Monday, June 1, 2009

Lights, Camera, Bother!

Alright BB fans, it’s the month you’ve been waiting for. “Big Bother” is scheduled for release on June 11, 2009. This means that we’ve got 10 days to complete editing, voiceovers, music, opening titles, reshoots and more. Good times. Please give us your best wishes, prayers, positive thoughts and tune in on June 11th.

Last month, I covered the pre-production process of BB. Next phase in the project was principal shooting. After spending the night before rewriting the shot list every time another actor dropped out and looking for new actors on Craigslist, I was ready to begin shooting at Colin’s house the morning of June 21, 2008.

The crew showed up, so that was good. Most of the actors I found on Craigslist who couldn’t wait to be in the series did not show up, so that was bad. The one Craigslist actor who did show was Taka. He and my college friend Jen were ready and willing to wear a whole lot of costumes that day, making them two of the most valuable members of the team.

The first day of shooting was the hottest day of the year. This would be a challenge on any set, but on a show in which over half of the characters wear heavy, fuzzy costumes, it was a near impossibility. But the cast persevered amazingly.

I’d been told a first-time director should do two things on the first day of shooting: 1) Get the first shot right in one take (To boost morale) and 2) Fire someone (To boost fear). Fortunately or unfortunately, I did neither of these things. The first shot required 17 characters and I had seven actors, so it would take a few tries. Since I was short on bodies and almost no-one was getting paid, I opted not to fire anyone.

Turning seven actors, including myself, into 17 characters was only possible because actors were able to put on different costumes/masks and have their lines supplied by our A.D. Michael Klug, who was fantastic at keeping the shoots moving along as well.

Though efficient, the drawback of having the actors tag in and out as different characters was that they rarely got a break. But everyone rolled with the punches with hardly so much as a complaint.

Another Day 1 snag was that the Dumbob costume (a parody of SpongeBob) was required for a kids’ party that day. That was the primary function for all the costumes, so I couldn’t really complain. We rewrote or postponed Dumbob’s scenes and moved on.

By the end of Day 1, our hair and make-up person quit. This would be unfortunate on any set, but particularly on one where actors are constantly coming out of fuzzy costumes with sweaty faces and disheveled hair. Since there would be no time to find a replacement before Day 2, actors would have to help each other out, which they did admirably.

Also by the end of Day 1, we shot 90% of what was on a very ambitious shot list. Kudos to all.
Days 2,3 & 4 of shooting (the next day and following weekend) brought a few new challenges. Days scheduled for a location change required anyone with a car to fill it with as many props and costumes as possible. We just hoped that no head would be left behind.

My and Mike’s apartment (the bedroom scenes) was small and offered little room for actors not on set to relax. John’s house (the pool house) had plenty of room. It’s a huge house built in the ‘60s that has hosted many a Hollywood gala. But its old-school charm and scenic gardens were tough on anyone with allergies.

Through a fantastic group effort, we made it through the first two weekends and the 1st half of the script (mostly). At this point, just to prepare you, the story takes a sad detour. Moments after we finished shooting the second weekend, I got a call from my Dad. Mom had suffered sudden and unexpected bleeding in the brain and was undergoing emergency surgery.

I flew to Chicago first thing in the morning to learn that the surgery did not provide the results they’d hoped for. I’m thankful that I, my siblings, and many other friends and family members were able to say good-bye to her there in the hospital in the few short days before she passed.

As I mentioned before, she and Dad are my biggest supporters and inspiration. They were looking forward to seeing the scene I’d written just for them, which would now be modified. The show must go on. And so, I dedicate “Big Bother” to Anne Marie Marchert, 1949 – 2008.