Making Meme Part 16: Day 17 and the End of Principal Photography

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“Making Meme” is a series of blog posts about the long process of taking a project from an idea to a completed feature film. I made a lot of mistakes on the way and learned a lot of lessons, but I also had a lot of fun and got to work with a lot of wonderful people throughout the process. These posts are presented in the hopes of helping others in their struggles to make a film.

 – Sean Mannion, Writer/Director, Meme

Read this series in order from the beginning

After our extended break and shooting the film-within-the-film it was time to come back together to get the final scenes of Meme. We decided to return to Nicole Solomon’s apartment, where we’d shot most of Beneath the Black Moon to use it for 3 separate locations.

The quote of the day for Day 17 of production was: “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story. — Frank Herbert”

With turning Nicole Solomon’s apartment into two different characters’ apartments and faking a white cyc studio Day 17 became the final day of principal photography. We wouldn’t be shooting any more scenes from the script after this day, though we had already discussed the need to get some additional footage around Brooklyn to establish the setting a little better and potentially create a bit more connection between certain scenes.

While shooting in Nicole’s apartment for Beneath the Black Moon hadn’t really been any trouble we soon ran into a major issue while shooting for our final day: Reggae music.

Reggae music is fine. It’s not among my personal favorite forms, but I don’t hate it. Except I hate it a little when we’re trying to shoot the final day of my film and someone is blasting it loud enough in a courtyard that you can hear it on the fifth floor like someone is standing by the window with their stereo.

Like with the kids on Day 10 (mentioned in Part 12 of this series) there was nothing we could do about the music. People have a right to play their music. We didn’t have permits. Worse even than the kids, we didn’t know where it was coming from and it was constant. The music persisted for hours and it was a problem for our dialogue heavy scenes.

For this day we were shooting four scenes. Material that appears on the mysterious “Meme” tape that Jennifer finds and then Jennifer’s interactions when she finds these people who were on the tape. We got the material for the tape easily. Characters Danielle (played by Tara Cioletti) and Craig (played by Matt Addison) were able to do their monologues without much interruption. It’s when it came time to shoot the scenes between the characters that the music started.

What do you do in a situation like this? Trying to find the person was just unlikely to work out and the truth is the acoustics of the courtyard behind Nicole Solomon’s building meant they didn’t even really have to have it up that loud for it to be disruptive to our shoot. We could cancel the day, but then we’d have to recast Danielle as actress Tara Cioletti was about to move to England for school. Also, it would have been a waste of the money and time spent on transportation and food. We decided to roll with it and get as much as we could.

Most of the dialogue we shot in the scene between Matt Addison and Sarah Schoofs was unusable. That was clear as we were doing it. So, we did the same thing that we did on Day 10 when we concerned about the kids. We had Matt and Sarah go to a quieter part of the apartment and we recorded all the lines there. A sort of ADR on the fly. We didn’t do this with Tara right away as we were hoping we wouldn’t need it.

We took lunch between shooting Matt’s scene with Sarah and Tara’s. We took a little more time with it and hoped the Reggae would stop. It didn’t. So, we dove into setting up another room and getting ready to shoot their scene together.

During lunch and setup of the last scene I had a notion about how to salvage the scene between Sarah and Matt in the edit. We’d intercut the scene we’d shot with the subsequent scene where Jennifer is watching Craig on the tape. We could then use the usable audio from the earlier part of the day. We had then two possible ways to make that scene usable. We were hoping we wouldn’t have to do as much with Tara’s scene.

And the Reggae continued through our first takes of Tara’s end of the conversation. We got what we could in mediums and close-ups and then moved on to Sarah’s side. As we finished setting up to shoot Sarah’s end of the conversation the music stopped. So did we. Was it over? We waited a moment and then Peter looked at me and asked if we should try and flip back and reshoot Tara’s side again. We did and we got one more take per angle on Tara.

We finished shooting Sarah’s side of the scene and that was the end. With the exception of doing some pickups and possibly shooting commercials for our in story Wotan Lager brand of beer, the film was shot, it was done. Principal photography was wrapped. We’d made a movie.

In the next entry we’ll cover our pickup day and shooting the Wotan Lager commercials and where we were at that time with post-production.

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