*AZ legislature candidate Blaine Walpole, portrayed by the hilarious Kevin Goss. Photo by Denise Elfenbein.
Principal Photography for “Dead Votes Society” wrapped yesterday afternoon as DP Forrest Sandefer raced against the dying sunlight to catch the last shot of the day.
It has been a hell of a project so far and it was a hell of a day to get it all done. 18 set ups in 7 hours.
There are waaaay too many people who gave so much of their time, effort and amazing abilities to give them all the credit they are due this hot minute. Over 60 people crowded the north steps of Prescott’s historic Courthouse, where politicians from Goldwater thru McCain have played out their political drama. On Sunday, October 28, 2012, we played out our satire of the same high drama
I will say that the cast, Judy Stahl, Dino Palazzi, Kevin Goss, Jody Drake and our herds of extras went above and beyond with their focus, their flexibility and comic characterizations while working in such a public place.
The crew was astounding – from Max Kornhauser’s creative and tireless fight choreography to Forrest‘s on the fly lighting and re-lighting of the shots to pull them off, Chad Castigliano and Matt Montgomery and Deb Gallegos racing from one side of the set to the other getting scrims and lights swung ’round, Cindy Nichols running up and down ladders and keeping the clapboard clacking on time, Penelope Davis – ladies and gentlemen, the amazing Penelope Davis and her crew (Chelsea Stone, Sylvia Boyer, Jasmine Castigliano, Dori Mion, Ginney Bilbray, Andrew Pigeon, Susan Crutcher and Debra Klein Duncan) who turned out such amazing make up designs for our zombies and “normies” with such incredible speed, Phil Hammon and his crew – Nick Stecki and Jerod MacDonald-Evoy – dealing with an ENDLESS stream of motorcycle choppers, dogs and yes, at one point a freaking wandering saxophone player, Cynthia Kitts Sobo keeping the shoot flowing with her assistants Terri New and Kay Pifer, all three of our extra Wranglers – Dan Seaman, Coralie Cole and Cole Lahti for organizing and leading their herds of people through shot after shot, and finally our stalwart, Sean Souva who not only detailed the script continuity with a meticulous eye but came early, stayed late and worked his ass off.
Truly, without our hardworking cast and crew, Angie and I would still be sitting around the breakfast table going, “You know what would be cool?” “What?” “We could make a movie!” “That would be cool!””Yeah.” “What’s on television?”
Thank you all and it’s off to post-production. Viva los Zombies!
Two weeks ago, Carie Hughes (lying down in the picture to the left) portrayed the hapless Poll Worker charged with teaching zombies how to use a voting booth modified for their special needs. Needless to say, it didn’t end well. But, in terms of our shoot, it went awesome, with Carie turning in a great comic turn. Here’s her take on what it was like on the set:
“WOW! What an Amazing day, at the day of the shoot as the poll worker. This was my first time acting in a movie and I wasn’t sure what to expect or how it all worked, but once I arrived and got to make-up then costume I was ready for more. I so enjoyed watching the crew prepare and set up for each shoot. I was so impressed how well they worked as a TEAM.
When it was time for the Director to direct us to his visual of the scene I was so Excited I could hardly contain myself. I loved hearing “Rolling!” then “ACTION!” Each take I got more into it and wanted to give my very best. Working with the 2 Zombies was so cool make-up can make them be so Real.
My final scene was a great test for me on my patience. Laying on the concrete floor for a period of time with blood, guts and other special props was so Intense! The time and preparation for this one shoot was long but fun. I have to admit I loved having all the attention on me, I truly felt like a star:) For the last take it got really messy, but I mentally prepared myself to keep on acting even though I knew what was coming. Once the blood started to shoot everywhere I tried to stay in character. I was thrilled to hear Andrew yell Cut! I couldn’t see a thing but from all the laughter I knew it must have been a keeper:)
I had so much fun and laughed so much- I look forward to the next…
I totally have a new outlook and appreciation for the filming Directors and Actors.”
— Carie Hughes
As we prepare for “Dead Votes Society”s October principal photography, I’m thinking about rehearsals and how to help our actors get ready.
Just today, it occurred to me that while most of them have acted for years with Prescott Center for the Arts, Blue Rose Theatre or other organizations, most of them haven’t done much film work.
One thing we’ll need to work on is this: most films are shot out of sequence. It can be a little strange for an actor who’s used to “starting at the beginning and continuing to the end” on the stage – but film is a different kind of theatre.
Since film has a moving viewpoint, the camera and tripod have to be picked up and moved each time the shot is from a new viewpoint. And, the lights have to change too, so the set is let for that viewpoint. Unless you light it for every viewpoint like a sitcom but . . . brr . . . let’s not think too much about what that would look like.
So, we have to move the camera. Which takes time. Many new film actors may not realize just how “hurry up and wait” a film set can be. You’re ready to move on to the next emotion or the follow up double-take to the joke you just made when . . . “Hold for airplane!” Or, “Can someone tape that cuculoris down? The wind is making the shadow move?” “Who’s got an extra C47?” And that acting moment is on hold.
To minimize the down time and to get through the shoot faster (time is still, sadly, money), the director and the DP will make a shot list and then group the shots by where the camera is shooting from.
So, for example, scene two in DVS has 8 shots. Half of them are a straight ahead “two shots” – meaning its just like a regular news broadcast, a shot of two people sitting behind a news desk.
Since half of the shots are from this angle, we shoot each of them and THEN move the camera and re-do the lighting for the next group of shots. That means the actors will perform minutes 1 thru 2 of the finished scene. Then we stop. Re-slate and they perform minutes 4 thru 6. After we move the camera and re-light the stage, then we get to minute 3 and so on.
It takes some getting used to. But its the only way to shoot a nine minute movie in “just” four days.
In the beginning was The Script. And behold, it was Pretty Good. And so, the writers stayed up late and made The Script into The Shooting Script. Which wasn’t so hard, in that it meant (primarily) that each scene got numbered and that we put Continued at the top and bottom of script pages that actually, you know, continued. But it also meant we had some ‘splaining to do. Scenes that were “you know, then stuff happens” had to start getting a little clearer in terms of what we see and in what order.
But, The Shooting Script came to an end and now it was time for “The Breakdown Sheet.” And so it was another late night.
The Breakdown Sheet is a way to get more specific about a scene. Who’s in it? What costumes do they wear? Are there special effects? A pretty straight forward list of what needs to be on this stage to make movie magic possible.
But, it also calls for a shot list at the bottom of the sheet. And that is where you’ve got to get real about the cinema grammar you are using. How do we go from here to there? How do we show this and how do we achieve this effect with the audience? Start close in? Go wide for The Spielberg Reaction Shot Homage? How wide? That is what we’ve been doing late tonight. Not done yet, but Angie and I understand better what we’ll be asking of our cinematographer on Day One of Principal Photography for The Dead Votes Society.
Can’t wait to see it. Actually, can’t wait to sleep. But THEN…can’t wait to see it.