Production Day Three

Tuesday, Nov 16

More Photoshop work on the photos in the morning, and printed out the fake bourbon labels my brother Nick designed for scene 27.  Picked up Cathy (as I did yesterday) and we drove up to Belvedere for another day in Betsy and John’s beautiful house.  Everybody’s been eating lunch and hanging out during downtime on their deck, looking out at the gorgeous view of the Belvedere marina and enjoying the warm weather.  Almost like a vacation.

We started out with all the bedroom scenes except for scene 1; first day-for-night, then the morning scenes.  Cathy and Don are amazing together, and all the backstory improv work we’ve done seems to have really paid off – they are totally believable as a long-married couple.

It Was All a Blur

Then upstairs we went for the climactic series of scenes.  Very intense and completely successful.  We struggled a bit over how to do the final shot – I wanted to track back from Tom and Mary sitting at the table, but without a dolly (or the time to set it up) we were stuck.  Luckily I thought of trying a shot from out on the deck, with them framed by the big dining room window, which worked great.  A very successful day.

Production Day Two

Monday, Nov 15

Our first day at our main location in Belvedere, generously provided by my friends Betsy and John.  We started out upstairs, dressing the kitchen, dining room and living room.  Part of that included taking down the prominent painting (which we don’t have rights to) in the dining room, and when I saw that big blank wall I realize how much better it would be to have something there.  Had a sudden long-shot idea and called my friend Tony Grant, who manages the work of his father, the late San Francisco abstract painter and sculptor James Grant.  Tony was completely enthusiastic and generous, and we dispatched Ben in a wild last-minute trip down to S.F. – he was back with just minutes to spare, in time for us to put a James Grant painting up for the shot where we needed it, the second setup of the morning.

Cathy, Don, and James Grant's "Untitled"

Today was deliberately planned as a simple day with just two actors (Don and Cathy) and very little dialogue, but many of the scenes turned out to be surprisingly affecting due to the actors bringing marvelous, unexpected depth and subtleties.  On top of that, many of Lincoln’s shots have a surprising emotional punch of their own, visually.  The crew continues to grow together and everyone is in great spirits.

Finished just slightly over time again.  Completely wired in the evening; spent time working on Photoshopping Cathy and Don photos together to create the “young Tom and Mary” pictures we’ll see in the opening scene.

PRODUCTION DAY ONE!

Sunday, Nov 14

Didn’t sleep much last night, but not because of anxiety — just excited and full of ideas.  Finally just got up and organized a few last-minute things.

The Hot Box – Tom's crowded office

Drove deserted Sunday morning streets at dawn to arrive early at our first location, DC&E on Shattuck Avenue downtown, where I met our heroic PA’s Ted Hayden and Sunday Wang (our third PA, Ben Morrow, showed up later with the best of reasons — he had to pick up the food on the way in).  The next few hours were a fast-moving yet unstressed blur as we loaded in, dressed the location, prepped the actors, and set up the first shot — a wide establisher of “Tom” at his desk, seen from out in the hall, with Sunday and Cortney as extras in the foreground since our regular extras hadn’t arrived yet.  First shot at about 10:20 instead of 9 as scheduled, which seemed pretty good to me for Day One.

From there we moved steadily through our scenes.  Don and Micci (and the extras) were great.  The location was everything we had hoped for, with gorgeous sunlight streaming into the conference room for the last scene on our list, where Tom stumbles out of the presentation and runs through the lobby.  Cortney’s improv-class friend Damion stepped up to play the presenter and ad-libbed beautifully; a nice bit of on-the-spot casting.

Lincoln and Greg, having too much fun

We seemed to find our rhythm as a crew pretty quickly.  Of course, it helped that we were so few, but Lincoln, sound recordist Greg Miller, Cortney and the PA’s all threw themselves in to the work with great enthusiasm and professionalism.  We even managed to have fun.  Most importantly, I was able to focus on the actors as Cortney and the others kept everything humming along smoothly.

We got the last take of Tom’s presentation exit just as the light faded — we were about an hour behind schedule, again not too bad — and even got off a quick unscripted scene of him doing some photocopies, an idea of Lincoln’s for a possible setup moment before Tom and Gene’s big scene in his office.  By then the extras were all gone and our PA’s were putting the location back the way it was and wrapping out the equipment.

Don, Josh, and Micci, not having enough

Then we dashed down the block to shoot Tom in his car for scene 25, out in front of the home of our location contact Ken Garkow, the DC&E building manager, who made the whole day possible by arranging permission for us to shoot.  Ken has a pretty sweet commute of a couple hundred yards (for now — he and his wife just bought a house in El Cerrito and will be moving soon).  He’s also been a terrifically kind and encouraging fan of the project since I first approached him about the possibility of shooting in his workplace.

Lincoln and Ted worked some magic with battery-powered LED’s lighting Don in the car and we were done by 6:30.  A great first day.