Making a Film in Lakeland

(For the past few weeks I’ve volunteered to help the Lakeland-based production company NFocus. The company is shooting a locally produced script, “Endure.” They tell me my position is called “Electronic Press Kit” or EPK. I would have called it “blogging.” Below is my post describing what I found on the first day of production.)

DSC_2635This morning I wandered the set; watching the crew and the cast prepare, discuss, and prepare some more. All for a scene that takes maybe a minute of the film.

It couldn’t sound more simple: cars pull in as people walk into and out of a building.

Of course, it’s not simple to make sure each of those persons starts and stops at the right time, and in the right place. It’s not simple making sure that every door, building and car is correctly labeled. It’s not simple making sure no one has hair sticking out sideways or tans that stop right at the chin line. It’s not simple making a sunny street when the sky is overcast. Or a dark room appears to have sunlight streaming in the window. Or making sure that a character is not wearing the same shirt and tie in scenes set two days apart. Or is wearing the same shirt when the scene calls for it.

It’s just not simple to make a movie. There are at least a hundred crew and cast dancing around and through a building. There could be twenty in the hallway when the film can only show six. There are cables to be lifted quietly off the floor — and not tangled — as the camera is pulled backwards in front of actors walking forward, and stopping right there.

To enter the scene just so, actors walk around cameras, out of doors that aren’t there, and speak their lines as they ignore the dozen crew peering at them from behind the camera’s view. A crew that seconds before was moving, fixing, adjusting, installing, or removing. All with singular purpose; each knowing his or her duty, and ready when called upon.

It was like watching a ballet in a crowded hallway performed by 30 of your neighbors.

I’d catch the random crew member here or there with a minute or two of free time. I’d ask how was the filming compared to other first days. Each seem pleased that it was going so smoothly.

Early in the morning, I’d overheard one crew member say to another, “You’re doing an excellent job.” Then he introduced himself. They’d already been working together two hours at that point. They hadn’t had time for introductions.

When standing in a doorway that the camera couldn’t see, I watched a scene shot four times. Each time the director would adjust the movements of background extras, and the actors would change their lines slightly to emphasize a word or two. And the cameraman would reset to see one actor’s face in just the right light. Each take looked like a movie scene.

Then I watched a little of what the camera filmed on the monitor. Now that looked like reality.

(You can read more at Endure or follow @enduremovie at Twitter.)