Through large metal doors and past an inventory of backdrops, two lights pop on to illuminate a set in an east LA warehouse. An eerily lit 90’s era living room is complete with an evil clown and two unsuspecting victims tied up on a couch in front of the film crew. Shoot day, Freaky Deaky.
Today the Eyewax team is shooting the Freaky Deaky 2016 Official Lineup Trailer. On the surface, it appears to be total chaos like the stereotypical busy back lot or sound stage. It’s a cinematic fire drill of expensive equipment, clipboards, checks, and release forms being executed by a director, producer, AD, DP, grip, sound mixer, make-up artist, wardrobe, and in tonight’s shoot we’re joined by a cast of 5 actors.
To paint the picture, the sound stage was in a massive metal building, still creaking from the day’s heat. The only cooling was provided by a couple of exhaust fans in the ceiling that could only be turned on between takes due to noise. With a 12hr shoot scheduled from 4PM – 4AM you could definitely say that the heat was on.
We all know it takes a village to produce a film, but what most don’t hear about are those small wins (or losses) throughout the production. I managed to sit down (actually we were standing) with the Director of Photography (Cinematographer) Jordan Pulmano to get some insight on the shoot.
“Time is always an issue when you have a 12hr shoot. That doesn’t mean there’s 12hrs of shooting. Which can hurt you if there’s certain shots you want to get.”
Time is the one non-renewable resource that will not only cripple a shoot, but also deplete other assets if not managed properly. Given this was the largest narrative project Pulmano worked on with Eyewax director Justin Nizer there was potential for time-consuming misinterpretations. However the translation process from script to screen was smooth. Jordan and Justin spent many a late night in preproduction collaborating on shot styles and watching 90’s horror films. This resulted in 100% execution of the shot list, on time, and under budget.
“A [second] issue we ran into was our set design. It was a little smaller than we had anticipated.”
Unfortunately, another guarantee that can be made of production is that problems will, 100% always arise and it’s how you respond to the problem that determines just how much you debit the ‘time account’ and thusly the ‘budget account’. The treatment called for a perspective that demanded more from the room stagehands were able to construct with the existing backdrops. Jordan and Justin settled on a classic horror look with wide-angle lenses and creepy dutch angles but the camera could only be angled so much and the walls could only be so large (or small in this case). Quick to action, Pulmano and Nizer regrouped on set design and camera placement to communicate the same idea albeit a little differently than intended.
When the clock is ticking (for an unruly 720 minutes), you’re under tipple digit heat, and you’re trying to focus (pun intended?) on what needs to be done on time and on budget, all while meeting client expectations and directorial visions it’s without a doubt that the DP plays a colossal role in the production process. While skill sets are honed over time and years of practice, a synchronicity of this many specialized skills is some sort of creative precognition that borders on inhuman abilities.
So cheers to you, Jordan & the Eyewax team for wrapping on what is one for the books!
CHECK OUT THE LAUNCH TRAILER FOR FREAKY DEAKY 2016 HERE:
Photo credit: Erin Ashley Photography