First day of shooting blog..Dec 17th!
As promised here's my blog entry for the first day of shooting: December 17th, 2005
Our location was an abandoned factory located down in Trenton, NJ. You couldn't ask for a richer looking location, and it was a low-budget film's dream in that you didn't need an art department to add too much more to it...
We were filming two scenes:
1)the intro lockerroom scene where our main character, Lee, meets the rest of team he's been assigned to, and
2) the exterior of the warehouse where the soldier converge upon to arrest a programmer. The factory's exterior looked a lot cooler than outside of the warehouse we're filming at.
The location had two big negatives:
1) no bathrooms and
2) no heat!!
Which one's worse? Ask the cast and crew who were shivering their tails off! It was soooo cold! Why did I decide to shoot in December?!
So first I had the cast get into their BDU's (that's battle dress uniforms for those of you who arent paying attention!!). Then I started to issue out more gear: first the bullet-proof vests, then the thigh holsters, then helments, then goggles. Everyone's looking sweet. My SWAT team of the future!! It's cool too cuz the actors are helping each other get into their gear like a real squad of soldiers should. So then came the fun part- issuing the guns. I had 6 different types of weapons and it was playing Santa Claus as all soldiers were eagerly awaiting which firearm they'd get. Then I had Nathan, the team's Major, run them thru some exercises with their gear so they'd be more familiar with it and actually look like soldiers... One of the challenges with low budget filmmaking is that the actors have very little time to spend in their actual costumes with their gear because of rental costs... in a case like the soldiers of D9, their equipment has so much to do with roles. For this reason it made sense to me to have Nathan drill the rest of the team so they'd feel a bit more like a military squad once we start rolling.
Ok first scene- exterior of the warehouse. This factory has an amazing field beside it where rusty equipment sits among overgrown bush, so we're going to film to the scene where the team approaches their target. Oh No!!! Anthony who plays bad-ass Chavez has fallen while running from the changing room. He limps for the rest of the day's shoot and we change some blocking in the lockerroom so that stays stationary. Only weeks later do I learn that he had to be on crutches for a while after that shoot! Anthony was such a professional on set that i didn't even know the extend of his injuries!
We move inside for lunch and Sumita, our awesome PA, does bathroom runs shuttling cast/crew to a diner restroom 10 minutes away. Meanwhile we set up lights for the 2nd half of the day- the lockerroom scene. The original lockers were bright green- totally too cheerful. I spent 3 hours one night spray painting them all black. Now keep in mind that this is an abondoned factory- the owner enabled a single set of electrical outlets today so that we could use our lights. So when i came earlier that week to paint the lockers from 10pm to 1am I just had three flashlights with me. It was the scariest thing in the world to be in the middle of nowhere in Jersey in an abandoned factory at midnight spraying painting lockers! I had to hold myself back from strangling my DP who complained that "the art department" should have used matte instead of glossy black paint! The latter reflects light in a distracting way!
The shoot goes well and every does an awesome job of staying focus dispite the cold. It's actually colder inside the factory than it is outside so we feel like we're all in a meat freezer. (note to self- wear boots instead of dress shoes next time!)
Before we lose all sunlight, we break to take a group cast photo. I know that we'll be shooting out of sequence and scheduling around actor availability so this is my one chance to get all of the main D9 team together for some promo photos and maybe something i can use later for the dvd packaging.
Performances and footage looked great! David and Anthony shine in today's dailies. And Nathan was born to the Major. Another thing I'm really happy about- today was my first day working with a DP which is effectively splitting the role that i'm used to doing myself. Patryk and I ease into a working relationship and by the end of the day we have a good chemistry going.
Ok now i can rest (for a little while!) I'm feeling a lot more confident in this project. The prep time was time well spent!