Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shoot the Unexpected

Last Sunday, my 24-year old daughter Kallista appeared in the film I am shooting -- her first film scene ever -- as a Nurse administering morphine to a dying magus. I was uncommonly impressed by her composure and the naturalness of her presence. It was a fairly complex scene where I shot multiple angles, a geometry of cat's cradles, to cover the reactions of numerous characters in a small room. Later that night, I shot the regal Felecia Faulkner and the enigmatic Cody Cates Phoenxi in a restaurant scene fueled by a bottle of Merlot and secrets shared between women of the night.

Yesterday I shot all the car scenes with those lovable thugs Man #1 and Man #2 (Nick Walker and Russ DeGregory) and the blindfolded magus (James Wagner). Shooting scenes inside a moving vehicle can be tricky. Between the constant bumps in the road, the lack of distance between lens and subject, and the perpetual audio problems, car scenes are hands-down amongst the most challenging to shoot. We drove across Tilden Park to the backroads of Orinda for five hours to obtain maybe five minutes of usable footage but I got what I wanted and that's all that counts in the end. These frustrations carried hidden gifts. They pushed me to make new adjustments in a key scene that may not have been made without first confronting these difficulties.

Today we returned to shoot more warehouse scenes, an underground zone where crimes are negotiated. However, we could not shoot anything with audio for the first two hours due to the screeching squeals of joyous children in the trapeze workshop next door. So, I shot audio-free cutaways (visual moments and close-up reaction shots) until the screaming stopped.

We then shot the Russian dialogue scenes. Russian, when spoken, always sounds so ominous to me. Maybe it's my Finnish genes but hearing those crunching Russian consonants makes me just want to reach for my revolver. Fortunately, Ilya Parizhsky (who plays VLAD) was there to help us navigate these moments. I was also impressed by the commitment shown by Clody Cates Phoenix to learn some Russian for her dualistic role.

After eight shoot days, I finally have four no-shoot days before me. Friday, I meet with Jasper Patterson and Brian Livingston, two charming actors, to schedule their shoot scenes for the first two weeks of August. They play Adam and Craig, two apprentices to a career magickian named Jack Mason, who are also in business together as clowns who perform their version of "Jack and the Beanstalk" to young children. This film and its story is like a triple-decker fractal funhouse hall of mirrors. It's CRAZY! What guides me through all this spiraling madness is something very simple and uplifting: I look for the unexpected and then, I shoot it.

"To Dream of Falling Upwards"

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