Film Journal: Week 10- Strippers and Baseball

Now if we can just get this day of production started without our actress causing a traffic accident we will be all set.

Now if we can just get this day of production started without our actress causing a traffic accident we will be all set.

Well, we officially wrapped principle photography on the second “P2” project for the semester yesterday. Often, by the time I finish a project, I am ready for it to be over so that I can move on to the next big thing, but that wasn’t the case for this film. In spite of all my stresses and insecurities I’m sorry that production is over now, although I am excited to see all the pieces now come together in editing.

Filmmaking is a strange kind of alchemy: you try to put together the right team with the right material in the right conditions and hope that gold comes out the other end. There are popular formulas, but there are so many variables in place and so few constants that it can hardly be called a science. Even now, after two films, I can hardly believe my luck at being assigned to my teammates for the semester because we still work well together even in our different roles and even still like one another, which is an accomplishment all of it’s own.

So the second weekend of shooting was a success. On Saturday we filmed a scene which took place at a strip club and were lucky enough to have gotten permission to shoot in an actual strip club: Sam’s After Dark Gentleman’s Club in south Los Angeles. It was the one day on which the most possible things could have gone wrong- we had two scenes to shoot, three actors, one professional stripper, and twelve extras, on location in a real strip club. Would everybody show up? Would I be able to manage so many actors?  Would we be able to get all the shots that we needed? Would we run out of time? Would we run out of card space? Would we have enough light?

The day of production came and everything moved along like clockwork: the extras were cheerful and patient, the location already looked perfect, lighting gave us a little bit of trouble at the beginning, but afterwards required only minor adjustments. We got all the shots on our list, then did a few pickups, then did some fun establishing shots to show the club and the crowd and to give everyone a little bit of face time. The club’s cleaning crew arrived for the day and turned out to be two of the nicest, most helpful ladies you could ever hope to share a space with. By the time the day was over we had gotten everything that we needed and then some.

The next day, our final day, felt anticlimactic by comparison: it was a half day that we were planning to shoot with a skeleton crew. We would be outdoors so there would be no need for lighting and we would be on campus which meant that there would be a minimum amount of risk for things like parking, safety, or being asked to leave our location. We would be far enough away from the LA Marathon that we weren’t likely to encounter crowds or road closures. The weather was slated to be very pleasant.

The only thing that we didn’t anticipate was a USC vs UCLA baseball game that would be happening at the exact same time as our scheduled shoot. I arrived to campus to a long line of cars creeping into the same gate that I had planned to enter in order to find convenient parking. The game began at 1pm, which was the same as our call time, and the crowds were still pretty dense, but we had an hour or so of makeup to do before we could begin anyway and by the time we were ready to begin shooting the foot traffic was manageable, if not ideal.

The final scene that we planned to shoot was a little nothing scene: a character exits a church, throws a bible on the ground (a fake one- we didn’t want to risk a smiting), walks away, then runs back to pick it up. Simple, right? Except that nothing draws attention like a film set- especially when the actor in question has a giant mohawk and is wearing a kilt throwing a bible on the ground and families are walking past to take their kids to a baseball game.

But we had time and card space so we just kept doing takes until we had enough good options to piece together the scene and then celebrated the end of production with pink champagne, Cheetos, and fun size candy bars. If there was one thing I learned last semester it was to be sure to celebrate the moments of accomplishment when they happen.

Now it is on to post production and sound. While I’m sorry that production is over, I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on March 10, 2014.

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