The Death March, or An Evening with Heinous Feta

We were now in the middle of the second week of shooting and had moved the set to Kim and Kareem’s house. Exhausted and strained after the first week of shooting and hardly having recovered during the single day off the we’d got after seven or eight days of 14-18 hour days, we hadn’t yet adjusted to the rigor and intensity, which I think we had by the third week.

We had decided to start our day late, at noon, because there were plenty of night scenes scheduled and we realized that we would be shooting well into the night. We had misjudged our capacities!

Trouble began when Sarah seemed not to give Dan what he was looking for. She was, like most of us, obviously enervated and was acting daffily. We took a break, she collected herself and we pressed on.

Later, by now evening, Adam and Mohannad had a scene to be shot in which Mohannad demonstrates the proper way to consume feta, a complex scene in terms of the number of lines and precise movements: dressing the feta, breaking the pita, scooping, depositing, chewing, and more—all quite orchestrated by Dan. Needless to say that we had to execute multiple takes before we had delivered an appreciable one. By then I had lost patience with having to repeatedly taste some wretched pita and feta! Look for the outtake related.

By about midnight, two things had become obvious: that we had grossly underestimated how late we would have to go to deliver the scenes scheduled and that the majority of cast and crew were dog tired. Yet we persisted, because our shooting schedule was decidedly tight, as of course was our budget (What budget!) Dan understandably didn’t want us to fall behind.

Around two, while shooting a scene, Dan exclaimed “Cut!” then asked Jeremy, “Why is this out of focus?” Jeremy responded somehow and we set up again. Dan again hollered “cut” before Mohannad and Flora had concluded the lines for the scene. “What’s going on?” I asked Dan. He discreetly told me that our cinematographer must be out of sorts, so as not to focus his camera.

When we moved to discuss this with Jeremy, he responded that it must have something to do with the “death march that we had been on for the last couple of weeks.”

Dan insisted that we try to march on, citing the importance of our staying on shooting schedule.  Jeremy then turned to my sister and said, “Aman, let’s go for a run around the block!” Always a good sport, Aman obliged. I watched them take off, Jeremy high stepping and charging at once. “What a pro!” I thought to myself.

Yet, the run was not enough. We managed to wrap one, maybe two, scenes upon Jeremy’s return, but soon realized that our second wind wasn’t going to carry us far. We wrapped the day at around 3, with several scheduled scenes not having been shot.

We were concerned, but not overly so, and by the middle of the third and last week of shooting, we had caught up. We went on to shoot the film on schedule and within budget. Oh, yeah, what budget!

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