And so, production continued…
Day 4: Saturday, January 24
Location: JHU Levering Conference Room
Scenes: 7, 8
Characters: Ray, Mom, Uncle Nick, Aunt Lis, Uncle Phil, Uncle Elliott, Grandma
Crew Call: 10am; Cast Call: 11am
This day of production was easier from the start with two quick scenes. First, an argument between Aunt Lis and Grandma about her veil, and second, the actual wedding––a quick, thrown-together affair in a conference room during Lis’s lunch break. Production Designers Lauren and Danielle knew that they had to create an authentic wedding that looked at once hasty and rushed, but not lazy from a production standpoint. They bought Dollar Store supplies to dress the table and walls and used the whiteboard in the room to write “Just Married!”
This was also the first time that we had a real, live fish in the film. Tony picked up Bernard and five “stunt doubles” at Petco. As production wore on, we realized each fish had a different personality, and unfortunately the one that we used this day wasn’t lively enough. Getting any close-ups of the fish was near impossible; he would only lie down at the bottom of the bowl. We switched to a different Bernard (by accident) the next day and stuck with him for rest of the shoot. Zach even took him home on the last day of production.
The best part of this scene, for me, was the costumes. Lis got to wear a white pantsuit, which we picked up at Marshall’s and kept the tags on to return later. Todd showed up with a fish-patterned tie, which fit the theme perfectly. Zach was dressed in an orange shirt and blue pants, which accidentally complemented Bernard’s own colors. Martha’s outfit, a lavender dress, became a motif in the film; we tried to put some lavender in each scene to hint that there was a little bit of Grandma everywhere.
We had lots of time to relax, and took this day at a slow pace. We shot lots of b-roll and tried the wedding scene two ways, one with a comedic argument between Lis and Phil, and then a more silent take.
Day 5: Sunday, January 25
Location: JHU Center for Social Concern / Hamlyn Apartments
Scenes: 4, 1, 2
Characters: Ray, Mom, Uncle Nick, Uncle Diego, Secretary + background
Crew Call: 8am; Cast Call: 9am
We knew going into this day that it was going to be another tough one. We scheduled a company move halfway through the day from the Center for Social Concern to an apartment north of campus. The office we were using was empty, and the apartment room was a mess. The production designers first had to set up the bare office to look like a real one, then run over to the apartment to begin clearing it out. I think I’m most proud of their work on the apartment––the pictures, trinkets and drawings in Ray’s “room” transformed it from a messy college student’s to a believable child’s.
The morning passed without much incident. Scene 4 was a flashback to Uncle Diego’s office, where Ray plays a game and overhears a conversation between his uncles. We had hired a young actress, Hannah, who had auditioned for Lis. She seemed nervous and jumpy when talking to me, but lost that when the camera was on her.
Our problems started in the afternoon. I sent our grips, Josh and Victor, home from set, thinking that the apartment was too small to fit them and we had a good handle on lighting. But the room was a little trickier than I had thought––there was only one window in the corner, and the area near the bed where we wanted to shoot was too dark. Kristen (2nd AD) and Brandon (AC) had to use LEDs and flags to brighten up the room, but getting it perfect took almost an hour after we got to the location, which was maddening.
This was also when Zach reached his peak of disagreeability. It was a long day, and he would constantly run offset or play games on his phone. When I would ask him to perform an action or sit up or get into place, he would completely ignore me. Will and Corey eventually had to start directing him too. At the end of the day, Zach wasn’t only just tired, but he was frustrated, messing up his lines so we would have to run take after take. When I thanked Zach after we wrapped, he brushed past me and slammed the door on the way of out the apartment. I don’t blame him for being tired, but I think that he was realizing that maybe set life wasn’t for him––or maybe I wasn’t the right director for him.
Day 6: Saturday, January 31
Location: Car / Tropical Fish
Characters: Ray, Grandma
Crew Call: 8am; Cast Call: 9am
This was the last day of shooting, but when we pulled up to our first location, Tropical Fish, the door was locked and there was a sign: “Family emergency, sorry. Be back later.” We repeatedly called, knocked––nothing. Once our cast arrived, we knew that we had to do something; we couldn’t sit on the streets of East Baltimore without a plan. We drove back to my apartment on a whim, trying to figure out what to do on the way.
We were filming Grandma’s flashback today, and the sequence was originally split into two scenes: one in the fish store and another in a car. As soon as we got to my apartment, Will and Tony started rewriting the script to cover the entire sequence in the car. We had also planned to get a plastic bag to hold Bernard from the pet store, but since that didn’t work out, we had to send Tony back out to Petco. And so, with some creative scheduling, we shot Martha’s lines first without Zach, waited for the plastic bag, then shot Zach’s lines. In the car, there was only room for Corey (DP) and Adriana (Sound Op), along with Martha as the driver, so I had to let Corey direct this one.
After the last shot around 1pm, we managed to reach Tropical Fish on the phone. They were open again, so we drove over immediately. We made the decision to shoot the scene silent, in only two shots, because of time and also because the dialogue previously written for the fish store was covered in the car scene already. Shooting this scene silent was the best snap decision we made all day. The bubbles made great sound, and the scene worked better with a silent Grandma.
We took a group photo in Tropical Fish, after we completely wrapped for the entire production:
Production for Bernard Died was exhausting, and seemed at times like it was impossible. But that all went away when we would see the footage at the end of each day. No matter the hardships we encountered, we always managed to make it look and sound and feel all right. The little-script-that-could was now a film.
(Also, a huge shout-out to our amazing set photographer Gillian, who took all of the photos in these last two blog posts. You can see more of them on our page, facebook.com/bernarddied.)
All the luck in production,