Day 64 of 70

April 18, 2015

Today was our first day shooting on Main Street in Tapanui, the tiny town of 750 folks that we stumbled upon last summer. Originally we just fell in love with the abandoned lumber mill on the outskirts, but then we discovered that the town itself was perfect for the movie. The residents have been incredibly welcoming. Here's what's in the window of the local daycare:

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We completely doctored the main thoroughfare to create a classic American Main Street, and today we shot all up and down it. This is one of the only days we've had where we actually got every shot on the schedule. Nothing punted to another day, nothing axed for lack of time. It was a great feeling. Also, everything we shot today was fun, exciting and intermittently hilarious. Action movies and comedies - why make anything else?

A lot of friends and family wound up on screen today. Augustine had her scene, as Mrs. Swanberg. Brooke, my assistant, got to be a stunt driver. Jade had a cameo as a waitress (see below).

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On a bittersweet note, we wrapped Ben, one of our Pete doubles. He's off to school next week, and our remaining days will be a little less cheerful without him. He was such a close match to Oakes that I don't know how we'll manage any future over-the-shoulder shots without him. He finished with the most epic shot we could give him. I got a little choked up saying goodbye.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:52 AM

Day 63 of 70

April 17, 2015

The new Star Wars trailer was released five minutes before I had to leave for set. Not gonna pretend it wasn't a pretty great way to start the day.

Today saw our numbers swell by thirty-six awesome kids and one period-accurate yellow schoolbus, which was previously used in The Bridge To Terabithia. Our plans were that, if the weather was terrible, which we knew it would be, we were going to shoot their scenes on green screen instead of the open road. What wound up happening was that the weather was terrible, but we went out and filmed on the road anyway. I decided a few rain drops on windows was a lesser crime than a potentially bad composite shot. For once, I wasn't wrong.

Posted by David Lowery at 3:37 AM

Day 62 of 70

April 16, 2015

Never, ever ever write a totemic prop into your scripts. You will spend way too much time shooting inserts of it. Small objects that characters value are a terrible thing to put into movies.

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Today was a blissfully dialogue free day. Just strong, pretty shots, including a few that will end the movie. We started the morning with some sunrise stuff on a hillside resplendent with baby pine trees. It felt like a Christmas Tree farm, and I realized while we were there that the scene we were shooting was basically an exact lift of the Christmas Tree farm scene that I'd cut out of the script for ATBS when I had to change its setting from the winter to summer. I always loved that scene, and losing it (as well as the whole Christmastime theme) was a minor heartbreak. I'm glad I subconsciously saved it for this movie.

During an emotionally climactic shot towards the end of the day, I asked one of our actresses to smile like she'd just heard a really funny fart joke. I thought it might be one of those brilliant out-of-left-field directions that would bring the scene to life in an unexpected way - and it did, especially since her off-camera co-stars helpfully chimed in with some live flatulence sound effects as soon as we called action.

Posted by David Lowery at 2:03 AM

Day 61 of 70

April 15, 2015

Back on Monday morning, today was going to be a day spent entirely at different locations. By Monday night, we figured we needed another morning back at the mill. By last night, that morning had turned into a full day's shoot. And this morning came word our lead warrior was down for the count with a stomach bug, which means we'll be back there tomorrow to get a close-up to cut into all the over-the-shoulders we shot with his double today.

In spite of that setback, we pounded through a heck of a lot of scenes today. Some of them we finished better than others, but at least we finished all of them. I think we have now filmed 95% of the dialogue in the movie, plus another 15% that wasn't scripted. All of which will be reduced by half once we start editing.

Posted by David Lowery at 4:08 AM

Day 60 of 70

April 14, 2015

What people say about this sort of weather down here is that "everything's turned to custard." Another day of exteriors cut short by rolling wintry mixes.

Internal directorial crisis of the day: you're working on a visual gag when someone suggests a different approach. You stick to your version because you like it and you settled on it ages ago and you're halfway through shooting it and the way the day's going you can't shake things up at this point, all the while getting sick to your stomach thinking that maybe this other version actually is funnier and you screwed up and if you screwed this up what other mistakes have you made - all feelings that's exacerbated when your version doesn't work at first, because humor is hard to get right.

The kinks get worked out and the shot eventually works great and is exactly as funny as you'd been planning and you remember that humor is subjective, but man - sometimes you've gotta stay in your bubble.

On the plus side, check out this hot chocolate-dispensing backpack!

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Posted by David Lowery at 3:41 AM

Day 59 of 70

April 13, 2015

A snow day! An arctic snap hit sometime last week, but our days were still sunny and no one really believed the forecast of snow for Tuesday. Rain, sure - and sure enough, by as by 8am it was precipitating - but winter weather still seemed very far away. And besides, it was only Monday. We endeavored in setting up our first shot, and before too long that rain had turned to sleet, and then the sleet got lighter and fluffier and suddenly we were in the middle of an honest to goodness blizzard.

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On the one hand, this threw a massive kink in our day, as everything we were scheduled to shoot took place outdoors. On the other, I just love snow too much to let the inconvenience get me down. I was happy as could be as we went indoors and cleaned up one scene and shot another, pretty much demolishing our remaining weather cover. After that, the weather cleared a bit and we dared to set up for a scene outside. Just as we were getting the actors mic'd, precipitation returned, this time in the form of a massive hail storm.

It subsided, but by then the daylight hours were waning. We went indoors for Scene 95, our last true indoor scene of the entire motion picture, and by the time we were rolling on it the tin roof was reverberating with more rain.

The sadly ironic thing is that this is how we wanted our mill location to look. Cold, cloudy, gray and muddy. We were a week early in getting it just the way we wanted. The forecast for tomorrow looks grim, and Friday might be even worse. We'll see what we can do.

At lunch today, we were treated to a performance by The Natalies - the movie's lead actress and her two doubles, who've spent their off hours the past few months choreographing some pretty great dance routines. Their latest was to Thriller, complete with custom-made zombie masks. These kids are amazing.

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Posted by David Lowery at 2:39 AM