First Weekend Shoot

(PSA: Nightclubs really won’t let people under 21 in even to just use bathroom. More on that later) 

The time has finally come! After finding a cast and crew, locking down locations, and putting all of the final details in order, the first weekend shoot had arrived. It was the first time the whole crew was together, so the first day was that much more exciting simply to finally meet and work with everyone. When I walked into the first location, I was simultaneously ecstatic and nervous. I was, of course, thrilled to have this huge opportunity fall into my lap but also terrified that I would ruin everything. I know, that’s not entirely realistic, but that’s just how I think, okay! Moving on. When I arrived to see the lights set up, the sound operator (also called boom) getting ready, and the director instructing the camera man what angles he wants, I couldn’t help but have a mini freak-out in my head. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING.

My primary job as a production assistant for the first weekend of filming was to be the IMG_3121marker. What is that exactly? That means that before the director called action, I had to mark each shot by saying what scene and take it was and then clap the marker. Translation: I got to use that clapper thingy! (Please ignore my tired face from staying up too late rewatching Gossip Girl for the 5th time.) One of the best parts of being the marker was being able to really see how sound, lights, and camera angling works before taking the next shot. I tried to ask as many questions as I could think of to learn from those who had more experience in film. For example, I noticed that body mics the sound guy, Donovan, was putting on the actors looked a lot like the mics we used in theater tech. So that was the perfect chance to ask how they may differ in sound qualtiy. Why have this great opportunity fall into my lap and not take advantage of it, right?

It was the heaviest day of fillming, so we had to be prepared for a looonng day. Our first filming location on Saturday was at one of the actor’s house, whose family generously allowed us to take over their house for most of the day, not to mention making us yummy somosas too. These scenes establish the main character’s family life, so it was essential that the set, props, and costumes all aligned with the backstory. Luckily, we were given a location that would allow us to set this tone. We started off on a good pace, making great time on the day. But, of course, we eventually reached the point of being behind schedule. That’s showbiz, right? We planned to be done by around 2pm but didn’t finish until closer to 6pm. One side of me is just slightly freaking out that we are that behind schedule (maybe the producer side? ;)) but the techie side of me knows that most productions of any kind rarely are on schedule. That being said, we still did our best to work quickly while also capturing quality shots.

By the time we leave for the next location, it was really crunch time since we had to be at the third location by 8:30. The second location was at a doctor’s office and is the place that marks a huge turning-point for the main character’s life. At this time, I was definitely started to feel tired. But who am I to let a little fatigue stop me from doing my job, am I right? So, I get my head in the game and help my fellow PA, Emilia, set up. And then. . .my worst nightmare happens. As we are setting up the doctor’s office, I hear Gricelda, our producer, and Narmandi, the director, calling my name. They realize that they need someone to play the receptionist and that person had to be me. In my head, I am freaking out WAY more than I’m letting on. Was I looking forward to being on screen? Nope. But, did I do it? You bet I did. Yes, it may not have been what I wanted to do but I’m a team player and will do what needs to be done. Once we hit about 7:15 and we still weren’t done at the second location, I was really getting worried and could tell Gricelda was too. The crew hadn’t had a full break yet, and we had to be at the next location by 8:30. Even though I couldn’t stay for the last scenes of the night, I still wanted to do my part in helping stay on schedule. So, before I head home for the night, Emilia and I pick up the food for the crew and drop it off. Although there were a few hiccups along the way, I would say the first day of shooting was pretty successful!

For the shoot on Sunday night, the easy part was that we only had 3 scenes to shoot at 3 different locations , but we also had to account for crowd control and waiting for it get dark enough to start filming the night scenes. The set up for the first location was actually pretty quick, so it was mostly a waiting game. Narmandi hoped to wait until the lights on the pyramid building across from the Delta Boat came on, but Gricelda made it clear that we absolutely had to start shooting when we were still waiting at 9:15 and had to be at the next locations by 10 (go Gricelda!). The one scene went pretty smoothly despite having a few crowd interruptions. On to the next location! When we arrived at the next location at the Crest Theater, all of the extra’s had arrived and were ready to go! Since the last two scenes would be shooting for the night required a lot of extras, most of the time was spent rehearsing. And, of course, each time we were finally ready to shoot, there was some interruption causing us to start over. It was late at night in downtown Sacramento so that was to be expected. When we finish the scene at the movie theater and sent some of the extras home, it’s time to shoot the scene at the bar across the street.

Here’s when my discovery about the use of club bathrooms comes in. It was about 12:30 when I realized that I really, really, really needed to pee. But, like I said, it’s 12:30 at night and nothing is open except for the nightclub acrosss the street. Gricelda knows we’ve still got a few more hours before we’re done and doesn’t want me to hold it. So, we ask the bouncers outside the nightclub if they would let me go to the bathroom. Of course they said no since I’m not 21 but I really just needed to pee! I told Gricelda that I would be fine but she could obviously tell I was lying. So how did I go to the bathroom, you ask? No, I did not pee in a bush! I’m a lady! Gricelda had one of the extras drive me to a late night restaurant as quickly as possible since I needed to mark the next scene soon. Thank goodness the restaurant was right down the street and I made it back in time (thanks Carlos!). Throughout the night and the whole day before, the director constantly told Gricelda in a joking and not joking manner to get off his set because she was in the way. But, hey, if I was seeing my script come to live and producing my first big project, you better believe I would be overly excited and want to be a part of everything! And let’s just say Narmandi might have regretted yelling at Gricelda by the end of the night ;). With the funny extras we added to the nightclub scene and “interesting” characters we encountered while on the K Street mall at 1am, we finished on a great note.

I must say, the first weekend of shooting proved to me how much my experience as a theater techie would be an advantage as I pursue a film career. Working a theater production in high school meant going to school for 7 hours, going to tech or dress rehearsal until 10:30 at night, going home to do homework until 1:00 in the morning, and then waking about at 6:30-7:00 am to do the exact same routine for almost a month straight. You learned how to function for long hours with little sleep simply because you had to. So, having that experience in my back pocket was a huge advantage when working a 12-hour shoot or filming late into the night. Even though us techies worked on little sleep because it’s what we signed up to do, we also did it because we loved what we were doing with the people we were doing it with. And thank goodness it was the same feeling on this set. Yes, we were all tired as we reached the 12th hour, but we believed in the amazing thing we were doing and loved the team we were a part of. In my book, that was a pretty successful first shoot and I can’t wait for more.

Through my eyes,

Sydney ❤

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