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Das Tagebuch der

Ellen Rimbauer


Produktionsjahr: 2003
Regie: Craig Baxley
Länge: 88 min.
Drehbuch: Ridley Pearson
Produzent: Thomas Brodek
Stephen King
Mark Carliner
Lisa Brenner Ellen Rimbauer
Steven Brand ihr Mann
Kate Burton
Connie Posey
Brad Greenquist
Ridley Pearson Butler

und hier das "Diary of the Diary" von Ridley Pearsons Seite:

This Part is Copyright by Ridley Pearson

diary_paper_sm Diary of the Diary

Ridley Pearson on the set!
Final: Feb. 11, 2003


I arrived to Tacoma, lovely Tacoma, and hooked up with Tom Brodek, the producer. We lunched and then went out to see Thornewood, the enormous house where much of The Diary will be shot. To finally see the location I've written about, both in the diary and again in the script was breathtaking. Everything I've written came alive. I saw the scenes unfold, I could hear the voices in my head. It was an extraordinary moment.

Thornewood Castle (the set of Rose Red)
Inspired by my walk through of Thornewood, I start in on rewrites aimed to tighten the script into something more shootable, and more to fit the budget.

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....

Ridley with Tom Brodek and Mark Carliner, producers
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.

Ridley as the butler (in the vest) – so cool!
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.

Rose Red angels
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.

Ridley with the Director, Craig Baxley
I'm cast an extra – Preston, the butler - and I have scenes in these early days, freezing cold in a tuxedo, as I stand outside hour after hour, awaiting the next shot. It's a fantastic time, despite the weather, because we have old cars, carriages, horses, servants, lights, butlers, just AMAZING sets (Craig Stern, Production Designer). The movie magic begins, and we start compiling footage. "ACTION," the director calls out. The film has begun. There is no turning back.

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.

Ridley and his good friend Jacques Bailhe
We start in "Ellen's Bedroom" and we shoot for 5 full (13 hour) days, pieces of scenes, full scenes, all spread throughout the film. The dailies (yesterday's footage delivered for the producers to watch) show up each morning at about 11 AM and we huddle in a small trailer and watch – and soon, by about Wednesday – we realize the film is really coming together. The first few days of angst and uncertainty, under the capable hands of the Director, yield fruition – the jigsaw pieces of the film appear in the dailies, and it's clear we have great actors (including Tsidii Leloka and Kate Burton) and gorgeous sets, and we're getting a good looking film out of it. By the end of this week Stephen King finally receives and views the early dailies (at his winter home) and calls to say he's thrilled with what he's seeing. One gets the feeling he's more interested than he was at first (he's busy writing an episodic series for ABC, Kingdom Hospital, and barely has time to come up for air) and his interest thrills the producers.

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).
Ridley with Greg Shepard, ABC
That first weekend I'm busy with nearly 30 pages of revisions, to bump up some of the characters and to sharpen some scenes. By Monday I'm exhausted, and there are more revisions being discussed, and we start the13 hour a day routine all over again. I can't even find time to write this journal. I have 30 emails a day collecting in my inbox, unanswered. Heidi is bugging me for diary entries for site. I'm sleeping 4 hours a day, if I'm lucky. So THIS is movie making. How glamorous, how intriguing.

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.

Typical day on the set
It's interesting to watch the crew as they work. There are unspoken rules about the respect everyone shows each other. Rarely do you hear an exchange that does not mention "sir" and end with a "thank you" or begin with a "please." Outside of the set no one speaks with this formality, but here, inside the shoot, there is a politeness to the social structure that allows no one to be offended. The Director is given "space" as he needs it. Few seem to interrupt him except the AD (assistant director) and the DP (director of photography, responsible for lighting and camera work). If you need a moment with the Director, you speak to the AD and he mentions it and gets you a moment. Not that the Director is not accessible, in fact he is. But there seems an unspoken respect everyone pays him by staying out of his way and letting him do his job. Everyone's work stems from this one person, down in a pyramid (with the writer at the very bottom with those who sweep up after the day's wrap!).

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.

Getting ready to shoot outside...
We build through the Parlor scenes to the John Study scenes, and there is tremendous acting here. We hang Doug Posey. Sukeena seduces John. Lisa compromises herself to John. The "steamy" part of the movie begins to unfold. It's going to be sexy! Lots of Victorian nightgowns and peeping Toms and women creeping around the house. Juicy stuff. The Study and Stairs work goes long, but we build to the PARTY scene, a Friday, something everyone has looked ahead too since the start of photography. The Party scene is to include some 60 extras, all in formal attire (gowns from the feature film, Titanic), a band, a massive set, several cameras. It promises to be a long, long day. And it is. Heidi Mack and Jacques Bailhe and Fletcher Brock visit the shoot for the Party Scene. Heidi is costumed as an extra, as am I - Preston, the butler. The shoot goes until 4:30AM with Greg Shephard, from ABC, there to witness it. It's a hell of a production number - "money scene"--that is sure to make the picture look rich and wonderful. The shoot is exhausting, and promises another (the third) short weekend for all the crew. We'll start again Mon. morning at 7AM, everyone short on sleep. 

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.

Shooting outside
Location day 1: Ellen's mansion
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.

Party guests arriving

2nd half location day 3:
We move inside to shoot the garage scene. I'm not feeling well and leave the set early. The Director has again elected to go 'off script' and it's a good thing I leave. It's cutting a hole in my stomach to watch the shoot go unscripted. I'll later see the dailies, and realize he did an inventive job with the scene - but at the time it's hard to watch, and I'm not feeling well enough to stomach it.

This turns out to be my last day on the shoot. I return to spend some time with friends in Seattle and head home the next day. From now on, my reports will come from Tom Brodek by phone. The shoot is once again behind schedule. I'm writing on Tuesday, Feb 11th, and they are trying to shoot out the script and wrap today - several full days behind schedule. I haven't heard if we're still on budget, but I know if we are it's by the skin of our teeth. You can go over like this and keep your budget intact.

The dailies I see look TERRIFIC. More in the mail today. I think we'll get one heck of a film, and my big hope now is that ABC gets "good numbers" and asks for a sequel. There's already one brewing in my head.

Ridley Pearson
St. Louis, MO
Feb 11, 2003

This Part is Copyright by Ridley Pearson

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