Although I’m sure it seems like a great idea to shoot an infomercial in a friend’s 4th floor studio apartment to save money on location fees, I think I can safely speak for everyone on the below-the-line crew when I plead for sanity.
We’ve shot in this building before – pre WW2, MacArthur Park adjacent (drug-dealer infested neighborhood, BTW), tiny elevator, no ramps, small apartment, narrow hallways – basically, everything one doesn’t want in a location all rolled into one big ball of unhappiness and production delays.
Because there was no room inside the apartment (and it was big for a residence, but when you get 30 people and lighting equipment into one room, it gets tight really quickly) to put, well, much of anything other than the set dressing and the lights, they had to rent two other apartments for the day – one for the production office, makeup and hair (and the agency people ended up in there as well since there was no room on set), and one for the actors (or something – I’m not exactly sure why the rented the third apartment. We weren’t allowed to stage equipment in it, it just seemed to be a place for one of the ad agency guys to make calls).
We had to schlep most of the contents of a 10 ton truck up four floors in the world’s smallest elevator, and stage everything in the narrow hallway while keeping a walkway open (made more difficult because the poor sound guy was also in the hallway – between the set and our staging area, so we kept having to force our way past him carrying hot lights and pointy things while he was trying to work), so it took us over an hour to even get our stuff upstairs and run our cable to the set, plus we kept getting delayed by having to fight our way into and around the set when we were trying to light.
Aside from all this, the main problem with shooting four floors up and not really having a place to put one’s equipment is the gamble factor.
When we can’t bring up everything but the kitchen sink, we take a great big guess at what we think the gaffer’s going to use, based on how well we know the gaffer and what we think he or she is going to do, lighting-wise (what the gaffer actually tells us counts as well, but we do indulge in a fair amount of second-guessing), and then haul up the stuff that we think we might need.
The flaw in this plan should be obvious – no matter what we haul up, we’ll end up having to run down four floors and get something that we either forgot or were sure we weren’t going to need while the whole production sits there and waits on that one item.
Although it’s tempting to just shout “damn the torpedoes” or something and cram every single bit of stuff from the truck into the world’s smallest elevator and stack it in the hallways (where some mild entertainment would be had by taking bets on when that teetering pile of cable would fall over and who it would hit), sometimes there’s just not any space and we go into it knowing that all of us are going to have to make at least one frantic run to the truck during the day.
I lost count of how many times I ran up and down the stairs – and the real kicker is that the grips blacked out the windows so we could have been on the first floor.
Hell, we could have been on a stage with air conditioning.
But the production team were all nice (even though they were all really young. I mentioned to a co-worker that I thought the first AD was kind of cute, and said co-worker replied “Oh, please. He’s a pre-schooler.”) and everything was calm, even though two of the actors were two hours late so we started out behind schedule.
Call time: 7 am
Wrap time: 10 pm