A YEAR WITHOUT RENT: DAY FOUR OF “THE STAGG DO”

One good thing about a justified bit of yelling is that sometimes things get fixed. Gone are yesterday’s flimsy garbage bags. Today we’ve got new, sturdier, blue ones. They won’t fit over a light, but you can put the cable reels in them. And today we’re a little more prepared for the rain, which is good because there’s more of it. Also, the blue bags are much easier to see in the dark than black ones.

The new plan is similar but a lot simpler. One thing we discovered yesterday was that while the garbage bags with gaff tape certainly kept the reels dry, if you needed to get into them quickly, you were kind of fucked. You had to rip it open and re-bag it with a new bag, which isn’t exactly the greenest way to do things. But as Ben Moseley points out, he’s got reusable cable ties in his kit, which will work a whole lot better. So that becomes our new method. We can get in and out of the bags quickly and easily, which enables us to re-run cabling faster.

Also, there’s more glow sticks.

The idea is that since it’s dark out and everyone is running around, the glow sticks are a good way to mark things you don’t want anyone running into. Every department gets their own color, but G&E (which is just me and Ben) have multiple colors because, well, we need a lot more glow sticks than everyone else does.

It’s kind of tricky to judge the progress of a production like THE STAGG DO when you’re the Gaffer. Most of my day involves walking around the periphery of the production, ducking in and out of the shadows, setting up lights, running cables, and mapping out the next location so that we can flip the set up as quickly as possible. In the middle of that is the production. I catch bits and pieces, mostly when I’m in the barn to get more gear or at craft services to grab some food and Red Bull.

But I know it isn’t going well.

Tensions are high all around. The production is, depending on who you ask, anywhere from 10 to 24 pages behind. That’s a lot. The AD is bitching about the Producers. The Producers are bitching about the AD. The crew is bitching about the cast. The cast is bitching about the Production. Everyone’s bitching about the runners.

No one’s bitching about the G&E team of Ben Moseley and myself, for a couple reasons. 1) We own our shit. We’re organized and we’re ahead of schedule. Part of that is because it’s easy to get ahead when everyone else is behind. All you have to do is hold steady. But Ben and I are pretty much on the same page. We talk to the DP and we both pretty much know instantly what we’ve got to do. We’ve figured out our power limitations and we have a good handle on what resources we’re going to need. It’s just a matter of execution. But, 2) Being the guy who writes for Filmmaker Magazine changes how people approach you on set. Everyone wants to look good in print, so they’re very cognizant of how they look in your eyes.

Or, as AD Jennifer Hegarty says, “I don’t know why they’d invite you and your spotlight to this production.”

And to be fair, this is a curious production. Before I even got on the plane, I knew we had a very truncated pre-production. But I didn’t realize how much trouble we were in until I got there and James DeMarco mentioned that because of schedules, they hadn’t been able to do any rehearsals with the cast, half of whom are non-actors. Obviously, that’s bad. And it shows.

More on that later in the series.

As for the actual production part of Day 4, the little changed. It rained a lot and it was dark. Again.

The night starts in the field again, revolving around the tent that serves as our primarily location for the woods. We’ve moved the 2k all the way to the nearest part of the field to the barn (and spun the tent), which makes running electricity easier, but creates a slight safety hazard, as it’s right on the edge of the walkway. But with a rope line strung with glow sticks, it’s about as safe as you could expect.

After that, we’ve got to flip to a section of the woods to the left, nearer the second barn. It’s a small little section of woods. There’s some footpaths and a pretty heavy canopy. It’s also under some power lines.

We’ve got to get the 2K in there, which isn’t the easiest thing in the world, then jack it up to create a moon. But a 2K is pretty hot, and you don’t want it pushing against trees because, even with all the rain, it could very easily catch some leaves on fire and then you’re fucked. Also, the power lines are pretty low and neither Richy, Ben, or I are all that comfortable getting it directly under that, as bad things could happen if it gets too close. Like, really bad things. So before the sun goes down, we scout the area, looking for a place to put the lights. We mark those with glow sticks and while they’re shooting the scenes around the tent, Ben and I work to pre-set the woods as much as possible.

Our goal: to turn it around faster than James is ready to shoot it.

We get the 2K in there and it needs to go higher than we planned, which means it starts to approach trees. There’s not a whole lot of room to work with and our options are pretty limited in where we can put our moon, so I figure it’s just easier to get rid of the branches. I jump up, grab a decently sized branch, and let the force of my weight plus gravity tear it off.

I dub this “The George W. Bush lighting technique”. Or: “This is how we do things in America.” It isn’t, really, but I find it hard to pass up an opportunity to play the “America, Fuck Yeah!” card, even though I’m probably the least patriotic person you could ever meet.

But it works, which is the most important thing. We strike the green-gelled redheads we’ve pre-set and we get it turned before James is able to finish rehearsing the cast.

And that’s it for Day 4. More time in the periphery. More darkness. More rain. More tension. My shoes are soaked and smell terrible. And we’re farther behind than we were yesterday.

But there’s still wrap beers. A beer at sunrise makes everything seem better. Or, at least less terrible.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.




Posted on November 7, 2011 in A Year Without Rent, Blogs by
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