November 2nd was our FIRST DAY on the set. All the previous work against the clock came to an end and we it was the moment to give all our soul and effort. We were shooting at a house in Sherman Oaks given to us with great generosity by the lead actor (Steven Tulumello) and his house-mates, Jeff Friedl and Matt McJunkins (who were extremely cool with us messing their house up and shooting until 2am).
On this day we were shooting, what is arguably the HARDEST SCENE in the entire movie (maybe not the greatest idea ever). The first time the audience gets to meet the characters as well as an 8 minute fight between the main character, his girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend at this point) and his brother (who just slept with his girlfriend - or ex-girlfriend, you know what I mean).
The actress that played Connor's girlfriend (I'm not doing the joke again), is AMY HAAVEN, Steven's friend from Arizona, who flew all the way to LA just for this. Although she has an extensive modeling experience, acting was almost new to her and that made it a beautiful process to work with. Steven and myself, were very aware that we would have a lot of non-actors on this movie since one of our mottos was doing it with our friends; so instead of getting afraid, we embraced it.
We spent a full day in Steven's house with her and the guy that played Connor's brother, JORGE ESCALANTE (who isn't a professional actor either), getting to know each other and rehearsing the scene over and over. I have to say, as a director, it was very fun to work a scene with actors (who normally have their methods) and non-actors (who can be more open, although some times more afraid). It really teaches you what acting really is, and how you can get an honest performance from people all over the spectrum. After that. it was time to make the set look cinematic.
Since we didn't have enough equipment or resources to light it the "proper" way, the first thing we did was getting as many practical lights as we could. We all brought some from our houses and even bought a couple. We figured that with enough practical lights on the location, the set would have a base fill light that was nice and warm. Thanks to that, we only needed one or two lights on set to light up our actors faces.
After all that was done... we went to sleep... knowing that in a couple hours DULCINEA WAS ABOUT TO BE BORN.
The next morning, I went on to Steven's house early. We wanted to have some time to talk, cry, and focus on what was about to happen. We spend some time doing some inserts and montage shots to break the ice. But an hour later... everybody else showed up.
All our rehearsals, planning and arguing was left to put aside and we started shooting. First of all, I want to thank our incredible crew that day. Joe Gunawan, my long time 1AC, who kept us in focus; Ville Gobi, who has since then become one of my best friends and who killed it as 2AC; Joann Wong, great friend who lit the whole thing; Christian Lainez, one of the most talented sound people I know and Raven Glover, our EVERYTHING woman, who helped in any way that was needed.
We had 8 pages to shoot that day, and Steven and I were very aware of the challenge that was. Before we jumped into our main scene, we decided to start by shooting a small scene in the shower, from almost at the end of the script. It was really fun because it made everybody really confortable. I had to be inside a plastic bag in the shower (so the camera didn't break on the first shot) while a naked Steven pulled off the scene along with his co-stars. After that... we moved on to the main scene.
We first shot the moment where Chelsey and Connor first meet after he had been gone for months. It was a very cold and awkward conversation that leads into a fight the moment he finds out that she has been cheating on him with his brother, who just happens to show up.
Because of the nature of the scene, we wanted to be able to move around almost everywhere in the set, that's where our practical lighting came in super handy. We shot the first half of the scene on sticks and on a slider, giving it a cleaner look that suddenly turned really shaky when the fight explodes and the camera goes handheld.
It was almost a miracle the fact that we pulled off 8-9 pages in one night, specially being our first day on a set where you don't have all the people you would normally have, but the crew just made it happen and that really gave us confidence to keep pushing. If the first day had gone wrong... I don't know that we would have put the same effort to continue the film.
I can't reveal too much more about the scene and what is being said but keep reading us to find out what happens after you shoot 8 pages of your first feature film in ONE DAY!