July 8th, 2015 – Day 1
I stepped into the harness like an astronaut getting ready to go to space. In space, as in focus pulling, there’s little room for error. With the safety line attached to the truck bed and my arm stretching to reach the follow focus, I waited for the countdown:
“Everybody ready? Picture’s up!”
“Let’s roll sound!” “Sound speed.”
“Roll camera!” “Speeding.”
“Mark it.” “Scene 5 A-A, Take…”
Clap. Boom. Blast off.
Away we went on day 1 of Assassinaut. And all of the feelings of homesickness, anxiety, and doubt washed away. With my fingertips on the focus wheel, I felt ready although I was acutely aware of the pressure of the first shot.
I’ve always found it funny how often the first shot is a doozy to pull focus on. You’re eating your breakfast at crafty and the bomb drops that they’re prepping a 20 foot dolly push in to start the day. So you say, “OK,” and suddenly the bagel you’re munching on doesn’t taste as good.
My donut at breakfast tasted plenty fine, however, when I found out we were doing some bicycle tracking shots from the back of a pick-up before heading inside. While it was the hardest focus pull of the day, it wasn’t anywhere close to the most difficult I’ve been asked to do.
Still: it’s the first shot. And the pressure is on everyone to kick things off right.
One of the skills it takes to be a good camera assistant is the ability to pull focus, but equally important to honing that skill is to compartmentalize the pressure. I’ve gotten better at that. Confidence in yourself helps, as well as preparation like getting marks, but it’s also a healthy dose of getting in the zone and thinking only about the pull, your marks, and nothing else.
So as the truck pulled away and the kids started bicycling, I toggled the wheel and we shot the first take. We cut, I felt good about it, and I heard, “OK back to one. Reset.”
As we returned to the top of the street, the DP and I talked about how the shot reminded us of the old Amblin movies and how the banner is being used again today.
This conversation, though trivial, confirmed that I had done my job.
That’s because the camera assistant is supposed to be invisible and you’ll really only be flagged when you mess up. Simply not being told the focus was off is what I work for.
The Daily Wrap Out
Welcome to the “Wrap Out” where, at the end of my blog post for the day, I’ll tidy things up with a list of random reflections and some behind the scenes pics, including the “Slate Picture” where we take a picture each day with whatever shooting day we’re on written on the slate.
Here’s today’s slate picture featuring myself, the key grip, 2nd AC, grip, and gaffer:
Some more behind-the-scenes photos:
And let’s get into the reflections:
• For the sake of this blog, I wish something crazy happened today – like the talent blew up at a production assistant or the director hit a deer on their drive to set or I got some disease in a massively infected cut I sustained at the sketchy abandoned warehouse location we started off at Day 1 and went to the hospital. For the sake of my actual well-being, however, I am glad that none of those things happened. (Except I did get a cut in the warehouse. Thankfully it is not infected – yet.)
• Many jokes were made today in regards to me blogging about the film. Let it be known that “Magic” Mike has been called out online and is now on watch.
• Anamorphic lenses are awesome. This is my first rodeo with the Kowa’s and they look great. Expect a full length blog post to follow from the AC side of things.
• Speaking of the Kowa’s, after working with still lenses on so many recent shoots, it’s nice to have actual distance markings. I find it so much faster since I can compensate my marks via distance if there are any last-minute changes. Grabbing marks by eye means you have to get them all over again even on the smallest tweaks.
• We got behind by about 15 minutes, but for the most part kept to the schedule at a good pace. I expect things to speed up as the crew falls into a rhythm.
• Day 1 and I already feel like my work shorts are too dirty to keep wearing – not that it’ll stop me.
Finally, a note about The Plot™: My pitch yesterday of “kids on an alien planet” may be misleading. The characters are, for the most part, teenagers. So while they are kids, they aren’t children like I had originally thought. (I still need to read the script – oops.) I was also given a killer pitch line for the movie: The Goonies, but R-rated.
Catch up on previous Assassinauts updates: