Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

A not so great start

After working in the industry for a time, one develops the ability to look at a call sheet and estimate  the length of the day.

Today’s call sheet looked like it might end up being about a nine or ten hour day. Which, since we’re working for a flat rate ( rate per day, no overtime) seemed pretty sweet.

Three scenes, none featuring more than four actors, no complicated blocking (one scene at a cosmetics counter, one in front of an elevator door, one in a bathroom).

Except for the wild card. Improv.

This show isn’t scripted – it’s all improv, which can sometimes be awesome, if the entertainment Gods smile upon one’s production*.

Needless to say, the entertainment Gods not only did not smile upon us, but they’re actively angered about something. We’re not sure what, though. Tomorrow, we ritually kill the loader** first thing and see if the day goes any better.

The main problem with a non-scripted show is that you do, in fact, have to have some sort of script. Or at least an idea of what direction one wants to take with the rambling of actors who don’t really know what’s expected of them beyond “just go with it”.

Needless to say, our day was over 12 hours.

The problem wasn’t us. We lit, tweaked and then got the hell out of the way. Same as we always do.

The problem was the each scene took about four hours to shoot once the actors got in.

Note to aspiring directors: If something’s not working, don’t keep doing it again and again and again in the hopes that it will magically work itself out. It won’t. For fuck’s sake, stop, fix the problem and then soldier on.  We understand. Really we do. We’ll even re-light and won’t blame you.

First scene: Three actors at a counter in a department store: Four and a half hours.

Second scene: Four actors  in front of an elevator with minimal movement. Five hours.

Third scene:  Two actors in a bathroom. Three hours.

I have to be back at 6 am tomorrow.

I’m off to bed.

*The show Reno 911 was an improv show.

**Once upon a time, the loader (or 2nd AC) was the poor bastard who had to load the film – this meant spending the entire day in the truck, either locked into the ‘dark box’ or filling out paperwork or getting coffee. Now, with video? There’s still a ‘loader’, but the charge batteries, download data, and get coffee.

Filed under: crack of dawn, long long drives, Work

3 Responses

  1. boskolives says:

    My factors used for computing the expected length of the day (in no particular order) are:
    # of kids
    # of dogs
    # of stunts
    A 1st time director
    An inexperienced DP
    An actor (or director) who is also the producer
    The call sheet numeric ratio of producers to crew members

    Of course, your milage may vary

  2. k4kafka says:

    No excuse for this except for the fact that the crew was on a daily flat. Funny how swift things move along when the line producer realizes he/she must pay overtime….

  3. Damn right, k4kafka — the purpose of overtime isn’t to fatten the crew’s paychecks, but to batter the producers like Mike Tyson in his prime whenever they’re stupid enough to sign off on an absurdly ambitious schedule or hire a clueless idiot to direct. Once those producers experience the pain of having their budgets beaten to a bloody pulp a few times, they learn to be a lot more realistic in their expectations of what can be accomplished on set.

    Flat rate + improv = disaster for the crew…

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