It’s definitely the final countdown as we’re heading into the last weekend before we go to camera. We’re dealing with last minute details and starting the process of setting up!
The first thing that we had to do was pay a visit to ACTRA, go over final details, get a tutorial on the various forms that we and the actors have to fill out and submit and answer some questions about conditions on set. We also had to supply a bond with the full amount owing to pay the actors – ACTRA will then disperse pay cheques to the actors according to the time sheets that we supply. This turned out to be a bit of an issue because we discovered that we will have to pay overtime to any actors who work beyond five days without two consecutive days off – 150% on day 6 and 200% on day 7. We had submitted our “day out of days” sheet, which lists what actors are on set on which days, but the overtime had been missed. Not a big deal but there was a moment when a confused reading of the IPA (union contract) led to a belief that the actors’ rates would rise to 300% and stay there for the duration of the shoot. That would have gotten very expensive – but Indra, a senior steward, came in and cleared up the confusion and saved us a few grand in the process. Whew.
After that we had to rush back to the house to meet Len, who was there to set up the lab in our living room. You can say that Len is on top of the details: he even had screws and diodes of various types to lay in clumps on one of the work benches to make it look like Murray (our scientist/landlord) had just been working then got up and left to go make a sandwich. Len’s a fascinating guy and splits his time between designing “real” things in the world and designing and building sets. He has a contract with the Toronto Fire Dept to design a device to rescuing people injured in the subway. Generally, if someone is hurt on the tracks, four or five fire fighters/paramedics have to go into the tunnel to carry out the injured, with the danger that someone will trip on the tracks. Len designed a portable trolley that fits on the tracks so that only one paramedic is necessary to push the injured person down the tracks and out of the tunnels. Back at the station, the trolley folds up into a large suitcase that is portable and can be put back on the fire truck. Anyway, there are some final touches to add to the lab, including gear that we’re renting on Monday and which Len will deliver at that time. This set was our biggest single expense other than actors, costing us a little over $4000. An awesome deal as far as we’re concerned – the lab is very important to the story and so we wanted to make sure it looked good. We were probably thinking of the smash indie hit Bellflower from 2011, which had a budget of under $20k and, according to the filmmakers, most of that went on the fire-breathing muscle car.
Finally, in the evening, we had our camera and audio test meeting with Alex, our DP, Jeff (1st AC), and Zoe Mapp, our sound recordist. It was a very important chance to set up pretty much everything, test out the quality of the lights and figure out our workflow. We’d bought a copy of QRSlate ($50) from the Apple app store as an alternative to an analog, wooden slate. It got a solid review on NoFilmSchool as a way to simply organize your files to prepare them for post. Um, not so much. We’re recording sound separately and also shooting with two cameras a lot of the time, which adds another layer of complication. The beep that provides a sound mark for syncing the audio and video lasts over several frames without the benefit of a linked motion. When the sticks on a classic clapper snap, you have the motion leading up to that sharp, cracking sound to provide a guide for syncing up the sound file. With QRSlate there’s just a short flash that isn’t the same length of the sound and isn’t itself sharp enough because the screen doesn’t go instantaneously black afterwards but, rather, fades out. Jeff was not at all happy with it – Jeff works as an assistant editor at a post house in his day job. I think that we’ll have to revisit this marking and workflow again Monday morning; there may be an element of QRSlate being new and unfamiliar at play here, though dealing with multiple cameras is a bit clunky. But the important thing is that the D7000 produced some sexy images with our cheapo lighting kit on a very basic set-up without any colour correction. Manuel, our co-producer/lead actor, was at the house for a wardrobe meeting with Zuzana, our key wardrobe, and to check out the camera/audio test. HE stood in front of the camera and shared the truth about a deep and secret relationship that he’d never told the world before. Check it out below.