Director’s Journal: Day 3

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Monday, Day 3.

Day 3 begins with a frantic granola bar and cup of coffee.  It’s a beautiful sunny day, which is lucky, because we are scheduled to shoot Kareem and Mohannad on the motorcycle again.  I’m a wreck.  Not only do I have to somehow get the antique bike from Richfield to location in Uptown to shoot without permission in a private parking lot, but Kareem and Mohannad have to ride without a helmet.  To make matters more interesting, Kareem has to ride with an eye patch and cowboy boots.  I start to question the sanity of the whole thing as I follow the actors and Director of Photography, Jeremy Wilker, across town, with the Triumph angrily rumbling beneath me.  It is a finicky bike.  It took way too long to start this morning, and this time, the fuel valves were in their proper position.  I wonder if it will start again once we get to the location.

Twenty minutes later we arrive.  I dismount the bike, drenched in sweat from the anxiety of not getting killed on the way over.  Even after the motorcycle class, I feel awkward on the Triumph.  It almost died twice on the way over, and I had to rev the engine to keep it from stalling.  Its not fun stalling at a traffic light with a long line of rush hour cars behind you.

We set up the bike and camera in the parking lot, which is thankfully pretty empty.  The task at hand is for Kareem to kick start the bike.  Shooting the reflective chrome is a challenge, and we find a spot to set up the camera where the reflection of the camera in the chrome is minimal.  Already behind schedule, we start rolling.

“Action!”

Kareem kicks the starter several times.  Nothing.  I examine the bike, wondering when someone is going to spot us with a camera and come down to shut us down.  Kareem gets off the bike, and I demonstrate how to start it again.

“Ready.”

“Yup”

“Action!”

Kareem kicks the bike into life, but it dies too quickly.  We try again, and this time get the shot we need.

The next shot requires Kareem to ride up the exit ramp, past Jeremy, wearing no helmet and an eye patch.  Miraculously he pulls it off the first time, and we steal the shots just as someone comes out and starts bothering us.

Next we drive across town toward a view that Jeremy likes, where the skyline is prominent in the background.

When we get there I am again covered in sweat.  My hands are exhausted from working the clutch and breaks.  How do people drive across country on these things?

Jeremy sets up the camera on a highway bridge overlooking downtown.  Meanwhile, I’m a block away with Kareem, preparing him to ride over the bridge with his eye-patch.  If Kareem is nervous, he doesn’t show it.   On my cell phone, I call Jeremy, and he says:

“Camera rolling!”

“Action!” I yell, and Kareem attempts to ride off.  The engine dies.  And I jump on and start it again.  Kareem gets back on, and drives off.  Please Jeezus, don’t let me down this time.

I run to the bridge.  Success!  We got the shot.  Next, its Mohannad’s turn to ride the bike, but we’re out of time, supposed to be back on location at Mohannad’s house to shoot the darkroom scene, which our set designers have been setting up all morning.

I hustle the bike two blocks over to where I spotted a great location that matched the color scheme of the movie.  A large yellow moving truck parked in front of an alley.  Perfect, if Mohannad can just ride out from behind the truck, and pass in front of the camera.

We set up the shot, and are almost ready.  A man walks up to the truck, and prepares to drive it away.  Shit!  I want the truck in the shot… I need the truck in the shot.  It’s perfect.  So I run up to the man, and ask him to wait just a few minutes so we can get the shot with his truck.  I offer twenty bucks, but he says he’ll wait for free.  I coach Mohannad on how to pull out of the alley.

“Camera rolling!”

“And, Action!”

The bike dies.  The man in the truck blinks.  I run over and start the bike again, and we repeat the exact scenario two more times, before it works on the third take.  When we finally get it, the man in the truck drives off in a huff.  We breathe a sigh of relief.  Mission accomplished.  Only an hour and a half behind schedule.

Later that afternoon, we prepare for the darkroom scene.  With all of the red lights set up in the stifling basement room, it is well over 80 degrees, and covered in condensation.  Drops of water fall from the ceiling, and the humidity makes it feel like its 90 degrees.

In the cramped room, the shot looks exactly how I envisioned, and Kareem and Mohannad to well with their lines.  I feel reassured when I hear Guy Harrison, Gaffer, commenting on how gorgeous the shot looks.  For a moment I wonder if he is just saying that so we can finish and move on, but I dismiss the thought.  Guy is a pro, and very positive.

Sarah Martens finds the zone, and gets teary eyed for her big scene.  Crouching in a corner behind the camera with James, Script Supervisor, I try not to break into hysterical laughter.  Staying quiet in serious moments has never been my strong suit.  When I was thirteen, I went to Yom Kippur services with my family.  At the end of the long service when the Rabbi read the names of the recently departed, my brother and I would eye each other, wondering who would laugh first.  When the Rabbi read the name, Frank Banks, I was the clear loser.

We make it through the day, and end with a scene in the basement bathroom where Mohannad splashes water on his face.  He does it in one take, and we call it a wrap.

That night I find myself sweeping up garbage in the main level of Mohannad’s house preparing for the next day.  Almost everyone has left except for one of the producers.  She is doubling as the wardrobe department, since Vanessa Miles is out of town until the last week of shooting.  As the last producer searches through the wardrobe for tomorrow’s costumes, she realizes that they need to be ironed.  It is past two in the morning, and well over 80 degrees in the house still.  It’s been a long day, and there is no end in sight.  As I argue over whether or not we should iron, it occurs to me that the coffee maker needs to be emptied and cleaned for tomorrow.  As sweat drips down from my lower back, into my pants, I realize that I should have bought Caribou coffee in a box.

avatarBy Dan on
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