Day One(derful)

Yeah, I know it’s a lame play on words.

Forgive me. I’m tired.

And I also know it’s a shitty thing to do to count your chickens before they’ve hatched but–

Eh, fuck it. If G-d spites me, then he does.

The first day of my shoot was–

“Fucking fantastic.” I told my mom. “Better than I had any right to expect it to be.”

We wrapped nearly two hours early, got all our shots and even added some, ate delicious french fries and then topped it off with some subway-style KFC.

Plus with no extras (my attempt to get kids from my high school to be nice to me didn’t work the first time around… don’t know why I thought it work this time) we managed to fill up shots, make them look good and get them done with minimal hassle.

In no particular order I’d thank for this:

1. My mom and dad: They essentially catered the shoot and my mom even stepped in the night before to play a part. My dad drove everyone around all day long and bought delicious craft, while my mom did lockdown for the set on her time off. They also made my crew think my parents were “really cool” which brings me to…

2. My crew. As I mentioned, not only were they filling in as extras, they were also always smiling, laughing, but on point and never obnoxious when we called quiet. I got to talk to all of them on the subway ride over and it was nice to be able to connect with everyone from the new-comer freshmen to my friends of 4 years of school. They were all a pleasure on my set and I’m all too grateful.

3. My DP, Chadd Harbold. I’m not such a forceful guy or director. When most people throw me a question like “how would you like this?”, I usually throw back, “Well, what feels natural to you?” More often than not they had a better idea than I had about what was to be done. But Chadd was there on set being forceful where I was easy-going. He made sure we got all the shots we needed even putting up with my jew-nagging at him. He even got the shots I didn’t even know I needed, but which ended up being really beautiful. By the end of the day his knees were hurting, he was exhausted, but he still helped us wrap out and went in the truck with the equipment like he had in the morning.

4. My producers, Matt and Dave.

I’ve known Matt Chao for all my four years at film school and collaborated with him on every major project I’ve done here. Matt is verbose (read: sometimes irksome) but he’s resourceful, kind and dedicating to helping me. He knows every department with equal ease having performed in each one of them at some point in his Tisch career. To sum up Matt, I offer the conversation we had at the end of the shooting day–

“Got everything you needed?” He asked me.

“I did I did.” I replied.

“Good, let’s start wrapping.” Matt told me.

“And by the way,” He added. “Your Pokemon Rapidash wants to learn a new move.”

“Flare Blitz?” I asked excitedly, my voice turning up at the end.

“Yep.” Matt said.

“So did you teach it the move?”

“I just closed the DS and put it in sleep mode.” He told me. “I figured you’d want to make that decision.”

That’s Matt.

Dave, I’ve known for less time, though I have known him for four years.

Dave “Packer” Broad, named for the high school he went to, is once again a foil; the sort of classically dreamy Jewish guy I’m not, dating actresses and psychology majors and screwing all-over-the-place. I convinced him to produce my film on a hunch by intimidating him everytime I saw him at his NYU desk job, asking me if he’s produce my film, if he’d read my script, if he had an answer for me.

Finally, I knew he had to be right for the job when he accepted it, despite my jackassery.

Since then, he’s worked tirelessly, being the point-man for nearly any-and-everything, available and aware 24-7, dedicated to my film.

I keep on telling him that I want to buy him a beer for all he’s done for me.

And he keeps on saying sure, but then can never make it for the beer.

Too busy.

That’s Dave.

5. My AD, Selom.

I always thought Selom hated me and I thought I was a giant doof-bag (combination “doofus” and “douchebag”) until Cashew and occasional rapscallion Dan Pleck told me she thought I was “hilarious”. When I saw that and how she was tough-as-nails on Dan’s shoot, I knew I wanted her for my film.

Since then, she’s scheduled my shoot down from 7 to 4 days with plenty of time left, saving me thousands of dollars and headaches. She’s one of the main reasons, along with Chadd, that we wrapped nearly two hours early today, keeping us on schedule and the crew happy.

More than that though, Selom is a great coordinator. She commands respect and gets the attention of people easily, helping us take several problematic shots in the morning with her imaginative communication skills.

Not only that, but she took off both paid work and her high-profile internship to be on my film and stuck with me even on the long train ride home. If that doesn’t constitute an assistant director, I don’t know what does.

6. My actors- All of them were great. From Matthew,  who switched gears in 30 seconds when I asked him to and beared with a way-too-early-call-time, to Paton Ashbrook who came on down for just 2 hours to the end of Brooklyn just to play a girl described in the script only as “with big boobs”.

“Lexie,” she said on set. “How about we just call my character Lexie now.”

Tracey who play’s Donnie’s mom came dressed perfectly for the part and held herself well showing a mix of motherly concern, doting and ignorance in the multifaceted approach to her part.

Of particular mention though were Zephyr, who plays Donnie and Jay O. Sanders, who plays Fred.

In rehearsals before the shoot, I kept on trying to find the part with Zephyr. I never knew if he would make it. When I first cast him, he was perfect for the part. He didn’t even audition; he just did it off the cuff in my Directing the Camera class. But without a lens in front of me, I didn’t know.

But on set, he seemed a whole different actor. You can tell someone will be great if you can see the performance in their eyes. And you looked in to his eyes and there was so much depth, not just sadness, but loneliness, anger and alienation. He had really thought about the part and had really given it his all. At one point, the crew even broke out in spontaneous applause for him after a particularly impressive take. And between takes he was always laughing, always happy, always talking to the crew and winning friends easily.

I felt priveleged to work with someone who could so clearly give so much of themselves.

As for Jay, it’s true what everyone had told me: when you really work with a GREAT actor, they don’t just give a great performance, they improve your entire film. Jay wasn’t good; he was scarily good and every take he’d ask a smart question about the lens or offer a smart suggestion for how to make something work. At the same time, he’s very self-effacing for someone of his caliber (the director he worked with before me was Sam Mendes). He even at one point helped me when I was trying to communicate with another actor, turning what was embarassing for me into a learning experience for everyone, which left both me and the other actor feeling good about ourselves.

I feel so honored to have him on.

Which is how I feel about my film and my crew. All of them, even if I haven’t mentioned them individually.

That I have something better than I have any right to.

Now knock on wood that I don’t fuck it up tomorrow.


One Response to Day One(derful)

  1. […] He was, as always, professional and in good cheer, willing to support a “friend” as he generously described me to another peer working the show who he knew. Mr. Sanders was always like that, leading a cheer for me on my on film set and inspiring the people around me. […]

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