If you're in Owensboro on Saturday morning, we'll be shooting at Danhauer Drugs on the corner of Frederica and Main. If you're in the Evansville/Henderson area, we'll be shooting on Sunday at Sureway Grocery at HWY 41 and Watson. You're welcome to watch us at work. But ssssh, we're shooting. Quiet on the set.
I arrived in Evansville, Indiana on Tuesday afternoon, grabbed a rental car and headed for the local Barnes & Noble, which kindly loaned us the remaindered books we need to dress our sets. We owe them a great, big, THANK YOU. Without them, we'd be sunk. I loaded the books in my car and went straight to one of our four locations --- Sureway Grocery in Henderson, where I met our gaffer Lewis Chaney and the store manager, who is incredibly enthusiastic and helpful. It's the perfect location for the opening scenes of our film and I saw exactly how I wanted to shoot it... and how I could steal a lot of coverage with my second camera as I went along. I used my little Flip HD camcorder to take some rough approximations of my shots (for myself, not for anyone else to see)
I drove through a sudden, powerful thunderstorm between Henderson and Owensboro... the worst downpour I've ever experienced....and had to pull off the road to wait it out. Thankfully, it passed in about fifteen minutes and I drove on.
My first stop in Owensboro was at Danhauer Drugs, where the end of our movie will take place. It's going to be cramped, and cluttered, but I am going use that to my advantage from a story-telling standpoint. I'll play up how cramped it is, working with it rather than against it. I figured out how I wanted to re-arrange displays, what I'd have to cheat, and how I could accomplish what I wanted with as few set-ups in there as possible. It's going to work just fine.
My final stop was at the home of Roxi Witt, where we will be shooting the "middle" of our movie. I walked through the house, figured out what furniture and decor needed to be moved out, what we'd have to bring in, and where we'd have to put it. I figured out my shots, used my little Flip HD camcorder to try get'em down for myself, and then called it a night.
This morning, after sleeping for 12 straight hours, I found a booth at the Waffle House, had breakfast, and spent the next two hours going over the script, marking the key dramatic points, the key tonal shifts, and the moments when I felt a close-up was essential, which cameras would take a character's move, etc. Then I went the Riverpark Performing Arts Center, met Roxi and a team of PAs, and went back to her house to "direct" re-arranging and set decorating.
I went from there to Don Moore Chevrolet, which is kindly providing the "picture cars" for our film, then returned to Riverpark to do an interview with the Messenger-Inquirer, then went to Brescia College to give a two-hour talk on TV writing. Afterwards, I met with PJ Starks (DP), Rodney Newton (producer), Lewis Chaney (Gaffer, Location Scout), Adam Tyler (Camera), Pablo Gallastegui (Script Supervisor) and Rachael Nunn (First Assistant Director) to go on our tech scout of the locations...so they could hear what I had in mind, offer their advice, share their concerns, etc.
They asked good questions and had some great ideas. I changed my thinking about how to stage one of the scenes and I liked what we came up with much better than what I initially had in mind. That process also gave me the first chance I've had to convey, face-to-face, exactly how I see the movie -- the characters, the tone, and the look. They got it right away. It came through in their ideas and questions, which were all, as we would say in the TV biz, "on-franchise." They clearly got my thinking on how I want the movie to look and feel.
The one location I haven't seen yet -- since it depends on Fire Department approval -- is the desolate spot where our protagonist burns the evidence of the murder he just committed. That location/decision won't be set until tomorrow... so I'll drive out to see it before or after our production meeting.
I left the tech scout around 11 pm feeling really good about the movie... and confident in the team that Rodney and PJ have brought together for me to work with. I'm sure we are going to have a a lot of fun and believe we'll get the movie done on time and on-budget.
Tomorrow I'm going back out to Roxi's place to trim two bushes myself that are in one of my shots. That's what a hands-on director I am! After that, I have a seminar to lead at Kentucky Wesleyan and it back to Riverpark Performing Arts Center for our production meeting.
(Pictured above -- Lewis Chaney, Lee Goldberg, PJ Starks in Danhauer Drugs in Owensboro, talking about a shot. Photo by Rodney Newton)
We are less than four weeks away from shooting, so today we had our first, weekly production conference call. The participants were yours truly (the writer/director), the D.P, the line producer, the first A.D., and our executive producer.
Our biggest issue remains finding a variety store/discount store location...and while we are still looking in Owensboro, we are widening our search into neighboring communities. Rodney Newton, our line producer, has a hot lead in Greenville, so I am crossing my fingers because I am not thrilled with the photos I've seen of our worst-case scenario locations.
Meanwhile, our crew is filling up, too. We found a new sound guy to step in for the one who had to bail out, added a script supervisor, and are beginning to recruit grips.
We ordered props for the house location and we discussed the logistics involved in getting the two locations dressed for shooting. We also refined the pre-production schedule, set up dates & times for the tech scout, the final production meeting, and Friday rehearsals. And we added more shots to our Friday (Sept 10) night shooting schedule, which was going to be just night exteriors and inserts, to ease up our load on that Saturday and Sunday.
We talked about how we're going to shoot Megan's murder, how much blood we're going to see, and how stylized we're going to be... or not be... with what little violence we have.
And tonight some photos of some of our cast in different looks came in for me to consider.
That's all great, and gets us closer, but I'll feel a lot better about things once we've nailed down a variety store/discount store. Because without that, we're in deep trouble...
In REMAINDERED, the central character is a once-successful writer now on a self-funded book tour through rural America, signing at K-Marts and stores like it. The story unfolds at two discount stores and a house. We've locked down the house location, but we are still looking for a discount store to shoot in (and that would double as two different stores). It hasn't been easy. We're only four weeks from filming and a couple of possibilities have emerged... but the uncertainty is driving me nuts.
I suspect whatever location we end up at will require some adjustments to the script and some cheating. For example, one possible location is an office equipment store...which makes no sense at all story-wise. But if I use an establishing shot of a discount store, and then shoot tight in one corner, and have a bunch of people pushing shopping carts filled with groceries, garden items, etc. past where my protagonist is signing books, I might be able to sell the notion that we are in a K-Mart or Save-A-Lot...and not in an office equipment place.
We begin shooting on Friday night, Sept. 10 and we will wrap sometime in the evening of Sunday, Sept. 12. But the preparation for those days of shooting has already begun. Because we are dealing with a mostly non-professional crew, who have families and jobs and classes, we've spread out the prep over a long period. We also hope that, by starting the prep very early, it will relieve a lot of the pressure on our crew once we begin shooting...
There are three locations in the movie -- a home (pictured above), a discount store (doubling as two), and a remote area off a country road.
We have secured the home and the remote area -- but we still have to nail down the discount store and a back-up in case that one should fall through at the last minute.
In the mean time, there are also many props that have to be gathered, purchased, or made....like the "fake" book jackets for the novels written by the central character or the collection of hundreds of hardcover mysteries our female character owns. We have to "dress" the interior of house a bit to reflect the personality of the female character who inhabits it (as opposed to the real person who actually does).
And we have to organize the manpower - mostly volunteer, and mostly student -- that will help us pull this production off in such a short amount of time.
The script has been set for months, so we've been able to begin prep very early. But now, with a little more than a month left, things are heating up.
This weekend I gave Rachael Nunn, our Assistant Director, a preliminary shot list so she can begin to create a shooting schedule ... in other words, the scenes we need to shoot, and the individual shots/camera angles within those scenes, and the order in which we will tackle them each day to maximize our time and to assure that we get everything we need.
The shot list will also allow PJ Starks, our director of photography to begin thinking of the lights he will need (we've already discussed the look of the film and he's shot some sample footage that I loved), and for Rodney Newton, our producer, to start thinking about the resources we will need and how best to allocate them.
That doesn't mean I won't change, add, or drop shots once I walk the locations (I am doing this all from Los Angeles right now) or after rehearsing with our cast. I want to allow room for inspiration and improvisation...whether it comes from me, the cast, our D.P, our cameraman, etc.
We are very fortunate that Matt Branham, our composer, has already delivered a fantastic theme song for our movie and some underscore as well. He's really captured the tone I have in mind for the film and I hear his music in my mind as I visualize some of the shots. We hope to have two more instrumental pieces for key scenes from him by Sept. 13, when we begin editing the first cut. Our goal is to have the film completed for its first public screening in early October in Owensboro.
Over the next week or so, I hope we firmly secure our discount store location, that we can see the proofs of the book jackets, and that we can start talking about what little things we can do to "decorate" the home our female character lives in.