I arrived in Evansville, Indiana on Tuesday afternoon, grabbed a rental car and headed for the local Barnes & Noble, which kindly loaned us the remaindered books we need to dress our sets. We owe them a great, big, THANK YOU. Without them, we'd be sunk. I loaded the books in my car and went straight to one of our four locations — Sureway Grocery in Henderson, where I met our gaffer Lewis Chaney and the store manager, who is incredibly enthusiastic and helpful. It's the perfect location for the opening scenes of our film and I saw exactly how I wanted to shoot it… and how I could steal a lot of coverage with my second camera as I went along. I used my little Flip HD camcorder to take some rough approximations of my shots (for myself, not for anyone else to see)
I drove through a sudden, powerful thunderstorm between Henderson and Owensboro… the worst downpour I've ever experienced….and had to pull off the road to wait it out. Thankfully, it passed in about fifteen minutes and I drove on.
My first stop in Owensboro was at Danhauer Drugs, where the end of our movie will take place. It's going to be cramped, and cluttered, but I am going use that to my advantage from a story-telling standpoint. I'll play up how cramped it is, working with it rather than against it. I figured out how I wanted to re-arrange displays, what I'd have to cheat, and how I could accomplish what I wanted with as few set-ups in there as possible. It's going to work just fine.
My final stop was at the home of Roxi Witt, where we will be shooting the "middle" of our movie. I walked through the house, figured out what furniture and decor needed to be moved out, what we'd have to bring in, and where we'd have to put it. I figured out my shots, used my little Flip HD camcorder to try get'em down for myself, and then called it a night.
This morning, after sleeping for 12 straight hours, I found a booth at the Waffle House, had breakfast, and spent the next two hours going over the script, marking the key dramatic points, the key tonal shifts, and the moments when I felt a close-up was essential, which cameras would take a character's move, etc. Then I went the Riverpark Performing Arts Center, met Roxi and a team of PAs, and went back to her house to "direct" re-arranging and set decorating.
I went from there to Don Moore Chevrolet, which is kindly providing the "picture cars" for our film, then returned to Riverpark to do an interview with the Messenger-Inquirer, then went to Brescia College to give a two-hour talk on TV writing. Afterwards, I met with PJ Starks (DP), Rodney Newton (producer), Lewis Chaney (Gaffer, Location Scout), Adam Tyler (Camera), Pablo Gallastegui (Script Supervisor) and Rachael Nunn (First Assistant Director) to go on our tech scout of the locations…so they could hear what I had in mind, offer their advice, share their concerns, etc.
They asked good questions and had some great ideas. I changed my thinking about how to stage one of the scenes and I liked what we came up with much better than what I initially had in mind. That process also gave me the first chance I've had to convey, face-to-face, exactly how I see the movie — the characters, the tone, and the look. They got it right away. It came through in their ideas and questions, which were all, as we would say in the TV biz, "on-franchise." They clearly got my thinking on how I want the movie to look and feel.
The one location I haven't seen yet — since it depends on Fire Department approval — is the desolate spot where our protagonist burns the evidence of the murder he just committed. That location/decision won't be set until tomorrow… so I'll drive out to see it before or after our production meeting.
I left the tech scout around 11 pm feeling really good about the movie… and confident in the team that Rodney and PJ have brought together for me to work with. I'm sure we are going to have a a lot of fun and believe we'll get the movie done on time and on-budget.
Tomorrow I'm going back out to Roxi's place to trim two bushes myself that are in one of my shots. That's what a hands-on director I am! After that, I have a seminar to lead at Kentucky Wesleyan and it's back to Riverpark Performing Arts Center for our production meeting.
(Pictured above — Lewis Chaney, Lee Goldberg, PJ Starks in Danhauer Drugs in Owensboro, talking about a shot. Photo by Rodney Newton)