A Somewhat Cold Alley (a.k.a. a USC student’s first film)

February 27th, 2015 ~ 5:15 pm

Last weekend I worked on a USC graduate student’s short film. It was the first live action film he’d ever made. I’m leaving the names out of this post because I did have a few complaints and I don’t want to call out someone who is just starting out.

Saturday’s call time was 6:20am since we were shooting outside and wanted to film as much as possible before the harsh sun really came into play. The setting was the alley behind his apartment. Theoretically this was convenient, but we shot almost a block away, so after a certain point I kind of resigned not to need to go to the bathroom because it would take forever. Day 1 worked out because I drank less, but toward the end of day 2 I was doing a little dance between takes, and not the “I’m really cold” dance.

Did I mention that it was cold? It was cold. It was cold aaaallllll day. And I know I shouldn’t complain since we don’t get snow out here and the east coast is currently just buried, but I was in a light jacket and short skirt, often sitting on the ground. Also I’m a total baby when it comes to being cold. Boooo Cold!

Anyway, coldness aside, things went ok. It’s always hard on someone’s first shoot since they are still learning the camera settings and trying to choose the best angles. Hell, I still can’t really keep track of the 180° line most of the time and I’ve been on sets for years. I had come down a few days prior so we could storyboard, which seemed to help. And there wasn’t any dialog, so that helped too. But it was pretty clear in the middle of the day we’d still need a lot of time on Sunday. Only thing was, Sunday was supposed to be rainy. So we really needed to get it mostly done. This was one reason I never bothered with my breaks. They were like- “you sure?” And I was like, “I’m fine. Let’s keep going.”

Only a few things seemed to go wrong. At one point in the story, I slide down a fence and sit on the ground, but we didn’t realize the fence was really filthy. So we couldn’t shoot anything from behind until the jacket could be washed. (It did get washed and came out fine.) There was briefly another actor there on Saturday, but since he wasn’t there on Sunday, I suspect he’s not making the final cut. I guess his shots were too bright since the sun started coming out, so they re-shot in the morning with the DP in the role instead. Oh well. That happens.

We finished around 5pm when the sun was going down.

On Sunday I had a 6:30 call time, but the DP overslept so we didn’t end up shooting anything at all until maybe 8am? I’m not sure. We probably could have since the director ran the camera most of the day anyway. I did at least bring my coat that day, which was good since it did rain a few times. It was a light rain and basically stopped by the time they got back to the apartment with the camera trying to keep it dry. Better safe than sorry I guess, but I was stuck sitting in the rain watching the rest of the stuff out in the alley. They really should try and put the students in groups of 3’s so the actors don’t have to babysit equipment.
camera babysitter
That was me in the morning while the director went to his apartment for more stuff.

We re-shot some things and finished out the things that were missed from Saturday. In the end I really needed to go to the bathroom, but I refused since it would waste like 15 minutes in just walking there and back.

It was only until about 1pm when I was finished, but I was slightly upset at the director that it took as long as it did. Technically he cheated and deleted files from the cards even though it’s against the rules of the assignment. They are supposed to be learning time management as well as conserving “film,” even if it’s digital film. The lesson is still an important one. So who knows how long we went on overwritten media. I wouldn’t have minded really if he hadn’t cheated. But I didn’t sign on for that. My time is valuable too, and I don’t want to be spending it cheating. It’s not fair to other students who follow the rules and just can’t get all the shots they wanted since they ran out of media. And it sort of drove me nuts when he stopped slating entirely so I had no warning when the camera was rolling. It was literally him just saying, “Camera rolling action.” No pause. I guess it doesn’t matter if he is editing and it’s a really short film, but I don’t know. I like doing USC projects because they teach their students to work a little more professionally. I’ve done these non-dialog films in the past and they never did stuff like that. I hope that USC isn’t getting lazy and this was just a fluke. I figure he’ll learn why this stuff matters eventually. Or not. Who can say? It’s not my problem I guess.

On the plus side it’s good that worked on a new project. It had been a little while since I shot anything, so I figured I’d get back to doing some student films. I haven’t been getting out to audition for paid gigs, but I should still be working in some way. Work begets work, they say. Let’s hope so.

One Response to “A Somewhat Cold Alley (a.k.a. a USC student’s first film)”

  1. daniel says:

    Ugh. Sorry to hear this (and not: I got hired by Joss Whedon!). Hopefully we’ll have some new Teahm Beahm for you to star in soon (and we’ll keep you warm and feed you!) 😉

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