Day 30 of 70

March 6, 2015

Today, at long last, was our first day of shooting on the [redacted[ set. It was surreal to see it realized through a lens, after all this time; it was almost exactly a year ago that my brother painted the first rendition of it. The first scene we shot there was a subtle homage to either Return Of The Jedi, Rambo or Badlands, depending on who you asked. We finished the major coverage of it just in time for the rain that was already falling to turn torrential, which was handy, seeing as how the next scene was supposed to actually take place in the rain. Ironically, the implements by which we shaped the dim sunlight also blocked most of the precipitation from the camera - but at least the sound of rain on 12x solids set an authentic mood.

Also of note today: Toby played the dragon for one scene. Make a note now to try to guess which one when you see the finished film!

Posted by David Lowery at 2:57 AM

Day 29 of 30

March 5, 2015

A redwood forest is a great place for a nap.

redwoodsnap.jpg dollytrack.jpg logger.jpg

Posted by David Lowery at 3:23 AM

Day 28 of 70

March 4, 2015

This is a day I've long been anticipating: the 28th day of production, which marks the same number of days we spent shooting Ain't Them Bodies Saints. Towards the end of of that shoot, I wanted to die and/or quit making movies. I remember finishing day ten and wondering how I could handle eighteen more demoralizing beat-downs. Of course, the moment we actually wrapped the rose-colored glasses came on, which is why I'm here now, but still - in the months leading up to this gig, the sheer duration of the production grew increasingly daunting. I've never focused on just one thing for anywhere near this long, mentally or physically, and I wasn't sure how I'd handle it or if I could pace myself - although, on the plus-side, I was looking forward to having enough time to shoot things properly for once.

Now, on day 28, I feel fairly certain of two things: one can adapt to anything, and no movie ever has enough time to shoot things properly. Filmmaking, I now suspect, is infinitely scaleable. How else to explain that we are scraping by each day by the skin of our teeth, rushing like mad to complete scenes that demand at least twice the time as we have for them? In the moment, our schedule feels ridiculous and unfair and sometimes comical and often just wrong - but we buckle down and somehow we finish the work. And although I have no idea how we'd do it, I know that if we only had a few weeks to shoot the same script, we'd be finishing it too - just as if we had 150 days, we'd still be running out of time.

And as for how I'm handling it: allow me to delve once more into the marathon metaphor that I find so consistently applicable to every stage of the filmmaking process. When I ran my first marathon back in 2011, I'd never made it past mile fifteen in training. That was about two weeks before the race, and it was agonizingly difficult. It filled me with despair. I considered withdrawing from the marathon altogether. But then I remembered what everyone always told me about adrenaline, how it picks you up and carries you, and decided I might as well give it a go. That morning of the race, the miles just blew by and I remember suddenly realizing I was at mile sixteen and feeling totally great. The last ten miles were hard, but never painful. I knew they were coming and somewhere, on some deep internal unconscious level, adjusted accordingly.

I imagine that's exactly what's happening now.

* * *

If I ever make a movie in which an early-80s pickup truck will be heavily featured, please remind me to have the engine converted to bio-diesel before we start shooting.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:01 AM

Day 27 of 70

March 3, 2015

Shooting action scenes is the best. There is a clear directive for the characters that can generally be boiled down to: don't die. Both the characters and the movie itself - and by degree you, the director - need to get from point A to point B to point C. There are certain shots you need to get there. Each one leads to the next with an undefinable logic. Some of those shots involve big stunts, and even when they don't, they demand a clean, simple clarity that has to be a little bit sharper than everything else. It's a ton of fun. Yesterday I said there were no easy days, but I will now amend that: action scenes are easy. Except perhaps for stunt players and steadicam operators.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:25 AM

Day 26 of 70

March 2, 2015

Every morning I wake up thinking that, twelve hours from now, we'll be over the hump. Then I think - oh wait! There's that scene on Thursday that we still have to get and then we'll be over the hump. Then I look at the schedule and see that Friday is yet another tough one, and then next week there's that other big thing that I forgot about and then....

Sometimes it's an emotional beat, other times it's a tough bit of blocking, often it's just a scene with two or more people in it (always a challenge for me!), every now and then it's a musical number. There are no easy days! Remembering this is important.

Incidentally, musical numbers generally make everything better - the one we shot in ATBS that I shouldn't have cut out of the theatrical cut was one of the best days we ever had on that set.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:04 AM

Day 25 of 70

February 28, 2015

Today we shot the conclusion of a scene we covered the middle of on Day 3 (the beginning of it will be shot next week). The first two hours on set were spent waiting for the most glorious fog to dissipate in the morning light - it would have looked stunning on camera, but there's no way we could have matched it for the rest of the day. As it was, we started the day shooting in one direction with two actors, and then brought them back in the evening to get the reverse coverage, spinning them around from take to take to escape the rapidly advancing shadows. Geography on location runs fast and loose.

In addition to what we shot, the best thing about today was the practical joke we played on my wife, who suffers from a serious case of ophidiophobia and has thus been thrilled to traipse about a country that is entirely snake free - until she got to set today and was given a mandatory safety briefing by the on-set medic that casually included warnings of the rare species of poisonous serpent that had been discovered at this particular location. It was a flawless prank.

Posted by David Lowery at 11:35 PM