Production diary 5
In my last post, I talked about the disasters that surrounded our miscalculation of the cherry blossoms’ peak bloom. We needed the cherry blossoms but cherry blossoms were blooming earlier than planned. We were not ready to shoot but we went down to DC anyways thinking that we are going to figure something out when we got there. We did, but it wasn’t easy.
Deciding whether or not we should go to DC to film cherry blossoms was not easy. We did not have any of our actors with us. In our script, Ghunja looks at the cherry blossoms, and in our storyboard, we have a back shot of her looking at the fully bloomed cherry blossoms. As I mentioned in the previous post, we called our actor to ask if she would be available, but she could not come down on such short notice. We brainstormed what we could possibly to do to make this work. One solution we thought of was to get a body-double. We knew it was not the best idea, since the a body double would be very noticeable to the audience, with the numerous tracking shots of our actor’s back that throughout the film. However, we decided to look for someone anyway, a 5’6 female who wears size 8 shoes. After sending hundreds of Facebook messages we managed to find one person who could match. However, she was only available from 11am to 3pm which was a very narrow time window, considering we had to drive to DC, park our car, get the equipment out, film everything, and drive back.
Another big problem was that we didn’t have anyone to help us shoot. We needed at least one or two people to help us carry equipment but everyone was busy or had class. If we were to go to DC, it would be just Sue and me and we would have to be back by 4pm because we both had classes that we could not miss. Also, we could not get the digital back up camera that we wanted. Although our we are shooting on 16mm, we wanted to get some shots on digital just in case. We were thinking about using either the Black Magic or Canon C300 for the back up camera but neither of them were available for that date. We were able reserve a Canon 5D Mark II in the end, but we weren’t ecstatic because we wanted a camera that could shoot 4K.
We could not make a decision right away because there were so many complications. We only had five hours to do everything and it seemed almost impossible. On Wednesday night, after exchanging a couple of serious texts we decided to go to DC by ourselves. We knew that things would not go smoothly but we thought that it would still be worth it. Because we could not guarantee that we would be back before 3pm, we told our body double not to come. We decided to get a lot of POV shots and B roll of the cherry blossoms. Before I went to sleep, I packed everything that I needed for the shoot in my living room and wrote down all the shots that I needed. I was tossing and turning all night and get much sleep because I was terrified.
As soon as I woke up the next morning, I headed to Gilman 35 to check all the equipment that I needed. I checked the cameras, batteries, tripods and anything that could possibly go wrong. Just looking at all the equipment Sue and I would have to carry made me want to cry, but I took out all the equipment one by one thinking that everything was going to be okay. We had all the equipment loaded in the car by 11:30 am and headed for DC.
By 12pm we were very happy with the situation. The weather was great, we were on schedule and nothing was wrong with the equipment. Because everything was going so well, I started to feel uneasy. Sue told me to shut up when I told her that something would go wrong during the shoot.
When we got to the National Mall, we realized that I was right after all. We thought that the location would not be crowded because it was 3pm on a Thursday, but we could not have been more wrong. The streets were filled with tourists and none of the parking lots had spaces. This was a huge problem because we did not have PAs to control pedestrians as we were filming and we needed couple of wide shots that looked pretty empty. On top of that, the traffic was horrible because there were so many cars and people walking on the roads. We lost about an hour just looking for parking and we were getting nervous because it was already almost 2pm when we miraculously found a place to park. We needed to shoot everything in an hour with all the equipment that we had.
In the end, we got some B-roll of the cherry blossoms and got some footage from near the tidal basin area. It was very challenging and time-consuming with so many people trying to take selfies and group photos near us. It was also exhausting because we had a very heavy camera, a tripod, and equipment. It was a hassle, but we managed to get the most important scenes on film. We wanted to shoot more but we had to get back to Homewood as soon as possible and we were already late. During the shoot, we had some issues with the gate; we saw dust particles in the frame when we were shooting towards the end and could not figure out exactly where it was. We won’t find out how everything turned out until late April when we get our film is processed, so it is very frightening and thrilling at the same time.
We left the parking lot at about 3:15pm, thinking that we will probably be 20 minutes late for class. We were wrong again. The traffic was so bad that it was 5pm when we got back to Homewood campus. We were an hour late for class.
One most important takeaway from this hectic shoot was that you just have to be prepared for the worst situations. I have three more shooting days left, in less than 10 days, and one of them requires scenes that take place on a moving train. How exciting. (but actually not).