Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Likes of Us - October


We are now in the home stretch of filming. And although we only have three days remaining on our shooting the schedule, we still won’t be done until almost the middle of November because we are taking a weekend off as one of our actors is running in the NYC marathon. At this point it feels like WE'VE been running a marathon! We haven’t had a day off since Labor Day and while we can see the finish line, we still have some work to do to get there. It would be really great to get this wrapped up in two weeks but I’m actually looking forward to having a weekend off. Our Director, Sandy Jimenez has the additional task of running rehearsals for all the actors, so Monday is the only night that he isn’t doing something related to this production. I have no idea how he does it. In the last posting, I talked about losing actors and gaining others. We have now filmed multiple scenes with all the primary actors for the movie and I couldn’t be happier with the group of people that we put together for this project. The cast and crew still show up every week energized and ready to go. One of our actors was commenting about how tired he is at the end of a day, but the work is worth the effort. I think that’s how we all feel. All the actors have fit seamlessly into the film. People, who before this production had never met, have an almost instant connection with each other. My partners and I would love to take credit for that, but it’s just one in a series of lucky “accidents” that we have been blessed with during this project. I’m always shocked at the generosity of our friends. We’ve filmed at the homes of two more of our friends recently and they couldn’t have been more accommodating. One of them even allowed us to use their baby in one of the scenes even though the script switched the sex of their son. When you show up at someone’s house with a dozen strangers and they go out of their way to make sure that everyone feels welcome, it makes you feel very fortunate to have such incredible friends. We certainly couldn’t have filmed this movie without depending upon the kindness of the people in our lives. We have imposed upon them in various ways and for the most part, they’ve been there to support us every step along the way. We have reached our final location for filming. Outside of a few short exterior pick-ups, the remaining days will be spent at a bar. Normally I’d be thrilled, but it’s hasn’t been quite the experience that I usually associate with spending 10 hours at a bar. First of all we can’t drink, so that basically negates the biggest advantage. Do you know how annoying it is to have to go to the deli to buy beer when you have a bar full of beer in front of you? Secondly we can’t watch football because the NFL isn’t supposed to be in season during the time that the movie takes place (plus we are trying to avoid being sued by the NFL). Third, we are in a fairly isolated location. Outside of the deli next door, we have a long trek to find anything else open on a Sunday in the neighborhood. It is, however, a fantastic location. If I had a choice of every bar in New York, this is the location that I would have chosen. There’s enough space for the camera and actors to move around freely and it just seems like a place that a group of friends would be happy to call home (I speak from experience on that point). My biggest remaining issue as a producer (besides money of course) is trying to secure extras. It’s one thing to tell an actor to be ready to film from 9 until whenever on a Sunday, it’s quite another thing to ask a friend to show up all day and stand around waiting to possibly be in a shot. Asking people to show up to a bar is fine. Telling them that they can’t drink while they are there is not so fine. Also, as the film has gone along, I think I’ve used up just about every favor I’ve had coming to me. I’m not really sure what the answer to this dilemma is going to be. However, as the project has gone along, I’ve found that we usually manage to find an answer to the problems that we’ve faced. We have made a few small changes to the script during shooting, so my job as writer isn’t quite finished. Sometimes during rehearsal the actors will ad lib a line that will end up being filmed. Sometimes the Director takes it upon himself to change a line or two. The actors usually consult me before they change a line, but I can’t say the same for the Director. I don’t mind though. I would say that most times the instincts of the actors and the Director have been correct. I certainly don’t think that my script is sacred. If someone can come up with a better way or a more comfortable way to get a point across, then I’m all for it. There is some specific language that I wouldn’t want changed, but for the most part I feel like this is a collaborative effort. The actors who have to say the lines should feel comfortable with the language. If they have a real objection to something based on their understanding of their character, then I am more than willing to give them their day in court. And more often than not, we go with their suggestion. My willingness to change the script is based on the fact that I know how everyone associated with the project is absolutely committed to making the best film possible. We were filming some “behind the scenes” interviews this week and one of the questions I was asked was whether we (700 Shades of Grey) would make another movie. I said that this experience hadn’t soured me on the idea, but it would at least a year before we tried this again. Being in the middle of the process makes it hard to have any real perspective. I do know that this is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in terms of time and commitment. There are certainly some days when I go to sleep thinking that making a movie is the worst idea we’ve ever had. Of course there are times on the set when I see the actors bring something to life that before had only been words on a page and I think that making a movie is the best idea we’ve ever had. I do know that I’ll never have an experience quite like this one ever again. We may indeed make more movies in the future, but they won’t be our first movie. The experience of bringing this script to life has been an amazing, interesting, frustrating, enjoyable, maddening, invigorating, exhausting ride. As they say, you always remember your first time, and I know that I’ll remember this one for quite some time. That’s about it for this latest installment. The next entry will include the end of filming and the wrap party. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to being able to say that we’ve finally finished this thing. Of course we’ll have months ahead of us of post production, but then that’s a different blog, isn’t it. In closing this week, I’d like to leave with the inspiring words of Ghandi or was it Billy Joel who said, “A few more hours to be complete, A few more nights on satin sheets, A few more times that I can say. I’ve loved these days”. So until next time boys and girls, keep on truckin’.