Monday, October 15, 2007

Raul's Take: Day 01: Fort Qu'Appelle

by Raul Viceral, Assistant Director

It's finally here! The shoot has begun! We started out the day meeting everyone at the university to load up props, equipment and snacks. We'll have to stop by C's studio every morning to load up before heading out to the different locations, then come back afterwards to store everything again overnight.

C's studio packed full of filmmaking goodness.

We had to be packed up and in Fort Qu'Appelle (an hour drive east) by noon.

Careful with that camera, Andrew!

Kristine hauls her fake rock prop through the food court.

While we were loading up the car and trailer, we ran into Chris St. Amand in the woodshop working on the ship's wheel prop. This thing is going to be awesome!

Looks good so far.

Thank God (and Jackie) for this trailer. We don't know what we would've done without it!

Whoa! Andrew's on fire already!

Go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o Sisu!

After an hour's drive east, we reached Fort Qu'Appelle and the home of The Hardings, who are friends of our previous art director, Brette, and who agreed to let us shoot on their property. Thanks The Hardings!

The weather was gusty and cold with a few sprinkles here and there. We were all willing the rain to stay away.

Let's do this thing!

The Hardings had a small cabin which we were allowed to use as a staging area for our equipment, costumes and food. The first order of business was getting Don into his costume and then having a little snack.

Then it was time to start shooting. The first shot of the production was a simple shot of Tom walking which will be part of a larger walking montage.

It may not look like Minnesota in the 1910's, but it'll work.

Like I mentioned, this is all supposed to be part of a montage of Tom walking from Minnesota to Saskatchewan, so C had to get a lot of shots of Don walking through different terrain and backdrops.

After a few shots of Don walking, it was time to head up the hill behind the Hardings house. There's a nice flat prairie-looking spread up there, plus a nice shot of the lake which we'll use as a Minnesota lake.

It may not look it, but that hill was tall and STEEP. It was quite a bit of huffing to get all the equipment and sandbags up there. The gusty winds didn't help much either.

"Push on to the summit!"

It was even colder and windier up on top of the hill. We managed to get a few shots off before a menacing-looking storm front started bearing down on us from across the lake. We had to scramble back down the hill and waited out the rain back in the cabin.

C and Kristine and Dauminique hang out while the camera is set up.

Don stands out in the grass so we can focus the camera on him.

D chats with Tom Sukanen between takes.

"Here comes the rain! Hurry up and get the shot!"

The storm front ended up being just a heavy sprinkle and it only lasted a few minutes, but it did give us a chance to regroup and enjoy more snacks.

Day 01 - Fort Qu'Appelle (Part 2)

After our short break we had a few more shots we needed to get before we could wrap this location. One of them involved the fake rock tower prop.

Kristine built and painted the rock tower with C's supervision. It looked great and we were all a little nervous to touch or move it. So it was up to Kristine to haul it up the hill herself. The crew will forever refer to the site of her carrying it up as "The Turtle," or Gammera as she likes to call it.

Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!

I know the rock tower prop looks really cheesy, even I was skeptical. But after seeing Don up there with his telescope prop through the video camera's viewfinder, it actually looked pretty darn believable.

We had a heck of a time trying to get it to stand. Not only were we trying to stand it up on a slope of a hill, the slope itself was uneven and full of gopher holes. We rectified the situation with a few apple boxes (industry term for those wooden crates) and lots of sandbags (industry term for bags filled with sand). Dauminique and I had to hold onto the ladder while Don was up there because the paper machier rocks acted like a huge sail in the gusty wind. Thank God no one got hurt.

Ed Wood would be proud.

Another shot we needed was of Tom Sukanen frantically climbing up a hill. Poor Don had to scramble up the side of the hill about a dozen times! He still had a big grin on his face even though he was winded.

It ain't easy bein' Tom Sukanen.

The happiest DP in all of Saskatchewan!

Django and Moxie got to come along with us. They were occasionally on the disruptive side, but all in all I think they behaved pretty well. They even actually helped out by delivering rolls of gaff tape to whoever needed it. It doesn't look like we'll be taking them along tomorrow though.

Even Django was helping with continuity.

Moxie looks on as C and Andrew discuss the next shot.

Finally we got all the shots we needed and packed everything up. It was a long first day but we were all pretty happy with the footage we got, considering the weather and the fact that we had never all worked together before.

We were all starving so before leaving Fort Qu'Appelle, we stopped off at The Bounty for some fish n' chips.

I hope 'soft & hard' is referring to the ice cream.

After a day hauling sandbags up and down hills and being buffeted by wind, a basket of greasy fish and salty fries sure hits the spot!

"Hmmm... let see... yes, give me one of each of everything you've got, please."

The family pack

Don't blink or --doh! They're already gone.

After dinner it was back on the road for the trip to Regina. Once back at the university, everything had to be unloaded and put back in C's studio.

The rocks are wrapped! Yay!

Once everything was stowed away, we snuck in one of the lecture rooms with a projector and watched the dailies (footage we shot earlier that day).
Where's the popcorn?

I can't tell you how gratifying it is to see the shots through the camera, especially knowing there are C-stands and sandbags and crew and parked cars just out of frame. It's so magical.

The image below is being displayed at a TV aspect ratio of 4:3 which is all the projector could do. The final movie will be 16:9 widescreen.

Walk Tom! Walk!

We were all beat by then and were looking forward to a good night's sleep. Tomorrow the location will be in Estlin, which is only about 12 miles south of Regina, so it's a relatively easier drive, and we don't have to be on set until 12:30. Bonus!

Until next time... adventure!


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Raul's Take: Day 02: Rural Municipality of Estlin

by Raul Viceral, Assistant Director

Wow, what an exhilarating first day! My feet and knees are sore though from having to walk around on all the sloped, uneven ground yesterday. This morning C and Andrew and I were up early getting ready for today's shoot. C still had to finish the copper toy boat prop that she and Kristine made. It still needed some canvas sails so C was working on that.

C making sails for the toy boat.

Meanwhile, I was finishing off the threshing machine drawing that we'll use on Friday night.

It looks kooky but hopefully it'll look cool in the movie.

Andrew made another kick-ass breakfast for us of scrambled eggs and bacon with bacon toast. Oh man was it good, and a great way to start a hectic day! Moxie and Django miss you, Andrew!

Then it was off to the university to pick up equipment and craft services-type snacks. Today we're going to have the caterer, Kali, on site to make us supper. Should be good!

Estlin is a short drive south. The site we're using is the grounds of an old school house. The old baseball field is nice and flat and doesn't have a lot of telephone lines and modern farms to spoil the shot. It's perfect.

Jackie and Kristine unpacking the equipment.

The first scene we were shooting was a surreal dreamlike vision Tom Sukanen has from his hospital bed. So first we had to set up a hospital bed out in the grass.

"Do you think anyone'll notice?"

You'll notice we didn't have a real mattress and box spring (which would've made things A LOT easier), but the antique metal head and foot boards and frame were an antique size C found out, so no modern mattress would fit it. C and Kristine came up with faking it with fence planks from our garage, apple boxes and an old futon mattress. It's movie magic!

Don't worry, the chainlink backstop won't be in the shot.

Way back in the background you can see the mobile home one of the little girl actor's mom let us use for costume changes and makeup. Everyone's been real generous! It made it feel like a real movie set!

Candace (right) of course was on hand at the set. She's an amazing costumer. She was responsible for gathering and organizing the over 100 costumes used in the film and she even custom made several of them! Her boyfriend Reynaldo (left) will also get executive producer credit for his generous donation to the movie. Thanks guys, you totally rock!

"Where's the bee suit? Who moved the bee suit! @$&#% RAUL!"

Once Don was in his hospital costume and makeup, it was time to shoot some footage.

Gee Don, you don't look so good --which is perfect!

Megan Fries plays Tom Sukanen's mama. She looked great in her white gown out there in the tall grass.

"Has anyone seen my enchanted castle?"

The shots of Don in bed out in the middle of nowhere looked AWESOME!

"Can I have a bedpan, please?"

Today was considerably easier on the crew compared to yesterday as the terrain was nice and flat and the weather wasn't so blustery and cold.

Don's such a talented actor, he actually looks like he's lying in bed in the middle of the prairie!

C goes over the scene with Don and Megan.

One of C's professors, Mark Wihak, stopped by on set to see how things were going. His film, River, made it into the Montreal Film Festival and he was on his way to the airport to fly out. He even helped out holding a couple flags for us. After a bit he had to go, but before he did he told C he was very impressed with her crew and how well organized and professional he thought everything was being run. He told her she can expect a good grade this term. Woo-hoo! Can we all go home now? Ha ha. Just kidding.

That's professor Wihak in the foreground.

We got some of the most eerie and beautiful and surreal shots of the movie today. The overcast sky was exactly what we ordered, and it helped make things even more surreal.

Looks like this could be some weird music video.

"Okay Don, now flap your arms and sing, I CAN FLY!"

Poor Don, mostly his feet weren't in the shot so he was able to keep his Converse sneakers on, but there were a couple shots where we could see his feet. Walking on all that pokey grass and thistly weeds wasn't easy. I got the idea of lining the bottoms of his feet with gaff tape. Genius!

Sorry Don, we're all out of the men's size 10 gaff tape.

C directs Megan on how to stand in a field of grass. Brilliant!

C had Megan stand on an equipment case which made her look like she were floating on top of the grass. So freakin' cool!

"What? Did you say action?"

Once we got all of the shots here, we had to quickly pack everything up and head a couple miles further south to a long dirt road where we were shooting a few more scenes.

As soon as we got there C and Andrew began planning where the best camera positions would be. I love this picture.

"The camera will be here and the invading space aliens will enter frame over there, by the missile launchers."

This scene is of Tom imagining his son's funeral. It's another eerie, surreal scene. Kristine took care of hauling the coffin in place.

She's the hardest working art director in town.

We got a little bit of rain when we got out there, but not much. Don't worry, we had the camera covered with a plastic trash bag while it sprinkled.

At least it ain't snowing.

The poor girls were freezing out there! As well as Don who only had his hospital gown on for warmth. As soon as C would call cut we'd jump in and give them all jackets and blankets. They were great though! Don was a trooper, it's a wonder he didn't get sick after this. Who'd have thought it'd be this cold in late August!? It reminded us of San Francisco in July.

"Try thinking warm thoughts. Okay, funeral scene take 37!"

After the funeral scene, we shot the arrival of the dust storm scene. Poor Don was still clad in nothing but his hospital gown and we turned a leaf blower on him to simulate the wind and blew dirt on him. We were all bustin' up and Don was a great sport. Jeez, what'd he ever do to deserve this? Think twice before you go into acting, kids.

"Can you please tell Raul to quit throwing dirt clods at my head!"

There were a couple more scenes we had to get out here. We had to race back to the schoolhouse so the actors could change, then grab a quick bite to eat (and I mean quick) before we raced back out to the crossroads. The supper Kali made was great, but I ate it so fast I barely tasted it.

That was a pretty hectic scramble, trying to get all of the shots in before the sun set. I unfortunately didn't get any pictures of it, but the scene did look gorgeous. The sun poked out for a few minutes right before it set and we were able to get some awesome golden light for the Tom Says Goodbye to His Family scene.

Finally it was the wrap on another great day of shooting. It was even more fun than yesterday!

Ahhh, Saskatchewan film making.

Once the sun set, it got too dark to do anything else. So it was back to the schoolhouse to pack everything up and to clean out the mobile home we borrowed.

Thanks Estlin, we had a great time!

Then it was back to the university to unload everything into C's studio. The crew is really beginning to gel and get into the flow of things and we're looking forward to shooting the next four days at the Sukanen Museum. That should be cool!

Until next time... adventure!