A Celluloid Being: Production Part I

Screen shot 2014-12-08 at 4.46.31 PM

I’m the short floating head. Isn’t it great how my black t-shirt blended in perfectly with the night? Even though I look pretty ridiculous, I love this picture. I love this picture because it represents the completion of two days that had caused me a great deal of stress for about four months. Yes, it’s true; I shot my movie! And it feels damn good. It’s like I’ve had to piss really badly and finally found a bathroom. 

Production is probably my favorite part of filmmaking (other than when I’ve completely finished a project.) It’s when I really feel like I’m in my element.

I am particularly keen on directing. Writing is great when I’ve finished a screenplay (and I really love special effects makeup, (oh god, I’m losing my point)), but I know I am where I am supposed to be when I am directing. There is an episode in Spongebob when Patrick falls down a hill and the top of his head gets cut off. It flies into a pile of rocks/ sea objects that look just like his pink conic crown. He accidentally picks up one of the cones that isn’t his cranium and screws it onto his head. When he connects his new upper head to his bottom head a power outlet and plug connects within and he becomes really smart. That’s how I feel when I am directing. Something clicks and I become this person that is confident and knows what she wants. Of course I can get flustered on set, but it honestly feels like I’m working with some sort of advanced brain in my head or like my mind is working ten times faster. I can tell that my brain works extra hard because when I get home, I immediately pass out, completely exhausted. I’ve fantasized about being a superhero for as long as I can remember and when I direct a film –– especially something I’ve written –– I get the closest I can to having a superpower.

By no means am I tooting my own horn. I definitely don’t think that I’m the best director out there, but I just feel like I can do something right when I am.

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So here is a brief (maybe not so brief) explanation of what went down:

Before I start saying anything, I’ll give you a list of my cast and crew because I’ll be referring to them constantly.

Ari – Main Actor

Frances – Main Actress

Anya – Producer

Mimi – Cinematographer/Director of Photography

Gillian – Assistant Director/ Sound Recorder

Tyler – Lighting

Glenn – Supporting Actor

Skyler – Extra

Jackson – Extra

Kyle – Extra

 

PREP:

The most important thing that needs to be done is to make sure everyone is on the same page as to what is going on. I sent an email out to all of my cast and crew at the beginning of the week to make sure everyone was clear. It outlined all of the logistics of the weekend of production. It reads as follows:

“Hey all. Okay so here is the lowdown on what is going on for the film shoot.

On saturday: I need Ari to get to my home at 2:30. I need Gillian, Mimi, and Frances to get to my home at 3. Tyler can get to my house at 4:30.

On saturday: we are going to shoot everything except the fight scene, which includes Beau running down the street, walking home with his sister, and talking as they look at stars.

Plan to stick around until 8:00PM. We will probably end sooner, but you never know.

On sunday: I need Ari and Mimi to get to my home at 2. Gillian you can come when mock trial lets you leave. I need the other boys (Skyler, Jackson, Kyle, Glenn, possibly someone else) to meet us at Douglas Park in Noe Valley at 3.

On sunday: we are going to shoot the fight scene.

Plan to stick around until 5:00PM.

Costumes: All actors must wear clothing that does not link them to 21st century san francisco. The movie is not set in the past, but we don’t want people to look at you and specify where and when in America you are from based on style. Think suburban summer. Jeans or shorts (athletic) and t-shirts or tank tops are fine please don’t wear too tight pants or shorts. No logos or writing unless you check in with me first.

I have the script attached to this email so everyone can take a look at it before we shoot.

I’ll keep you updated and in tough. I’ll probably text you all a good deal over the next few days.

I can’t thank you guys enough. It means a lot that you guys are helping me out.

This movie is probably going to be in media nite, so let’s make it good!

-Maya”

Setting times with everyone is probably my least favorite part of the process. But that is why I have my sister, Anya, who did most of the talking before we got on set. She is an aspiring film producer and she is a lot better at talking to people through normal human interactions than I am.

The day before the shoot my mom and dad went to Costco and bought chips and dip, cookies, Juice Squeeze, and sandwich materials for my actors. Food is essential for all movie sets because when the cast and crew are hungry, they get cranky and don’t want to work anymore. It’s also a great thing to have when you can’t pay your actors with anything else. But throughout my years of filmmaking, I’m come to the conclusion that teenagers will work for delicious food.

I also looked over the screenplay a few more times. Completely familiarizing myself with what we were filming and the order in which the shots were going to be taken. I did have an assistant director (AD) who does all the shot organization on a professional shoot, but on my sets, that job is another pair of eyes for the acting, cinematography and anything else that no one is there to do. God bless my AD, Gillian. She recorded sound and was the older sister of my young actor, Frances.

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I also made sure I had all of my equipment charged up and ready to go. Here is a list of all the things I used:

Standard tripod (the brand name is eluding me)

2 LED lights and 2 light stands and extension cords

Canon T3i DSLR

Canon 70d DSLR

Zoom H4n recording device

Various can headphones

Minivan

Wheelchair

A boatload of makeup (mostly owned by my actor, Ari)

Other than the Canon T3i, the Zoom H4n and my parent’s minivan, I borrowed everything else. I got the Canon 70d from my close friend, Anna, the makeup from my actor, and the rest from the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts Media Department.

Some may ask, “Why did you need two cameras, or a minivan, or a wheelchair?!”

Don’t worry, the answer makes sense. You’ll just have to read on.

To Be Continued…

Until Next Time,

Maya

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