Sunday, April 29, 2012

Movie Addendum and a Bit about My Hopeful Movie

I forgot to tell you about some of the great experiences that happened whilst filming "Now You See Me."

On night three, I ran into the guy that does CGI for the movie, Danny, I think was his name.  I said, "Are you part of the CGI department?"  He said pointedly, "I am the CGI department."  Then I felt like a squashed bug.  He was rushing around trying to get things set up so he knew what needed CGI-ed. It was so neat to pretend like I knew what he was doing.  But I still managed to finagle a few more answers out of him. . . I asked him what films he'd done previously and I can't remember any of the ones he said, except Titanic.  I had recently read an article about the movie and it had said that the CGI in Titanic was groundbreaking. So I told him that and he gave me  a please-no-more-questions/comments look and scuttled away.

Night Four, Experience A
A couple of comments that I heard those nights, particularly the fourth night, have been echoing in my head.  At one point one of my new friends came over to me and asked, "Do you think there are talent scouts here tonight? My dad says he thinks there are."  This was right after she went through a whole fake hitting me thing--which completely surprised me and I re-acted like I was getting hit. You know--fake slap to the right; reaction, face turns to the left--but all in slow motion.

A couple of days later, as this came to the forefront of my memory bank, I realized I had talked about my movie and I laughed to myself thinking she may have meant me. She could have been meaning me, right?!  Right?!  I'm going to think of it that way, because it makes me feel more certain of myself in the movie-making-way. So, if you read this and you know it's you, thank you for the complement--even if it wasn't for me.

Night Four, Experience B
Also on night four, I was asking one of the camera operators a boat load of questions and he started asking me some and it came up that I was trying to learn all I could so I can make a movie. One girl, S, overheard and gleefully asked, "I want to be in your movie! Can I be in your movie?"

I was stunned.  I'm not sure why I was so shocked because I was surrounded by people that would give their right arm to be an actor, with lines, in a movie.  But, that someone would downright say, "I want to be in your movie!" made me feel like a billion dollars.

But, I couldn't think straight. It was wa-a-a-y past my bedtime and I'll be honest, I was running purely on adrenaline. I stuttered, "I'm not even sure if the movie will be made."  I was wracking my brains imagining her as the different characters. So I told her that she could make a video of her acting and send it to me so I could see it and email me when it was ready.

Dear S:  Please forgive me for butchering you name so many times the nights of the movie shoot.  I would get it horribly wrong, you would correct me and I would say it right two times and then the next time I start talking to you, again, it would be all wrong.  Also, I wasn't meaning to shut you out when you were persistently telling me you wanted to be in my movie, it is just that I haven't even planned that far in advance. I'm still in step two: get script approval.  When I get to the casting point I'm hoping to get out and see a lot of people in plays, hear them read for me, and we'll see where it goes. I would love to see you act. But before I get to that point I have to secure funding. Thank you for wanting to be in my movie. I feel very validated. --M

About my movie. . . ooohh, I get chills when I write that. . . my movie. I gave the script to my (hopeful) camera man to see what he thought. His daughter read it and liked it (whew!). Now I am waiting to see what he and his wife think.  I feel so blessed to live in a place where I get to know people with ideals similar to my own. :)  I think it's God's way of saying, "Go forward, create!"

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Now You See Me Movie

Day 4-- Monday night

In order to get us excited and enthusiastically pantomiming,  one of the PA's this night hollered, with exceeding gusto in a Croatian accent,to the nearby background actors, "Be like you see da Rollin' Stones.  Be excited . . . like you see da Pope. I don't know! Just be excited."

While this was the day I had the opportunity to ask a lot of questions, it was also the day that we worked really hard and there were only two breaks other than lunch. They were trying to get everything in they possibly could because it was the last day of filming. I had a lot of different question for the different departments.

Mark Ruffalo
There were 700 people there.  We had to look to several different parts of the set and it was really challenging at one point to keep us all focused.  But, I was really impressed as Mr. Letterier, the director used a green pointer light, that when on the roof shone all the way over to the Empire State Building.    He shone it where we were supposed to be looking and it kept us focused like a charm (now if it will just work with my kids).

Being an extra is not always an "easy job."  I know. A lot of background actors will scoff at their own profession stating, "Where else can I get paid for doing nothing?"  And yet, you try staying up all night, acting like you're having the best time of your life--the entire night--imagining something so amazing that, if it was real, you know you'd have kicked yourself for the rest of your life for missing.  To me, and to the people there that night, it falls under the heading of hard work, especially if it is freezing and you're hungry and the bathrooms are well, let's just say, less than desirable.

Behind that million dollar crane are some of the head-iest haunchoes  in the movie making business. Exciting,
But, then most extras are not me and peppering the amazing people that worked there with questions.  People that are at the top of their field.  People who's paychecks probably . . . are more than descent.  My theory is, when such people are about I'm going to take advantage of the moment and find out all I possibly can.

I was writing as fast as I could so my notes may be eclectic and not make sense, to anyone.

Electric Eric:
Me: Let's pretend I had an almost no-budget film filming in the middle of a park and I needed enough power for my camera and maybe a couple of small lights (like the ones I mentioned previously).
EE:  You'll need a 12 volt battery.  Find a DC kit rental; M. Richardson 12 volt lighting package. You can rent from Paramount in Long Island City.  If people don't mind the sound you could use a Honda 2000 (suitcase sized)  with 30 amps, but you'll need a permit if it is in the park because it is very loud.

He may have told me a lot more, but this is all I wrote down and I don't remember if I had the brainpower at that hour to ask any more questions or remember anything else for that matter. :)  Eric, if you ever see this, thank you so much! If I ever see you again I'll probably have more questions.  You were great to answer the ones I had.

Chris, the Camera Man
The moment he knew he wanted to be a camera man began when he tried to get his then-girlfriend interested in photography.  The more he pressed, the less interested she became and the more interested he became.   He knew he wanted to do it as a career when he found he could make a living at it.  Practice with regular cameras and then move on to high def when you get better at it. The story boarding (which I did not personally see) looked almost exactly like what they were filming that night, which is really great.  Almost every time they are filming at night at about 4:30 they have the steady cam--with the apparatus attached to him for his video camera. It's like wearing a 70 lb. vest--not fun, but amazing results. If you ever see this, thank you Chris!  You were really helpful!

Anthony, the camera man assistant
Shot stills and then moved on to video cameras. He suggested that The Godfather had superior filming and focus as does Transformers, but not the Twilight series.

To make a good film, look at scripts, specifically the building tension, conflicts and resolution.  Simple stories will prevail.   Movies run in cycles; technicolor, action, natural disasters, underdog.  Film is all about communication and learning about life.  Thank you Anthony, for what you said and for helping me clarify things in my mind about the film I want to make by asking me key questions about my film and why I want it the way I want it. And then acting like my ideas have potential (very validating). :)

Moovie Mic Miller--Security Guy
Good scenes are good scenes because stories are good.  Stay true to characters; in every area, what they say, how they act; must always apply to that character.  This guy is the security for a lot of stars.  He's in a lot of tabloids looking incredibly official and hey-bad-guys-stand-back-ish. Thanks Moovie Mic Miller!

Andrew--Camera Man
Read a lot of filming books.  The movies that you see are the final version.  Watch the commentary.  Come up with your own style--good directors adapt from different styles like Stephen Speilberg, Michael Bay--Mitch loves the 360 degree steady cam shots.

Every era has it's own style.

Go to art museums--look at the way the painters frame the painting, how they used light and shadows. Go to St. Patrick's Cathedral and look at the art.

Note to self. I knew there was a reason I felt drawn to those places and that art. :)  Thank you Andrew for your advice!  I'm going to follow it.

Some of the other background actors that were there have asked me if I have photos of a certain part of the filming. . . see comments of the first Now You See Me post.  I do, but I think I may wait until the movie actually comes out (as well as actual fake moolah). . . you'll like that!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Now You See Me Movie

Day 3 -- Saturday Night

This night I felt amazing. I had gotten plenty of sleep and felt that I had fulfilled my motherhood quotient for the day (I made cookies with my delightedly delightful children) and that made me feel fabulous.  My husband was happy for me. What more was there to say?

Today I promised myself I wouldn't let my inferior fear of people with cameras and official-ity scare me away.  This may shock some of my readers but deeply rooted in me is this awkward shyness of people whom I presume have authority. . . please tell me at least one of you feel this way at times.

So they were filming near me and were pausing for a few glorious moments to reset things and the guy sat down for a moment's rest and I pounced. "Can I ask you a few questions?" I asked with my most brilliant you-know-you-want-to-talk face.

He nodded. I introduced myself, asked his name (Andrew was his name) and began my query. My brain was all a-tizzy because I had hundreds of questions swimming inside but few of them connected with my mouth. The ones I manage to wrangle out of my brain were the extremely exciting ones that follow (I should note the questions and the answers were from memory--on day three I had no pen and paper to write it down):

1. Do you bring your own equipment?

I own my own equipment but for movies like this they give you the equipment you will need for the style of filming they want.  For example, this camera has film. It is not digital.  [I made the appalling mistake of asking if it was old--the cameras are by no means old or in any way, shape or form outdated.]

2. What is the amount that you think I would need to have to make a quality very low-budget film?
This movie is not low budget.  [I about swallowed my tongue--I would never  in a million years make that assumption--700+ extras--amazing stars--nothing says low or comes near the word b.u.d.g.e.t. in my eyes].  I have worked on films with a million dollar budget, ten million and even a hundred million. To make a good quality low budget film I think you would need around a million.  [Um, gulp, if that is the case I may be selling my screenplay because a million dollars has yet to waltz into my Brady Bunch-ish apartment. I should perhaps say that I couldn't hear him very well at this point, but I think that's what he said].
See the anamorphic lens that Chris is holding? This was day 1 or 2.

3.  What kind of lenses are you using for filming this movie?
 This movie has us using anamorphic lenses. [For those unfamiliar with this term, dictionary.reference refers to it as "Outstanding cinematography for features, commercials, music videos . . . having or producing unequal magnifications along two axes perpendicular to each other"].

In the movie they do not have laser vision like it looks in this photograph.  It was not taken with a great camera.  From  left to right,  Jesse EisenbergIsla Fisher, and  Woody Harrelson.  

4.  What is the genre of this movie? IMDB says it is a thriller.
It's not a thriller. It's more of an action mystery movie. . .[at least I think that is what he said--I could be wrong. I desperately needed my faithful pen and paper]. This movie will take the viewers on a journey filled with unexpected twists and turns.  [Seriously, those are the best kinds, right? My mother's unspoken rule is if there is a way to take an unexpected turn on a journey, do it.  Don't you just wish the movie was out already? Also, don't take IMDB too seriously for movies in the making, it's not super reliable].

The view from the top level.
We were filming on the top-most roof of Five Pointz that night. It was much warmer than the first night.  We saw all the big stars and cheered like mad.  They were cheerful and kind to all the people around them.It was exciting to see in person and hear the voices of the people that faces to gracefully (or not) have gleamed upon us from the silver screen.  

Isla Fisher
There was one point where it was very cold and very late and Ms. Fisher was saying her lines differently and much to my chagrin and embarrassment for all extras there that night, one guy yelled out, "Learn your lines!" twice.  I wanted to go over there and kindly tape his mouth shut with gorilla tape, get the scariest PAs to escort him off the roof, then do the bow famous from some 80s movies where they bow and twirl their arms in salute and apology with the phrase, "Please excuse him, he's had just a little too much pickle juice."    I know she heard, I think she did her best not to show anything and then she came back with vim and gusto.  Yay Ms. Fisher!!  I'm a huge admirer because soon after that I had an experience where someone said something derogatory to me about me and I imagined myself there, like Ms. Fisher in front of seven hundred souls gathering wits and strength and not letting it touch my emotions.  Thanks Ms. Fisher, you've inspired me!

Later in the night we saw Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent.

I kept looking up whenever they called Melanie and I felt like answering, "Yes, what do you need?" 
Mr. Ruffalo got pictures with a lot of people (but again with my fear . . . stupid fear).  He was very friendly and addressed the background actors, even thanking us at the end of the night. 
There was one scene where they put me right behind him and I was supposed to look in the place where the camera was--so I ended up looking at Marc Ruffalo's back in shock (because of something  you'll see in the movie).

 Mark Ruffalo   and  Mélanie Laurent  (see what I mean about the camera?!)

Louis Leterrier, the director directed the people who were supposed to be looking at something just beyond the camera lens to look at the top of the crane, not the lens.  Good to know for next time.

I loved being able having to take pictures through out the whole shooting process because now I can look back and think of the good times and the great people I met.  Thanks Danny, Chris, and Andrew!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Now You See Me Movie

Day 2 -- Friday Night.

About Me-ish
You may as well know something about me. I love to listen to "ending credits."  Especially the wordless ones.  It's not that I enjoy watching them, but I love listening to the music.  The best of show, if you will, because many of the great uplifting moments of the show are woven together into the final moments for the final you-know-you-liked-it invitation as the watchers watch, leave the theater or turn off the movie in their DVD/blue ray players.  You can turn on some music and read this if you like. It may make it more exciting!

What does that have to do with the filming on Day 2?  Well, nothing much except that the same joy that I have listening to the music was replayed when I was watching and attempting to absorb each great moment.  The location (now scratched off my bucket list), the lights that made awesome cookie cutter shapes in the sky that blasted constantly myself and the other extras, the helicopter that soared over us for awhile with the orb camera one the front (another bucket list thing scratched off), but especially watching the director, camera people and the crew bustling around putting things into place and trying to imagine their goals and perspectives and what it looked like on the screens they were glued to during the filming as well as doing my utmost to not look into the camera lens when it was exactly where I was supposed to be looking.

Lighting .101

They had a little trepidation in talking to me, their head lighter was there and he listened and acted like he was going to answer my questions then he turned around and acted like I wasn't talking to him. After that the guys kind of shut up and wouldn't really talk to me.

But they told me that they had a blonde light up.  They told me that for a film of my hopes I would probably need a red head and a couple of tween lights.  The red heads are smaller than the blondes and tweens are smaller than either.  They also told me the key to having a great crew is to become friends with a good one when they are just starting out and stay good friends, so they want to work with you. :)

Before they started filming for the second half of the night it began to rain and they released us for the night.  Many people that lived in New Jersey were unable to go home until the next morning because the trains and buses stop going there for the night around 1 a.m.

I had really hoped to talk to the director to ask a question at least, but the opportunity never presented itself.  But I met another director/cinematographer that recently made a short.  He told me that his ten minute-ish short cost around $5,000 which he used a single credit card so he could track all his expenses.  He talked about the importance of a good script and truly being passionate about what you are doing. Thanks Nate.

So day two I tried to learn and understand all I could. . . in the few hours we were there.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Now You See Me Movie

Thursday Night -- Day 1.

First I have to tell you, I could not have done this without the amazing help of my dear, supportive husband, W.  I love him more than air and am sooooooo glad I married him. :)

That said. . . I can tell you more of the story of the night--but not the story line--that is under wraps until the movie is out.  I've taken about 300 pictures, because every take required us to have our cameras out and flashing . . . not too much info right?

Day 1, Thursday:  The cattle call.  Correct me if I am wrong, fellow extras reading this blog, but I think this definitely fits the "cattle call" bill.

There we were moo-ving our way thr-ooo the doors of ho-o-olding and oover to 5 Poi-oi-oi ntz (okay, I think I think that's enough with the cattle-y thing--you get the idea) where we climbed the dimly lit stairwells to set holding and onto the set. It was dusk and the light was soon gone and most of the background artists were shuffled in for the first scene.  I was stuck by the door for it, so I walked ten feet backward nonchalantly to ask the sound people questions, careful to not to impede their focus on their work.

Me and my new friend, Megan.  She's hilarious.

Sound Crew: They were polite and happy to answer my questions (thank you!).  Their names are not posted, because I did not ask their permission, but I think you'll get to read them in the credits of the movie when it comes out or on maybe on IMDB. I even got to listen on an extra headset to the overwhelming cheer of the crowd and the one guy I think is a principal actor.  I saw the 8 track recording equipment.  I think they were using two tracks, one for the crowd and one for the actor with the lines.  They have a laptop hooked up to as a back-up recording/monitoring device.  He moves the knobs to amplify the sounds. . .
Something like this, from here.

The noise I heard in the earphones was synonymous with what I heard during filming, minus the speaking actor's part.

They are only involved in the production process.  They do not take part in the post-production/editing process, though the fellow I talked to used to help his grandfather do it in the old days (he's third generation film/TV/commercials sound guy). They write down the sound quality of each take meticulously in a folder they keep next to the sound station they set up. They have a device that syncs with the time on the cameras and the numbers on the clapper (the clapping sound is not essential but is nice in the post production area).

He asked why I was so interested and I told him that I really wanted to make a movie and he immediately said, "Make sure you get a good sound guy." Then continued with something like, movies that have errors or whatnot with the film can be considered artistic choices, but without good sound movies are considered low-quality or crummy.
New goal - - I would like to be on the swat team and maybe a detective. . . in a show.

I sat with the extras for a long time and got to know a few.  There are so many intelligent, talented people that extra.  They have so many skills and are determined to live their dream in whatever way the can.  Many of them are musicians.  One of the musicians that was singing was Sebastian Rivera.   A lot of us just sat in our chairs chatted with our new-found friends and listened to his singing with his guitar and supportive girlfriend.

One of my favorite things about hanging around actors is that we're all a bit on the wacky side and it is so fun to break out in accents (good or bad) and chat up a storm. And we laugh about ridiculous things that are only really funny in the middle of the night, otherwise they just seem lame.
Wardrobe Girl, Me, Megan, Detective Girl (names have not been added because I forgot to ask permission).

We were all up together until 5:30-6 a.m. when we were "wrapped." I got home around 7, just in time to get my kidlets ready for school.