May 4, 2015
I'm writing this on an airplane back to the States, which is just about as sentimental a spot as you might ever find me. This comes after two days in Wellington in which we wandered about, ate at our favorite haunts, watched It Follows at the Paramount Theater and packed and repacked six months worth of stuff.
What happened after that last shot on Thursday was: the wrap party, which began almost as soon as we called cut. It went down at our unit base in Tapanui, which I think was a school or at least a school-like building. I never went to my high school prom, but I imagine it was something like this, full of purple lights and music and people sneaking off into the dark. I also skipped my high school graduation, and I think this might just as capably fill in for that non-memory: a celebration of something momentous having passed that no one who wasn't part of it will ever appreciate, with all the commensurate hugs and well-wishings and bittersweet partings that always mark such turned corners. The whole town of Tapanui was invited. In the school auditorium a few speeches were made, first by our wonderful producers Barrie Osborne and Jim Whitaker and then by me, as I fumbled my way through a thank you that couldn't come close to expressing how grateful I really was. To paraphrase a quote that’ll never cease to be applicable, I loved every damn minute with this crew.
We screened a gag reel that was unexpectedly hilarious, although it'll never be as funny to anyone else as it was to us. We also showed that scene that I'd mentioned a week or two ago, the one I was excited to show folks, and I think it had the desired effect. There was a slide-show of behind-the-scenes photos (set, bizarrely, to Air's Sexy Boy). I sat through it all three times and then got ready to leave, as the goodbyes were starting to stack up.
We walked down the street to the Yellow Diner, which was serving coffee and deserts to anyone who stopped in. A few folks were already there, including Barrie. Barrie is a great producer, and also a great storyteller; countless were the lunches and van rides in which he held us enthralled with stories from Apocalypse Now or Sorcerer or The Lord Of The Rings; now he's got one more to tell, and I'm honored to be a part of it. We were both heading back to Wellington before returning to the US, but he was stopping off in Sydney for the weekend for a family reunion and we'd miss each other. We hugged and said our farewells. He asked me what building I'd be editing in when I got back to the Disney lot. I told him and he grinned and said "I'll come find you!"
The next morning we did the best thing I could think of to celebrate wrapping: we went and jumped off the Kawarau Bridge, the birth place of bungee. It was as awesome as I'd hoped. Augustine loved it so much she went twice.
Then we drove to Invercargill and had Indian food with Brooke and Eric, and the first bit of post partum sadness started to hit. The following morning we flew back to Wellington, and that afternoon Augustine and I went on a three-hour hike up to Mr. Victoria in search of the locations we'd filmed at way back in Week 1. We found them, finally, and as expected it was as if we'd never been there. The only trace of our production I could find were these tiny traces of red pigment on a tree. A plot point, mostly faded away.
We’re three hours over the ocean now. Inherent Vice is playing on my little screen and we’re rolling through some heavy ups and downs. I’ve been looking forward to this hermetically sealed respite for a long time, except now I don’t feel like resting. I keep looking for little moments to make a big deal out of. Making movies is so weird! Half the time when you’re in the middle of it you think it’s the stupidest thing in the world (and I don’t mean that facetiously - you literally wonder why in the name of all that is holy anyone would want to do this) and then the moment it’s over you get all mushy. You’ve got this team of people working incredibly hard, together, under incredibly close circumstances - and then it all just stops, as it must, and everyone goes their own ways and that’s that. It’s tempting to try and swallow the sentimentality of it all, to look at it as a necessary step in the long process of trying to make something great; it’s just as easy to luxuriate in the same, to hang on tight to the feelings and hope they won’t diminish before you’re through with them. That tact is all your own; the other will one day be inclusive of everyone else, an everyone else that in full-circle fashion will include all those folks who at this moment you’re having a great deal of trouble getting used to not seeing at breakfast every morning. Moving from this step to the next gets a whole lot easier when I think about making this great for them.
What I said early on remained true: shooting this movie felt just as small and handcrafted as any I’ve ever I’ve ever made. It just went on for a whole lot longer. On indie movies you have to search for financing and on studio movies you have to manage notes from upstairs - both necessary travails which, once set aside, still leaves you sitting in the same pretty okay boat. There was an evening last month, after a particularly grueling week, when I was chatting with Jim about how much it felt like we were flying by the seat of our pants. “I used to think,” I told him, “that on a studio movie you wouldn’t have to worry about being rushed or not having enough time or not being able to get the things you need to make the movie work; but it’s starting to seem like those things have less to do with whether the movie is big or small and more like they're just part of making a movie.”
A momentary pause, and then…
I took a six mile run around the bay, boarded my plane and as of this moment I'm back in Texas, surrounded by cats who seem to actually remember me. Post-production starts in full force on the 18th. Time to catch up on some movies.
Posted by David Lowery at 12:55 AM
Day 74 of 70
April 30, 2015
We wrapped around 8 o'clock tonight, with a shot of two hands clasped tightly together. Endings are hard to get right, but I think we did pretty well.
Posted by David Lowery at 7:07 AM
Day 73 of 70
April 29, 2015
The weather is not going to let us wrap up without a fight. We were beset by arctic winds, sheets of horizontal precipitation, raindrops so big they felt like hail and other inclemency all day long, and by the end of the night I was consolidating coverage and block shooting in an attempt to get the actors and crew (and, selfishly, myself) out of the cold and the wet. I am currently in bed, trying to thaw out. I love cold weather, but even with thermals and heat packs and extra socks I wasn't ready for this.
We've been shooting splits the past two days. Splits are my favorite, as they match my internal clock almost perfectly. Early morning calls are always a struggle, whereas working until one or two in the morning feels like a normal day.
We wrapped a few more actors today. It seems like only yesterday that our magnificent trio of lumberjacks - Phil Grieves, Marcus Henderson and AJ Jackson - were singing amidst the redwoods, but tonight they drove off into the distance, never to be seen again. And Steve Barr, who played Deputy Pat Smalls, wielded his notebook for the final time. It's all coming to an end.
I am still freezing.
Posted by David Lowery at 8:04 AM
Day 72 of 70
April 28, 2015
Here is how I planned tonight's shoot:
Posted by David Lowery at 9:29 AM
Day 71 of 70
April 27, 2015
We did not finish today's scenes, but we got a lot more done than I thought we would. We were up on a rig that was a magnificent marriage of practical effects and green screen - or at least it will be someday, when the green screen is gone and replaced with something that will hopefully blend in well with all the realness those churning pistons were bringing twenty feet from the ground. Taking the time to query whether or not we were shooting it right ate up a lot of the day, especially when it would turn out that we were shooting it wrong and had to figure out how to fix it. Which we sometimes couldn't. Still, I'd always prefer to spend forty minutes taking out a windshield to negate troublesome reflections we hadn't anticipated seeing than have someone paint it all out later on.
Wes Bentley's character often wears triple-denim in the movie, and to celebrate the winding down of his time on set, everyone who was able dressed in a Canadian Tuxedo today and took a group picture at lunch. Here are a few of us - me, Wes, Jade and Amanda Neale, our wonderful costume designer and fighter of good fights.
Posted by David Lowery at 5:03 AM
Day 70 of 70
April 25, 2015
Well, first things first, this wasn't our last day of production. The writing was on the wall last month, and we added a few days to our schedule.
But even so, if it had been our last day, it would have been a heck of a note to go out on. It was Anzac Day, and the morning started with a beautiful memorial service against a blood-red dawn. Peter Hayden, the wonderful actor who's been doubling for Robert Redford on this film, read a tribute to the soldiers who died at Gallipoli and within just a few words I was in tears.
From there, we all had to shift gears emotionally and set about to shoot the second of our big vehicular events. Our stunt coordinators dubbed it the Anzac Day Pile-up. Most of the morning was spent setting up, going over what was going to happen, coordinating camera moves and safety guidelines and so on and so forth.
By nine-thirty, we were just about ready to go - and of course, inevitably, it started to rain. We covered everything, weighted the option of going to shoot an insert that was scheduled for later that afternoon, and then decided to just wait it out.
Once the precipitation let up, we all got back into position and did a non-impact rehearsal, during which we noticed that the pavement was now too wet, slick and spotted with highly-reflective puddles that would be a mess for both continuity and future VFX work. Luckily, this is the type of problem that intrepid film crews are born to solve:
The pavement was mostly dry by eleven. We lined up to go again, for real this time, and just as sound started rolling it started raining again. The whole process was repeated, including the scramble to shoot that insert shot (we actually got as far as setting up the camera this time). For once, it seemed possible that we might not get a single shot off before lunch.
But we did. We got two, in fact, with four cameras rolling and the entire cast and crew watching. It was awesome.
The rest of the day was spent shooting some climactic moments for a handful of characters, including Isiah Whitlock, Jr. Back when this was our last day of shooting, his final moment in the movie was going to be the martini of the entire production, and if you know him and his work, you can imagine the note we were hoping to go out on. We got it anyway, and it was just as awesome as the pileup and a magnificent wrap to his time on this movie. Hopefully the afterglow lasts for a few more days...
Watched the new Avengers movie in a tiny small-town picturehouse. Finished reading Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child. Dreamed up a new structure for my sci-fi movie. Went to bed looking forward to sleeping in.
Posted by David Lowery at 7:21 PM