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

Year in Review: 2009

This was the second year of The Sleeper Hit’s existence, and this blog documented a lot of changes in my world in 2009. Granted, 2008 was my first year in a new city, living on my own, buying a car, etc. But 2009 brought lots of new things as well. After all, 2009 was the year I decided to make movies and actually did. As I did last year, here is a recap of the inane and the important, a.k.a., the things I deemed worthy of blogging about.

January: Brandon started his job at OSU. Coincidentally, we stopped cooking dinner in the apartment around the same time. The pipes in our old place froze. Obama was sworn into office. I started the screenplay for “Beacon Alley” (untitled at the time) and read lots of books about how to write screenplays. I cut nearly a foot of hair off, and so did Brandon. The Sleeper Hit turned one year old.

February: I left my car unlocked and someone rifled through it and stole my faceplate but not my stereo. I discovered Club Trillion and did not do much work for a of couple days. Owen and Jamie found out they would be having a girl, which I totally called. I discovered my undying love for curry and finished writing “Beacon Alley”.

March: I began seeking donations from local businesses for the movie but got poor response. Casting for “Beacon Alley” took place this month, starting with heroine Becca and ending with villain Melissa. Brandon and I went apartment hunting and found our new place near campus. I switched from Live Journal to WordPress. I joined and promptly quit Twitter. A generous friend donated some gift cards to use to buy food for cast and crew on shooting days. I bought a high-def camera. Filming for “Beacon Alley” began.

April: Brandon bought me a new faceplate for my car stereo. Surly Girl allowed me to film at their place. Filming took place every weekend this month and I woke up shaking with fear every day of it. During the actual filming I felt awesome, and even better after we wrapped for the day. I named my production company Wilmer Productions, an homage to Owen’s former Willow Films. We made t-shirts. I juggled moving out of our old apartment with the final days of filming. It was slightly stressful.

May: I chose the name “Beacon Alley” after taking a photo of a street sign by our old place. Editing began. I co-hosted a baby shower for my sister-in-law with my aunt. I ran into many technical issues and discovered the importance of lighting. I got the idea for my web series, “Paper Cuts”. I threw a cast party to debut the trailer of “Beacon Alley” and scheduled the premiere with Studio 35. I watched the “Glee” pilot and flipped for that show before the rest of you bitches. Count it. I re-joined Twitter and saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

June: Saw the Decemberists with Brandon after he won tickets from CD101. I began casting for “Paper Cuts” and met my muse, Taylor. Editing of “Beacon Alley” continued, and I wrote the first four episodes of the show. Met Monsterbeard who advised on my scripts. Watched a lot of web series. My beautiful niece was born. Participated in Cincinnati’s 48 Film Project and met the awesome folks of Plum St. Productions: love at first shoot. Michael Jackson died.

July: Production of “Paper Cuts” began as editing of “Beacon Alley” wrapped. Showed episodes one and two before the movie at the premiere, which was well attended to my relief. My blog stats hit an all time high the week of the premiere as people googled “Beacon Alley” after presumably seeing it on the marquee at the theater. Brandon and I planned a fall trip to Colorado.

August: Filming of “Paper Cuts” continued and involved casting new extras for each episode, one of which included child actors. It was weird. Brandon dressed in a borrowed tiger suit. I had a last-minute cameo in episode six after a friend had to cancel her role as a bridezilla. Filming wrapped at the end of the month. I lamented majoring in journalism rather than engineering or nursing or some other field that is still hiring.

September: Realized I had somehow gained ten pounds over the summer. Brandon’s gallbladder attacked him in his sleep. Went to Ft. Collins, CO and San Francisco, CA to visit friends on my first-ever vacation as an adult. I tried to write a one-hour TV show pilot while in California. Got one of the worst sunburns of my life.

October: Plum St. Productions exploded into prominence. I helped them with their short film, “Gnomewhere to Hide” and loaned them my camera. Got an iPhone and began using it to help me lose weight. Brandon got his gallbladder removed and his parents paid us a visit for Halloween. Became obsessed with roller derby after seeing “Whip It!” and visited a retro rink by the interstate.

November: Spent time with my dad on a sad anniversary. Spent Thanksgiving in Chicago with Brandon’s family again, saw Second City. Became very interested in both improv acting and stand up comedy (influenced partly by seeing “Funny People”). Started announcing my weight loss progress (or regress) on my blog. Actually lost some weight.

December: Visited my mom’s parents in Cleveland with my brother and his family. Lost the ten pounds I’d gained over the summer. Brandon got new glasses. Wrote 2009 Year in Review. Oh, wait…

I immediately regret this decision

I’m very sad that just yesterday I promised my half dozen readers that I would be posting my weight loss/gain progress/regress because today I got an unpleasant surprise. Earlier this week I saw that I had lost seven pounds over all, but that number has been reduced, as of this morning, back to five. That five… I can’t seem to move beyond it. Grrrr. I’ve been working on this since Oct. 12 and next week is Thanksgiving. But, losing five sure is better than gaining five more, and it’s a start. Yesterday I was on the elliptical machine for 50 minutes, and burned round 600 calories. You don’t do that three to four days a week and not lose anything, so I just have to keep at it.

Off to Cincinnati tonight. Tomorrow I am going to my friend Becca’s bachelorette party at our friend Rachael’s house. Then on Sunday, it’s attempt #2 on Abby’s video. We will have one hour to shoot it, as it has turned out, with everyone’s busy schedules. I am really going to have to keep everyone on task, including myself.

Exciting new project coming to Plum St.

Last week I proclaimed I would write ten pages of one of my screenplay ideas before this Friday. I ended up going home and doing it that night. I even started with my opening scene. So far, of my college script idea, I have a freshman girl being dropped off in front of a dorm, meeting her new roommate, taking a first-year tour, and meeting with her adviser. It sounds terribly boring now that I’ve put it like that, but hopefully the script itself is much more entertaining. I will be out of town for work tomorrow night but maybe I can get a few more pages done Thursday evening.

On Friday, I’ll be heading down to Cincinnati for one night only to help shoot Plum St.’s second commercial for KT’s Barbecue and Deli. This time, they’re getting paid. If you do good work for cheap (or even free) and show you’re committed to doing the best you can, you can prove yourself to a client who might be inclined to keep you on board long term and reward you for your efforts. Plum St. is demonstrating this excellently. Additionally, the guys ordered their brand new camera online last night, so on Friday I get to bring my baby back home!

Plum St. has more than commercial work lined up; two of their writers created a web series, and it’s pretty awesome. Much like “Paper Cuts,” this web series has a background in journalism. And lucky for it, Plum St. is actually hiring. The production company gave “Superhero Issues” the green light last week and we were all sent drafts of the first five episodes to write notes for. I’ve been wanting to read the scripts ever since I heard about the project and now that I have, I am pleased to say it will make for an extremely fun project. There’s a lot of wordplay in the writing and I hope the guys can find actors with the talent (and especially the comedic timing) to pull their well-written jokes off. Also, Brian asked me if I would be interested in guest directing one of the eight episodes, so if that pans out I’ll be even more enthused. More details to come.

Look, I blogged today

Tonight Brandon and I are going to go see “The Men Who Stare At Goats” at Studio 35. I have no idea what I’m getting into. All I know is Brandon cracks up every time they run a trailer for it on TV. Tomorrow I’ll be playing catch up around the house and Sunday, Brandon’s coming to Cincinnati with me for the first time to help out with the production of “Gnomewhere.” Pretty cool he’s coming along.

Wednesday was my dad’s birthday and so I talked to him on the phone for almost an hour about how I’m doing. Happy birthday Dad! I also celebrated his birthday by going to hang out with my brother and sister-in-law in his stead. Sigh; at least he got a birthday lunch with a friend.

I’ve worked out three nights this week and I’m going to the gym tonight, too. Brandon says he is proud of me for sticking with it. I still swear it’s the iPhone.