Sunday, May 23, 2010

NFTKK diary# 6: last-minute chaos before the shoot

I'm late posting about the shoot I did last week for Notes From the Kuerti Keyboard, with co-filmmaker Katarina Soukup, but it was a crazy and intense time that required a fair bit of recuperation. Now that I'm pretty much recovered, I can look back on the shoot and how it went.

In the few days leading up to production, Katarina and I still had lots of little details to take care of: getting parking permits, preparing the music tracks required for playback, getting some clearances for the rights to use certain images, paying for catering, etc. It was a scramble to take care of these ourselves since we went without a production manager to keep our crew small and compact.

We had a bit of trouble finalizing our crew. We needed PAs who could drive but it was hard to find someone who drove who could be present the whole time and who was also over 25 - a requirement for assigning them as a secondary driver on the van rental. If we couldn't have an additional driver for the van, then Katarina or I would be stuck driving - hardly an ideal use of our time during the shoot. We finally found someone on the day before the shoot.

We also weren't sure if we needed a continuity person since it's a music-only film with no script. But our film uses classical music, which doesn't have the metronomic steadiness of popular music but is much more fluid. Most rock videos record the whole piece in a number of takes and just edit it all together. It's easy for them to move clips around because the beat never changes. We wouldn't be able to do that for our piece, so decided that it would be wisest to have someone to take detailed notes. We did a lot of calling around and found that many people were busy or away. But as with our PA, we finally found someone to handle continuity, Kevin Edwards.

Our Director of Photography John Tran had planned to join us a few days before the shoot to go to one of the locations and make a photographic storyboard of the shoot. Unfortunately, another project he was working on  presented a conflict. That other project was a documentary and one of the subjects' availability overlapped with our planned storyboard session. We were able to rearrange another time, but it was very early on the day before the shoot itself. It worked out though, and our gaffer Nabil who wasn't able to make the tech scout was able to make it out this time to have a look at the space as well as help us out.

After that, I went to a friend's recording studio to make some faster and slower versions of the music which we would need for some specific shots we had planned with varied frame rates. Digital technology allows us to easily change the tempo of a track without changing the pitch, the way it used to be with tape. As I did that, Katarina took care of other business including picking up our permits and other items we'd need. We both had a number of calls to make. Most importantly, I was able to get agreement from several artists to use their paintings in our film. I was hoping to meet Katarina earlier but everything took longer than I expected. Instead, I met up with her at the rental place where she met our PA Claire and Production Designer Rose.

Claire was able to help Rose do a number of pickups that needed to be taken care of that night. Our Day 1 location was going to let us come in for 8-10pm to prep the space for the following morning. That would help Rose get a jump on things since the first day for her was going to be very demanding. Katarina and I went to pick up the camera and the lighting and grip gear. It looked like a massive amount of gear, but the workers at the rental house did most of the loading and packed it all in tightly like Tetris masters.

As we were heading to meet Rose, I decided to call our performer for the film, maestro Anton Kuerti. He had performed a concert in Montreal the night before, but it was evening and I figured he'd  be back by now. He informed me that he hadn't gotten much sleep the night before and was very tired. As a result, he didn't think he could manage our call times of 7am and 5am the next day. He proposed coming at 9am each day.

My heart sank.

He was right to want to be at his best, which he likely wouldn't be at those early hours. But our shots were going to be more demanding than is customary for classical music videos and we were concerned already as it was that we wouldn't have enough time at either location. He wasn't being difficult, but he may not have realized how complicated our shoot would be. I did my best to gently persuade him that we needed as much time with him as possible, and so he agreed to be there at 8:30 and that said we could negotiate our Day 2 call time later.

I gave our 1st AD Louis a head's up of the change of plans and we decided that we'd have to rearrange the day a little to account for Kuerti's later arrival. 

We picked up Rose and went to the location to drop off some of the gear. Claire joined us there, and we started unloading as much of the equipment as we could. We couldn't take all of the material directly to our set because there were others using the building. So we took our things to the basement where we could later use the elevator to move it to set.

It was then that we were told that we couldn't stay until 10pm as we were originally informed, but that everyone would have to be done by 9:30 since that's when the staff were leaving. That half-an-hour less was going to make it hard for Rose to set up as much as she would have liked.  She'd have a lot more to take care of the following morning. Luckily, she had an intern Allison who was joining us for the shoot.

Kat and I called it a night, but we were very anxious. I still had some preparation that I wanted to do before we got started. But eventually I had to pack it in for a very restless sleep.

Previous posts on Notes From the Kuerti Keyboard:
My good news from Bravo!FACT
Location, location, location
NFTKK diary #3: bumps on the road in pre-production
NFTKK diary #4: pre-production meetings
NFTKK diary #5: the shot list and the tech scout

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