Thursday, February 12, 2009

DAY TWELVE - "Am I Glad We Saved This For The Last Day," or "You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry!"

We've got another swordfight on the docket for today, and this one involves me. We're shooting the flashback scene where James Cranston first encounters the evil Druid Lord Thorn, played by yours truly. I start off the morning in a bad way, finding that my car won't start. Should've taken that ride in with Jeff, dammit! So I arrive on the set an hour late.  Add to that a 2 hour make-up job, and by the time afternoon rolls around Professor Jack's line, "Well at least we haven't seen Thorn yet" is particularly resonant.

Unlike yesterday's fight, which Dave and Aaron captured hand-held, today's battle will be shot with locked down cameras. With the help of Steve Tolin, who in addition to his Producer and Production Design duties also serves as our fight choreograper, Nathan and I have worked out a "fight loop" in which we repeat the same series of moves (kind of like a kata for two), which the cameras will capture from four different angles.  Jeff will then cut together the different vantage points to turn the two-minute fight into a much longer melee.

We were originally scheduled to shoot this fight on Day Three, but when Nathan got sick and missed the first day of shooting we did some rescheduling, and I made sure to save this fight scene for last. And man, did I need the extra time. Nathan and I have been practicing our moves throughout the week, but even with all the practice I don't feel comfortable with my performance today. It doesn't feel as good as it did in rehearsals. I seem to be tripping up, not moving as fluidly as I should. Maybe it's the mats on the floor, which I keep slipping off of during my "Obi-Wan circa Episode IV unmotivated spin." Or maybe it's the heavy cape.  Or the mask, which is difficult to see through. Or maybe I'm just making excuses for being no ace at stage combat.

In a way, this is payback for the crew. Yesterday I really let them have it. A few of them were moving around and making noise during a take, and I lost my cool and railed at them for about two minutes. It wasn't exactly a Christian Bale moment, but it definitely left an impression. So today the crew gets to watch me fumble through this fight scene, and bask in the glow of my embarrassment.

Jeff, Dave and Aaron have a different take on the proceedings. They tell me that from their viewpoint behind the cameras, the fight looks totally badass. When I watch a bit of the playback, I can see that it does indeed look cooler than it feels. And when Jeff assures me that it will look amazing once it's all cut together, I almost believe him.

And while "cool" may be the word Jeff uses to describe the action, I would certainly choose the opposite. This costume is hot, and the work-out I get while fighting in it causes me to work up quite a sweat - so much that when I remove my hood and mask during a break, the elaborate make-up job that Midian and Rachael did on my face and neck is completely gone! This stuff isn't water-soluble, but apparently sweat does a fine job of washing it away. The first time I got this make-up job done last week, I had to spend nearly an hour with a bottle of rubbing alcohol to get it all off. Who knew all I really had to do was run in place for fifteen minutes? So the make-up crew scrambles to re-do my make-up while the crew repositions the cameras, and Nathan and I go at it hot and heavy once again.

Near the end of the day, once all the fighting has been done, we move on to a shot that Jeff and Dave are calling the "hulk-out." One of the characters has been stung by a bug creature, and the idea is to show the beginning of his transformation into one of them by zooming in on his eyes as they change color. Just like when David Banner is about to turn into the Hulk in the old TV series. Or when Todd One is about to yell at the crew for moving around during a take.

The "hulk-eyes" shot requires some tricky lighting, and we are cutting it close to our time limit today. But our cinematographer Dave has been looking forward to this shot all day, and he wants to take his time and get it right. So right after the "hulk-out" is in the can, we haul out of the studio with three minutes to spare, finishing our second week of shooting just under the wire.

1. "On guard!"
2. "On guard?"
3. "Unga!"
4. Gotta watch my back!
5. Jeff and Aaron like what they see
6. That's a wrap? Point us toward the next adventure!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ugh.... You're familiar with the Emperor's New Clothes? I hate to be the guy who points out the naked dude (yes, makes me sound like a fag, which is probably the real reason why nobody had the guts to say so) anyways...

What's up with all the Spielbergian obsessiveness? I mean, as a critic, I hope this won't be taken as hating, it ain't. Look, saw your trailer, and the first thought I had was, why attempt to do your own version of "Sky Captain: World of Tomorrow" since that film sucked so badly in the first place. Clearly, I would bet that your intent isn't do a ripoff of that awful film. But when you think about it, why didn't that film work in the first place? Because to do post-modern ironic filmmaking in the vein of Spielberg or Lucas is simply, well, boring. Spielberg and Lucas already did the post-modern thing, so to do their style is like copying a guy who already copied someone else in the first place. Post-post modern? Indie filmmaking is fun precisely because it can be an alternative to the mainstream. So these filmmakers like Chris Seaver, Mike Watts, you, trying to do no-budget versions of epic crowd-pleasers simply sounds like a waste of time to me. Why pay to see your film when I can pay to see the real thing? What's killing me is simply the lack of versimilude (sp?) here. I think you forgot that what made Lucas and Spielberg's early efforts so fun, and ironic, was that they had huge budgets and amazing resources to make their serial b movies 'believable.' A film shot on a green screen, looks like a film shot on a green screen. College aged actors pretending to be WW2 pilots and heroic professors look like young people 'pretending' to be things that they are not. I love Spielberg too. So plagarizing him in the cheapest way possible, even if I come close to replicating some of his charm, is hack work at best and creepy obsession at most. You guys seem SO talented. Why not make a movie from the heart. Did you forget that those fantasies from Lucas and Spielberg were more about their passive-aggressive hatred toward abusive father figures and their desire to escape from the abuse to fantasy worlds? The whole b-movie serial gimmick wasn't what drove those films. It was their candid acceptance of the kind of behaviors that demonized men children scared of growing up. Indiana Jones' schizophrenia mirrored Spielberg's own obsessive need to prove himself to a world he was too insecure to believe accepted him. Darth Vader was a play on the words Dark Father which was a demon that Lucas was always trying to escape from with help of his elaborate fantasies. Those films, the early ones at least, had pathos. All I'm seeing here, like in "Project: Valkyrie", is a love of spectacle and irony. I don't see the same personal tales of what makes you guys interesting people ending up on film. Think of Roger Ebert's early review of "Raiders of the Lost Ark". He said, "This a young jewish boy getting to indulge in his fantasy of whooping some Nazis." And to know Spielberg's troubled history of growing up in a society that mocked his heritage is to know this to be true. I think the next time you very talent folks get together to make a movie, you should drop the ego to prove yourselves and instead tap into the hidden stories of your lives that drive you as people and start there. Sure, you might not end up with a glossy spectacle. But you'll have a story that people like me might actually care about. It might be fun going through the motions of making a film like "It came from Yesterday" like a bunch of kids pretending to be big Hollywood professionals making a big Hollywood film. But the truth is that you aren't using film to connect with your audience. You are using it to play act, to indulge in some obsession, etc. When you figure out that "It's the story, stupid" and not what you have to prove, then I can promise you that you'll find true satisfaction and validation in that mysterious artform called moviemaking. Good luck.