Filmore Filmmaker is woken by his personal assistant at 4am. Filmore’s only had three hours sleep thanks to the previous night’s awards show after party. He has to fight to keep from throwing the alarm clock at his assistant, knowing that the last time he did something like that it showed up on YouTube and ruined his reputation. It also got 370,000 hits, which was about a hundred times as many tickets as his last movie sold.
“Why are you waking me up so early?” Filmore asks.
“The shot, sir. You wanted to start the action scene during the golden hour.”
“Golden Hour” is the hour during sunrise when everything looks its most beautiful on film. Filmore decides not to throttle his assistant.
“Bring me a…”
“Latte, sir?” His assistant hands him the coffee. Having everything ready for the day is the number one job for a good assistant. Not having to worry about lattes and Egg McMuffins lets Filmore concentrate on the film rather than searching for the nearest drive-thru.
Filmore downs the coffee and pops a handful of aspirin for the headache already slapping him in the skull. His stomach is tied in knots and he wonders if maybe coffee was the right choice. He’s been under a lot of stress lately. Maybe downing the equivalent of rocket fuel is not the best choice first thing in the morning.
After a quick shower, they leave the hotel and drive down the street to where the morning’s shoot will take place. Filmore prefers shooting in Los Angeles, where he’s lived since graduating from USC’s Film School, but this movie (“Short Fuse,” the true story of a dwarf detective) is being shot on location in Topeka.
Topeka. Yep, moviemaking is exciting.
When they get to the set, Filmore hurries into the production trailer to go over the storyboards and shot list with the Director of Photography. The DP is brilliant but scrappy and barely speaks English. Filmore hired him based on a Ukranian short film he’d seen the man shoot. He regrets the decision almost as much as the decision to shoot in Topeka. The DP argues with him about how the storyboards are laid out and how Filmore wants to do the shot. Filmore is getting nervous – sunrise is only fifteen minutes away. If they miss their window today, they may miss it entirely and have to film the shot at some other time. The shoot is already two days behind schedule. In Director years, that’s almost a decade.
Filmore’s cell phone rings. It’s one of the producers, calling to chastise him for being off schedule, and to remind him that every day they fall behind raises the cost of the film. Filmore knows this already (it’s the cause of the ulcer bubbling in his stomach right now). He nods and says all the things that he thinks will make the producer happy and get him off of the phone. He does a such a good job he thinks that maybe he should act in his next film. Then he remembers the giant wart on the end of his nose. There’s a reason he became a Director, after all.
Silencing his phone, Filmore works quickly to find a compromise with the DP. He doesn’t like the compromise and feels it takes a lot of the soul out of the scene, but he knows that if he doesn’t agree to it he may not get the scene at all. A scene in the hand is worth two on the storyboard, as Filmore likes to say.
They head to the cliff where the crew has set up all of the equipment for the shot. The sun is already purpling the horizon and Filmore feels like screaming at everyone to hurry.
The lead actress comes up to him and tells him that the scene is too flat for her character, so she had her cousin (an up-and-coming screenwriter) write her a few new lines. Filmore tries to explain to her why the scene works as is, but realizes that they’re running out of time. He gives in and lets the actress have her lines. He feels another headache coming on...
Her head’s screaming for Excedrin. Sure would be nice if it could ask quietly.
Now that they’re all set up to shoot, he takes a deep breath. It’s going to work, he tells himself. The camera is rolling, the actors are on their mark, and the sound guy is in position. “Action!”
Surprise, surprise! The scene is actually going well. That is, until the lead actor forgets his line. They pause while he reads over the script, Filmore is still nervous about the light. They shoot another take. It doesn’t have the “oomph” it needs. He gives the actors some direction and shoots another take. A traffic helicopter could be heard in the background. Another take. And another. He’s still not happy with the scene. He shoots another but can tell that it’s too late. The sun’s too high. Golden hour’s over. He didn’t get the scene, not the way he wanted it, not the way he had dreamed about when he first read the script. But what can he do? The light’s gone and they’re thirty minutes behind schedule.
Headache. Ulcer. Money bleeding out. Not a good day. The “company move,” a fancy way to say they’re changing locations, ends up putting them another forty-five minutes behind schedule, thanks to a wreck on the freeway. When they arrive at the second location, Filmore’s phone rings. It’s a studio rep. They remind him that they’re not happy with how far behind schedule he’s falling. He apologizes while day-dreaming about how nice it would feel to pop the studio rep right in the kisser.
It plays out so well in his head that he storyboards it on a napkin. Film people are always writing and drawing things on napkins. If anyone ever makes a binder for napkins, the film industry will make that person millions. As they get into the next scene, the actress argues with Filmore about her character and a hundred other things She didn’t like his last movie (a sci-fi thriller about talking rocks), he didn’t like hers (a romantic comedy about a woman who dies and comes back as a truck). He takes a deep breath. Headache. Ulcer. Money bleeding out. He decides to keep the shoot moving. He manages to get everyone on track and even make up an hour on the schedule by cutting what he now realizes is an unnecessary scene. The cast and crew break for lunch while Filmore pops a handful of aspirin and wonders what he did in a past life to deserve this. He hopes it was because he was a pirate. Hey, maybe he should shoot a pirate movie next… While everyone else gets to sit down and relax for an hour, Filmore has to review the storyboards for the next few shots.
His phone rings again. This time it’s another studio exec. This exec yells at him for fighting with the actress. It seems she called her agent complaining as soon as they broke for lunch and her agent called the studio.
Filmore extends lunch by an hour so that he and the actress can discuss things in her trailer. After the tongue lashing he received from the studio exec, he bends over backwards apologizing to the actress. (He nearly draws blood he’s biting his lip so hard.) He gives in to all of her demands, even though he knows it will completely change the film for the worse. Ah, politics.
After lunch, Filmore powers through the rest of the day, trying to make up time and get back on schedule. He may not be making the movie he wanted to make, but at least he’s making everyone happy. If he can keep everyone happy and his movie can make a little money, then he can make another one. Hopefully with that one, he’ll have more creative control and more Hollywood clout, and he’ll be able to see his vision through to the end.
Of course, that’s what he thought about the film he’s currently shooting, too.
At night, back in his hotel, he’d like nothing more than to watch “True Blood” and go to sleep. Especially since tomorrow’s another early shoot. But he has to review the changes to the script that were made to accommodate the lead actress, as well as read a few pages from the pile of scripts sitting next to his bed. Maybe his next film is in that pile.
He scans through the stack until he finds a pirate movie. Smiling, he pops a few more aspirin as he sits back and begins to read. He’s arrrrghxausted.