the lobby. It’s 7:10 AM and I’ve been here for about an hour or so. I’ve been here 10 days and after I get this “starter” post in I’m going to go back and post some other material and videos that I’ve made over the last ten days–sort of an effort to get you caught up.

Here on the ground now in the Bahamas from our team we have:

  • Yours truly – Michael D. Sellers, Executive Producer and Director.
  • Susan Johnson, Producer.
  • Jay Smith, Co-Producer
  • Angela Carrol, Production Coordinator
  • Cornelius McKinney, Unit Production Manager
  • Gabor Nelson, Production Designer
  • Alan Howatt, Art Director
  • Paul Mockler, Underwater Cinematographer

Over the next two weeks it will be mostly just this batch … then everyone else will start coming in about two weeks out.

Okay, I’m out of time. Got to go. Will add to this later.