Making, "The Order Comes Down"
This was the second episode we shot and the first with our sound man, Martin Fitrzyk. Martin came on board after the last shoot's sound guy double booked himself. Such is life in independent film. Martin would turn out to be a score though. His files in post were much better than the ones with our original sound guy. Along with Marty, I had Tara Wright as a script supervisor and Lana Raro doing hair and makeup. Tara was total pro and a valuable asset to this shoot. Lana would end up not just doing hair and makeup, but unbeknonst to her, (and me) at call time, would also be pulling focus for a difficult shot.
Playing the part of Jackie, we had former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Ricco Rodriguez. Chris Bruno knows Ricco and suggested him for the part. We had Ricco come in and read and I realized it doesn't take much for Ricco to convey his intent in a scene. We were lucky to have Talita Maia the beautiful Brazilian playing the part of Marlena, who also happens to be a beautiful Brazilian. For the part of Danny the pimp, there wasn't a doubt in my mind who we needed: Shannon Gannon.
The night before the shoot, I was informed by Vihang that we did not have the lights we needed. No matter how much I plan for these, there will always be an emergency. I met up with Vihang and we scrambled for gear. When we parted ways at about 9 pm he told me he would drive to Long Beach, (at least an hour away by freeway), to get the last of the lights we needed, from a friend. It is motivation like this, that makes things work.
The next morning I drove with the pvc pipes, (used for our home made dolly), protruding out of my sunroof to our location: a house in Eagle Rock. (It's times like these I realize the trusty, old Lexus sedan might not be ideal for film making). Vihang showed up and thankfully his Long Beach quest paid off and we had the lights we wanted.
I thought we would fly through our first shot, a dolly shot, but that wasn't the case. The pvc pipes weren't the smoothest things for a dolly to be mounted on and time was wasted. The way the pvc pipes work is you lay them down parallel to each other, then you mount a square piece of plywood with several skateboard wheels attached to it, over the pipes. On top of that plywood stands the tripod with the camera. If all goes well, the skateboard wheels glide down the pipes and you get a nice dolly shot. However our pvc pipes kept creaking under the weight of the dolly and this would screw up the sound. Lana offered some baby powder and Tara suggested some lemon fresh Pledge, to apply to the pipes to get rid of the creaks and make the skateboard wheels move smoothly. This worked, but it was still a tough shot. At one point, Vihang told me he needed someone else to pull focus while he worked the camera head. So I asked Lana to do it. She gave me a look that I interpreted as, "why don't you jump in front of a train?" but she stood on the dolly anyway and twisted the lens where Vihang told her and I pulled her from the belt loops to dolly her backwards.
Even with a professional dolly, dolly shots can take a while . You have to time the camera movement, the actor's blocking, pull focus and direct the scene simultaneously. A good professional dolly is one you can sit on. It is heavy. PVC pipes are very light and get dinged, so it is not uncommon for the pipes to move and leave you with a bumpy shot. This happenned to us. So with the right fortitude and knowing when to scrap the dolly for alternative shots, we drove on. The day was a long one, but we got what we needed.