Photos by SHARON MENDONCA
BY SHAWN WHITNEY
There were moments in the last 12 days that I didn’t think I’d make it, to be honest. Around day 6 and day 7 I was hitting a wall of exhaustion and I heard a voice in my head tell me that I couldn’t do another 6 days, then another 5 days, then another 4. Each day it got a little quieter and by the time we only had 3 days I left I knew for certain that I (and we) would make it.
However, it was clear on the morning of our 12th day that most people were pretty thoroughly exhausted. Sometimes, when the end it closest, that is when the struggle through those final hours becomes hardest. People were showing up 15 minutes late, we were bumbling around, unable to get the first shot off. It wasn’t clear what our first scene of the day was – after we had rearranged things the night before to pick-up some scenes that were missed. Santiago arrived upstairs for the first shot in the wrong wardrobe and had to change and be re-mic’ed for sound by Zoe, which took an additional 15 minutes. By the time we took our first shot we were 90 minutes behind schedule – and Alex, our DP, was in the foulest mood I’d seen him in during the entire shoot. It felt like a gargantuan effort just to restore focus.
But – like we had done so many times before – we did refocus. And by the time lunch rolled around we had made up all of our lost time. We went into the afternoon entirely caught up with where we were meant to be and we’d even banged off a very short scene that we’d thought we were going to have to drop. With that momentum we went into the afternoon feeling positive about what we could pull off.
We didn’t take account of traffic. Murray (Clinton Lee Pontes) was traveling to set from the other side of the city and got caught in the mother of all traffic jams. It took him 2.5 hours to arrive, making him about an hour late. Again, we were scrambling. We shot what we could without him and made contingency plans for other scenes we might shoot – though we were really setting up to shoot stuff that we’d already decided to ditch. But then Clinton finally burst through the door just as we were finishing off the last of the non-Murray scenes. We quickly re-jigged our plans and not only caught up again, we shot a scene that we had cut (but which was a contentious decision because it’s a lovely, if secondary, scene) and we reshot another scene that I had been unhappy with.
It was as though the universe threw at us one final series of tests and we managed to pass all of them, finishing the day and our entire slate of scenes. It’s true that we dropped some scenes along the way – mostly just a few transitions from place to place that were unnecessary – but nothing critical got lost. Was this really possible? Did we really just shoot a feature film in 12 days? We never went beyond 10 hour days for crew and 8 hour days for cast. We managed to work in a concert scene with an awesome local indie band. And we shot a “sex scene” that didn’t make me cringe and was actually quite cute and touching. In 12 days.
I don’t know yet what our final budget will be: Dagny Thomson, our production manager, is crunching the numbers and they will change as we sell some of our gear. But my guess is that we came in below $20,000. Perhaps substantially. Nor did we go into overtime on any of our days, which ACTRA was so convinced we would do that they insisted we demonstrate the ability to cover such overtime with money in our bank account. Of course that’s not a “real” $20,000 (or whatever the number ends up being). The real number ought to include the actual value of the labour that was contributed by the entire crew. It we had paid everyone what they ought to have been paid, the budget would have been closer to $90,000-$100,000 (that’s my guess). That’s still a microbudget by definition but a rather more expensive one to personally finance, as this film has been.
At the end of the day most of us went out to a local restaurant/bar and celebrated our heroic achievement (which explains why this entry was so slow to be written) – for most of us our first feature film. People toasted and celebrated the hard work that they’d done and the awesome work, I must say. Cast and crew really felt a part of something bigger than themselves and gave an incredible amount of themselves to that artistic vision. That contribution is still a wonder to me and for it I feel a profound sense of gratitude. A Brand New You wouldn’t have been possible without them. And, as if an omen of something wonderful being born, my co-director (and wife) Kathryn Palmateer became pregnant in the weeks leading up to the production and another crew member became pregnant during the production itself.
Finally, a very special shout out to David Halls. I’ve known Dave for 5 years since I was accepted into the writers residency program at the Canadian Film Centre. He attended the year before and was asked to meet with me and talk about what I ought to expect at the CFC, etc. It’s a sort of mentoring approach that the CFC takes with new residents. We’ve kept in touch on and off over the last five years but not been close. He read an earlier post about the challenges of childcare during the shoot and offered to babysit our daughter, Bea, on the final day of the shoot when we had run out of childcare options. Because he did this both Kathryn and I were able to be on the set for the last day when we’d come to the conclusion that one of us would have to spend the day with Bea. Bea also seems to have fallen in love with “Davey” and has been asking when she will get to see him again. She was very excited to show us the wind-up sushi that Dave gave to her. Thanks, Dave!
Dru Soo and her niece and nephew also showed up on the last day to help out as PAs and to be generally awesome and supportive. Dru has a youtube channel here of some funny stuff that you can check out.
Now comes the post-production process – editing, mixing, correcting, rearranging, scoring, and all the rest of it. It is a slower process, taking place probably over the next 4-6 months but we will keep you abreast of that process, if on a less frequent and intense basis than the last 12 days of madness. I hope you’ll continue on that journey with us.