Behind the scenes of "Malibu"
After the easy shoot in the alley, the next shoot was in Malibu and this ended up being the most difficult. I planned to shoot eight pages, comprised of six actors, which included scenes in two moving vehicles, in two days. It was a nice idea, but the idea and the reality were completely different. On Thursday I planned on shooting the two moving vehicle scenes with dialogue in each and then having two of the actors, (Chris Bruno and Jimmy Della Valle), get out of one of the vehicles for a scene at the house that was to be shot on steady cam. On Saturday we would shoot the interior, a four page scene with all the actors involved.
For the vehicle and steadycam work, I hired a DP I had not worked with before. This is never a good idea, especially when steadicam and car mounts are to be used. However we seemed to be on the same page and with car mounts that would take "20 minutes" to set up, I did not see problems.
Thursday started off with problems and they snowballed. Things actually started Wed night, when Jimmy told me he had a producer meeting in the afternoon and asked to be out of there by 4:00. I didn't think it would be a problem, so I told him he'd be out by 4:00. Early Thu morning I went to the rental car place to get a sports car for the shoot. Once there they let me know they wanted a much larger deposit than we agreed upon over the phone. They didn't care that I had a printed out receipt for our transaction they wanted additional cash that I did not have. With great restraint I refrained from kicking the crap out of the rental car guy and called one of the actresses, Lizzy Thrasher. She had a sports car and said I could use it, but it was in dire need of a wash. I told her to clean it and flip me the bill. This would mean we would be starting late and only had Jimmy till 4:00.
Even though we were late with the car and a few actors had trouble finding the location, there was a chance we could finish on time. This chance was soon squandered though as the car mounts proved to be much more difficult to set up than anticipated. Instead of 20 minutes, 45 minutes was the quickest set up and the other two were a lot longer. The mount also only attached to one of the vehicles and at day's end, I released Jimmy before even getting a shot off on him. Upon review of the few shots we did get, sun spots and camera shakes made the footage unusable. As they say in the world of independent film, "it was a tough day to have quit sniffing glue" and Thursday went back on the calender as a day that still needed to be shot.
That Saturday we shot the interiors. The DP for Saturday was Jeremy McCann. He brought a couple of friends to help out on set, as did Carolyne Valmont, who did hair and makeup. (I highly recommend her). Old friend Colin Palmer showed up too, to help things move with a purpose. One glitch on set was a tripod issue. The DP from Thu had left his tripod on set so I said to use it and we'd text him about it when we were done. Late in the afternoon however, the original DP showed up and wanted his tripod back. I wanted to finish the shot, He wanted the tripod back. I was still irked at him for taking too much time with his gear on Thu and not getting any shots off. It was a costly day, but now we were in the midst of a shot with his tripod. I said I'd give it to him after we shot the scene and he became irate, shouting "tell your DP to give me my tripod back now!" This provoked Jeremy to calmly take the camera off the tripod, walk out the sliding glass door with the tripod in hand and throw it off the balcony into the brush below! The old DP stormed out and we continued with the scene.
Once we finished the interiors I kept Bruno and Jimmy around to shoot the exteriors where they use a nail gun. I had some awesome shots in mind where I'd set the camera up behind plexiglass and rack focus from Bruno holding the gun, to a wood post in the forground where Bruno would shoot a nail that would launch into the wood post. I practiced the shot the night before and the 3" nail ended up ricocheting off the wood I shot and flew right past me. Bruno still wanted to do the shot, but I never want to apologise for killing a guy, so I removed the shot from the shot list.
Shooting exteriors in Malibu was difficult because of the way sound carries through the canyons. We would hear traffic and even someone's radio quite clearly even though they were nowhere to be seen. The sun was coming down at this time too, so we moved with urgency as soon as there was a lull in these phantom noises.
Once Saturday was wrapped we would come back to Malibu on two seperate days for each of the car scenes. Instead of a camera mount, we used a GoPro attached to the windows or dash. We'd drive ahead of the vehicle with the scene happening and have the sound blaring through our stereo so I could listen to what they were saying in the car behind us. We originally had a monitor on an ipad in the car too, but that cut out, so I had to watch the scene on playback and adjust it accordingly. If you are ever shooting from a camera attached to a car, be aware that the background speeding by is going to make the car look like it is travelling about 10 times faster than it is, particularly on close ups where the actors face looks all calm and the ground behind him speeds by at what looks like mach-3.\, On these tight shots we had to have the actors drive around 5-10 MPH to make it look like they weren't flooring it. Other things to worry about are wind sounds and vibrations that cause the camera to shake. The more you can practice these shots the better you'll be able to adjust.
You'll notice in Chris Bruno and Jimmy's car ride, Bruno is wearing a baseball cap. This was do to a fresh haircut that had to be covered for continuity purposes. Bruno works a lot and sometimes he has to get a haircut, so rather than let it grow out and hope I can schedule him when his hair was of ideal length, I opted for the ball cap. However I did not like the way the ball cap occupied the frame when we shot from his window, so I ended up using exteriors and shots from Jimmy's side of the car.
We mounted the GoPro for this shot in a supermarket parking lot. While we were setting up, a convertible coasted by and the driver was singing. Without even looking at the driver, Chris Bruno exclaimed, "Dick Van Dyke!" Sure enough the car parked and out stepped Dick Van Dyke, singing away as he went to buy groceries.
When it came to editing the jeep ride, I ended up using the last shot we took that day. It was one shot. We shot a lot more on the day of, moving the camera around to different windows, but in the edit, I thought the single shot worked best for the scene. Each actor looked very natural playing off one another and I thought this worked well for showing us how they all existed in a space of time where their greatest worry was if they should smoke pot when they got home. I know we sacrificed some interesting close ups by just using one take, but if we cut up the scene with different setup angles, it would provide a quicker paced intensity that the scene didn't need.
In the first take, actress Diahann Reyes changed the line, "do you want to smoke some pot when we get home?" to "do you want to DO some pot when we get home" I had to tell her people do cocaine and heroin, but no one DOES pot. They smoke it. So if you thought Diahann fit the part of a ditzy porno chick, attribute that to good acting. She's quite smart and maybe even wholesome.
George Kokkoris is another of this ilk. If you meet George in person, you will see he is nothing like the character Riff, he portrays in this episode. He started acting professionally late in life, but he's very malleable, so you may want to hire him while he's still cheap.
Daniel George was the cool dude playing Kurt and Lizzy Thrasher was the blond. Like Kenny Johnston from the "Brant" episode, she is an Actor's Studio member.
Like I metioned before, this shoot was difficult. I was happy to have a cast and crew that forged on through reshoots and chaos without bitching and moaning.