“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
The quote of the day on the call sheet for the first day of production was: “You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.”—Tina Fey
As we reviewed our breakdowns of the script, we had to decide what we would shoot first. Meme has a variety of locations, nothing terribly difficult to get, but arranging for any location on no budget can be difficult. The best solution seemed to be to find locations and shoot out everything we needed in them. As we discussed the locations we needed we settled on starting with the office scenes in the film. Like with the gear, One Glass Video was a huge help for this. One Glass had access to a conference room in their office building and we were able to use it. This would simplify our first days in some respects. Gear and shooting location all in one place.
The office scenes needed two days. We had six scenes in the office. Four were short and two much longer. We scheduled the four short days for day one. For the office scenes we needed to cast the clients our main character Jennifer, Sarah Schoofs, was meeting with. I started with an actor I’d worked with on and off for several years now, Alex Bone, for Marcus, one of the two person team that Jennifer meets with. For Marcus’ team member, Larraine, producer Carolyn Maher recommended her friend June Dare. I’d met June already at an IndieWorks screening. I reviewed her reel and we cast her in the role. For the administrative assistant Lee I cast an actress I’d worked alongside, Lauren Shaw. Finally, we needed Marcus and Larraine’s boss, Carlos. I posted a casting notice and found Phillip Andry. For our first four scenes we only needed Sarah, Alex, June, and Lauren.
The office scenes for Meme are important sign posts on the path of main character Jennifer’s development. So, shooting them first gave us a nice sense of the arc of the character from the outset. For the first day we shot four scenes that covered the first half of the arc. The scenes are somewhat absurd at times. The Larraine and Marcus team contradict themselves often and are obstruct progress on the project they’ve hired Jennifer for. The scenes were inspired by some of my own work with clients and stories from “Clients from Hell.” At screenings they’ve proved to be popular scenes, and more than a few people have told me how relatable they found the scenes.
The first day of shooting was Saturday November 22nd, 2014. The crew call for the day was 11AM. Alex and June were called at 12PM. Because she had to work that morning, Sarah wasn’t called until 3PM. Because she wasn’t needed until later scenes, Lauren also had a 3PM call time.
We had a small crew for our first day. Producer Carolyn Maher did double duty as Assistant Director and Sound Mixer. We also had Kitty Ostapowicz serving as on-set Producer, Cinematographer Peter Westervelt, and Assistant Camera Erin Clayton. We had another friend lined up to be a Production Assistant for the day, but his schedule changed last minute and he couldn’t make it. Considering that the room was a relatively simple setup, we didn’t worry too much about the tight crew.
We provided some food at the start of the day and coffee from a nearby coffee shop. This wasn’t particularly unique on its own, but the paper bag we got from the coffee shop followed us throughout the rest of the shoot for Meme. We had a fresh set of clothespins (C47s) for the shoot and didn’t have anywhere to store them. They went into that paper bag “temporarily” and stayed in it until well after the last day of shooting. They were on set with us every day in that same bag.
We started the day with the Marcus and Larraine sides of their scenes. Since Sarah wasn’t available early we shot Alex and June’s close ups and the two shots of them together. Like with any project the first part of the first day is just getting our heads into the project itself and figuring out how to get the shots we need in the location. It’s always a bit of a learning experience.
It was a fun day in the end. We shot some of my favorite moments of the movie on the first day. Maybe because when I watch them, I remember these as the first moments we captured. June and Alex established a great rhythm for their characters. Sarah found Jennifer quickly. She had to leap from early in Jennifer’s arc to being more depressed and far gone and she did so beautifully.
There was a large monitor available at One Glass Video. We used it for these first days. Cinematographer Peter Westervelt and Erin Clayton had a little bit of fun with it at the end of the first day of shooting:
In the next post I will share my recollections of the second day of shooting Meme.