Monday, June 29, 2009


Saturday we were greeted by sunshine. Thank God. In previous years, the weather for the 48 was often rainy or uncertain. Chirping birds and cloudless skies were something different and new. And very welcome, considering half of our film took place outdoors.

As the crew assembled at 7AM, I stared at the giant orb in the sky and knew already that it was going to be our greatest enemy. As crew were assigned their various corners of the Bowman home, joyfully sipping their coffee, I pictured us at the end of the day, frantically cursing and hurrying to get shots.

We started our day inside (another fact that left me a little nervous). After picking out Rich's suit - an inspired, striped outfit that happily reminded me of Al Calavicci from Quantum Leap) - and Sam's lime sherbet polo, we prepared to shoot the kitchen scene with Emily.

The scene went well, and is probably the funniest in the flick. Emily, the true sport that she was, had Sam and his bagel breath moaning in her ear and kept a straight face...most of the time. Though I'm pretty sure Sam was the one who broke character first.

* Side note: Let's take a minute to revel at the glory of Sam's mustache. Sure, we had to add a little color to it to make it pop on camera, but boy, ain't that a pretty sight?

Sorry, back to it. Next up was Charlie Gerber and the run-through. They always say, never work with kids or animals. I don't see why not. Charlie nailed it. He yipped loudly at the perfect moment, and hit his mark every time. We followed Charlie's professional performance by using fishing line to yank a picture frame off an end table, taking hunks of the Bowman's living room wall with us each take. Whoops.

Visitors arrived. Jen, Alex, Liz, and Gwyn stopped by for a little glimpse into our craziness, and offered a little bit of sanity in return. Of course, Alex just slept through the whole thing.

Lunch was creeping up on us, the sun reaching its highest point, and beginning its evil afternoon descent. It was around this time that Chris Gerber approached me with this fact:

"Brandon, the neighbors are setting up a tent out front. And they just brought out seven big bags of ice."

Perfect. A birthday party outside, right next to our exterior action. A quick glance outside confirmed this, as well as showing the active neighbor zipping around on his riding lawn mower. I thought back to the peaceful, early morning, with its perfect light and quiet atmosphere. Sigh...

The last scene before lunch was the one I affectionately refer to as "The Ellipse Scene." It was the only scene not written out in the script, noted only by three lonely dots. This was the bit that sent Sam over the edge, the act that forces him to throw his hands up at Rich and tell him off. So what did we come up with? Why, pushing a little girl down the steps! It was a nice bit, lacking a little in the coherency department (the fact that the steps are not perfectly noticeable in the scene is a sticking point), but it got the job done.

And it got us to lunch.

And outside.


I like to think that I'm a pretty easy going guy to work with, but every so often I put my foot down and become quite adamant about a particular aspect of the film. Once, it was about punching a cow (another story for another post), but with this film, it was about the sandwich. Sure, we had stuff to make a sandwich, but this was our prop. This sandwich had to be big. It had to be loaded. It had to be so thick that it could kill a man.

So we made a grocery run, and concocted the heartiest dagwood we could. As the sandwich was being constructed, our sandwich 'expert' Kevin Schnabel (the patient and talented Dave Tufford) was being gussied up in his smock and hat, and a makeshift white background was being built in the Bowman garage.

The sun was getting lower. And we still had to shoot all of our exterior shots. Crap.

After nailing the slo-mo flashback shot, we moved outside, to Sam and Rich's exit and Dave's entrance. It was here that we shot our first effects shot, Dave walking through Sam. In order to accomplish this feat, we locked down the camera, shot a plate of Sam reacting to Dave walking through him, then shot Dave walking past the camera and into the house. Easy as pie. Let the FX boys worry about it in post.

We hustled into the street, loading up the dolly for the walking shots of Sam and Rich. The guys were exhausted at this point, but were troopers. The sun beat down on them as they walked the mean streets of Fridley.

It was around this time that our buddy Todd arrived, right when we needed a vehicle to pass through a frightened Sam. Again, we locked down our camera, shot Sam stumbling into the street and screaming like a girl, followed by Todd blazing past in his mini-van. Perfect!

Two hours of daylight and two park scenes to go.

We rushed to a nearby park, quickly spreading out Sam's picnic blanket and uncorking a bottle of crisp Pinot Grigio. The sun was getting close to the horizon, and we were chasing the light. I recalled the image from that morning, of us cursing and screaming as the light disappeared. We weren't there yet, but we were close.

We shot Sam and Rich meeting, and shot the locked-off plate of Sam laying on the blanket dead, followed by his rising up and meeting his AAO for the first time.

With this in the can, we wrapped Rich. Phew! Almost there.

Sam proceeded to give us a mountain of footage of him preparing eating and choking on the fat roast beef sandwich. Delicious!

Last up was our credit shot. Chris Gerber, dressed as a hobo, sat next to Sam's corpse on the blanket. He had himself a nice little picnic, swigging straight from the bottle and munching on the rest of the 'Ghost Beef Sandwich!'

At 8:45PM, with the sun slipping behind the trees, we yelled out triumphantly, "That's a wrap!"

Celebratory beer and pizza followed at the Bowmans. The rough cut was already coming together nicely (nearly three minutes were already complete), but we had a long road ahead of us.

For a moment, though, it felt good.

To be concluded,

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