Days 4 and 5: On Location at Landmarks of My Adolescence

18 Dec

Day 4 (Thursday) and Day 5 (Saturday) recaps are here as a double-hitter – production time seems to go by crazy fast, every shoot is like another 1k stretch of a marathon. I’ll do this post chronologically. First up – the joys of filming in a non-walk-in closet.

That's about how wide/deep the closet actually is, upon opening the door.

One of the best things about being a screenwriter is that you get to indulge in that movie playing in the movie theater of your mind. You write three page scenes that take place during an infinite sunset, you insert sweeping montages where your characters stare across a crowded cafeteria at each other, and you write two-page scenes that take place in cramped closets while thinking, “That nauseating sense of claustrophobia’s really going to make this scene work!” Then it comes time to shoot and if you’re a writer/director, the switch flips. Everything you thought made your screenplay visual and interesting is now a logistical nightmare that makes you want to go back in time and violently destroy your keyboard before you have a chance to write the first “FADE IN”.

Going over the shooting script during pre-production, you find yourself sounding more and more like Gollum berating Smeagol for ever thinking such stupid things were possible. Sunsets last for 7 or 8 minutes at most, you idiot, how are you going to fit in more than one take of your first shot in there? Where are you getting all these uniforms for a cafeteria full of 14-17 year old extras you haven’t even found yet? Oh, you’re filming in a closet? The sound is echoey, there aren’t any lights, and it’s probably against the law to hold two teenagers and a guy with a camera in a closet for hours while you’re waiting on the other side. For the record, if that last part is actually illegal, we definitely didn’t do it. And stop reading this blog post now.

We ran all the blocking outside the closet first.

Adolescence spent in a closet. Look, dramatic lighting!

For the closet scene, we ran the blocking outside, then crammed our two actors, our soundmixer/boom operator, our Director of Photography, and the camera into a 3×4 foot enclosed space. And then we closed the door.  While the logistics of film production are enough to drive the sane into a spiraling madness, there’s comfort in the fact that we don’t go into it alone. I have the great good luck of working with an incredibly talented crew and wonderfully patient cast. Rather than pointing out the difficulties and roadblocks, they skip ahead to ask, “How can we make this work?” These are the kinds of people I like to surround myself with, because it means we aren’t just going to make a movie, we’re going to make something good. It also means we should overbudget for food, because they deserve to feast as kings after making that shoot work.

My parents are both chemists. This is my version of a, "Hi, mom!" frantic wave at the camera.

This brings back more memories of high school than I'd like to recall.

Sometimes, the logistics of production will also shift the narrative positively. I had originally written two scenes which took place in a high school cafeteria. When we went location scouting at Winchester Thurston Middle School, the Director of Programs was kind enough to give us an expanded tour of the campus. Walking into the WT Upper School biology lab, I realized just how much of my adolescence was spent in science labs. Yeah, I sound like a total dork, I don’t care because I actually have no talent for the sciences. My parents are both chemists; I was in second grade when they were grad students, and I would hang out in the university chem lab to play with dry ice. For the better part of my childhood, I equated chemistry with magic and wanted to become a scientist when I grew up.

Unfortunately, I inherited a recessive gene called CompletelyCrapAtScience, but being the overachieving daughter of two very smart people, refused to admit defeat and struggled my way through chemistry, physics, and biology honors courses throughout high school. In the biology lab of Winchester Thurston, I was suddenly thrown back to a time when everyone scrambled for the one pair of safety goggles that wasn’t hot pink, when testing for unknown substances wasn’t a euphemism for sniffing the contents of a college dorm fridge. I made the last-minute script change, and we shot one of my favorite scenes in the film thus far. (I know, I say this about every scene. This is the great thing about working with a crazy talented crew; they make every shoot better than the last.)

Thank you to the wonderful faculty and staff at Winchester Thurston, especially to Dionne Brelsford, who helped me outfit the cast and extras in school uniform attire. Thanks also to the Levinsons for allowing us to film in the crowded closet Thursday night. Tomorrow is our last day of full production! I told you these things go by quickly.

Much love,

Yulin Kuang
Writer/Director – “First Kiss”

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One Response to “Days 4 and 5: On Location at Landmarks of My Adolescence”

  1. Cain Gulbrandsen January 14, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

    Yulin! hahah I had no idea this site existed! tell me these things! can’t wait to see you guys again this sunday and do the next scene!

    -Cain

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