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I Am Santo

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Aftermath: The final day

This past Saturday cast and crew assembled for the final day of shooting in West Roxbury at Catholic Memorial High School. The shoot was a complete debacle, and stress levels ran very high. Both Niki and Michael had basketball games that day, and Niki’s blew a hole in our schedule that was very, very big. Still, I had designed a schedule that should have had us wrap on time at 8:00 pm in Woburn, MA, our final location. Unfortunately, something came up that morning and instead of meeting us at 10:00 am at the high school, Michael didn’t meet us until 11:40 or so.

To be fair, it wasn’t entirely Michael’s fault that we were held up. While we were waiting for him, Pat, Matt and I were busting out minds trying to figure out how to get the right kind of shot for the scene where the kids leave the memorial service. Originally, we were going to do a single dolly shot that followed the kids as they walked out the front door. It would have been great, had it not snowed on Christmas and left huge piles of snow for the car to run over. The result of this impacted ice were really loud pops and cracks as the weight of the truck crushed the ice the way down the driveway to the school. Additionally, we were getting some sort of strange hum traveling through the microphone cord for some inexplicable reason.

We changed the shot to a tracking-pan-zoom shot that would have had the kids still exiting from the front of the place. We were sticking to the one long take since it just seemed right, and there were some bushes the obscured the tracking shot in a nice way. Of course… wouldn’t you know it, the sun broke through the clouds as if right on schedule and now I had it pouring directly into the lens halfway through the pan. Our luck had grown mercilessly bad.

We finally moved to a location behind the school for two reasons. The first was that we were out of the sun and the second was that the door the kids would be exiting from was more inconspicuous, thus only seeing a small number of students exiting would make sense. We figured this out by 11:00, but we still had a problem: no Michael.

We waited until 11:25, then re-wrote the scene to explain why the character of George (played by Michael) didn’t attend the memorial service. Dramatically it made a lot of sense. We pressed on and shot one take of it. We were about to do another when Michael, and all of the extras, showed up.

The final scene looks very nice and is in a single take just as Pat and I had envisioned. It includes a cameo from Pat as he walks out with some other mourners from the school. The image of all of the characters standing before the door may be the poster image for the picture. Very nice stuff, but it took forever to get right.

Because of all of the delays in the morning, we had to switch the convenience store shoot to later that night after Niki’s basketball game rather than squeezing it in beforehand. This was rather lousy news, because I wanted to shoot the convenience store scene in daylight. Heh… Indeed, the convenience store scene was decidedly inconvenient in several ways. I had tested the lighting at the place with the camera, and there was one out-of-the-way spot on the side of the building that seemed to allow for all the blocking we needed. Even still, that wasn’t great. I realized we were in a trouble spot, but my back was against the wall. We couldn’t bump the shoot to another day because everyone’s schedules were out of wack after this day.

As daylight dissolved into night, Niki and Michael played basketball and the rest of us had lunch and waited for them. Finally, by 5:15 pm, everyone was back and we set out for the convenience store, a place called Alexander’s that’s near my house in Medford, MA. And wouldn’t you know it? Someone had parked in the spot we needed for the shoot.

I assessed the situation quickly, then marched into the convenience store and asked the manager for permission to shoot in the front of the building, which was the only place that had enough light. I handed her a MINDSCAPE PICTURES card and explained we’ve had a hard day of shooting and mixed-up scheduling that lead us to this last-minute decision. She accepted and I walked-out feeling a lot better about our chances of finishing the picture that night.

We froze our butts off, but we managed to get the entire scene in the can with what I hope will be some usable sound. Alexander’s is on Main Street in Medford, so you can imagine how difficult it’ll be to edit traffic sounds. I’m not looking forward to it.

We finished the three-paged scene in about an hour and returned our frozen extremities back from the convenience store for brief thawing at my place. Then it was off to the rehearsal space in Woburn: the same building in which we shot “Haunted.” Of course, now we were shooting in a different, less spooky section of the place.

The last scene we shot was the opening scene of the movie, and really the only light-hearted moment of the whole movie. The cast needed a scene like this to end the shoot, and lead by the charge of Justin, they cut loose and had a great time. There was such an extreme amount of laughter that at one point I thought we were going to have to save Zach from death by giggling. Eyes-tearing, smile wide, he looked like he was going to pass out every time Justin opened his mouth. Almost everyone, cast and crew alike, suffered from a similar affliction. I’m uncertain how much of the improvisation will make it in – probably none of it – but it loosened-up first-time actor Eric Hallegren (who plays Nick) enough so that he could get some nice delivery of Nick’s opening story.

We finished the scene at 9:30, only 1 ½ hours behind schedule, and everyone left the rehearsal space elated. Over the past week-and-a-half, we had done some great work and all felt the time spent was hugely rewarding. Hugs ensued back at my place as everyone got into their separate cars, and there was this real sense of sadness that we wouldn’t be getting together again to make the movie anymore. Matt Tucker, the terrific tech guy on this movie who handled sound, emailed me midway through the shoot and said he like working on this picture a lot because of the instant chemistry everyone had. I couldn’t have agreed more. Everyone on this shoot was amazing, and they made it one that really reinvigorated me as a director.

Pat and I will no doubt begin editing very soon. There are a couple piece of ADR we still need to do, but nothing too substantial. I believe it will be a rather easy edit, providing the technology allows. More on that later.

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