Director’s Journal: Day 1

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Saturday, Day 1.

The first day of shooting is a roller coaster of anxieties interspersed by moments of absolute joy.  We  shoot inside Producer Mohannad Ghawanmeh’s home, and the temperature quickly rises to well over 80 degrees inside the sweltering living room and kitchen where the set lights and crew buzz around setting up for the day.

The first scene is easy enough.  Flora Mur (Sarah Martens) looks out a window, and worries about her teenage son.  We move aside the tangle of cables and lights, and check to make sure everyone is “safe.”

“Quiet on the set…”

“Rolling…”

“Speed…”

“Action!”

Sarah Marten’s begins her line…

“Cut!”

An airplane rises from somewhere out the window.  Mohannad curses.  And we start all over again.

“Quiet on the set…”

“Rolling…”

“Speed…”

“Action!”

Sarah begins her line again, almost getting to the end.

“Cut!”

Another airplane takes off above the roofs, followed by three cars from the normally quiet street.  Okay.  Nothing to panic about.  Lets try again…

Later that evening, about halfway through the scheduled call sheet, we break for a late supper.  The crew mills about outside the house, which is more like a sauna at this point.  I’m walking around in circles, running my fingers through my hair, looking as helpless as I feel.  I huddle with the other two producers, and the Assistant Direct Waiel Safwat, wondering how much of today’s shoot we’ll have to reschedule for tomorrow… But then what about tomorrow’s scheduled scenes? Cinematographer Jeremy Wilker approaches.

“So what’s going on guys?”

A lump in my throat.  Jeremy’s on to me.  The feeling that I don’t know what I’m doing won’t leave me alone.  Can he see it know, like I’m wearing it on a shirt?  What business did I have trying to make a movie, anyway?  Here we are, behind schedule, and my cinematographer’s about to walk off the set.  Jeremy takes me aside, and I brace for his resignation.

“I say we keep plowing through.  Order a pizza if it gets too late, and explain to the crew that we just need to get these scenes done to stay on schedule.”

Internally I breathe a sigh of relief.  So he’s not gonna walk off the set.  I talk it over with the Producers, and they agree.  The nine-hour day is going to have to stretch a bit longer.  I make a speech to the cast and crew out on the lawn.

“Okay guys.  I know you’ve been here a long time, and you’re all doing a great job…”

Two hours later we’ve set up in the sauna again, and we’re on the 10th take of Flora talking to Mohannad by the bookshelf.

“Do you think we’ve got a few minutes before the planes start taking off again?”

“I think so.”

“Quiet on the set…”

“Rolling…”

“Speed…”

“Action!”

Sarah begins her line, and does pretty well.

“Cut!  One more time.  This time, move a bit more to the left… No, the other left… because you’re blocking Mohannad…”

I position Sarah Martens, and she takes some deep breaths.  Makeup re-powders her nose for the hundredth time.

“Quiet on the set…”

“Rolling…”

“Speed…”

“Action!”

Sarah begins her line again.

“Cut!  Airplane!”

At some point in the night, as my cell phone clock indicates that it is well past 11pm, I realize that I am viewing the scene from somewhere beyond my body, like a car crash victim.  I wipe the sweat from my eyes, and take a shaky breath.  We set up the same scene again.  Makeup… Lights… Camera….

“Action!”

Sarah delivers her lines.  Mohannad enters the scene.  They exchange the words memorized, and Flora turns to leave.  She nearly collides with Mohannad, and I resist the urge to yell, ‘Cut!’  As she disappears off camera into the kitchen, I realize that the near collision looked pretty good.  Real.  We review the footage on the $250 monitor I bought at target, which is now bungeed to a rusty chair.  I’m ready to dismiss the scene, fearing that Mohannad is too far behind Flora, but then I hear a buzz around me from Guy Harrison, Gaffer, and Mohannad.  Mohannad is watching the monitor, and expresses some encouragement that the placement of the characters resembles Bergman.

“Beautiful!”  Guy exclaims.  Hearing this, I decide that if its good enough for Bergman, it will have to do for Tanz.

We set up a couple more shots, and the wrap for the evening.  Condensation from the heat of the summer, lamps, and bodies permeates the house, and I try to clean about around the house, anticipating shooting again in the same room, tomorrow.  Interns from Macalester College roam around, helping to tear down the mess, and Mohannad floats around the living room, experiencing an actors’ high that is contagious.  My body aches from tension and stress.  One of the producers sits on the couch reviewing tomorrow’s call sheet with Ericka Glenn, Production Manager, a lovely woman who stepped in at the last minute when our original Production Manager backed out.  So we’re a few scenes behind, but overall, we did pretty good for our first day.

Later that night, I drop into bed, stinking of sweat and stress.  My girlfriend is asleep.  Has been for some time.  She mumbles something about how did it go, and I tell her it went well.  I close my eyes.  Four hours later the alarm goes off.

Day 2.

avatarBy Dan on
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