As early as 2005 and as late as 2012 or 2013, there were many shots, and sometimes entire scenes that I filmed alone. I guess it is times like these that the filmmaker most resembles the sculptor, the writer, or the composer. It is just you and what you hope to create.
By myself, I recorded a lot of landscape scenery. Not only did I use this during the opening title and end credits, but also, it was handy to have in case of what is called B roll--other shots not of the main action that one can cut to. I also recorded actions and activities around me--the sunrise, planes landing and taking off, a lunar eclipse, cars driving by, etc.
I can think of at least two scenes (many I decided to cut) in the final film that involved me setting up the camera with a best guess for lighting, sound, framing and performing in front of the camera. In one scene, I simply played the one character in static shots. For another scene, I played two characters (one had a bag over his head), and then combined the two performances while editing.
It was probably when filming alone that I felt like an independent filmmaker with a capital "I". Everything in each frame was completely controlled by me. The passage of time also seemed most noticeable when I was alone. Although I filmed alone quite a bit while making SLIM, I do prefer to interact with other people and make better products because of that interaction.
The day of filming I talk about today was covered in the Bangor Daily News. See the article here.
With all other scenes having been completed to my satisfaction, there was one more set of shots that I felt my zero budget movie needed--crowd shots. I will not fall to the assumption that a big movie and large casts require a massive budget. I used technology and every resource available to me to gather a crowd.
I looked at the calendar and decided that Labor Day was the day to pick. Many people have work off on Labor Day, but families usually do not travel on that date. Maybe this is true, maybe it is not, but it worked for me.
I went on Facebook and created a public event. I posted the casting call to every free events site that served my area. I went to the websites of local television and radio stations, and posted on their community calendars. I went to the Bangor Daily News website and shared my filming date on their list of events. It was because of this last step that a Bangor Daily News reporter and a photographer came to the filming to cover it.
I was thrilled when about 20 people came for filming that day. The instructions (for crowds of nuns) was to wear all black. Only a few of the people that came were already my friends. Many were people that had seen the casting call for extras on one of the events platforms and wanted to be in a movie.
We used a large field in a public park for all of the scenes. Luckily, I had scouted the area and charted out all crowd movements beforehand. Despite all the people involved, everything went smoothly, and I believe those involved had fun.
Next time, I will write about the parts of the film that I filmed alone.
This day's filming involved only two of us behind the camera and in front of it. The funny thing is both of us are named Mike.
Filming a scene with only two people presents many challenges. If both are in front of the camera, there is no one behind the camera to monitor the sound, position in the frame, light changes, etc. However, having only two people involved also saves the filmmaker from stress as well. Scheduling becomes easier, and there are only two people that can forget lines.
For this particular scene, we began by filming all of Mike's lines from a closeup angle, while I monitored behind the camera. Next we did the same with me in front of the camera. The final step was a two shot with no one behind the camera. It was not until I reviewed the footage again months later that I noticed, as the sun had set behind the camera, the shadow of the camera and tripod slowly appeared on my leg from shot to shot. Luckily, I was able to crop it out without any important information missing from the shot.
Part 3 of the truck chase was completed with Jake present. For the chase itself, it was simply shots of Jake in the vehicle reacting to already filmed shots.
After the chase, we filmed more angles of the swordfight. This time, all showing Jake's face.
This same day, we filmed Wilhelm giving a speech to a crowd that was not even present. I framed the shot tight enough so that it would appear that Jake was in a closeup surrounded by a crowd. I was impressed by how well he could remember the entire speech in one take.
Another scene involved Jake looking through binoculars at troops charging (another shot that had yet to be filmed).
Part 2 of filming the truck chase sequence took place at the house of my friend Annie, the same friend that owned the SUV and the camp where we filmed the majority of the chase sequence. This day of filming included shots of the truck driving by, Slim falling out of the truck, Slim climbing on the roof of the truck, Wilhelm in the truck from behind, and the swordfight from one angle.
The reason Wilhelm was filmed from behind was because Jake was not available on this date, so my friend Donovan was a stand in with the nun outfit on.
The most memorable part of this day's filming was when the camera fell off the vehicle. The truck was turning a corner and the camera was in the very back with the rear hatch open. The force of the car turning made the entire tripod fall over and the camera land directly on the pavement. Remarkably, the camera still worked after, only the viewfinder was detached so setting up every shot needed the LCD screen.
Even without a budget, SLIM boasts 2 "car" chases. The first involves riding lawnmowers and the second an SUV and ATVs.
This day's filming captured the second of these chases.
For the truck itself, my friend Annie allowed me to use her sturdy SUV, which conveniently had running boards and a roof rack. The same friend owned a camp in a remote area of Maine. This meant we were able to use the seldom-traveled camp roads as the setting for our chase.
In order to give the illusion of great speeds, I set the camera to record a lower framerate. This meant that when the footage was sped up in the computer, it would appear to be playing back at a normal framerate.
The details of the scene were simple-- the truck drives by, Slim jumps on the truck, replaces the driver, and gets chased by an ATV. We basically filmed the entire chase in order. For the exterior shots, the camera was either mounted on an ATV or from someone standing and using the sunroof of the car. The interior of the car was easy to film with the camera in the front passenger seat.
Of all the different sequences filmed over the years, this one could have been quite complicated, but it went off quite smoothly. Over the next several weeks, filming of the sequence was completed through days of filming insert shots and additional angles.
We filmed the scenes that are the final two in terms of the film's runtime around the middle of the summer of 2007. Did this mean we were done with filming? No!!
The final dialogue scene involved Craig and me. We used the same office we did earlier for Tubba's interview scene. Once again, Craig gave a phenomenal performance, with just the right balance of comic timing and sentiment. It was just the two of us present for the filming. We would set up the cameras for one angle, perform the scene, move the cameras for another angle and repeat the scene. In all, we performed the scene about three times.
The final scene (which was not the last scene filmed) involved only me in front of the camera. There was no dialogue, so not many takes needed. After these scenes were finished, I still had another month of summer in order to film more scenes.
No, I did not make another Airport sequel while filming Slim. I did have two scenes that I filmed featuring an "airport". With TSA regulations the way they are, I decided not to bother asking any actual airport if my no budget movie could film there. Like any no budget filmmaker, I had to improvise. I knew that all I really needed was a nondescript background and a counter for tickets and luggage. A freestanding clothing rack became the metal detector. Sound effects would need to complete the illusion. Physically, the set didn't change much between the two airports, except one had brighter, more direct lighting.
Alissa was not available for filming that day, so instead of rescheduling everybody for another day, you guessed it--we improvised. One of my friends had a gigantic suitcase--so for these scenes, Snarion was traveling inside the suitcase.
The guest star of the day was my friend Katie as the ticket clerk. For the South American airport, she wore a normal business outfit. For the European airport, she simply modified her outfit a little.
Would anyone be able to tell that both airports were the same set? Of course! Does it matter? Of course not!
Why have a soundstage, when you can have a space with easy access to the outdoors as well? Over the years, my garage (without cars in it) has become a multipurpose filming location. The existing lighting is even, and can be enhanced by opening the garage doors and letting in natural lighting. If all the junk is cleared out, you have your choice of blank walls. If the scene requires a more industrialized setting, the metal doors themselves can be the background.
For the interior of a prison camp, a combination of these backgrounds was perfect. Blank walls puts the focus on the performers while closed garage doors show the possibility of escape. Of the scenes filmed here, I ended up cutting most of them, but it was an enjoyable experience for all of us involved.
The first scene that I remember filming (it has been 10 years so I will not swear on the chronological accuracy of everything recorded here) in the summer of 2007 was a scene titled "INT. SAD BAR". As I was only about 17, I had never been to a bar. I still do not know what would make a bar sad, but I guess it got the somber mood across.
As the day's filming began, there was a thunderstorm. It didn't change our plans, as we were only filming inside. I thought it would add to the atmosphere to have thunder rumbling in the background and raindrops hitting the roof, and it did. What we did not expect was for the power to go out right as we began filming.
When you are making a movie with no budget and using amateur performers, scheduling is not easy. So there was no way I was going to reschedule the day's filming. Instead, we lit the scene using candles and flashlights. Thank goodness it was a sad bar and not a bright, happy bar. It also meant that we had a limited number of takes since the camera batteries would not last forever.
The master performance of the day came from my friend Ross, who played the sad bartender. As I had written his lines, they were very bland and provided exposition to lead our main characters to the next scene. Ross did an extraordinary job injecting his own take on the character, which is exactly what I wanted. His sad bartender character is hilarious. He turned a minor character into a memorable one with just one scene.