If I’m going to be honest with myself, this past weekend was difficult. Everything worked out in the end, but this was seriously the most stressful two-days I’ve ever had in my life. So much so, that I woke up early the morning-after the shoot in the middle of a massive panic attack (more on that later). To set the stage: this was the largest cast and crew that I’ve ever worked with. I had 17 actresses on set, along with 18 crew members, some of my cast were pulling double duty as crew, which would up my crew by three. It was an outdoor shoot in a location with no electricity and facilities that we had to drive people to, just so they could use the toilet and have running water. It is full-on fall in Idaho, where our mornings are pushing 50 degrees and our afternoons can either hold the same temperature, or get as high as 70. We shot in a location with no shade and thankfully, very few other people.
Most of the above described scenario took place during our Saturday shoot. I had my actresses start arriving at a local salon at 5:30am to get into hair and makeup. After the first few ladies arrived, I left my 2nd AD in charge and headed home to pack up my gear and head to the location. Based on the pictures, it looked like a fun, albeit crowded, morning in a warm salon with good friends. The owner of the salon, the lovely GiGi Huntley, who owns The Bench Salon and Gifts, got the ladies’ hair prepped, while she relayed makeup requirements to our makeup artist, Jessica French. It was a well-oiled machine of hair, makeup, coffee, and laughter. After each actress was fully haired and makeuped, they were sent on their way to our location, about a 30-minute drive from Boise proper.
When they arrived on set, they were greeted by our friendly crew and tables full of craft service delights. We ushered them through our costuming tent, where the lovely Heather Horner costumed every single lady with the help of her assistant, then we carefully shoved them into our audio recording booth, which was my sound engineer, Doc Woolf's car. Some of their costumes and headpieces were too big to fit into the car comfortably. After recording their audio, they met with my 1st AD, cinematographer and his crew, and me for some beauty shots, while we waited for the rest of our actresses to arrive.
Once they were all on set, I taught them a surprise choreography and by the time that was perfected, we broke for lunch.
I paint a beautiful picture, don’t I?
That is what happened, but what went on while the ladies were arriving was the fact that our electricity, provided by a solar-powered pop-up tent-trailer, couldn’t output enough juice to run our jib. So, while I was teaching the ladies their surprise dance (much to their dismay - I’ve never received so much stink-eye in my life. And yes, I surprised them on purpose, so that stink-eye was fully deserved), my crew was trying to run 300+ feet of cable-carrying-electricity from the parking lot to our shoot location in the middle of a reservoir. My crew tried, they tried really hard, but it just didn’t work out, so we had to improvise and change our beautiful jib shot to a panned shot on a tripod. We had to quickly think on our feet and despite having two jibs on set, the ground was sandy enough that attaching our DJI ronin to my second jib would have resulted in toppled equipment. Did I mention that it was windy on location?! Really windy. Multiple sandbags and people couldn’t have kept that contraption from possible disaster.
After lunch, I ushered our actresses down a sandy and rocky hill, some wearing very tight costumes, so that we could shoot our dance scene. They knocked it out of the park on our first take, which I called “rehearsal.” I was blown away and after watching the clip, I KNEW that was our take. I made them run through it three more times, but that first take after lunch was the absolute keeper. Those ladies killed it!!! Aside from my beauty shots, however, that was the first take of the day, and we were already pushing 1pm. Did I mention that I wanted to start shooting that shot at 11am? … yeah …
Once that shot was complete, we set-up for the next shot, and the next shot, and the next shot after that. I managed to release my actresses on time, some had other events to attend that evening and some had families to go home to. Those who stayed completed their scenes for the day and enjoyed a nice pizza dinner from Hilltop Station, a local restaurant in the area. I paid for dinner, but Hilltop came through with wishes of good luck and some free beers and extra pizza. If you are ever in the area of Lucky Peak, please stop by and give them your business. You won’t be disappointed with the food, the beer, or the service - they are all incredible people.
While we ate pizza and enjoyed a cold beverage, we reminisced about the day and checked out everyone’s sunburns. Only one person managed to bring sunscreen - some people shared, others decided they would tough it out. My lips are still burnt and peeling.
Saturday was rough, but we made it through. I think most people were happy with the day, the food, and how it all went. One thing I am incredibly proud of, is that I did not go over schedule on Saturday. I did have to cut some scenes to be shot the next day, but on Saturday, we wrapped on time, tore everything down on time (we couldn’t leave anything on location), and ate dinner as a new family, on time. Outwardly, I think I handled it all well. Inwardly, I was a wreck.
I drove home that night with my car full of leftover craft-services, my camera and my zoom (for recording audio), while watching the sunset in the distance. Once home, I looked through my dailies and created a new shot-list for Sunday.
Sunday came and I met my leading ladies at the salon with coffee and a few treats. Only two actresses were needed on set this day, so we were running at a slightly calmer pace. Once they were settled, I headed home to help my boyfriend prep breakfast for the cast and crew. I packed up my gear, left him to finish cooking, and sped up the hill for another day of shooting the final scenes of my short film, The Unlost.
As I arrived, I knew we were faced with a different day. It was 20 degrees colder (at least it felt like it) and there were clouds in the sky. Our crew call time was 7am, with a shoot start time at 8am. The clouds and cold decided that we were on a different schedule that day. Due to the difference in cloud-cover, we didn’t start shooting until about 10am. We busted through those frigid-cold shots like champs. I had a PA on hand to take my actresses’ coats right before I called action, and put their coats back around their shoulders as soon as I yelled cut. It was down-right winter-cold, but those ladies made it through. They made it through the cold and the start of hunting season.
Much to our shock (we’re filmmakers, not hunters) bird hunting season started, across the street from where we were shooting.
“Did I die?” asked one of my actresses, per her line written.
No one moved.
“Sadly, no,” responded my other actress, per her line written.
We kept rolling.
Around noon, we broke for a lunch of cold pizza (left-over from the night before) and continued shooting for two-hours past my original wrap time. I hate going over time, but this was necessary to get the right sunlight and keep my actresses from freezing in the early-morning hours. Only one person seemed to mind, but everyone else understood that that is the name of the game. When making a film, you block out your entire day.
After all was said and done, I am so proud of my cast and crew. They did my film justice. I’ve watched through all the dailies and listened to the camaraderie behind the scenes between “camera rolling” and “action.” People had fun. People helped create a film that meant something to them. New friendships were made and old friendships were rekindled. We laughed. We yelled. We cried. We hugged. We ate. Together. We made a movie. And I could not be prouder of the incredible team that I had working on this.
Now, about that panic attack…
On Monday morning, probably around 2am, I woke up to my left-foot completely asleep. In my haze of sleepiness, I thought I had broken my left ankle. I couldn’t move it and it felt swollen. I broke my right ankle in 2013, so I do know that pain and that trauma. I swore up-and-down that I broke my ankle in the bedsheets while trying to roll over and that I had another day of shooting on location. I panicked so badly that I wasn’t going to make my shoot because I had to go to the emergency room, that I ended up in a massive panic attack. I had convinced myself that it was Saturday night and I was going to the hospital.
Luckily, that wasn’t the case, and my boyfriend had managed to calm me down and bring me back to reality. I took Monday off from work (it was already planned) and I went through my dailies, while attempting to come down from a stressful weekend of epic shooting proportions.
I can’t wait to share this film, but what excites me the most, is sharing it with my amazing cast and crew. These people showed up and gave me their time, talents, and energy for an entire weekend. I am truly blessed and humbled by their generosity. Never have I experienced this much support for a single endeavor. My cast and crew deserve so much more than what I could ever give them.