After all our writing and our preparation, the fifth and final weekend of production on season one of The Idle Quest arrived. And it was not going to be a cakewalk. The good news was that there weren’t any location changes, we were shooting the whole weekend in my house, which is how we began the whole thing. There was a nice cyclical nature to the whole thing. However, we were trying to shoot a lot of stuff in a very little amount of time.
I think this requires a little explanation about the nature of production. On big studio productions, which have millions upon millions of dollars at their disposal, the average day consists of shooting 2-3 pages. On independent productions, which have thousands of dollars at their disposal, the average day consists of shooting 5-6 pages. And those productions make sacrifices to be able to pull that off. During this weekend of production, where we basically had tens of dollars, we were shooting 9 pages one day and 7 on another. And, of course, I didn’t want to have to make any sacrifices, especially because these were some of the most important scenes in the whole series.
So with that pressure bearing down on us, we headed into Saturday, which was the 9 page day.
Saturday had five scenes, which means five costume changes, five different lighting set ups, and five different looks for the room. We also had to transition from day to night. The first scene of the day was shot at night. We then had to blackout all the windows in my living room, which there were many. The blacking out period took longer than expected, and for the first time during the entire production, I began to worry on set. I usually worry a lot before we start shooting but am fine once we’ve begun. I guess the weight of how much we were trying to shoot was wearing me down. Fortunately, Will is a great AD and assured me we were fine and we were going to be able to do what we needed to be done.
By the time the blacking out of the windows was done, lunch was ready and we broke for lunch. After lunch we came back with a vengeance and we tore through the scenes. The cast and crew were just clicking better than we have the entire shoot, and it really paid off. We wrapped early. We managed to shoot those 7 pages in 9 hours, and I was very happy with what we got.
But the scene that really had me worried was still ahead.
Sunday had less scenes and they were all (mercifully) set during the day. However, they were all set in my bedroom, which is a pretty small room. Basically, it got crowded fast and people, myself included, found ourselves jamming our bodies into corners so we weren’t in the shot or blocking the actors from moving or cutting any light or creating shadows. It was a little rough, but not unmanageable.
Once we got accustomed to the room, we were able to move pretty quickly. We shot two scenes and broke for lunch. Everyone left the room and I returned to an old habit: while the cast and crew ate, I sat by myself in the room. That’s how I knew I was intimidated by the scene we were going to shoot after lunch. The scene was the first scene of our fourth episode. It’s about a five page scene that involves a lot of dialogue and dynamics between three characters, Max, Stuart, and Doyle. After a while of sitting alone in the room, thinking through the scene and trying to visualize it, I decided I had beat myself over the head enough and I should go eat something.
Once lunch was over and we began shooting the scene and I had something to concentrate on and keep my mind busy, so I wasn’t worrying so much. And as we went through the scene, we were able to find the moments, the delicate moments that balance the emotions in the scene, the moments I had been worrying about getting. And that is sort of what filmmaking is all about.
You are always going to find those moments, because filmmaking is not a singular activity. It is a collaboration. It is a group of creative people offering their ideas and skills to help tell a story they believe is worth telling. And as long as you manage to surround yourself with talented and passionate people, as I was fortunate enough to do, you are always going to find those moments that make the story honest.
So as I look back on the production and sit in post-production editing the footage, I am confident that what we have is something people will watch and enjoy, and I can’t wait to give it to them.