Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Day on the Set of WHERE WE BEGIN

Where We Begin is an upcoming short film written and directed by Mitsuyo Miyazaki, the highly acclaimed director of Tsuyako.  My lovely wife Melissa Pritchett went to Southern Utah University home of the Utah Shakespeare Festival with Mitsuyo and they were recently reunited after about a decade of being apart.  In fact, it was on our recent trip to the Festival that Mel and Mitsuyo ran into each other and Mel was asked to be the costume designer on the new film.  As arrangements were made for Mel to spend about two weeks in Cedar City where the school is located and filming would take place, Mitsuyo expressed the desire to have our Kaylee in the film as well, and invited her to be a gypsy if we could get her to the set.

Call time for the "gypsies" was 10:30 AM.  However, since the wife is the costume designer she had to be on set with everyone else by 8:00 AM.  We figured we might as well come up with the rest of the crew.  The drive to the location was not very much fun.  Oh sure, it's only 30 miles from our hotel, but 27 of those are completely unpaved.  Our little Honda Fit is not designed for unpaved road.  Most passenger cars aren't.  They especially aren't designed for mud.

Basically the drive was 10 miles on a somewhat paved road called "Lund Highway", then a right turn and 17 more miles on the dirt.  Now I had been told it was sort of dirt, but I really didn't understand.  If I had, we probably would have gotten a ride from someone else.

I mentioned mud right?  Well about two miles short of the location the rain from previous Summer storms created several mud bogs, and one very very large lake in the middle of the road.  A lake which would prove to be impassable to all the vehicles, least of which the large commercial rental trucks carrying props and costumes.  THEY, however, could go around and there were several SUVs and other larger passenger cars which could make the final few miles.  Just meant that we had to leave our car on the side of the road, three miles away from the location and had to wait almost a half-hour to get to the site.  Could have been worse, one of the trucks got stuck in the mud, and that was an important truck.  Our car had only one tiny meat-puppet who wasn't that important to the film.

Well, we finally get to the location about 9 or so, I forget to be honest.  As soon as we're there we can relax because Kaylee's scene isn't until later, and the other gypsies didn't need to be in costume yet.  We watch filming.  We watch the rest of the crew show up.  We see the livestock enter the picture.  We're told not to go near the sheep.  We don't.  We snack on the craft-services grub.  We bond with the other extras and principals.  Fortunately there are a ton of kids in these scenes so Kaylee had a lot of fun making new friends and playing with them.

One thing about filmmaking in general that you really need to understand, is that the environment is very chaotic.  It's a controlled chaos usually, but I've been on enough sets to know that it's pure chaos.  Questions like "how long is that going to take" should never be asked, especially by the extras or the extras 'people.'  Mostly because when you ask that it's guaranteed to take longer than you'd like.  The shooting schedule, as best I can tell, got rearranged several times to accomodate the drone camera.  I'm still not sure how they wrangled it, but they managed to get a $30,000 drone with an incredible camera to do overhead and 'helicopter' type shots.  It was AMAZING to watch, and quite frankly I could have watched them do that all day.

It's a beautiful piece of technology that is functional and good looking.  The 8 propellers are powerful enough to take the thing pretty damn high, and the noise isn't all that bad.  The most impressive part I think though is the smoothness of the motion, the video looks like it's shot by a steadicam.  Oh and they had live feeds to the director.  I'm telling you, the footage is going to be incredible.

The problem though is that they can only fly a few minutes at a time.  Of course each session means multiple takes and the meat-puppets, especially the small ones, get tired and need resources like water and food.  Needy meat-puppets.  At about noon the first AD comes over and lets all the extras know that the Gypsy scenes are being moved to the last few shots of the day, and that instead of being let go at 3 PM which was the original stop time if we wanted to be in the film we'd have to stay until well after 6 PM.  No big for us, we'd planned to stay anyway, but we did lose a couple of the younger gypsies to time.  Ah well.

I believe it was actually well after 4 pm that the gypsy scenes began to be filmed.  If I'm recalling correctly there were three setups with the gypsies, they're pulling carts around the homestead when the main dancer character Leo sees the lead dancer character Sophia.

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