Saturday, as we wrapped Tom’s scenes, we completed a crucial sequence with a Steadicam, thanks to Patrick Desmond. He and Rich Conant of New Illusions Studios came down to help out, making the trek from Ohio to lend a hand. In this sequence, Stacy Bartlebaugh-Gmys, our star from Abattoir, gets hung up a few feet in the air by one leg wrapped in barbed wire. To her credit, she never complained nor batted an eye when six large men lifted her from her ladder perch and helped her into position. Granted, she was more afraid of the ladder, but that’s beside the point.
Sunday consisted of a tricky decapitation attempted with only digital removal. Half the shots in the sequence had to be shot with multiple layers, to be combined later in Photoshop and After Effects. If it worked as well in practice as it did on paper, it should be a fairly sweet – if extremely bizarre – sequence.
Just before that, however, through a series of fortuitous events, we sweet-talked our way into using a cherry picker and got an awesome aerial shot for the opening of the film. Despite my abject hatred of heights, I found myself leaping into the bucket of the crane, belting in and shooting the shot from 60 feet in the air. Two keys: never taking my eye from the camera eye piece and never, at any point, actually thinking about what I was doing. Neither DP Jeff Waltrowski nor Amy could look at me while I was up there and not just because they were in the shot below. They were certain that the second they glanced in my direction, I’d spill from the bucket, the crane would fail and slam me into the ground, I’d drop the camera… None of those catastrophes actually happened and, eventually, I was returned to Earth. It’s not an experience I’d care to duplicate but the shot turned out sweet.
One thing I’d like to bring up for the education of other indie filmmakers out there: when Amy and I arrived at the site on Sunday, we discovered that all of the power was out. Saturday, the Department of Public Works was installing new telephone poles and making a god-awful amount of noise, but they didn’t disrupt the power. Sunday, they were still installing and, at this point, were disrupting power. Fighting down the panic of having to cancel the indoor shooting (already made complicated by the ongoing construction going on at the Hundred Acres Manor), we were just about to go up to the workers and ask if power would be restored when a woman in a little sports car drove up, leapt out and started screaming at the guys working. We couldn’t make out what she was saying, but there was much arm waving and hysterical body language. After a minute, she stomped back to her car, slammed the door, gunned the engine and peeled out of the parking lot. This presented a terrific opportunity for us to not do that. Instead, we brought the guys doughnuts and water, talked about the weather and asked how things were going. The foreman volunteered the fact that the power would be on in a few minutes and to let them know if their noise interrupted shooting.
The morale of this story: don’t be a dick. Most people are generally interested in being helpful. If there’s a result you’re looking for, and the people before you are the most likely candidates of helping you achieve that result, not screaming at them tends to make all the difference. The second morale: be on the lookout for dicks and try to time your non-dickhead approach to directly follow their inappropriate behavior. There’s no better opportunity than looking good in comparison to someone worse. With so many assholes in the world, with so many terrible filmmakers/athletes/etc., sometimes showing up and not being horrible is all the effort needed. Not taking part in the World’s Biggest Cocksucker Competition, an on-going reality show, is usually the smartest move.
Anyway, we’re in the home stretch on the film now. For all intents and purposes, we’re about three days away from completion, and we’re not even talking three full days. One day of scene and two half-days of pick-ups. Then we’ll have a finished film. One that some people will be completely unable to make head or tail of, one that many others will find both satisfying and pretentious at the same time, but ultimately, one that people will look at and say “Only Happy Cloud Pictures would have done this movie.” (“Would”, not could. The distinction is considerable.)