Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Houston we have a problem!


The shoot went all in all pretty well. What wasn’t expected was our neighbors giving me grief for shooting. I had gotten permission from my landlady about filming, but next door, and across the street the neighbors seemed upset. Now I didn’t need to get permission from these people, but it may have been a good idea to tell people about the movie. I broke no laws, and was well in my rights, but maybe telling others what was going to happen would have probably saved me a lot of grief.

It’s just that one neighbor was a retired police officer, and the other was a city court judge. Both seemed to try and use their connections to shut us down, and yet not everyone was against us. Others were interested in what I was doing, but like the old saying goes it only takes a few bad apples to ruin everything. I even got a call from the film office. They wondered what I was doing, and I told them in essence that you guys knew exactly what I was doing because I went through their office as well as the local SAG office. There were complaints of half naked people running around our set. Now I know it was hot around the time we shot the movie, but if there were naked people running around I think I would have seen them. I guess it sounded like we were some porn shoot. Eventually everything was straightened out, but I suddenly realized that we were under a microscope, and that there are people who didn’t like their neighborhood being invaded by free wheeling artists such as ourselves. What ended up happening was that we switched locations for the end scenes, and we finished up the scenes in the apartment quickly. I even hired two police officers to watch us. This helped because one I had a city official there and it looked like an official sanctioned film, and two the officers helped keep the peace if we ran into any trouble, which we didn’t after that. I even had my father-in-law come down and help with security. He was a retired federal cop, and his presence was a great help. You see dad was a sweet talker, and he was good at what he did. It was also great to have him there, and he got a kick at watching a movie being made. So let that be a lesson to any of you aspiring filmmakers out there. Let the community know what you’re doing. It’ll save you a lot of heartache while in production. Here in Philly it does not cost anything to shoot in the city, and now they provide you with a police officer for free, so there are advantages to film here if you’re an independent. I don’t know if the change in rules had anything to do with our “little” shoot, but right after we wrapped things changed, so I do have a feeling we had something to do with it.

Other problems that arose during the making of the film was that I ruined my uncles carpet in his new house. Luckily I had insurance and they paid for a new carpet. I was most upset by this, since my uncle & aunt had given us permission to shoot in and around their house with no problems. The killing of both Hank and the girl was shortened, and instead of having this big struggle I went with a simple POV shot. It wasn’t too bad, but I was disappointed that what I had originally intended to shoot was no longer viable, and I had to compromise. I even shot some scenes at my cousins house, and eventually cut most of that out after realizing that the film was too long, and that the pacing of the film was terrible. There was some good performances in the scene between Karen & Irene, but it killed the film, so it had to go.

While filming my only thought was to finish, and there was little joy in the process. I had stretched myself so thin that there was a lot to concentrate on. Again not a good thing, but in the end it made me finish the film. Being the editor helped because I became familiar with each roll of film, and I knew where each piece of footage was, and during the filming I knew what I needed to shoot to cover myself. Some of these problems cost me money, but I kept on filming. To stop filming would have been the end of the film. I had no choice but to continue on filming.

I was also concerned about the camera noise I was getting. The noise of the camera was evident, and I hated it. The five words that I hated to say was now a reality, and I knew it would give me more headaches later on. “I’ll fix it in post” were the words I dreaded. Throughout film school I was taught to hate these words. They are a crutch and something that would cost you lots of money, so avoiding it was the order of the day. I was taught that you could avoid this if you planned right, and you can, but there was little time, and again I was stretched too thin. I was just very lucky to find a sound mixer who would do miracles later on. His name was Tom Agnello of Agnello films, and had I known about him earlier I would have given him the job of editing my film.

In the end I came in early on the schedule, but a bit over budget. This filmmaking gig was becoming a major obsession and it wouldn’t stop until a I saw the film projected on the screen at the lab in 2004.

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