Monday, July 24, 2006

Family Business

We’ve begun our third and final week of shooting on Dismal. I really should have been better about documenting every day of it here, but with the shoot, plus the regular job, plus the move into the new house, well, I just didn’t.

Anyway, let me tell you a story that explains how it’s been going.

There’s a scene where Croaker knocks Bill out by the water, and Bill falls in. Now, this water is nasty, dirty, spooky swamp water, full of bugs and snakes and critters and That Which Shan’t Be Named.

Because of that, the grips had rigged a platform for Greg Lee (playing Bill) to fall onto. Easy. He falls out of frame, we foley a splash and cut to a shot of Croaker dragging a wet Bill onto the bank -– and it would have been good.

But no, Greg wants more than that. Greg wants to be real. Greg wants to take the dive.

So here’s this handsome young actor from Hollywood, who just finished up work on a nice drama in plush Hawaii, taking a faceplant into who knows what, without being asked to do so, all in the hopes of making this film as good as it can be. (Minutes later, by the way, we found a water moccasin a few feet from where he splashed in…)

This is exactly the attitude of every single person working on this thing. Make-up and wardrobe scramble to make changes from one look to another to accommodate a wish to juggle the schedule. Grips lug tons of equipment through the forest in intense heat all day long. Actors bust their ass in the heat and muck for far less money than they’re worth. PAs do every single thing asked, and a lot that’s not asked, to help out. The art department somehow creates an amazing world in the middle of nowhere with just about no money and far too few helpers. One guy, Wes, who’s not even on the show, comes in to grip for free on his day off from another project and builds a bridge through a particularly muddy area on his own time and with his own materials. The investors, who have already so graciously trusted us with their money, are sad that they weren’t able to do more to pitch in. All the other departments, including post, are doing similar stuff.

A visitor to the set said to me, after watching the cast and crew work, “That’s some family you got there.”


Thanks fam.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Yin For Your Yang

So we’re on day three of Dismal’s principal photography. Couldn’t be more excited.

We’ve got a great crew who all are committed to making this a hell of a movie. No one’s getting paid much money, either, and they’re working outside, in intense heat, with ticks and biting flies and all sorts of things. But man are those locations beautiful.

The three lead actors have really impressed me. When we were casting we relied heavily on the feelings we got from these guys. We didn’t have the time or resources to do a lot of reads with them so we had to trust our guts.

The guts have paid off.

William Gregory Lee is nailing the arrogant ignorance of Bill. Scott Miles has the everyman integrity of Matt locked up. And Richard Riehle is definitely bringing the creep with Croaker. (Go ahead, IMDB or Google them –- you know you want to. By the way, on IMDB, Scott is listed as Scott Miles (II).)

Goddamn it’s exciting to see these guys bring the script to life.

We are of course dealing with all the production headaches that come with any shoot. We had to cut some scenes that I loved because shooting them became unfeasible. I’ve had to adjust a lot of action to fit the locations and context.

And I’ve been having to be at work fulltime, so I haven’t been able to be on set much yet. This is killing me. Yes, I’m the screenwriter –- but I’m also a producer. And since I’m a producer with a ton of experience in fixing things on the fly, who happened to write the script… I really need to be there when adjustment decisions have to be made on set.

I have a few days of vacation coming to me, so I’m gonna pick the five weekdays that I think shooting is most important and be on set for them. Those, plus the three weekend days, plus stuff before and after work is going to have to be it.

Makes me understand what Greg’s going through over at the Web of Lies and Deceit, as he hears of discussions going on about his script, without him involved as a producer.


To go along with the exciting.

But everyone needs a little yin for their yang.