In late 1983 a film commision had been established as a subdivision of the mayors Office in an effort to bring more production to the city. In fact, the last feature film to have been shot in the area was The Creature From The Black Lagoon, which was filmed on a section of the St. Johns River in South Jacksonville. So, it had been more than 30 years since the area had seen any type of feature film production.
Then, a $500,000 low budget slasher film was brought to Jax to be filmed and I was hired as a Production Assistant, working for free, 16 hours per day for 6 weeks.
In the end, the production had needed some lawn chairs and the like, which I had brought from home and in the credits, next to my name it read Outside Props.
The only notable name in the film was Louise Lasser, Woody Allens former wife (one of them) who had been in a few of his films. The rest of the cast were younger people, ala, the typical teenage slasher film.
I was enthralled by the sheer amount of people and effort and hours that it took to accomplish getting a film made. I had known, having been 'introduced' to the world od filmmaking by reading The Making Of Jaws and The Jaws Log, so I wasn't suprised, but still, reading about it and actually being there are two different things, as I am sure you all well know.The entire film was shot in an apartment complex, including having the producytion offices and work areas taking up 5 apartments and the locations being three others.
A typical nights filming (Most of it was night shooting) started like this:
Call time was 6:00 pm, but my day started at around 4:00 pm, being the low man on the totum pole. I would take care of any prepatory errands that needed to be ran, like picking up an actor at the airport, picking up dailes/rushes (This is the film that was shot the day before that was fed ex'd to a lab, processed, transfered to video and fed ex'd back for viewing at the start of the next production day, so that if the footage wasn't good, they could redo it if needed).
Then, the crew arrives and begins running tons of electrical cable to generators from one of the apartments to be filmed in. The grips and electrics dept's were busy at this, as the camera dept set the camera up for the first shot, which the director had told them he wanted previously or by story boards completed before filming ever started (Story boards are cartoon like sketches of shots to be done, particularly where there were shots involving Special Effects, i.e., Jane gets her head chopped off). The Props dept. and Set Decorators make sure the location has all the items called for in the script (The script of a film is like a bible, in that it dictates what everyone does and what is needed) are set up on location, like an open bottle of wine, 2 glasses, a lighter and a pack of smokes.
About an hour after the crew begins setting up, the director arrives and makes sure the camera is set as he wants it, etc., and if says change it, then everyone; camera, props, set....well, they change it. By this time the actors have arrived and are in wardrobe and make up. Upon completion of this, they come onto the set.
The director rehearses them and finally, about 3 or 4 hours after call time the cameras finally begin shooting. In this scene where these wine glasses and wine are needed, the two actors go through the scene from a Master shot (A shot that is wide and shows both in the scene). Then, the camera is reset for coverage, like a Medium Close Up of one person and the change over to set up for the different angle takes an hour. Then, after this one, the camera is moved to the opposite position to get the other person. And, during these hour waits for the camera to rest, a second unit cameraman grabs a close up of wine being poured into the glass which will be edited into the film later and it will appear that the actor poured it, when it was really just a PA or assistant cameraman.
Well, after 12 hours of filming 3 pages of script, the 2 minute (edited on screen time) scene is completed and the sun has risen so we've lost our cover of darkness, unless were running behind and the grips then have to cover the windows with black paper to simulate darkness, but then, some of the lighting may have to change because of this, so the grips and electricians have to move everything around.
By the end of the day, the Production Manager distributes the call sheets to everyone for the next days shoot, so everyone will know what actors need to be present, which pages of the script will be filmed and at what location, so that the camera, props, etc., depts know what they will need. And, if it's an exterior scene, then a cover set has to be prepared just in case inrement weather presents itself and we have to move all the filming indoors and do a different scene all together. So, all of the depts have to not only prepare for the scene scheduled, but they have to fully prepare for the cover set as well, 'just in case'. A cover set is ALWAYS ready, even when shooting indoor scenes, in case xyz actor gets sick and can't shoot.
Finally, at about 9 or 10 am, after much of the crew have gone back to their hotels, driven by the transportation dept., I am finally able to go home and collapse into bed from utter exaustion and grab about 6 hrs (if I'm lucky) sleep, just to get up and do it all over again the next night. And, when a film is on location, it shoots six days a week until the script is completed, with Sunday being the only day of rest.
Interestingly enough, as I have gotten older and direct and produce my own projects, the above, generally, describes my day still, except from a more prominant position. The only difference being that, instead of running errands, I am in meetings and watching clips from the previous days filming, which has to be transfered to VHS from the production tape format. And, though when I Produce and Direct, the crew and cast are smaller, the process is still the same.
And I love it with a passion. This is what I call a very satisfying workday, even at 14 hours. I have so much fun that this is why there is nothing that I'd prefer doing.
Making movies is an incredible experience.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE!!!!