Making Meme Part 14: Production Days 14-16

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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

Two months after our last shoot days the end of production was in sight. Due to some short term relocation on the part of our cinematographer, Peter Westervelt, and other factors we had a brief hiatus in filming between March and May of 2015. This gave us time to do a bit of prioritizing and planning for what we estimated to be our last four or five days of shooting. We planned to shoot Memorial Day weekend to knock out a significant portion of what was left.

The quote of the day for Day 14 of production was “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. Thomas Edison.”

Day 14 was on May 23rd, 2015 and involved our second and final shoot day at The People Lounge in Manhattan. One thing that really stands out for this day is how substantial a turn out we had in a lot of respects.

We had a rotating crew in many positions for the whole shoot. Different people on sound, a few different people as assistant camera, different gaffers, a variety of PAs. We mixed it up quite a bit. For this day in particular we had a particularly robust crew without much double duty happening for jobs.

This also ended up being a great day for extras. Not that extras on other days weren’t great, but when you’re shooting like this you assume that a significant portion will not show up. This was not really the case with Day 14. Very few people cancelled on us or just didn’t show up. We actually had a believable bar crowd for our bar scene.

It was a day with some odd moments. For example, we had a bar bathroom sex scene. As discussed in Part 12 these are already awkward scenes to shoot, so of course putting it in a bar bathroom feels a bit more awkward. Conveniently, the sex scene for this part of the film isn’t much more than a couple of suggestive inserts and the sounds. I was really happy we were able to bring in comedian Corinne Fisher, who I had met some years before and seen perform her stand-up, to play the woman who gets caught having sex in the bar bathroom by our main character, Jennifer. Corinne is very funny and it was fun to be able to have her join us for a day.

The quote of the day for Day 15 of production was “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. Will Rogers.”

Day 15 was a relatively short outdoor shoot. The weather was kind to us that day and it was clear and warm but not too hot. We were shooting in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. We were planning to shoot three scenes, but we were only able to get one.

If there is one consistent lesson learned from this process, it’s that you have to be flexible and you have to be prepared to make compromises and changes if you want to do a “no budget” film. In a lot of conversations when I talk about making the film the way I made the film, people bring up “not having to compromise vision” to satisfy funders. Yeah, that’s true, when you’re funding out of pocket and relying on favors and good will, no, you do not need to compromise to satisfy the person writing the checks. You do, however, have to compromise to fit what you can do on “no budget.” So, sometimes, the way you planned to shoot has to change. That happened for days 15 and 16 and there were two factors to contend with.

The first issue that came up was on Day 15 we were due to shoot two short scenes in Prospect Park with actress Lauren A. Kennedy, some of her final scenes of the movie. Unfortunately, she was released from work late and was feeling ill, she tried to make it to set but it just didn’t work out, so we had to figure out what to do. She was due in for the whole day on Day 16 anyway, and confirmed she could still do it, so we pivoted and moved the scenes to the end of that day, extending Day 16.

The second issue is our location for Day 16, The Creek and The Cave, cut two hours off how long we could be in the space for the morning of the 16th. We didn’t hear about this until less than 12 hours before the start of Day 16. It happens when you’re shooting in a space that plans to be open for business. The owners wanted to open earlier than usual for a Monday to accommodate a potential Memorial Day brunch crowd.

So, now we had less time for some scenes for Day 16 and we had to extend the end of the day to accommodate shooting two more scenes.

The quote of the day for Day 16 was “Many are called but few get up.–Oliver Herford.”

We had some stresses with last minute shake-ups for Day 16 but in the end it was one of our most smooth and successful, in my opinion, shoot days.

The Creek and The Cave is a really versatile space for shooting. It is one location that could easily be used for six. There is a large performance space, a smaller performance space, a bar, pinball machines, a patio area with tables, and a small Mexican restaurant. And none of them look quite the same. All in one space. Available at a low hourly rate for shooting.

We used two spaces: the pinball machines and the patio area. We got some great shots and some really lovely looking scenes out of both places. We were also able to get our scenes down with time to spare for our reduced time in the space. I think that was largely due to us being so late in production and that we had a much better flow working together as a team on Day 16 than we had on Day 1. Plus, it was our third day shooting in a row. We had the rhythm going.

After shooting in The Creek and The Cave, they allowed us to store the gear we didn’t need for the outdoor scenes on Day 15 in the large performance space, which wouldn’t be opening up until much later anyway. Shooting the scenes in Long Island City near The Creek and The Cave rather than at Prospect Park like our shoot on Day 15 gives us some more variety visually and again resulted in some really lovely shots.

Again following Day 16 we would be going on a substantial hiatus before our final day of principal photography in August. Production didn’t stop, though, we had a brief pivot during the summer of 2015 to shoot the film-within-a-film, Beneath the Black Moon, with a slightly different crew and a different cast. We’ll cover production on Beneath the Black Moon in the next part of this series.

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