Friday, July 16, 2010

First Day on First Movie

I hardly slept the night before.  I was so excited.  My wife had bought me a new pair of nice shorts and a golf shirt to match (and they were too nice of clothes to be used on a movie set!).  But it was a good thing to have shorts, because Day 1 of "The Keyman" was September 5, 2000, and it was 106 degrees.  As I write this, it's 99 right now and pretty unbearable.  I think my excitement got me through the heat.  During that time, we were also in one of the longest periods without any rain. 

I showed up at a recently closed hospital on the east side of Dallas.  It was a perfect location for what we had to shoot.  Lead actress Ellen Locy was first up, then second half of the day was Adam Baldwin, who had arrived two days before from Los Angeles.  The interesting thing about this story was that the lead actor and the lead actress had only one scene together and that wasn't scheduled until the third week.

I remember parking and seeing all the trailers.  Wow, when did they park these things?  Little dressing rooms... bathrooms.  How cool is this!

First shot was pretty easy.  Exterior, Ellen in vehicle pulls into "morgue" parking lot.  I had read somewhere that a Directing/Producing team made a tradition out of the producer clapping the first and last shot of a movie's shooting.  So I had our Producer Susan Kirr on hand to clap the first take.  (She did it again on the second movie "A Promise Kept.")  Doug Bruce, the 1st AD, had everyone ready to go.

After a couple of takes, it was time for the next shot.  Exterior car, dolly as Ellen sits in the car having just returned from the morgue.  She's upset and starts crying.  Now, I had read a lot about Spielberg as a director-- he's not an actor.  He "directs" his actors by who he selects in the audition-- in other words, very little directing of the actors.

So action is called and Ellen, sitting in the driver's seat, breaks down and cries.  We finish the take and she asks me "was that enough?"  "Too much?"  A voice inside my head said "how would I know?"  But I quashed that thought.  But the reality was the same... I really didn't know.  So being the brilliant director, I told her I thought it was fine, then said, try one with less.  Then after that take, try one with more.  Directing by bracketing.  Not so brilliant.  Later in the edit, for the sake of time, I cut this scene anyway.

Then we (thankfully) moved inside, out of the 106 degree heat.  We shot some more morgue scenes with Ellen.  Then we shot a big scene with Adam.  What was really cool here was that I was using my three year old son as a featured extra.  (Also later cut-- so yes I can tell people I cut my own son out of the movie).  My wife was on set of course, almost 9 months pregnant with my soon to be daughter.  What I learned then hasn't changed to this day-- she is not impressed by a movie set and would rather be home.  What is magic to many, is mundane to her.  So she doesn't visit my movie sets much.

Last scene of the day was Ellen, after getting beat up, talks from her hospital bed to another actress.  Everything seemed to go okay and we wrapped.  Two days later, dailies came back, and the DP had opened the iris all the way for that last scene to get focus, then forgot to dial it back.  So it was majorly blown out.  That scene got added to a "re-shoot" list and fortunately, we did get back to it.

The first day of "The Keyman."

(BTW, "The Keyman" get your DVD for only $10 at the SFilms store!  Free shipping right now.)

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