My alarm goes off at 6am. I hit the shower and am feeling good, ready for Day 1 of filming. There’s a certain degree of Magical Realism to filmmaking. The whole idea of creating movies is a fantasy; it feels natural when you’re planning it in your head, but oddly surreal when the moment comes, as if you’re doing something too fantastical to be real. As I shower it occurs to me: “Christ, I wrote this script back in November and I dreamed of making it myself, knowing exactly who I’d work with. I was fantasizing, and now suddenly I’m doing it. Just like that. Life shouldn’t be this easy.”
Once out of the shower I get dressed, grab my bag of production stuff with one hand and our rented police costumes with the other, put on my green beret, then head downstairs. I notice for the first time that it’s raining, which I’d expected. In fact, I even briefly considered cancelling the shoot over the supposed heavy volume we would get, but then thought again. After all, we’ll be shooting indoors in a warehouse all day.
The first inclination I get that something might be wrong comes once I get downstairs. Clarke the cinematographer tells me he is caught in traffic. Oh well, I figure, more time for the rest of us to set up. Mikey, our associate producer, is picking me up, yet he also is running late. It’s not until he arrives and I jump in the car that I realize just how bad the rain truly is. Driving into Brooklyn, the downpour comes down so hard we struggle to see five-feet in front of the windshield. I begin making calls and start receiving more texts.
“Hey, I’m still in NJ,” Orysia the producer texts me, “Stupid rain.”
“Might be a little late” the owner of the location texts me, followed by “Holy Rain, Batman!”
Monica, one of the actresses, texts me to say she’s on her way, but brings up that flood warnings are in effect for Red Hook, which is below sea level. I laugh at this. Things couldn’t possible get that bad.
The next text comes from our on-set acting coach: “Gabe, I’m stuck in very heavy traffic on the BQE. On my way but likely to be about an hour late. Sorry but the traffic and rain are horrible.”
Brittany, our wardrobe supervisor, calls me to tell me she’s also stuck in traffic somewhere between Long Island and Brooklyn. She’s likely to be an hour late as well. “Well, hang in there,” I say, not sure what other advise I can give.
Our PA, Logan, texts me: “I’m so sorry I’m running late. Rain, traffic. Be there by 8:15am.”
Finally, we pick up Dina, our lead actress, and get news that Orysia has just come off the subway. It seems like things are at last coming together–
“Guys, we have a problem!” Orysia says as she gets in the car, “We have to cancel today! The location is completely flooded!”
I call up the location owner who confirms apologetically. “The inside of the place is flooded ankle-deep. I can’t even get in.” Furthermore, with rain forecast for the next day as well and the flood not likely to subside, we’ve just lost our Day Two as well.
I slam my fist into the side of the car and yell the following word very loudly:
In retrospect, I am very grateful for Orysia, Mikey, and Dina who immediately show their support and keep me from going into hysterics. The next half hour is a race of phone calls, telling everyone to turn back and apologizing. Since crew members work freelance, they must be compensated for today all the same. As it turns out, Clarke has been so backed in traffic that he still hasn’t reached the tunnel, an hour after his first text about being in traffic. Clarke is also extremely supportive, immediately turns down my offer to compensate him, and when he begins texting Orysia to ask how I’m doing, I realize what a friend I have in him.
Others are not so graceful, demanding compensation for both that day and the next. It turns out a few actually did make it to the location, and demand to know why no one else was there. I point out that they have to consider this is an unusually severe situation; clearly the fact that 70% of the crew was delayed in traffic must obviously indicate the degree of the storm, but not everyone believes this. “Personally, I think we could have still shot today,” an upset party tells me.
In the end, I lose close to $1000 over that day without an inch of footage to show for it. After dropping off Dina, we head to a Dunkin’ Donuts and sit down to work out a new schedule, knowing our film is in a state of crisis.
Three days later, my alarm once more is going off at 6:30am. Once more I put on my green beret. Once more I’m being picked up by Mikey. Once more we’ll both pick up Dina…
But this time, the shoot is a success. We start on time, wrap early, and even have time for a catered lunch of ribs, Perogies, and salad. Here’s a video giving you a look at how the Official Day 1 on GODDESS OF TIME turned out:
This is what filmmaking is: crafting a story using the external world, and taking on the challenges of reality. We have three shoot days ahead of us, including two in Red Hook. Needless to say, I’m really really hoping it won’t rain. Beyond that, I’m very grateful for the team with me who have kept our project alive. Filmmaking is impossible without the support of a good cast and crew: a strong family.