The Process - THIS/NEXT/LAST TIME Part II

"The Process" is a series of entires where I'll talk though the hurdles and joys of projects I've worked on. This entry is the second in a series covering the production of "THIS/NEXT/LAST TIME". Read Part I here.

PRODUCTION

When shooting any film, weather and time are your greatest enemies. If they both turn against you, you’re screwed - so you better have a backup plan.

We didn’t.

Bobcat arrived on the island a few days before Chris. He worked his producer magic and secured us an amazing location - a bar with a fantastic interior, as well as an entrance to an isolated alley which was perfect for our needs. Additionally, we made a deal with the owners to cook lunch for our crew as part of the location fee - food is an essential part of any production, particularly on volunteer shoots.

The original costume for the Halloween scene.

While we wouldn’t need the same about of background performers with our script changes, we now had to deal with various set decorations and costumes changes, and Bobcat worked with a friend of ours, Sarah Csumrik, to secure what we required. (A particular shout out to ChristmasSweaters.ca who provided us with the amazing assortment of garments for our festive scene.)

The actual shoot plan was simple, but audacious. Since we had time constraints with Chris, we would spend the first day of his visit finalizing the prep and the second day shooting. We figured we could shoot out all the interiors during the day and go outside at night for the exteriors. It would be a long day and ask a lot of our crew, but everyone was up for it. 

In hindsight, it was a terrible idea. 

The interior shoot went much slower than anticipated. We hadn’t properly budgeted the time or resources to create a blackout tent around the door, so my character could enter and exit while maintaining the illusion that it was night outside. Not properly planning for this cost us a lot of valuable time we didn’t have. 

On the positive side, we were fortunate to have multiple friends bring their Canon DSLR’s, and we took every advantage of that. Our Director of Photography, Nicolas Watkins-Lenis, lit and composed for the two mains, and we let the others find their own additional shots with minimal involvement from Chris and I unless there was a particular angle we needed. While the final edit relies primarily on the main angles, those additional angles proved invaluable. 

When it was finally time to move outside, we realized there was a problem pretty quickly - about thirty seconds, in fact. All it took was moving one light outside and watch the diffusion paper fly off in grand fashion to know we were hooped. Generally when you think of weather issues, you just pray it doesn’t rain - a wind storm is pretty far down the list of your concerns. If it was just a lighting issue we probably could have made it work, but the wind was so strong it was visually noticeable and it made recording audio impossible.

It was a nightmare. We had no backup - Chris was set to fly out the next afternoon so we couldn’t push it to the next evening, and we couldn’t ask our crew to sit around and hope the storm would abate. We had no choice - with only half a film shot, we packed up and sent our crew home, cancelling the rest of the shoot.

I got drunk early and I got drunk fast. It was painful to have gotten so far and be unable to finish what we set out to do. However, after editing the final scene together the next day and seeing it work, we decided we had to finish the film, even if it took a couple months before Chris could come back.

9 MONTHS LATER

Sitting on a half completed project for the better part of a year is incredibly frustrating. I had cut together the three scenes we shot, but there wasn’t much to do except wait and try to maintain interest in the film.

Finally we got word that Chris would be able to get up to Victoria on the last weekend of September, so we began to make plans. The crew would be much smaller this time, and we wouldn’t require any other actors besides Chris and myself. It was fall, so we’d have a long night to shoot, and we had three nights available in case we ran into any unforeseen weather issues. Everything would be find this time - or so we thought.

The exterior shoot crew.
Photo by Jon Cairns

Less than two weeks before Chris arrived, I was asked if I would accompany the Director and Producer of LOCKED IN A GARAGE BAND, a film I had been working on, to the film’s world premiere at the Raindance Film Festival in London, England to capture video and photo of the event. Of course I couldn’t say no to that, but as (un)luck would have it, I’d have to fly out the weekend Chris was visiting. We’d still be able to shoot, but it would be tight.

Thanks in part to my new travel plans — and in part to Chris’s luggage being lost on his way to Victoria — we again ended up with one night to shoot and no back-up plan. 

Fortunately, the wind stayed away and we completed the shoot without much hassle. Luckily, we didn’t have to worry about continuity due to the time jumps, so the fact that our hair was completely different and I had lost a noticeable 20lbs was a non-issue.

After two shoot days, with a 270 day break in between, we finally had something to work with - it was just up to me to finish the edit, a process that would take the next year to complete.

Tomorrow: the long road of post-production and finding a title.