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.