The week leading up to our Noir shoot is a blur. So many things to do and so little time. I feel an added responsibility because it’s my Writers Group working with Mike (my boyfriend) and his guys. The two groups don’t meet until the shoot date. It would have been great if at least our DP and 1st AD could have met, but everything has felt so rushed.
I’m getting ready and have a lot to bring. I start taking things out to the car in waves. Do I have everything? I’m more spastic than usual because I am known to forget things. I see some keys by the door. No idea what they are. Text Mike. What are these keys? “They’re for the truck.” Do you need them? “No.” What are they for? “Nothing we’re using tonight.” So you don’t need them. “No.” Are you sure? I almost decide to bring them, just in case. OK, I’m ready to go. Drive down to Torrance.
Lys texts me on the way, asking if I have lithium batteries. I do not. But I can stop somewhere. First stop, Staples to print out copies of the script. Mike already printed out five, but you never know. I print out five more. Then I make my way to Torrance, figuring I can stop somewhere for batteries once I get down there.
Torrance is so dumb. There’s nothing around. Lots of storage building and boringness everywhere. Finally reach an area where there are a bunch of strip malls. Turn into one, figuring there will be a CVS or something like it. Nope. I don’t recognize most of these stores. A lot of the signs aren’t even in English. Where am I? I finally find a freaking Walgreens. Unbelievable. Lithium batteries – check. After what feels like forever, I’ve reached the location. It’s an office building parking lot. A guy from Mike’s group – Scott – also works here. He’s really hooking us up. We’ve got the parking lot, we’re using his car (in the shoot), and even his office…the actors can change inside. Let’s not forget about bathrooms for everyone to use. These are all big things.
Writers group arrives. Then our lead actor, Mike Keeley. He’s early. Once Keeley is on set it’s like I don’t care about anything else. Where is he? Is he OK? What does he need? Is he happy? Scott leads the way to his office upstairs where Keeley can change and get ready. Now Bryan is here – our other actor. So much energy. So happy to be here. I just love having him.
Keeley (aka Silver Fox) and Bryan read their lines together – this is their first time meeting. Mike listens. I’m standing outside the door. I want to hear, but I don’t know if it’s my place. I don’t know what I’m allowed to do as producer. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. But I know I want the script interpreted in the way that I want it. And I want the actors to look a certain way. But this is my first time producing. And this is Mike’s, not first, but biggest thing he’s ever directed. And he’s also my boyfriend. I don’t know how to do it. So I just have heart palpitations.
The guys are basically ready to go, but the lighting isn’t ready yet. So we take Silver Fox upstairs and do his voice-over. He does it three times. We ask him to to try things a little differently, but for the most part, we like what we hear. We finally are ready to shoot. Like, way later. I’m still on edge. Dane finally tells me what I should be doing. “You know you’re done now. You can just watch. You’re job is over.” It is? Thank Go. I spend the rest of the time talking to the actors whenever they’re not shooting. None of us can hear the dialogue in the car, except Mike. He’s in the car, bent down in the passenger seat, listening to them so he can direct them. He can’t really see them that well though, and I notice something. I tell him and he agrees. Tells me to go ahead and give Silver Fox my notes. I do. I know what I want to tell him but as I start speaking, I realize I don’t know how to explain. When the character Miles turns the radio off, you need to, like, notice it more. Because right now, he turns it off, and you sort of notice it, but just continue on with your dialogue. But you need to like, like he just turned off this music that you’ve been hearing during your voice-over and…It was worse than that. Finally, he says, “Like my world just ended?” YES! Exactly. That. Good job. Do that.
It’s 11:45pm. We have our actors until 1am. For a couple reasons. One, if we keep them later than 1, we have to feed them and take a half hour break. Two, Conversations in Cars is a no budget project. It’s sort of the point. We’re making these shorts with our own people, and with people who want to make things. And who don’t have money. That’s us.
Now, I have already spent a lot of money. A lot being around $100 – on props, crafty, and miscellaneous things. I am not going to spend more money when we don’t have to. I knew this from the start. Apparently, Mike and his guys didn’t think so. But I told him from the start that I wasn’t going to feed them, so if he wanted to, it would be out of his pocket and he would have to figure it out. He did not do that. So now, it’s almost 1, and everywhere is closed except fast food or something like that. Yes, these actors are awesome and I’m sure if we asked them to stay longer, they would. Because they’re professionals. That doesn’t mean they’ll ever want to work with us again.
Finally, we wrap Miles (Bryan), aka, let him leave. We’ve done all his scenes, so he’s good to go. Only the Silver Fox left. And now it’s time for him to get wet. He agreed to getting wet if we got it in one take. One take turns into four, five, six, seven. Every time they yell cut I’m patting him down with paper towels, apologizing. I mean, it looks like his suit is soaked at this point. I’m furious, and nervous how Keeley will react. Mike and Will assured him they wouldn’t get the suit wet but they did it anyway because they needed the shot.
I get that you want to get the shot. And it has to be good. It has to look good. But you don’t make promises and break them. Especially since I’m the one who assured him it wouldn’t be a problem. So really, this is on me. We get Silver Fox out of there at 1am on the dot. Mike and his crew stay until 4am getting pickup shots and I don’t know what else. The rest of us clean up what we can and leave.
It’s been a long, stressful day. But we did it. We did something pretty cool. And I’m proud to be a part of it. This is only the beginning.