Scenes 9-1 to 9-6

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Scene 9-1 Board Scene 9-1-A Still
Scene 9-1-B Still
Scene 9-1-C Still
Scene 9-2 Board Scene 9-2 Still
Scene 9-3 Board Scene 9-3-A Still
Scene 9-3-B Still
Scene 9-4 Board  
Scene 9-5 Board Scene 9-5 Still
Scene 9-6 Board  


This scene is pretty much conventional coverage—watch out for these if you’re on a budget, they eat up a huge, HUGE amount of film. They’re always saying you need to keep track of your shooting ratio, but they never tell you enough about how to do that. Well, these scenes are easy to discount because they seem easy, but there’s nothing like shooting the same four minutes over and over to blow through film.

As I said, this scene is done in pretty conventional coverage, but there are a couple ways we’re breaking with convention. As fun as it is to find ways to do things that have never been done before, it can be just as rewarding to find ways to be different inside the framework of conventionality. In the end, though, I try make my choices based on what’s best for the film, not what’s the most unusual.

We put the pillar behind the actors right in between them to visually echo the pillar in the breakfast scene. Also, the medium singles are a little different. Usually when you shoot something like this loose you pick up a clip of the actor they’re talking to—it creates depth, creates the illusion of three-dimensionality. Here we chose to break that tradition because we felt the flatness was really appropriate to the story and Katie’s emotional state.

This is actually something that I had planned from pretty early on. Because I can’t draw, Tim, the DP, drew the storyboards. Of course, he didn’t always draw exactly what was in my head right off the bat, but I didn’t want make him go through umpteen drafts to change it. I figured we got the gist, and any refining could be done on set, and I felt bad making him do so much work on what was ultimately not really his job. Take advantage of pre-production.

In pre-production you’ve got all the time in the world; during production, time is what you don’t have, and every little change, no matter how minor, takes longer than you can afford. I’m not saying you can’t make changes; you must make changes. If the film is going to stay alive, you’ve got to keep letting it evolve and develop. But why make extra work for yourself by putting off what you don’t have to?

The real point here is that a film set is very large and very complex, and communication skills are a big part of what makes a good director. The greatest shot plan in the world does you no good if you only ever get to see it in your own head. On set, a lot happens at once very quickly. It’s organized in such a way as to allow one man to control everything to an extraordinary degree, but in order for that to work, in order to be able to make changes on the fly, you’ve got to communicate well with your key crew-members.

This is essentially the problem of first-time directors. You’ll hear all the time “first-time directors don’t know what they want.” This isn’t exactly right. I realized that what this really means is that first-time directors don’t communicate well enough with key crew-members to get what they want efficiently—the freshman director is always either too involved in his own head, or he’s hasn’t figured out how to talk to the crew-members yet, or he just doesn’t have the experience to know exactly who he needs to talk to to get what he wants done. If you’ve watched Project Greenlight you know what I say is true. Ultimately though, no matter how much you try to avoid it, it’s going to happen to you to some degree. Learn and move on.

Just to quickly explain a storyboard change: first there’s an insert here of Katie through the champagne glass. I liked this image, and I still think it would have been a nice insert to have. I began to worry on set that the shot was a little obvious or on-the-nose, so I cut it. Ultimately, all things being equal, I should have left that decision for the editing room.

Also, I have to say that I shot the two-shot just because I wanted it in the beginning and the end, so I figured, let it run through the whole scene just to keep our options open. And I was glad I did, I ended up using it far more than I planned. A good two-shot can be so eloquent, it often will be your most useful shot.

This scene was also the site of one of the funniest moments on set. First of all, you have to understand that production is just one problem after another. It’s a real Murphy’s law type of situation, and if you can’t think on your feet and keep your sense of humor, you’re in the wrong business. That said, there were a lot of times I was really pissed off.

We were shooting in this little mexican restaurant a block from my house which I truly love, and they’d very kindly thrown in lunch. So while we were shooting upstairs, they were cooking downstairs. We spent the first couple hours lighting and dressing the set and preparing the sound, all of which always takes longer than you want it to, and we were finally ready to shoot. We set up the two-shot first (you generally work from your longest shot to your closest), and we got the set quiet and the actress came in and said her first line and started coughing. Then everyone on set was coughing. I was trying to shoot a movie and I had fifty people on my set hacking away. I was coughing too. This was like the tenth problem of the day and it wasn’t even noon—at first I was truly incredulous and then I was considering getting pissed and then I was laughing so hard between coughs that I could barely say ‘cut,’ not that I really needed to, it was pretty obvious that we needed to cut. What had happened is that we’d shut off the ventilation system for sound and the cooks had just thrown the hot peppers on the grill, and we had a restaurant full of chili smoke.

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