Peyton, our costume designer on Interplanetary, met me at my place, and we left for Atrox around 7:30 Saturday morning. Call time for the actors wasn't until 10:30, but there was still a lot to do before we could roll the camera. Heck, there was still a lot to do before we could load the camera.
The crew and I had been pushing hard to make our Saturday date because it was one of our two days to shoot with actress Amanda Myers. When I'd booked her a few weeks ago, February 17 seemed a long way off. Next thing I know, it was February 16, it was late, and John and I were still at Atrox, trying to get a few more things ready. I finally gave up -- I still had to go home and charge the cam batteries -- nowhere near prepared for shooting.
It's no surprise that, by noon on Saturday, we still hadn't rolled camera, though I did get it loaded by that point. Cast and crew were getting hungry, so we decided to eat lunch before shooting anything.
(Here's Todd, Julia Lewis [our documentarian], and John.)
We weren't running late because of any slacking, though. Carl and Todd Hornsby were putting the finishing touches on our first set, the "Steve" character's living quarters, and it was really starting to look like a room in an underground base on Mars. Or my idea of such a room, at least. John got our first space helmet finished up, and it, too, was looking great. And Jimbo and Chris Hilleke were checking the lights and figuring out the camera setup for the first shot.
After lunch, we finally rolled that first shot, a relatively simple pan around the room to reveal the "Steve" character, played by Michael Shelton. The shot did take advantage of the Aaton camera's recently-installed video tap. Jimbo was operating the camera without even looking at the camera -- he was framing the shot using a 7" video monitor that displayed a black and white image generated by the tap. You see this kind of thing all the time in behind-the-scenes footage from Hollywood movies, but I'd never used a tap on any of the film projects I'd worked on before.
(Me, watching the feed off the video tap.)
And the tap is cool. Dragging a monitor around takes a little extra time, but I think it's worth it to have two (or more) pairs of eyes on the shot. And it makes framing a shot easier. Instead of Jim and I taking turns looking through the camera viewfinder, I can see what he's seeing via the tap, and we can usually come to an agreement on the framing pretty quickly.
I forgot to mention, it was cold Saturday. I think the high was supposed to be in the 40s. And Atrox is so huge, we haven't even bothered trying to figure out how to turn the heat on. It'd probably take a week for the building to heat up, and I don't even want to think about the electricity bill.
Our second shot of the day featured Amanda wearing a space helmet. About ten seconds after she got into the helmet, which is basically a clear acrylic ball, it started fogging up. Thankfully, somebody (Hugo Marx or Hilleke, if I recall) was smart enough to run down to the auto parts store and get some Rain-X. Rain-X is the stuff you can apply to your car's windshield to keep it from fogging up in the rain. It also works on space helmets. I wonder if NASA knows that little trick?
(The helmet fogs up.)
The cold was also hard on our actors. We crew members could wear whatever we wanted, but the actors were stuck with their movie clothes, and neither Amanda's nor Michael's characters were wearing much. Michael finally resorted to laying on the set's bunk and covering himself in blankets between takes. Stacey set up some space heaters in a small room near the set, so Amanda could hang out there while we changed setups.
(Amanda, bundled up between takes, and John.)
We got some good stuff from Amanda and Michael and finished up shooting on that first set sometime mid-afternoon. I'll fill you in on the second half of the day in my next post.
Photos courtesy of George Smyly.