Day 2 of GAME OVER starts with the word that we have extras–lots of little kid extras. And that in the scene we’re filming, they’ll be chasing a guy dressed up like a gerbil. Does this invoke the old rule of never working with children or animals? Does it count as an animal if it’s just an animal costume? I’m not sure. On the one hand, the person inside the animal costume can certainly take direction. But…that costume is a hassle. There’s a lot of moving parts and some of them are held together by safety pins and gaffer tape.
The brave soul inside this costume is Vikram Joshi. He’s got some experience doing stuff like this, but never before as a gerbil. I wonder how much that translates from costume to costume.
Then there’s the kids. No one’s entirely sure just how many of them will descend upon us (in my mind, they show up like locusts in the Bible). And I know that I said I’d do whatever is needed, but I’m really hoping that I’m not on little kid duty. I can handle one little kid, if they’re related to me. But ten? Twenty? Not so much.
The scene that involves the kids exists outside of our contained set. The plan is to do a company move over to a local Blockbuster that’s now shuttered, where we’ll film a sizable chunk of today’s footage. But like most plans, that changed on set. Moving that many people that far just didn’t make a ton of sense when we were in an area that could maybe work as a faked exterior. Eventually, the production settles on a seemingly closed office complex across the street. It makes sense. Vikram’s gerbil costume isn’t exactly easy to get in a car, so he can walk. Plus, we’re closer to our base, which is always helpful.
Of course, we have no permits (and didn’t for the original location either) but, hey, that’s indie film for you.
The scene is such: Jerry the Gerbil rounds a corner, running pretty much in slow motion (not from a tech standpoint, but a “this costume makes it impossible to run” standpoint). He’s followed by a hoard of screaming children who seem hell-bent on destroying him. They gain quickly and at the last minute, Jerry throws a bunch of tokens on the ground, thus distracting the little monsters so he can make a getaway. We’ve got 2 cameras running. Easy enough, right? Except, on the first take Vikram trips over his massive feet. He goes tumbling. The rubber tread of the foot rips off. Thankfully, he’s ok. The rest of it is pretty uneventful. We wrap the children, and we trek back across the street.
And then, we come back to film a couple more scenes. It’s around this time that the production more or less grinds to a halt. Between takes, an actor takes a break in a car and someone (name withheld) drives the car back over to the green room without anyone releasing the actor. That halts things for a good half hour.
On almost every production, there’s a day when people start to mentally check out for the day. You see this a lot on construction sites when something prevents people from working. Once the work stops, the crew is mentally gone. Sure, you can get them back, but it takes some doing. Today was a day where they didn’t come back, and I’m not sure a whole lot of effort was put into attempting to rectify that.
It was, to put it bluntly, a bad day. Tempers flared. Communication broke down. Almost nothing went according to plan.
Having finally finished the outside scenes, we went back to the set, only to discover that props hadn’t been greeked and the banner announcing the launch party of the “M2” game system was actually for the “M3”. Apparently no one had bothered to check. Things had spiraled. One problem was that the layout of the location, with a green room far enough away from the set to provide a nice sound buffer, had also served to completely disconnect the two halves. The left hand had no idea what the right hand was doing. So something as simple as telling makeup that an actor was needed in 10 minutes resulted in that actor showing up in 20-25 minutes. Such things add up. Meanwhile, we have PAs standing against a wall, texting their friends.
And, honestly, I’m not sure what my role is at this point. How much of this do I film? How much of it can I even capture effectively. It’s not like there’s a Christian Bale moment. It’s more of a death by a thousand razors. These things happen to the best of us. There’s no use pretending they don’t. Near the end of the day, I was walking down the hallway with one of the crew members and we were talking about how badly the day was going. I somewhat innocently said “The problem is we don’t have an AD on this set”. To which he replied, “I’m the AD”. I looked over at him. “Then you need to start fucking yelling at people.”
This is where it would have been really helpful to have a camera crew following me.
Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.