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Saturday, February 5, 2005

Day 10 Recap

DAY TEN (Friday, October 15)
Locations: Beach, Anna Maria Island, Florida

Nine days into our beach party rock and roll monster movie and finally we get a full day of beach shooting. In fact, the last two days of production are going to be shot right outside of our production office/beach house. That’s the beauty of exterior location shooting (beach, forest, desert), just turn the camera around and you have a whole “new” location. According to Reagan’s script supervisor reports, here’s what we have left to shoot: about thirty pages of script; 34 scenes, approximate 42 minutes of screen time; two more long, long days. The only encouraging thing is that the majority of the beach scenes are walk ‘n’ talk (a favorite of the no budget film, if you haven’t noticed by now), which require little or no coverage. I’ve planned for simple dolly tracking shots that follow along with our actors, no coverage, no cutaways. The actors just do the scene from start to finish one, two, maybe three times and we move on to the next set up. Hopefully the dialog will be interesting enough and the location visual enough that it won’t matter if it’s not the most dynamic in the world.

Biggest potential problem with beach shooting: sand in the equipment. Compounding factor: a stiff, constant wind blowing along the beach all day. The good work of our camera crew keeps anything from going wrong and we have no problems with scratched film or the camera breaking down.

We shoot one of my favorite setups of the whole film Friday afternoon. It’s scene #30, where the police officers and scientist John Patterson examine the mysterious debris for the first time. We set up a fairly square wide shot with the 4 actors standing in a line on the far side of the debris. As John pokes around in the debris, the camera dollies in toward the actors, settling along the side of the debris, ending in a medium profile of John with the policemen reacting right into the camera. When I first saw the film transfer of this scene, I exclaimed, “It’s a real movie! It looks just like a real movie!” The combination of talented actors, good costumes, a camera department that can execute a smooth dolly move (on the cheapest of dolly track in loose sand), a beautiful location and perfect weather makes for a breath-taking shot. Maybe for the average viewer, it just looks like any other movie, but for me, just getting to that ‘just like any other movie’ quality is quite an accomplishment.

Another fun sequence is the scene where Deputy Frank meets his demise at the hands of the Skunk Ape. Just one week before shooting, the actor cast for Frank had to leave the production. The character has just two scenes, but due to the nature of film scheduling, those scenes have to be shot Tuesday and Friday while we’re in Florida. That means a lot of sitting around for an actor that’s killed off on page 10 of the script. At Evan’s encouragement, I cast Assistant Director Alex Orr in the role after one brief phone conversation. [Alex went on to Direct the awesome film Blood Car a couple years after this.] For anyone who has been on a film set, you know how appropriate it is to have a death scene for the AD. His job is to be the bad guy, to yell at the cast and crew, to keep the entire production on schedule. While Alex is incredible at his job-- he’s kept the production moving without any conflicts or breakdowns-- it’s inevitable that he’s going to get on people’s nerves. For his death scene, the script calls for him to walk up to the debris, hear a noise, peer into the debris, drop his flashlight, and get pulled into the debris with a scream. For the last shot, I want a POV shot from inside the debris. Art Director Lisa Yeiser simply makes a wreath of seaweed and palm fronds to put in front of the camera which we set on the ground tilted up. Ned is nowhere to be found, so Lisa dons the gorilla gloves and crouches just out of frame. Alex leans in (cue creepy music)… the hairy hand slowly reaches up… he screams… and cut to the next scene. It’s too early in the film to reveal the Skunk Ape entirely, so keeping him mysterious will hopefully maintain some kind of tension. That is... until the audience sees the $99 gorilla costume. All in all, Friday is one of our best days shooting. We get all the shots we planned and nobody had to say up all night.

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