Das Tagebuch der
|Lisa Brenner||Ellen Rimbauer|
|Steven Brand||ihr Mann|
This Part is Copyright by Ridley Pearson
Diary of the Diary
I've been loaned an office at our production facility in a warehouse in an industrial park. I go to work, digging into the script and write for nearly 8 hours. There are about 8 to 10 people here in production, and I feel for the first time that we're actually making a movie. To see all that goes into this, I can't help but get this feeling of anticipation. I has begun.
Exhausted, I get back to our funky motel about 10PM. I rise at 4:30 and work on The Body Of David Hayes, then breakfast, then off to production.
The executive producer has asked for changes to the newest script, and I go to work again. It takes me about 5 hours to get it right. It goes off to Stephen King and ABC and I cross my fingers....
The director, Craig Baxley arrives. We have some edit meetings about the script, and then about 10 of us go out to a full location scout. Again, as I listen the heads of all the departments discussing the scenes I wrote (I'm a fly on the wall here) I realize this film is coming alive, and it's true excitement I feel. There are discussions of horse-and-carriage arrivals, period cars, closing streets, lighting the bedroom for day even though it will be night by the time we shoot it. Everyone here is an experienced veteran, each of them committed to making their part of this as perfect as possible. We're up to a staff of about 25 now, and the production office is humming with activity. All the phone lines are busy most of the time; I can't get a line out to go on-line. There's a frantic pace as we're now only 6 business days from principle photography. (because of Christmas) Not only are we making a movie, but we're making it SOON.
Network notes come in from ABC. They don't like what I've done to the script. In nearly 6 months of working with ABC this is the first time they've reacted negatively. The director and I have a meeting and decide I should wait through the weekend before making changes. It's not an easy wait for me. I want to fix it and fix it now. We're down to 5 days before film is rolling. We have no one cast as Ellen or John, we have a script that's broken; our executive producer is not here yet. A long, long wait.
More discussion with the network. We've scheduled a conf. call for 3:30 that never happens because of a traffic mess that keeps Tom and I from reaching Seattle in time.
I sit-in on a casting call back, watching actor after actor read for these parts. They are reading my lines from the script. The story is coming alive for me. Hearing the actors, read even briefly is educational and thrilling.
D-Day. The conf. call.
The first three days of the shoot are filled with anxiety and expectation. This is a seasoned crew, they've worked together before and they work well. The challenge is the cold, damp weather and the fact that these first days are to be exterior shots, meaning that sixty of us will be standing outside in the cold for 13 hours a day. It's a bone penetrating cold, the kind you can't escape, and there's nowhere to run to. Our base camp – with a few warm trailers – is a 4 minute van ride from Thornewood Castle, or Rose Red, as it's known in the film. So you don't go running off, or you'll miss something.
The Director works his magic, and we start by shooting outdoor scenes near the end of the movie. These are incredibly important scenes for me, as the writer, and I stand back and watch as the Director, whose film this is, takes my words and interprets them, making the scenes his. It is both slightly painful and yet exciting, as I settle in to what my role here is – I'm here to revise the script, talk to the actors, if they ask, and generally sit back and watch this film get made. A control freak by nature, it's not an easy adjustment at first, but I respect the role, and that it is the Director's film, not mine, and so I become an observer/participant.
Our first full week begins inside Thornewood Castle. We're away from the 3 days of exterior shots, where there wasn't much dramatic happening, and now we're into performances. Our lead actors, Lisa Brennen and Steven Brand, start to show us their stuff, and we're blown away at the cast we have. They are sensational! We're shooting by location, not the script's chronology – how all movies are shot – so the actors jump from a scene in the middle, to one at the end, to one at the start, all in the same day. They change costumes, they change make-up – sixty people run around setting lights, moving camera dollys, blocking shots, everyone with a specific job, and bits and pieces of the movie begin to unfold.
One problem: we've slipped well behind schedule in this first week, and there's an unspoken tension hanging in the air – we have to shoot faster, or we're in deep (financial) trouble. There are calls back and forth to ABC. The Director promises things will pick up when some of the camera crew is reshuffled. But no one is sure it will pick up, and if it doesn't, we're cooked. (being a period piece (1910) makes it a much more complicated and costly film to shoot).
By the middle of the week, the Director delivers as promised. We're back on schedule. There's relief in the air. Some tensions build on the set as the actors "find their roles." It's unsettling at first, but everyone's okay. The more the actors know themselves (in their parts) the more they naturally dislike each other, because Ellen and John and others dislike each other. They laugh together when off the set – which just goes to show how professional they are. I'm amazed at how "in character" they are when on the set. What an experience for me! This is the education of a lifetime.
There's a momentum now. I sense the crew knows we've got a good movie if we just keep putting in the 13 hour days and work our butts off. More revisions. More long nights. But the team has found its rhythm as we leave Ellen's Bedroom and enter The Parlor. These are long, dramatic scenes we're shooting, and the actors must perform the same lines, the same expressions, over and over and over. They've found their strides – they are doing INCREDIBLE jobs. Lisa Brennen and Steven Brand just get better and better every day. There were whispers among the crew – we've got a chance here to make a really good movie – and there's excitement building. The frustration of the first 8 days of shooting give way to a rhythm and teamwork, that is so fantastic to witness. It's WORKING. The movie is coming alive.
The Parlor work goes very, very well. Some exciting scenes. Once or twice the Director goes "off script" and "invents" the scene, keeping the dialogue, but changing the "blocking" - the choreography - of the scene. As the writer, I'm frustrated to see this ad libbing, but it's his film now, not mine, and he's the one who understands how to put the script into a visual content, and so I keep my mouth shut, and watch him work. The scene where Sukeena is dragged off to Jail is jangled and nervous and extremely interesting. I think it will play very well. The Director blocks what was to be a hallway scene into a confused coming and going of characters. I'm upset at this, but I understand his intention and in the end, he may have been right to shoot it this way. Until it's edited we won't know, but he spends a GREAT deal of time on the scene, that didn't need more than a few hours. It's this expenditure of shooting time that is now wearing on the producers and the AD and others. We spend much too much time on some smaller scenes, and time is money, and there's still an undercurrent of concern that the film won't wrap in time. Tempers never flare, but there's a sense here that heads will roll if we keep missing our scheduled shoot. Many scenes are now incomplete, and when we'll make up the shots is anybody's guess, and the AD's job to figure out. How Craig West (AD) holds together is beyond me. He's putting in Herculean hours (as is the director and actress Lisa Brenner) and somehow managing to stay human. I never had any idea how taxing this work was.
This was to be our "location" week, but we're behind schedule, and so we stay at Thornewood Castle an extra day (at great expense) to finish what needs to be finished. It's our last look at Thornewood, and we have two camera crews working all day, and the Director bouncing back and forth between the two. As hectic a day as he'll have. He catches my eye once during this day and says, "I love this job," and he means it. He's able to stay incredibly calm through all the chaos. He pulls off a huge day of two crew shooting, and we end the day... behind. We'll have to pick up the rest on stage late next week.
It's raining and the producers tell the director that we're to shoot outside because the weather is predicted to only get worse. We have a massive scene outside, with carriages, extras, vintage cars, full costumes, and ALL in the pouring rain. And very chilly temperatures. Miserable. Everyone, and I want to stress this - EVERYONE - maintains a great attitude throughout this misery. Not a word of complaint is heard. Rain, rain, rain. Horses that "overheat." Cars that melt down. Lens are wet. Microphones get wet and fail. Never a word of complaint. And surprise, the real rain gives the film a look we could never buy. The shots look INCREDIBLE and promise to be some of the most beautiful of the film. I rewrite some dialogue on the spot to account for the lousy weather. This is a day that proves film work is indeed "fluid."
Location day 2: Ellen's Mansion
We're inside for tea party, some stairs work, and the movie's opening scene (17 days into the shoot we film the first scene !) It goes long, but goes smoothly, given the tight quarters and the Director's endless requirement of "coverage." He shoots medium close ups, close ups and extreme close ups. Some great footage shot today.
Location day 3:
I've got the flu as we move back outdoors to film a Chinatown scene, again in the cold rain. This is Craig Sterns and Craig Baxley at their best. They take a two sentence scene from the script and turn it into a 6 hour shoot with 40 extras, five cars, two teams of horses, train tracks.... as atmospheric as it gets. Look for this shot in the film. It's only about 20 seconds long, but took over a half day to shoot. It's INCREDIBLE. You feel as if you're right there, in 1911 Seattle. Amazing.
2nd half location day 3:
This Part is Copyright by Ridley Pearson