Don’t try to force it

Mike, director of photography, blocking a shot for the CRGs

Mike, DP, blocks a shot

I woke up at 5:45 Saturday morning, accidentally woke up my uncle and the family dog on my way out, got into my car in the dark and drove to Cincinnati for an 8 a.m. start time with Plum St. It was Rollergirl day. We set up lights and breakfast when we got there, and before 10, several players for the Cincinnati Rollergirls started showing up. They rolled in laughing together, talking. I asked them to sign a talent release form and let us know what kind of pizza they wanted for lunch. They were very friendly and polite and seemed generally happy to be there.

Staying in position

Staying in position

The commercial, as I said, was for FORCE, an organization that raises cancer awareness. I was assistant director for the first time with Plum St., and at first I didn’t think this would mean having much responsibility beyond serving  as a go-to between the directors and crew, and keeping everyone on schedule. That’s what I remembered previous ADs doing on the set of other projects, but early in the morning I found out I would be the one calling “action” and “cut” all day. At first, while in front of a group of people whose company was paying Plum St. for their work, I felt this was a pretty nerve wracking realization. However, after the first few takes, I found I was more comfortable in the role than I thought I would be. That’s usually how these Plum St. gigs go; I drive to Cincinnati feeling jittery and self conscious, and then after I get my feet wet, I get into my element and by the end of the day I’m so glad I went that I agree to do whatever project they tell me about next. That’s got to be the sign of a great team, and one that makes you feel welcome and useful. The folks at Plum St. always thank me for making the trip and tell me they appreciate my work.

Group shot

Another duty I had Saturday was working with the rollergirls who didn’t have a speaking role and giving them direction for each shot. Fortunately, this direction was usually limited to “Skate faster this time,” and “Let’s do that one more time.” Another important lesson: on set, “One more take,” almost never means one more take. Lucky for me, the team was very patient, so they made my job much easier. It was fun for me just watching and listening to them interact with each other, constantly joking around at varying degrees of vulgarity. Some of the names of the players cracked me up, from Karma Krash to Sister Sacrilegious to Michele D’Bomya. My personal favorite, Miss Print, is a reporter at The Cincinnati Enquirer. When I was skating after my “Whip It” fever, I asked Brandon what my derby name should be. He came up with Penny Pain, which I think is better than I could ever ever come up with.

Me with Sister Sac at the end of the day

Watching them skate around the track made me remember why I loved the idea of roller derby and the female friendships that seem to go along with it. They showed off bruises like champs, swapping stories of epic blows.

The 30-second spot was mostly Brandi (aka Sister Sac) speaking while the rollergirls skated behind her. They all eventually lined up behind her at the end and gave a line in unison. We started filming before 10 and wrapped by 3, so that was pretty short and sweet. I met a few new Plum St. people as well, and liked them a lot. I got along really well with everyone on set for the day and we had a great time together. After the last shot that involved all the rollergirls wrapped I asked Chenney to take my picture with them. Best day ever.

One of these things is not like the others