Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fried Brains

We've got plenty of that delicacy, fried brains, on the set of A Modest Suggestion, but they're not on the catering table next to the kosher sandwiches from Subway. They are in the exploding heads of the actors, or at least, this one.

We've completed four more days of shooting since my last update in these pages; two of those days were relatively easy, and two were monsters. Is that a good average?

Last week, we spent the lion's share of a day shooting inside a limousine. It was a drab, chilly, rainy day, and though we were filming under cover, in a giant warehouse, the air was dank and depressing. I was coming down with a cold (which I think I ultimately avoided, thank you Zicam and Airborne), so it was not a fun-filled day. The scene, which takes place in the limo between the Fab Four, plus a bound and gagged hostage, was one of the shortest in the screenplay, only 6 pages or so. We've been tackling more than double that daily, so we looked forward to a bit of a relaxed shoot that day, but the logistics of the filming proved uncomfortable. The car was one of those older models (no TV! no bar!), and I assume its use was donated to the production; otherwise, we got rooked with a lousy limo. The windshield wipers didn't work, nor did the windows in the rear. The car's battery ran out of juice early in the proceedings and had to be jumped, just to keep the interior lights on. If A Modest Suggestion paid any money for the car, they should expect a refund.

The action took place in the back of the car, where two leather seat/benches faced each other. So, two actors faced two other actors, or at least, that will be the impression in the finished product. During filming, two actors faced a cameraman and a sound operator, who were crammed into the opposite seat. It must have been a comical sight, to watch Michael and me interacting with our imaginary cohorts, while those cohorts stood outside the car and delivered their lines through the windows. After an hour or so of this, the process was reversed. This was the only logical way to film inside the car, but it proved to be a bit claustrophobic. But I have to compliment our Director of Photography, who is also running the camera (welcome to Ultra Low-Budget) and our Sound PooBah, who also operates the boom (ditto above "welcome"), as they spent many hours scrunched into that car. These guys have been very impressive in their ability to give the director what he wants, under circumstances which I'm sure neither consider ideal.

The majority of the cast was released at mid-day, as the evening was to be comprised of a location shoot using only two actors. The following day, we completed filming various pickup shots of the climactic scene of the film, which included an unexpected moment of violence, carefully choreographed by our stunt coordinators.

Our past two days were the monsters. I'm told we covered 30 pages of script, and it certainly felt like it. The action sequences were all completed, so these were 30 pages of dialogue, all delivered by the four leads and our guest star.

Arnon, our director, had meticulously planned a detailed shot list, based on a lot of storyboard work he had previously done (he writes a bit about that here, if you are interested). It was a big challenge for the actors, as we spent both days leaping all over the text, often attempting to recreate a single line or moment buried in an avalanche of words. This is always the challenge of the film actor, which is why it is not my favorite type of work; leaping from moment to moment, out of chronological sequence, is the norm in the film world, but it wreaks havoc on an actor's ability to organically create believable moments.

Our final push to complete the film begins tomorrow, and we hope to wrap things up Thursday. The only scene which remains to be filmed is the first one, and includes about 25 pages of dialogue. The Fab Four will be working alone on this one, our two Guest Stars having completed their individual scenes earlier in the shoot. Perhaps it was smart to place the filming of this critical scene last; after several weeks of working together, Jason, Michael, Peter, and I are very comfortable with each other. The scene will have to introduce the audience to these rather loony corporate guys, and must prepare them for the dark comedy which will follow.

When we finish, the piece will move out of our hands and be placed in the care of the editor. I hope he and Arnon can whittle this mountain of footage into a cohesive piece, and turn our performances into something resembling human behavior!