After work on Friday, I stopped at Target to buy some batteries for my digital camera and some snacks for the weekend and drove down to Cincinnati to do my part in the 48 hour film project. As I mentioned earlier last week, the opportunity to join a team came my way via Chenney, my pro bono publicist, and I snatched it up. I joined Plum St. Productions for their third year in the contest, having no idea what I was getting in to.
I thought I was making good time, but I didn’t arrive at the Plum Street Cafe until 8 p.m. I parked downtown in a lot directly across from this meeting place, and walked over to Brian’s apartment, above the cafe. I’d never actually been to downtown Cincinnati, or at least if I have, I was too young to remember it. The door leading upstairs to the apartment was locked, so I went inside the cafe.
Miraculously, I recognized Brian inside, despite never having met him, and he let me in to his place. Chenney was sitting there with some other guys, one of whom was named Jim, and two actors who didn’t show up the following morning. Jim ended up doing sound work on set and half the film’s editing.
I learned some about the 48 hour film project from reading a lot of of stuff on their site last week, and I understood that each team would be assigned a different genre by luck of the draw, and all team’s movies would have to include the same three elements. On Friday night, the team found out that the elements were a character who was a factory worker, a fork to be used as a prop somehow, and all movies had to include the line, “What the hell is this” somewhere in it. Chenney told me the team had drawn film noir as their genre, and I was so excited.
Owen went through a film noir phase at one point, during which we watched a LOT of Bogart movies.
Chenney drove me to John’s place, where we were staying. We left my car in the lot, since I had been told my parking was covered until 6 a.m. Saturday. The three of us went out to a late dinner and then slept. I woke up at 5:18 a.m. and got ready for the day. Chenney and I left the apartment a little after 6 and got some coffee on our way back downtown. We got to my car around 6:30, and there was a little
manila envelope tucked under a windshield wiper. One $33 parking violation later, she and I went to Brian’s where a small crowd of yawning twenty-somethings sat waiting for instruction. Panic ensued as it came to light that three actors weren’t going to make it. For a script involving seven people total, this was quite a blow. But, with a few quick phone calls and queries of people who were there but not already acting, the roles were filled and all was well. Brian would later point out that for all the things that went wrong, their solutions rendered results even better than expected.
We had a pretty large crew. It was different for me to be on a set where instead of people turning to me with questions, people badgered Brian and Kevin, co-director and Brian’s writing partner. Also, with so many people involved, the scenes were completed slower, but I know that the time put into each task will make the final product all the better. While I feel empowered by Robert Rodriguez’s school of thought that making a movie with no crew and relying on yourself is the way to go, I have to say that after seeing the process
done in a different way, a more professional way, it would be nice to have a crew to adjust lighting, hold up reflectors by actors’ faces when needed, check sound, and stuff like that.
We got started filming late, due to the many wrenches thrown into our plans. The first scene shot took place in the Plum St. Cafe, making this the third year that place was used as a setting by the group. A man from the bar got up godawful early along with us to supervise, and he was a friendly enough guy. He couldn’t believe the final movie was only going to be seven minutes long. “All this work,” he said. But the journey’s the fun part. It was a neat looking bar, and the costumes were really good, despite being thrown together in the previous 12 hours.
An unofficial duty of mine and another guy named Drew, our executive producer, was to make sure the cars parked at meters on Plum St. didn’t get ticketed, so we took a jar full of change from the set
and fed the meters until 5 p.m., every two hours. At 11, 1, and 3, I looked at my watch and shouted that it was meter time. Chaos ensued, and the jar was rushed outside.
My official job was to write the scene and take numbers of a dry-erase clapper board and hold it in front of the camera before each take, and then to immediately write down the time code after a take ended. This was explained to me, and I felt myself panicking suddenly. There suddenly seemed to be a crap ton of people in that bar watching and I didn’t want to mess anything up. This was the closest I’ve been to being on an actual movie set, and there was a lot of work being put into it all. Before the first take, I couldn’t believe how nervous I felt walking up to the camera, my heart pumping like crazy. Luckily, Brian was extremely patient and waited for me to dart off set after I called the scene and clapped the board. I got the impression that the other co-director Kevin seemed to feel my inexperience was holding them back, so I really wanted to make an effort to appease him. I did NOT want to be the weakest link, by God.
The first take went okay– I didn’t knock over the tripod, and nobody died. Feeling relieved, I managed to get through the bar scene. Next was a scene in the hallway, where Brian’s character got shot by a mysterious shadowed henchman. Even the hallway was aesthetically appealing, with interesting looking spindles
and a skylight above the action taking place. As the hallway scene wrapped, I felt myself fading fast. I’d been on my feet for several hours, and my coffee from 6 a.m. was wearing off. Because I am part of the Mountain Dew and Red Bull generation, they weren’t serving coffee for cast and crew. I asked Chenney if she thought we could escape for a moment to get an iced coffee close by. She said she thought we’d have time, since the girl playing the dame was still doing her make up. We got up to see if we could leave, and the girl walked out of the bathroom in full make up.
The actors were really good; they learned and practiced their lines all day and came prepared for each scene when it was time to shoot. I know I did theater, but I still can’t believe I managed to memorize lines. And I sure didn’t memorize them the day of a performance. The directors seemed to really want to be able to say they got two good takes of each scene/camera change, and I was told to make a note on my sheet when they felt one was a good or bad take in order to save the editors some time.
The office scene was next, and for some reason, it felt like it took the longest to complete. It was getting later, and we were all getting more and more tired. Some people involved had been awake all night, gathering props, writing the script, setting up the office setting, and other necessary tasks prior to beginning filming Saturday morning. Another reason this scene went slowly is because apparently Bill Clinton was in town for a Reds game. His entourage of wailing sirens were present off and on for several minutes, presumably pissing off 48-hour film project crews all across the city. The office was probably my favorite location, despite not really being an office the way the bar was really a bar. They assembled the desk and accompanying props quickly, because I saw the living room space Friday night and it was completely transformed by Saturday morning. My favorite part was the old typewriter they’d set up, which actually had a page of the script sitting in it.
After the office scene, we packed up shop and moved a couple blocks away to shoot at a coffee shop. I was so excited to discover we were going to be shooting our last scene at a place that could serve me a cup of coffee at long last, so you can imagine my crushing disappointment when I got there and realized the place was closed on weekends. They’d given the film crew full reign, since they weren’t going to be losing any business anyway.
That was the scene where the Tiger was introduced, the bad guy. It was also the scene where the plot got a little redonkulous, including an obvious actress-to-different-actor switcheroo. It was classic. Before we started filming, I accidentally fell asleep at one of the little tables in the back. I woke up groggy, wishing I hadn’t fallen asleep at all. I ended up knocking over a prop on the table after that, and realized I was getting too tired to function properly. Or at least somewhat gracefully. I’m a klutz to begin with, and a lack of sleep sure doesn’t help.
I would explain why there’s a girl tied up and a man wearing a Tigger costume, but I think it’s more fun to leave that open for speculation. Or at least until next weekend, when the film is available online. The screening and results thing is Saturday, but I’m not sure if I will be able to go. I am shooting the pilot for “Paper Cuts” on Sunday, but maybe if I’m able to get everything I need done ahead of time, I’ll let myself go back down to Cincinnati to see it. They sure are making a profit off of the tickets to see them movie, they are $10 a person. I guess they have to make money doing this somehow. Because Plum St. Productions was one of 55 teams participating in the contest, they have broken the teams into five groups for the screening. Ours will be shown some time between 3 and 5:30 p.m.
I left the city around 9:30 Saturday night, so technically for me, it was the roughly-24-hour film project. I’d been told my duties would conclude by 5, but obviously we had a few setbacks, so I had to stay. I didn’t mind, but I did need to be back before 11:30. I’d agreed to go with Brandon to see “Ghostbusters” at Studio 35 before I agreed to do the film project, and when I told him I wanted to go to Cincinnati, he said he didn’t mind as long as we still got to see “Ghostbusters.” We saw no fewer than five grown men in costume. Seeing a favorite childhood movie on the big screen was so awesome, even though it basically boiled down to everyone in the theater just laughing ridiculously hard every time Bill Murray opened his mouth. I went to bed at 2, having been awake for nearly 21 hours. That’s nothing on the folks I left in Cincinnati.