I have the pleasure of spending this weekend working on BU MFA student Julie Reizes thesis film. For me, the most exciting part about this particular shoot is the location: Philadelphia. I’ve hardly left New England during my life, so its refreshing to get to spend some time elsewhere. I’ll be updating this post with stories and happenings from set, beginning with:
Packing the Van
Packing the van before a week-long film shoot is always a tedious yet important task. Checking that all of the equipment – cameras, sound kits, lights, etc – is in working condition is a time consuming process, but is crucial for a smooth film shoot. If we find out at BU’s Field Production Services that a piece of equipment doesn’t work, we save ourselves the hassle of finding out that it doesn’t work on set. Similarly, carefully loading everything into the van or truck ensures that everything is safe and accounted for on the long trip.
The Ride There
We’re staying at Julie’s house in Northern New Jersey, a six hour drive from Boston, and the longest drive I’ve ever taken. But I love a good road trip.
After picking up sound designer Michael Moote (or DJ Masta Moote as some folks prefer to call him), we took a pit stop at Boston Market (in Connecticut). Its funny to me that the first time I ever ate at Boston Market was outside of the Greater Boston area, but hey. The sweet potatoes taste just as sweet in Connecticut than in Boston, I’m sure.
Not to make this post totally about food, but what I was most excited for during this drive was the crown jewel of rest stop foods, the cream of the crop, the bees knees, the object of my desire: Cinnabon. With only a few miles left of what turned into an 8-hour drive (Thanks traffic at the George Washington Bridge), I had all but given up hope of finding my this sweet nectar of the roadtrip gods. But then grip/electric Mike Nusbaum (who you might remember from The Fifth Floor) chimed in: “Cinnabon ahead.” And It was. And it was delicious. I’m totally getting one on the way home too.
The best part of my drive here, however, was the last two minutes of it. We had burned off all the daylight and were now shrouded in the darkness of nighttime. My GPS told me we were just two minutes away. And it told me to take a left. But what I didn’t know is that there was a median dividing the left side of a shirt stretch of street from the right side. Woops. I accidentally went up a one way street. I panicked, but turned my high beams on to alert any cars coming my way. They gave us an aggressive honk of the horn, and we escaped. Only to see a police car ahead. Who promptly pulled me over. Just to be clear: an 8-hour drive without even the tiniest incident, and two minutes away from my destination, I get pulled over for a silly mistake. Luckily, this was world’s nicest police officer. He just wanted to make sure I wasn’t intoxicated (says a lot about my driving). Then we were off again, and after trying to figure out which house is Julie’s, we safely arrived at our destination. I texted my mom to let her know. That’s the rule.
The First Night
We had a very casual, laid back first night, as Julie’s mother and brother treated us to some delicious barbeque, drinks, and dessert (a Philly cream cheese puff, I believe it was called). I was also served a crisp mug of Cherry Coke, which is well known to be one of my favorite beverages. Then it was time for business: we discussed what needed to happen the following day to get us ready for a week long shoot and to have a successful first day on set. There’s a Budget van full of equipment to be unloaded, and carried up several flights of stairs, and then subsequently set up. It’s going to be a busy day, but a fun one. Off to Philly!
Prepping the Location
We are super lucky to be filming at beautiful Bryn Mawr College. The buildings here are like castles – inside and out. We spent the day preparing the location for shooting, which begins tomorrow. We set up lights in every nook and cranny, some mimicking lights that were already there, others posing as daylight through doors and windows to create contrast in the scene. Now that the set is prepped, we can focus on shooting tomorrow with little distractions – everyone knows the plan and everyone is on board. Onto shooting!
The First Day of Shooting
On this set I am a gaffer and grip. What that means is that I’m responsible for lighting the space, and for cleaning up the light that I spread out. Much of my job was done on the prep day, but on shooting days, I need to be on standby in case something needs to be fixed or changed.
Last night, for instance, a light we had hung in the hallway fell down. I was called in to put it back up. I wasn’t comfortable using the method we had used previously, because safety is important on set, and someone could be hurt by a falling light. This time around we hung the fixture from a C-stand.
In one of the rooms, the director of photography, Alvaro Congosto, was unhappy with the way the light was shining through the windows. He wanted them to appear glowing white, or “blown out”, rather than clear and translucent. He had me cut out rectangles of what is called diffusion paper – a plastic sheet that spreads out the rays of light so they appear “diffuse.” It is partially opaque, so the it appears to glow when hit by light.
Once I finished with that, I needed to hang a china ball – one of those recognize able paper spheres that casts a nice, soft light. However, we needed this light to be daylight balance. Daylight has a different color temperature than incandescent light, and because we were using natural daylight through the windows, this new source needed to match. Thankfully Julie’s mom was at Home Depot, where she purchased a daylight balanced light bulb for us to use in the china ball. At 5000K (the color temperature) its a near match to the daylight of the windows.