WOW! We are overwhelmed by the positive response to this campaign to help Lucas finish A Year Without Rent. Thank you so much! For your pledges, your tweets, your facebook posts & your kind words.
I'm going to pass the reigns over to Lucas McNelly now:
Hey everyone. First of all, I'd like to express my gratitude, both to all these wonderful filmmakers (spearheaded by Victoria & Marty) and for all these backers, for helping to keep AYWR alive. I'm more or less overwhelmed.
Anyway, Victoria asked me to write an update where I pick the 5 essential AYWR blog posts. I think the theory being that for people unaware of what AYWR is, this would serve as something of a primer. Makes sense to me.
I write a blog post for each production day, talking about what went well and what didn't go well during that day's shoot--the challenges faced, the obstacles overcome, the complete fuck ups, stuff like that. The goal is to be both fair and honest, sometimes brutally so. The goal, after all, is to be a journalist and to create content that might help other filmmakers avoid the same mistakes, so there's no point in sugar coating a disaster.
So here they are, the 5 posts that have best captured what AYWR is. Or, at least the 5 that I get asked about the most (in no particular order), with a bit of each one in italics.
Let's see if I can tell this story without giving anything away.
I'm holding something heavy, that I've got wedged into my thigh to stabilize it. I'm standing in front of the camera. Yes, in front of the camera.
"Am I in?" I call out to Sean.
"Um…nope. You're good."
I look over my shoulder. There's no way I'm not in this shot.
"Are you sure?"
And let's be honest: it's a shitty job. It's boring and you're far, far away from the action (unless you count the activity on the street). It's easy to start thinking what a bullshit deal this is, because no one wants to do it and there's not much else to do except think about how bored you are.
But then you realize what an egotistic way of thinking that is. You aren't that important. You're there to help in any way possible, be an extra set of hands for a production wherever needed. Sometimes that involves using a rope to help pull a light up the side of a building. And sometimes that involves sitting on a sandbag and freezing your ass off. Neither of those things is inherently more helpful than the other, but one of them is cool. And so what if it's keeping you from doing other, more fun things? That would just mean that one of the regular G&E guys would have to be doing this and couldn't be doing something more important.
So you bite your tongue and suck it up like a motherfucking adult. It's only for 3 hours and then Art comes back and you can get some food and charge your phone and put on a jacket.
And then the AD quits.
Jennifer Hegarty has been unhappy pretty much from Day 1. That's been obvious to everyone, but as the production fell further and further behind, she became more and more vocal in her displeasure, telling anyone who will listen how badly things are going, and even confiding to me things you shouldn't tell the embedded reporter on your set.
I don't want to get into the why because I honestly don't know. Nothing on a film set happens in a vacuum. Anyone who tries to tell you that the problems on a set are all one person's (or several persons) fault is either lying to themselves or trying to sell you on their own innocence. I do know that a very unhappy Assistant Director quit the film, and that spun everything into a panic. Suddenly people are doing damage control left and right. Richy Reay (the DP) asks me to take over for him as he and James go and "take care of some things", and suddenly Ben and I are in charge as we've got to figure out a scene that was supposed to take place in the tree fort, and now happens and the base of the tree, where it's completely dark. It strikes me that the best approach is to slide the moon over, throwing it at the tree trunk, and staging the scene in a way that the new actor is in silhouette, thus making his dialogue much less important (and really easy to replace in post, as needed).
The van that's supposed to pick us up is 20 minutes late. Behind the wheel? Brian. Maybe he stopped to get the tape? We drive by a hardware store. I wonder aloud if they sell painter's tape there.
"Oh, there's the hardware store," Brian says.
Clearly we have different definitions of "first thing in the morning".
We eat breakfast. Then, at the scheduled start time, Brian and one of the other producers get in a car to theoretically go buy things. An hour and a half later, the lights are set. We're ready to shoot. We have no tape.
No one is surprised.
Finally, Christine and I start digging through the trash, trying to piece together old pieces of tape that are not completely fucked up. We do, sort of. It looks terrible. I have no doubt that you'll be able to see which scene it is when you watch the film.
Mostly, I feel bad for director Brian Kazmarck. He's got an impossible enough task without having to deal with this bullshit. No director should have to deal with this sort of bullshit. If a producer can't procure a $3 roll of tape from a store a mile away, why are they even there? If you can't fulfill the basic functions of a PA, you should not be on a film set.
Since we're going to want to see the car approach from the right (Paul's house is at the end of a dead end street, which is convenient for our purposes), we don't really have a right edge of the frame. That is, we can't exactly mimic what we did on the left.
But…there are some trees. If we put the other 500W LED on the pavement up by the porch, we might be able to hide it behind the tree. Best we can tell, that's our only place to hide a light on that side. So it kind of has to go there.
So far, it doesn't look terrible. It's pretty dark, though, so we take the small battery-powered work light, gel it orange, and hide that on the lawn itself.
By this point, we have a pretty good idea of where the camera is going to have to be, whether Paul wants it there or not. Aspiring directors take note. There will be points in your filming career, especially on low-budget shoots, where the lighting and camera people will tell you that this is the shot. Your first instinct will (rightly so) be to question that. But if they're sure, don't fight it. Chances are this is the only place the shot can be. They're not trying to usurp your directorial genius or vision. It's simply that they know for a fact that this is the only option you have. Have them explain it to you and go with it. You brought them onto the film to do a job. Be smart like Paul Osborne and let them do it.
Honestly, this makes productions overall look worse than they are. Conflict is more interesting, I guess. Again, thanks so much to everyone involved. And if you'll excuse me, I've got more writing to do.