|Shooting Day 11 -- Stardate: Can I get a, woot, woot? (actual shooting date April 1st, Friday, 2005)
It's a week before we have to shoot, only I find out that the actor we have lined up has yet to contact us about being able to film this weekend as he's off filming Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Pirates in Space. Now I don't know if it's actually called Pirates in Space, although that would be extremely cool, but if I had a choice between Pirates 2 (which pays you to be there) and a fan flick....man's gotta pay the bills right?
Even though I understood this, we had a slight problem. Keith and Tracy were driving all the way down here from the bay area just for filming this weekend. Lydia was gonna fly down here, Jenn had to come out from Orange County and Brian was driving up from San Diego. Plus G4 was gonna be there, which is a national television company. This scene was all about Chen, and as of now, we had no Chen.
I called one of my film school buddies (who now ironically works for G4 T.V.) and asked him if he knew of any actors, explaining the flick and the importance of it all. I mean, the guy who played Chen had to be an actors actor, someone who could carry this movie and know how to fight as well. Without a good Chen, our movie fails. Because even though Val plays a fantastic Lara, she needs a solid actor to go toe-to-toe against.
Well, he says he may know someone, and will get back to me. The next day I get a phone call from a gentleman called DC Wolfe. I call him back and try the task of getting him on board. Telling him that we're doing a Tomb Raider fan flick and how cool his character gets to be and how even though he's Asian he's NOT stereotyped and his role is very layered into character.
He seemed interested and said he would read the script and let me know the next day. Next day I get a phone call and he's on board ! So Val and I agree to have lunch (that's too Hollywood for me, ha ha ha) and meet with him. Dude looks the part I've always envisioned. With a new Chen in place, everyone's spirits are lifted. Trust me, we had everyone looking for us......
On Thursday, I'm running major errands after lunch, making sure everything's getting done on my end so I don't go crazy. Keith and Tracy arrive later that night. Keith and I make sure to get some video games in before bed and turn in at one a.m. Problem is, I can never sleep before a night of shooting. I got so many ideas going on in my head, so when I do pass out it ends up being 3 a.m.
I get up at 7 a.m. to get ready for Val to come over. We are going to shoot the Croft Manor stuff. I crack open a Cherry Coke and try to wake myself up here. Keith and Tracy wake up soon thereafter and we chat and talk about the upcoming scene a bit for tomorrow. Keith shows me the prop guns and they look pretty sweet.
Around 9:30 Val shows up wearing a new Lara outfit. She got a latex top, (like the Lara spokesmodels) custom made for her and she wants to wear it in the scene. It looks fantastic but it's latex and that gets hot really, really quick.
We hop in the car and head over to the manor. Which for us, like most of our stuff, we have to shoot guerrilla style, because the manor is open to the public now but the permits to film cost 7,000 clams to film there. We don't have that kind of cash last I checked, so we go there to bust out some opening shots.
Right as we pull up, a Los Angeles Tour Guide van pulls up next to us. At first I think "Oh crap..." But then, they all step out with cameras....."Oh yeah ! The film gods smile on us once again !!!"
Val and I begin to shoot fast, getting a ton of setups, trying to get the shots we need. This place is huge and straight out of the game so we really took advantage of our location. We dodged the park rangers (like Yogi Bear and s@#%) and got a lot of fantastic footage. In fact we got a whole tape worth. Which is an hour more than I thought we would get.
If we were to get busted, we would try to get a permit from a student buddy of mine and return a different day. I don't recommend this style of filmmaking to anyone, please be respectful to any location you're at. But there can be red tape out there and when you're trying to make a movie for little money, you don't really want to spend you're whole budget on permits and locations.
Surprised and very happy (although poor Val was SOAKED with sweat and suffering from heat exhaustion) we hopped in the car to drive out to a secret location, whose name I can't give away here.
Because we had to get interiors of Croft Manor as well, something we couldn't get at the other location.
We get there and the place, also open to the public, was already packed. But we got what we needed until we DID get busted and kicked out of the place.
Val and I walked back to the car with HUGE GRINS on.....we got it. We got Croft Manor. Free.
But the day was not over, far from it.
Val dropped me off at the house and I walked in, popped open another Cherry Coke (they should call it Cherry Crack it's so addicting) and had a million phone calls to make and other people were calling me. After about an hour and a half of that Keith and Tracy came back from shopping and seeing a flick. Keith and I went over some changes in the script and lines and what not and then Gary showed up. We watched some Croft Manor footage, agreed it was very cool and Gary drove me over to the camera shop so I could rent some lights for tomorrow's shoot.
When we came back, Lydia, Jenn, Vlad, Tom, Nathan, Keith and Tracy were all here, playing X Box and hanging out. We got Gary and Keith suited up, Nathan and I cleaned the camera and we waited for Val to show back up.
While Keith, Gary and Nathan and I were filming somewhere else, Val and the gang were gonna do set decoration over at Albert's place. (multi-tasking)
Val shows up and I step outside with Gary and Keith to run lines and rehearse the scene a bit.
Finally we're all good to go, and Val takes the gang over toward downtown L.A. to get things going. I take the actors over to the location.
The scene is Keith and Gary are discussing the job going on and the dragon they are about to drop off at Chen's domain. (also known as key plot points, to bring the audience up to speed, for examples, see every movie ever made)
The problem is, they're driving while discussing the lines. For anyone who has ever had to film scenes like this, my hats off, cause with no budget or the proper equipment, it can be quite challenging to get this.
The first shot was easy, I sat in the middle of the road and filmed the SUV from a distance driving past me.
The next problem came when I wanted so shoot from the outside windshield, looking inward.
Nathan had a tiny rent-a-car, so I tried sitting in the back seat and film while hanging out the window. (DISCLAIMER: Never try this at home boys and girls, I'm just stupid) But I couldn't get the shot, cause the head lights were in the way, so I had to shoot above them, and then I still couldn't get it so I zoomed in a bit, but that was too damn shaky. So we all got out and ran ideas. I then tried sitting on the back of the trunk while we drove ahead of them. But fear of a ticket and possible death, we opted that out.
So I try getting in the trunk and shoot out of it. That too sucks, the trunk is way to damn small.
We think for a minute. Then Keith says "Could you maybe lie down on the roof of the cargo rack and shoot in from there?
"Yeah, I could."
So I climb up there and they hand me the camera. Then I have to lie flat on my stomach, my sternum right over the bar of the cargo rack and hang the camera off the side of the truck, looking in.
I couldn't see though, so I had to flip over the view finder upside down to look at while still extending the camera. But the image stayed upside down. So there I am, hanging off the top of a roof, holding the camera out to shoot in and I can't even see it cause it's upside down and s@#%.
We got the shot though and that's all that matters, right? Then if it couldn't get any crazier I place my feet on the runners on the side of the truck near the doors, and hold on with one arm to the cargo rail, while cradling the camera in one arm, shooting in. While not as distracting as the other shot, it was still hard as hell.
Imagine wind surfing. Now imagine sticking your head out the window of a car while it's moving. Now combine the two and imagine all the ways to die.
AGAIN DONT TRY THIS S@#%. I. CANNOT. STRESS. HOW STUPID. I AM !
On the professional flicks, they have what they call a camera car and all of this is taken care of. Not so much here.
We all had a good time though, much love to Keith and Gary and Nathan, those guys rock.
We started at 8:30-ish and wrapped around 11.
From there we went back to the set that Val and team were busy decorating. Val also asked me to see it for filming approval. Man did I ever approve of this, it was gonna work perfectly. They did an AMAZING JOB ! It looked great. Thanks again Jenn, Lydia, Vlad, Tracy and Val, you make this director's vision and dreams come true.
Most of the locations were already built, by mother nature and s@#%, but this was the first one we had to do production design for. All I did was bring the Bruce Lee poster and 007 poster for the walls.
It was after midnight now and we were all tired and hungry. So we loaded up and headed over to Denny's for a late meal. After much rejoicing and straight syrup shots between me and Jenn, we all headed back. Big day tomorrow.
Yes, even bigger than this.
Keith and Tracy and I got back about 3 a.m. again.
And yes, I still had to get up at 7 a.m. ....