The Big Think

July 22, 2009

Making A Movie- day… what day is this?

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 12:41 am

One thing I’ve noticed when you’re in the middle of a production is that you enter this weird zone of timelessness. At one point yesterday we couldn’t remember what day it was and had to ask around. That’s because we’ve been working pretty insane hours every day. We worked 17 hours two days ago, got back to the hotel at 2am and had a 9 am call. Unfortunately, insomnia struck me that night (oh, the timing), and I ended up getting about 90 restless minutes of sleep, only to get up and work a 15 hour day. I ended up getting back to the hotel around 2am and going to sleep at 3. Woke up at almost 2pm this afternoon. Luckily, we don’t have crew call until 12:30 tomorrow afternoon, so we can rest more, which we all need.

In spite of the inevitable frustrations of being a one-man sound department on a feature film, I’ve been having an overall good time. I keep trying to communicate to the powers-that-be how important good sound is, and for the most part, I’m glad to say that I’m listened to. You’d be surprised to hear how often people say that they want good sound and then seem to almost go out of their way to undermine the sound man’s job. The director I’m working with really does understand and trust my ear, so we’re making the best of it even though some of the locations are a bit challenging. I spent today listening to the footage from yesterday and it all sounds pretty good (even though there’s a bit of BG noise in quite a few takes). I feel like we’re getting as good of stuff as we can get under the circumstances, but my perfectionism tends to rear it’s head and want more. Guess that’s what comes from having a sound booth in your own private studio: you get used to REALLY clean tracks and want them everywhere.

I spent about four hours today going through my gear and cleaning/reorganizing everything. I’ve already lost or misplaced several items: my new iPod headphones $30), a wireless receiver pocket ($20), and an adapter cable ($15). I’ve also managed to get my CF recorder sat on and broken, but the production company is going to pay for repairs, so that worked out. We managed to get an identical unit from a nearby University where we had some contacts and it’s working fine, for which I’m very grateful. At this point I really wish I had ponied up the extra $$ for the super-professional level equipment. At the time, the extra $1,000 seemed like a lot, but not having one channel of audio on the set makes that seem paltry in retrospect. I think after I get the unit repaired I’ll sell it on ebay and get the nicer one. It’s built like a tank and can literally be run over by a car and suffer no damage to its aluminum-milled housing. My current one is good quality, but the plastic housing and button position has always left me cold.

We said goodbye to one of our principle actors today. Andrew Sensenig has had roles on Burn Notice, Friday Night Lights, Prison Break, and just finished a small part with Jim Carrey. Andy and I really hit it off and it was a complete joy to work with him. We had one really long conversation where we talked about the industry and his experiences on different sets and I learned a lot. He was full of experience and had a lot of very helpful things to say to me as a sound man. Since he’s a composer as well, he definitely related to the aural side of things. I’ll miss having his wisdom and professional consideration around the set. Funny thing is: he plays the twisted bad guy in our film. Casting against type. The guy is wonderful.

Tomorrow begins the last five days of shooting. We have some challenging scenes coming up that will film inside of a grocery store here in Bloomington. It’ll be a tough audio environment to say the least.

Really good memories from this week:

shooting outside at midnight at the country club and getting some incredible looking footage.

booming Andy during a raging, screaming, high decibel scene last night and nailing two high pressure takes. Lots of movement, very little boom clearance, two-takes only, without-a-net stuff. I had to boom with a very extended boom, keep it about a foot from the ceiling, avoid a ceiling fan, dance like a madman to keep the actor in the mic pattern, and mix one-handed at the same time while avoiding mic shadows. This at the end of the long day. It was a real dig deep moment for all of us and nobody screwed it up. It felt great.

booming a confrontation scene in a medium sized bedroom with a four poster bed, four actors, two camera people, me and my boom, and lots of motion. The actor and I worked out a rough choreography for the scene and it felt great to be part of the action even though I wasn’t in front of the camera. I’ll be proud of that scene when I see it on the big screen.

trying real-life raw tuna sushi with pureed fish eggs. I didn’t really care for it, but I’m glad I did it.

being the only crew/cast member to get a care package at the hotel front desk. Isn’t my wife the best?

having a crew member share memories of his mother, who died one year ago yesterday. It’s been neat to get to know these people and see how our common trials bring about common purpose and closeness. I can’t imagine what it would be like to do this for three months on a bigger project.

finally feeling like we’re starting to “click” as a team and work with each other instead of around each other. We all have stuff to learn, but I’m seeing evidence that people are willing to take other people’s jobs into consideration.

I was talking to a crew member tonight who said that it sometimes feels like each department is just trying to get stuff out of a project for themselves so that they can move on to other things (i.e., the camera dept. just wants good footage for their reel, the actors just want one good performance for casting directors, etc). We agreed that it works best when everybody is looking out for everybody else and we all pull toward a common goal of a great film together. I know that’s the way it is in other industries, but things can feel a little fragmented in the film world.

Five days to go. Time is ticking and we have a lot of scenes to shoot. I’ll be glad for the rest, but it’s definitely an adventure.

Future You

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 12:33 am

Cicero said something similar in his famous essay on old age, “De Senectute,” from which my father often quoted. Almost everything you have in your older years is by reason of having it passed down to you by your younger self. Your habits of life and health, your home, your family, your savings. So said Cicero. (That’s alliteration, friends.)

This is a powerful lesson for us all. If we want to have a decent life in our latter years, especially with Social Security and Medicare nearing collapse, we need to accumulate while we are young. We most of all need to accumulate habits of sensible living — and especially not spending beyond our means.

The young you can save money, teach the old you how to live sensibly and train the old you in decent habits of care. The young you might want to take a few minutes every day to imagine the old you, unable to work, possibly because of health, possibly because of the economy, and plan accordingly.

The young you might want to acquire skills that will be of use even if there is a downturn in one or more sectors of the economy. The young you might want to find a life partner who behaves sanely.

And this is the key part: The younger you is you right now. However old you are, you are younger than you will be tomorrow.

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