Finally, I was ready to shoot this goshdarn beast.
Wednesday, April 10th ~ Photo Shoot Day
These photos were of my main characters in their younger years, to be used as flashbacks during the film. I used younger actors: Lisa Rose Snow, Kirstin Howell, Rebecca Regan, Margaret Smith and Emlyn Murray. Jeremy Webb was on hand to play a variety of limbs (which will make sense when you go see the movie!).
- Midnight-6am – Didn’t sleep much thanks to the swarm of lunatic butterflies dive-bombing my stomach.
- 6am – Admitted sleep defeat and got up.
- 6:45am – Packed car with costumes, make-up, muffins and water bottles.
- 7am – Drove to the Neptune Theatre carpentry shop (my amazing sponsor) to pick up a trunk, side table, and fake sunflowers for the photo shoot.
- 8am – Arrived very early at Sylvia’s (my production coordinator) house. Waited outside playing 7X7 on my phone for twenty minutes.
- 8:30am – Arrived at Aperture Studios. Lucked out with some rock star parking near the entrance (parking down town Halifax is nuts). Unloaded above gear.
- 8:45-9am – Paced nervously around dreaming up all the things that could possibly go wrong. Tried to portray a calm and cool demeanour. Failed.
- 9am – Cast started showing up and getting into their fabulous circus costumes and make-up.
- 9:30am-1:30pm – Photographer Brian Larter took hundreds of incredible pictures of my tricked out cast. I stood around and watched and occasionally offered suggestions for poses.
- 1:30pm – Keeping to our schedule almost perfectly, we wrapped up, piled everything into the car, and called it a day.
- Sure that things are not supposed to go this well, I took the stress-free and fun photo shoot as a sign that the upcoming day for the film shoot would be a disaster.
Friday, April 12th ~ Cast Meeting
As you probably don’t remember, I approached my dream cast back in December. The extremely talented and generous founders of LunaSea Theatre, Martha Irving, Mary-Colin Chisholm, Mauralea Austin and Sherry Smith, agreed to take a chance on me and be in my movie. Having them on board is actually what kept me going through those dark nights of the soul (otherwise known as pre-production).
I wanted desperately to meet with them well before rehearsals to read through the script a few times. It is one thing to hear your script in your own head and think it sounds wonderful. It is another thing entirely to hear it read aloud by actors and find out all the places it’s choppy or flat or just plain doesn’t make sense. Sadly, due to their busy schedules, we were never able to make this work. So, two days before we were going to shoot this thing we met for the first time.
As a first time director, I was scared. Fortunately, the first reading sounded fantastic, and made me realize that sometimes the best thing you can do as a director is back off and let your cast do their jobs. This was incredibly valuable information that made the rest of the weekend feel like a breeze. We talked a little bit about the script, and called it a day.
Saturday, April 13th ~ Rehearsals & Production Meetings
This was the first time me and my cast and crew had access to the location where we would shoot the movie – the Neptune Theatre carpentry shop, kindly loaned to us by the theatre.
- 12pm-4pm – I met with the cast on set. We read through the script over and over, working out the beats. As this is a poker game, the hardest part was choreographing the movement of cards and poker chips so that it made sense to the actors, and would look consistent from take to take.
- 1pm-3pm – While I did that, my food minions ran around town buying food, drinks and batteries for the following day.
- 4pm – Gear minions collected gear being stored in their homes and offices and started to drop it off at the space. I think we had gear coming from 5 different places. I had no idea how we’d keep track of it all.
- 4pm – I let Sylvia and Corey loose to decorate the set. It was supposed to be the workshop of a former circus performer. One of the many benefits of our location was access to the Neptune Theatre props. They went nuts, filling the workshop will all kinds of colourful paraphernalia you might find in an old clown’s studio.
- 4pm – Crew members (all folks I’d never met before) started to show up to get familiar with the space and meet each other – and me.
- 5pm – My director of photography, Becky Parsons, arrived straight off a truck from Toronto. This was one of the huge gambles of the show. I really wanted her to be my DOP. But she was getting a ride from a trucker friend, and could only arrive the evening before. If anything went wrong with this transportation plan, I’d be up movie creek with no one to hold the paddle/camera. I’m not normally a gambling type of gal, but I’m glad I took a risk on this one!
- 6:30pm – Everyone left feeling fairly confident of the day ahead. They all told me to sleep. Yeah. Right.
Sunday, April 14th.
- 6am – Got up after yet another night of not sleeping.
- 7am – Picked up ice from the grocery store and a huge carafe of coffee from Tim Hortons.
- 8am – Arrived on set and started setting up the food station.
- 8:30am – Crew started arriving and doing the magical things they do to set up lights and the camera and sound gear.
- 9am – Cast arrived and immediately did a run-through of the script for the crew to see. Then headed off to wardrobe and make-up.
- (Through all of this, I did very little. It was so very weird to have all of these people I barely knew working their bums off for me, and all I needed to do was stand around and look calm. Not feel calm. Look calm.)
- 10:30am – The cast was on set, the crew was in place, the camera was on. On my directors monitor (a screen where I watch what the camera is shooting), I saw a slate appear with the name of my movie, and my name listed as the director. That moment right there made all the stress of the last half-year totally worth it. I called “ACTION!” for the very first time in my life.
- 10:30am-6:30pm – We made a movie. That makes it sound so easy. But from my point of view, it was. I was surrounded by professionals who knew what they were doing. I stayed out of their way, called “action” and “cut”, gave the occasional note to the cast or to Becky, and watched everyone else work extremely hard.
- 6:30pm – We finished up only 15 minutes later than scheduled, which I think is some kind of movie miracle.
- 6:30pm-9pm – With the cast gone, now came the clean-up. Gear was packed and sorted, props were returned to storage, and food scraps were cleared out. Pretty anti-climactic, really. I suppose if you actually have money, the director gets to leave and other people take care of this part. But I had to put my producer hat back on and make sure we left the location as we found it.
And then, all of a sudden, it was over. The thing that had been consuming my life for six months, this long, slow build up to the shoot, was done. With that over, I now had to figure out the world of post-production…
Movie Gear from The Atma Study
Photo Shoot Cast by Brian Larter
Curtains Slate by Becky Parsons