Monday, July 10, 2017

Terrortory 2: One Segment Down...Part 1

So here goes, the super-honest rundown on how the first two days of shooting on Terrortory 2 went...

Night One
I loaded the car with the fuckton of shit we needed for the day's shoot. Up bright and early at 9:30am to do it. Headed to my parents' house to unload all that shit into another car that I needed for the actual shoot.

Already pretty goddamn hot.

Picked up my brother and we headed across the bridge. Turns out, not so much traffic yet, so that was good. Went to Chik Fila for lunch, then over to Josh's(the lead actor) house. I started unloading equipment and a car pulls up behind mine. It's Alex, the actress in the scene, and she's like 90 minutes early.

I'm like, cool. But maybe a little off my game for a minute. I shoot some drone shots, and my fucking drone all of a sudden says it's only got 25% battery and it's gonna return home. I'm not sure where it thinks home is(normally it's where you launch it)--it heads straight up into a goddamn tree, ignoring me on the joysticks.

Fucked up the blades bad. Awesome.

We go inside and I mic the actors. Here's where I fucked up: I gave the actress detailed instructions on where to place the lav inside her bra, but didn't double check it. See, I listened to make sure it was the right levels, but as I found out today when I listened to the audio, the mic was apparently loose. Whenever she moved, there's terrible rustling of cloth.

To make matters worse, Josh adjusts his tie in the beginning of the scene, so I can't even use his mic's sound for her line, because he's rustling HIS mic.

Fuck's sake. It's totally my fault, but with how short I was on crew(literally me and Mike, that's it), I was doing a lot of shit.

The racking of focus on the steadicam is a pipe dream on anything over 35mm, and even on the 35mm you better have it stopped down past 4(it's a 1.4 lens) to have a shot. The monitor I got is fucking NICE. Especially for how cheap it is. It actually shows you the RGB levels separately if you push a button, and the batteries last a LONG time.

So we got done early on the first scene, which was like 4 pages. I was feeling good and I let Alex go, when I should have done a wild line recording of all her stuff just to be safe.

Josh and his daughter wanted to go to Chick Fil A for dinner, so Mike and I said fuck it--we can eat there again.

This was at 7:45pm. Not even close to dark. I did enjoy the cool lens flare the sun threw in the window, so shot a couple of pics.

Problems start here. See, I had us shooting evening and night scenes between 7-9, but the goddamn sun wouldn't cooperate. Even at 8pm, it was brightly shining through the windows.

We run behind, and Josh's girlfriend gets home and his other daughter, and all of a sudden we're having to pause while they do something between takes. Shots I planned on doing, I simply can't do given the time.

We rush out of there to go meet Mark and some other actors for a scene in the DEEP woods. Like, Naked and Afraid woods.

We have to hump a lot of equipment into the woods--two big light kits, plus my camera and audio gear, plus Mark's FX stuff, plus all the props. There are spider webs EVERYWHERE. And even more scary, you knock them down to put a light up, then turn around to go back to where the other people are, and the spider has built his web again already, in like 3 minutes.

Ticks are all over us. Josh had three on his shirt just crawling on him like, no big deal. All the deet spray we put on, and they didn't give a shit.

Think I'm kidding? Here's a video I shot--I didn't notice the thing on his shirt, but just look at that. There were TONS of them this size or bigger out there.

And humid as fuck. I'm sweating, I'm tired. A lot of my shots, since I'm beginning to abandon my shooting script, aren't feeling great.

We move out of the woods to another section on the edge of a clearing. I head into the woods to place a light, and get the shit scared of out me by a giant deer that bounds off--scared by me I guess, but fuck it gave my heart a jolt.

The stuff in this section is supposed to be done by 1am. It's already 1am and we have the actual FX shots to do still. The bugs are getting into EVERYTHING. A wolf spider in my light kit makes me want to just leave all that shit and go.

We do the FX shot, but I gotta tell ya--I've nearly abandoned sound at this point. Josh has his mic, lav and all, in his shirt pocket. I'm guessing it's not gonna be useable but he doesn't have any dialog. Bad news is clearly I'm gonna have to take him out and foley his breathing and his actions.


Still got a shot to do with 3 cars on the road. I have it scheduled for 90 minutes, because I have a cool shot I wanna try.

All that goes to the wayside as the road I was going to use doesn't work. We go to another bumfuck nowhere. Corn stalks on one side, woods on the other. I cannot, at this point, tell you how exhausted I am. We're going on hour 14 and we only had that one half hour break.

I've been bending my body, crouching, standing, jogging, doing all handheld most of the day with my camera on the shoulder mount. It's not light, especially since I've gone to the AA batteries to power it.

We got a couple of cool shots. Finally I call it. It's nearly 4am.

I head home--feels like the longest drive I've ever been on. And I still have to dump and backup all the footage, and plug all the batteries in.

I make it to bed by 6am.

I'm actually hoping the thunderstorm moves in, because shooting Saturday night feels like a lot of work.

Called off Saturday.  The promised thunderstorm rolled in, and I didn't want wet woods. Besides, I was pretty sure people would lighting off fireworks on the 4th of July weekend, and that would fuck with sound.


I re-learn this rule on every movie, and keep reminding myself. It's been a rock solid rule since the first movie I ever shot, Hunting Humans.

The tip is this: Don't get too stressed if you think what you're shooting is garbage. 

At some point, especially at the beginning of your shoot, you will start to feel like you're really not getting the shots you wanted, the shots you envisioned. The thing is, when you get to see them at home where you're editing, you'll quickly find it's not as bad as you thought. You start editing it together and some of it actually downright works well.

I best learned this when I was on the set of the first Fear of Clowns. We were shooting in the movie theater, and it was the scene where Jacky and Rick are at the door trying to punch in the code. When we shot that night, I felt like we were tanking it. I wasn't sure I was getting the shots that would convey the tension of the scene in the best manner.

Turns out that once I put the scene together it wasn't bad at all. And the movie theater sequence is really the only part of the movie I actually liked when I was done.

The danger of not recognizing that you're not sucking is that it will bring you down, make you second guess yourself, and then you may start rushing, figuring that if your shit's sucking then you might as well stop trying as hard.

Next Post: We just shot the 2nd part of this segment on Saturday(July 8th for my later self that comes back trying to figure out what day we shot)--and I'll go into that with some pics.


  1. Man that sounds like a tough ass shoot, I hope things go a bit more smoothly for you from here on in. ;)

  2. I'm sure they won't--no-budget filmmaking is a young man's game! :)