Almost there…

A Jim and Pam moment

We shot Days 4 and 5 yesterday and tonight, and Day 6 is the finish line tomorrow. The footage is looking great and I am really excited.

Last night was kind of crazy, but we still managed to wrap on time and no one seemed annoyed about how long Scene 25 (aka the bane of my existence and the longest scene I’ve ever written) was taking. Bill, who is playing the candidate, had the most down time but was very obliging about it. Every character except Mrs. Cunningham (who will be played tomorrow by my friend Rebekah) was in that scene and having so many people on set and on three different cameras was insane. But we got through it somehow.

I am kind of in love with my cast. They are all so talented, they really understand their characters and truly bring them to life. Steve and Becca actually seem to have pretty good chemistry, their (quickly formed) relationship seems believable, they deliver their lines just as I pictured when I wrote them. I talked about how I wanted that unspoken Pam Beasley quality, and hot damn, did I get it. Becca is perfect for the part. The woman playing Alice has it down, and knows when to play her character’s anal retentiveness up and when to look hopeless and forlorn. I can’t wait to see her in her scenes with Matt (Dennis) tomorrow. I can see the two of them driving each other crazy in those. Matt is just hysterical and I was cracking up watching some of his reaction scenes in editing. He has some great facial expressions and he really mixes things up creatively. RJ (Chad) did great in his scene tonight and did some really fun impromptu interview segments that I can’t wait to use, and I am glad he got his sister Sammy interested in playing Brittany. They are a good team.

My dad came all the way up from Caldwell to play Councilman Philips yesterday and we even got a quick interview scene in with him. He did pretty well, especially considering he’d never acted before in his life, save a single audition in junior high. How awesomely supportive is my entire family?

Tonight was much more low key and we ended up wrapping an hour early. We did end up re-shooting the interview scenes with the white noise I mentioned, but that really didn’t take long, thanks to Becca and Steve.

Day 3 of filming for “The Candidate”

This means WAR

We filmed a guy willingly getting hit with a water balloon Thursday night. Steve, who is playing Matthew, was braced for it and took it like a champ. My brother got caught in the crossfire/aftermath but being the pro he is, he didn’t stop rolling despite the shock (or the droplets of water on the lens).

We had 11 people on set last night, and it was kind of crazy, including two extras, the talented Sean Eaton on Camera 2, our producer, assistant director, crew and actors. It started off on a frightening note when I realized I’d told Becca to be there at 7:45 instead of 7. Fortunately, we had a scene we could shoot while we waited for her and she got there as soon as she could. She was really nice about my mistake, too. We shot one interview scene in my office, a scene with Becca and Matt in Stacey’s office and the rest over on the other side of our building. The later scenes were the first ones actually in the campaign office. While Owen, Sean and Steve shot a quick scene outside before it got dark, everyone else teamed up and set up the office set in less than ten minutes. It was pretty impressive. The IKEA panel curtains we purchased last week seemed to suffice as a way to block off the long hallway we wanted to hide and Aryeh pointed out they could pass as window shades, merely covering a giant window in the office.

What the....?

The water balloon scene was tricky; we only had one chance to hit Steve with the balloon so it had to be good. To make things more complicated, it was dark by the time we got to that scene so we couldn’t show Steve entering the door as we’d planned. We worked around this by instead showing the office employees (Becca, Matt, extras Christine and Samantha) going nuts in all-out Nerf gun warfare before showing Steve step into the frame. So instead of him getting hit with the balloon the second he entered, he stood shocked for a few seconds watching the chaos and THEN getting pelted. I think the end result ended up being funnier than originally planned so it all worked out. Also we ended up having three cameras on Steve when the balloon hit. Action shot to the max.

I heart my actors

I love all the actors because they totally get their characters. I feel like the ones I wrote for this are more developed than ones I’ve written in the past and they seem more real. I am really happy with our casting and how everyone seems to be getting along.

Tomorrow the scariest scene of my life takes place, with every cast member on set and lots of craziness going on. It’s a good thing we now have three cameras, but we’re kind of going to need people behind them. Also, my dad will be there, yay! Hooray for the most supportive dad on the planet who randomly agreed to come to Columbus on a Monday night to be in a very silly production with me, my brother and our friends. It’s just like when we were kids, right?

Building buzz for a web series

The other night before the photo shoot with Bill, Aryeh made the interesting suggestion that we do some fake campaign commercials. I’m pretty sure it was just because he wants more screen time beyond his face appearing on a giant sign in one scene, but it turned out to be a pretty good idea once we got rolling. As a result, we brainstormed most of our marketing strategy for the web series.

When Bill got to the shoot, we ran the idea of a campaign ad by him and he was down with it. We’ll do a positive one surrounding Aryeh’s character, Mike Mowry, and another one of Mowry in an attack ad against Cunningham. We’re not sure yet which Cunningham’s will be a response to but I’m going to do some writing soon. My friend Andrew has agreed to donate his son’s time so we have a baby for either Aryeh or Bill to kiss. So ridiculous. Have you seen any crazy ads for or against candidates? Do share. We’re shooting the ads the Wednesday and Thursday after Labor Day and we’re also looking for a guy to do a really dramatic voiceover or two.

We plan to air one of Mowry’s ads first, then Cunningham’s a couple days after, followed by Mowry’s second one. This will be followed by a two-minute trailer of the show itself. Hopefully by this point our friends, family and acquaintances will be more intrigued than annoyed by all this buzz.

On top of these fake ads and trailer giving the name of the series at the end (and hopefully a website/YouTube channel), we’re going to embellish the hideous site Stacey made for Cunningham. We’ll also create Facebook fan pages for each candidate and try to get our friends to join them. We can post funny status updates in character and stuff, that could be cool.

I started a gmail account under the name CandidateSeries (TheCandidate and TheCandidate2010 were taken, boooo). Stacey has agreed to create a site as part of her personal one to host the series, and she does spectacular work. I would have loved to have had a site just for “Paper Cuts” but I had no way of getting one at the time.

Anyway, so that’s the plan. I hope it works and doesn’t backfire. We’ll have to be careful not to overexpose the thing next month. After all the build up we’ll air episodes on Mondays and Fridays in October. If we have more than 8 episodes, we might air them Monday, Wednesday and Friday until they’re done. We’ll see.

Day 2 of filming for “The Candidate”

I’m learning a new lesson with this project, and it is that delegating is very important for one’s sanity. Paul did a much better job with last night’s photo shoot than I would have, and his being there freed me up to help test the new light kit and assist Bill with wardrobe selections. It also gave me a few minutes to enjoy just being on set for a change. Tonight Aryeh helped me out with lighting and ran the clapper board while Stacey found time to finish an important part of our set design. Since I can’t be in three places at once, this was good news for me.

We finished our second night of filming, which means we are now 1/3 of the way through production. That was quick. We wrapped in under an hour tonight, which can happen I guess, if you don’t change the set, lights or frame. Oh, and if your actors have their lines down perfectly like our two did tonight. That made my life easier.

Steve, playing Matthew

Becca, playing Lauren

I’m a little concerned about the sound quality of tonight’s footage. There was a lot of white noise going on in my office so we’ll see if it’s enough to constitute a re-shoot. I hope not, because it will mean having to find a different office, but we’ll see. Keep your fingers crossed.

Tomorrow, the more complicated scenes begin, but we can handle it. My brother and I were discussing some of the shots tonight and I think we’ve got a decent plan of attack. I am so glad he is our director of photography. He’s going to be behind Camera 1 an I’ll be at the monitor with the headphones. Someone else will operate Camera 2 but needs to avoid a large part of the room as well as getting caught in Camera 1’s frame. Should be interesting.

Day 1 of filming for “The Candidate”

Clint, an extra, at the door with Matt (Dennis)

We had a great night last night, completing our two exterior shots outside Stacey’s apartment. They revolved around Dennis (played by a very talented improv contact named Matt), the douche baggy character who tries to usurp power from another character, Alice. Alice sends him out on a literature drop in an unfriendly neighborhood for revenge. We shot several scenes of him knocking on Stacey’s housemates’ outside doors and having them slam them in Matt’s face. I got my director cameo in! And Stacey, now officially called assistant director after weeks of doing half the work of this production, got to slam a door on camera as well. Without giving too much away, one of the production’s more complicated scenes was filmed last night involving that giant yard sign with Aryeh’s face on it and Matt ending up appearing unconscious on the sidewalk. Think you can connect the dots there? I’m glad it went well and that it’s wrapped.

This is my serious face

Matt had never acted before in his life until last night. He didn’t seem nervous but he admitted he kind of was when I asked. Despite that, once he got into character he really performed well. I’m looking forward to his office scenes coming up with the rest of the cast.

This was some of the first hand held camera work I’ve done for any of my projects and I have to say I think it’s much more interesting to look at than just your standard tripod shots. We’ll be using a tripod for the interview sequences, but that’s all. We watched the 10 minutes or so of footage we got last night and it looked pretty good. Stacey said she could see the “Office” influence on the camera work, and that’s the style we’re going for.

New Delaware's favorite mayor

Having a budget and people to help you rocks. A lot. Stacey took total charge of the giant sign (among other things), planned where it would go at her place and rallied her housemates to work as extras. Aryeh didn’t argue when we said we wanted to order said giant sign and it turned out more professional looking than it would have if I’d tried to make one on my own for a few bucks. Our production value is going to be all the better for this, and I am really excited about the final product.

SIGN ATTACK

Another really great thing about shooting “The Candidate” is the better equipment we’re being given the opportunity to use. I am very thankful for the connections I made with The Summit Workshop, whose proprietors have been extremely generous in agreeing to let us borrow some of their sound equipment. Noah John of the Workshop gave me a crash course yesterday and let me test a couple different mics to see which would work better and gave me tips on how to best use them for our purposes. He asked questions I probably wouldn’t have thought of and was really cool about letting us operate the mic on our own. RJ (playing Chad), my good luck charm and willing participant in everything I film, helped us run sound last night to great success. I am really glad he was there to assist and bring his LA-learned skills to the table.

Tonight we had a photo shoot with Bill, who is playing John Cunningham, a.k.a., the candidate. My cousin Paul is 19 and a far more accomplished photographer than I am, and he agreed to shoot our photos for us. Here’s a teaser of what we had going on this evening:

A real straight shooter

...With a softer side

The two best shots by Paul will be used in a scene as some fake campaign mailings. They’re meant to target two very different voter demographics but the mailing lists get mixed up.

Here we go…

Filming began this evening on “The Candidate.” It’s late, so I can’t say a whole lot about it. Just know that it was awesome, and we are 1/6 of the way through production. That is more than 0/6, and that is important. Everyone was awesome, the shots looked and sounded great and I feel awesome right now. One of the scenes was pretty complex and involved an unusually large prop, but our actor pulled it off perfectly and we got the shot. Pictures to come, but not until tomorrow night.

Speaking of tomorrow night, we’ve got our photo shoot with our candidate, played by Bill, my improv instructor from earlier this year. He is naturally hysterical and has the skills we felt we needed in someone to pull off this absurd character well. I am glad he is such a good sport and is willing to go through with my silly photo shoot ideas. I’ll likely post those tomorrow as well.

Day 2 of filming is Wednesday, but it’s just some simple interview segments that will be shot in a chair in my office, one by one. The heavy-duty stuff picks up Thursday, but my brother will be our DP that night (and the following week) and my friend Christine has volunteered to work crew. We still need someone to run Camera 2 (aka, my Flip Cam) but we’ll figure that out in due time.

Special delivery

Our Vista Print materials showed up Thursday!

Well, most of them. We were still waiting on a stray coffee mug until Friday morning. But it’s not like you couldn’t guess what was going to be slapped on the side of it.

A coupla sexy mugs

And of course, our biggest piece, a giant banner for incumbent Mike Mowry, as portrayed by executive producer Aryeh.

Here’s our expenses thus far:

Vista Print, total: $122.79 ($88.43 + $34.36 rushed S&H)
-4 yard signs, 2 holders
-1 coffee mug
-8 stickers
-1 ginormous banner

Clapper board app for the iPhone: $3

IKEA panels for set: $53.08 (inc. tax)

15″ Dynex flat screen TV: $139.99 (plus $19.99 two-year protection plan)

Sound equipment: Donated

Talent and crew’s time: Donated

For benevolent family and friends who are concerned I’m being taken for, here’s a photo of our executive producer reimbursing me for the above, save the TV:

See? Not shady at all

And yes, this weekend I broke down and bought myself the tiniest, least expensive flat screen TV I could find. I’ve been meaning to get one since October, when I saw Plum Street’s in action and couldn’t deny how huge of a help it was on set. They could see exactly what the frame looked like, how the lighting needed adjusted, etc. And even if I never make another movie again I’ll at least own a TV that will fit in any room, no matter how small. Or, more importantly, I will own a TV, period. I’ve never had one of my own before.

Tonight I’ll be compiling binders for myself, Stacey and Aryeh and getting together all that boring paperwork we’ll need on file. Fun, fun. No, really. I think that stuff’s fun. But not as fun as filming, which begins TOMORROW. Commence panic attack.

Celebrating their lives

Last night I was hanging out with Joe and Jessie and she was talking about a 5K event Joe ran in remembrance of Jessie’s dad, who passed away in March. She was talking about how emotional the event was, which is understandable because the wounds of her loss are still so fresh. She’s in what she is calling a season of grief and I won’t forget how lost that can make you feel.

Something she said last night triggered a memory I’d completely buried somewhere in my mind. I have to share it, even though now, years later, I can see how sad it is. But it’s important.

I don’t know how old I was– either in junior high, or maybe a freshman in high school. My mom and I used to sing together at various events, like Marietta’s annual choir performance of “The Messiah” with the orchestra, or in this case, a choir in Caldwell that rehearsed for a few weeks in order to sing at the local Relay For Life event that spring.

I don’t know what songs we sang, but I remember thinking during our weekly rehearsals how pretty those selections were, and maybe one in particular. It was a long time ago. But the night we finally performed, I got really emotional, thinking about my mom, and how she’d had cancer herself but lived to be there to sing at an event memorializing those who hadn’t been so lucky. I remember literally crying while singing, and after we were done I went off by myself and cried so, so hard. My mom found me sitting on the ground and somehow she knew exactly what I was thinking. She assured me she was better now, and we had nothing to worry about.

Of course, years later, those comforting words are no longer true, but they were then. I am glad we had that moment together and I wish I had said more. But maybe I didn’t have to with her.

She was sick the first time, leukemia then, when I was four or five and by the time I understood what a terminal illness was she was out of the woods. I do remember a couple of occasions as a kid or teen when I really did stop and profoundly feel and think about it, and I just marveled at how lucky my family was that my mom beat such gloomy odds. I think I remember hearing a figure of something like a five-year life expectancy, and I’ll be damned if she didn’t stretch that out to 17. Thank God she didn’t go before I was ten, because I’m absolutely sure I’d be a different person.