I call it "Horror Camp" for several reasons:
1) It involved cabins.
2) Said cabins were part of numerous horror movies.
3) The experience was both hilarious and horrible, but mostly the latter.
About two weeks ago, I saw an ad for tv interns, including actors. However, when I called, they didn't need any more actors, they needed costume help, PA's, and grips. I offered to help wherever needed, but figured I'd end up in costumes, especially since they were going to film in 2 weeks and had only JUST gotten a costumer. This should have been my first clue that all was not quite right with this "production".
My 2nd clue should have been the 2 rehearsals I attended- both of which were in smelly hospital conference rooms, by the way. I was told I should watch a rehearsal, but was then unable to due to the fact that the poor costumer and I had to hang out in the hallway cutting and sewing costume pieces all night. The costumer was supplying a number of pre-made costumes, and the director had some, but neither the costumer nor I were ever given a cast of characters or a real list of who was wearing what or when. Or a script, for that matter. Nada. Ok, let's sew some shit.
3rd clue- the PM was 15 years old. It was her first time being a production manager and although ambitious, she had no idea what we were about to embark upon. I don't think any of us did. From what the producer told me briefly, the production company was founded on the idea of getting Santa Barbara area actors a vehicle where they could be showcased. The vehicle in question is a fantasy tv series (ala LOTR, but not any good, I think) that they hope to shop around. The actors paid a very reasonable fee for acting lessons along the way, which partially would fund the production. The actors and mostly volunteer crew would earn points which would translate to cash if the series got picked up. Not a terrible idea, right?
Now, trust me, I have been a part of some very very low budget productions before, and I have worked with many disorganized creative types. Heck, sometimes I'm even one of them. But this, this was to be an epic clusterfuck.
Saturday morning, I'm supposed to get a ride to be at the 2nd day of shooting for a 6:30 AM crew call. There's no way I want to drive from location to location in unfamiliar mountain terrain, especially with my terrible night-blindness-thingie. But I never get a call from the PM, the director, or the producer. Ok, maybe I'm off the hook. Perhaps in the chaos I have simply been forgotten? Nope. At about 10:30 AM, the director calls me, saying she has found me a ride, and can I please come up and do makeup as well as costumes, as their make-up person flaked?
Cool, sure. I was hoping to learn how to do some grip work, but whatever. I ride up with a nice young actor named Ryan to the first location, off of Paradise Road. We are at the director's boyfriend's home, filming a few scenes in his backyard, which is lovely. But I find out that the costumer is not going to be present at the affair until Monday, and that I am the only person doing costumes and make-up for the next two days. Should be interesting.
I ascertain that the 15 year old PM went home in frustration the night before, after taking the brunt of the justifiable abuse from 15 extras at Knapp's Castle, who were not fed, and had no shelter from the wicked cold. Kind of explained why she never found me a ride, I guess. The shooting was apparently 6 hours behind schedule the first night, and the Producer's van broke down on Highway 154 with most of the costumes inside it. Which means I don't have all of the costumes I need for the scenes scheduled to shoot, and the Producer is AWOL. Ok, now I am wishing I had driven after all, because I would have turned my ass around at this point.
Several hours later, after dressing and applying make-up to several actors, including the director's lovely but cranky children, who were being used in the episode, the Producer finally arrives with the costumes. We have about 10 minutes to dress a fairy and a wood nymph. I got to do the fairy, and did what I could with the materials at hand. She looked pretty good. Suddenly the wood nymph says,
"Ow, that's getting in my eye!" I look over and the Producer is applying green glitter craft glue to the poor girl's eye area. Ok. I step in and do what I can, and the scene gets shot. The poor wood nymph is "dressed" in skimpy panties, chemise, and some garlands of flowers, and the sun is going down. Yeah, a little cold. Plus all of the guys were unabashedly ogling her butt. At about 7, they finally bring out a bit of food, but not everyone is able to eat before we are heading off to Zaca Lake, for some night shots.
I won't get too into it, but the road was full of giant water filled ruts and numerous bears, one of which we nearly ran over. The shoot went on until about 3 AM in the dark and cold, with not even coffee or water for the cast and crew. The PM showed back up and did her best, but there was no prop master or set up crew or script advisor or Anything, so she and the director couldn't do much to get things set up in a timely manner. The tech crew mostly quit the project that night, as well as the leading actor and the PM. The arguments between those remaining went on until 6 AM. In my cabin, by the way, which I was also sharing with the director, her sick and surly kids, the producer, the PM, and one of the actors. Good times.
But it wasn't over. Suprisingly, the lead actor decided to stay until the next day, 1/2 of the crew came back, and the producer made sure we got some adequate food this time. The shooting only went onto 9:30 because other guests and the management required us to stop. The night before we had perhaps disrupted a few people's sleep, it seems. Although conditions still sucked, the main crisis was over. People started actually talking to each other, instead of just screaming. After the shoot, I helped Ryan celebrate his 21st B-day with some much needed vodka, and later talked with the Director and Producer in our cabin until about 2 AM. They were actually both good people, just terribly disorganized. I got to learn way too much personal information about both of them that night, as well as all of the dirt on the crew and actors. As ever, I was Camp Counselor.
They next day I pretty much filled in as PM for the Director, and we went back to the original location to finish up a few shots. I rode with the director and she and I did nearly everything, as the Producer could not get out of bed, and the poor crew and actors needed some rest. It was still cold, the food wasn't great, and people were tired. The extras waited around for hours. There were sound equipment problems. Since we had lost most of our equipment when the crew bailed, we didn't have enough lights to do all of the scenes we needed, so a number of the actors wasted thier entire weekend. I got out of there about 7 last night, and have never in my life been so happy to leave somewhere.
But I learned alot about what not to do on a shoot this weekend. That a little appreciation goes a long way. That creature comforts can make or break a crew. I also learned that with little knowledge or resources, you actually can convince people to go into the woods and make a movie- for free! And maybe, just maybe, if you can get all of the elements together and talk a pretty game, you can make something decent that might go somewhere.
Will I work with any of them again? Maybe. But I'd need to be in charge, and it would have to be a script I wrote. I think this weekend also made me realize how much I miss wearing many artistic and organizational hats. And that maybe, I don't need to get pigeonholed in one area for the rest of my life. There are inept people everywhere that need my help, after all!
But first, I'll need a bit of sleep.