From the end of last May through the end of June I was in upstate NY directing 2nd Unit on a feature horror film. I can’t yet discuss any details – like the cast, the name of the director, or even the title of the movie – but here is my report on the final day of shooting, June 30th, 2012.
Week five of five of the shoot was the most hectic for 2nd Unit. The chaos culminated in a jam-packed final day, which included several shots that were scheduled for the day, plus a few additional shots that were sprung on me that morning, just after cast and crew’s final breakfast together.
The work started with shooting driving plates to go with some bluecreen shots Main Unit had done a week previous. Then we shot some inserts of a tombstone and some more flood destruction aftermath. Up next were some complicated shots involving a water tank setup. These interesting shots were upangle through water, looking skyward at the surface of the water, as if the camera were submerged. We shot a leaf landing in the water during a rainstorm and then a young girl’s bare foot stepping into a puddle just after the storm had passed. Visually fascinating, these shots had required hours of work put into building the tank structure, plus the hour or so we spent getting the shots. These water tank shots will represent only a few seconds in the finished film (unless, of course, these shots hit the cutting room floor).
And with that, my 2nd Unit duties were complete. Everyone broke for lunch. The food on this shoot had always been exceptional, but this final meal together was even better than usual – tacos, salad, roasted veggies, and a build-your-own-custom-sundae bar.
After the meal break, Main Unit continued to shoot for another several hours. As the sun came up, Main Unit work began on the complicated final shot of the shoot. It was a downangle dolly shot of two girls creeping through an underground tunnel. The camera, suspended overhead, tracked along over the girls as they lurked through the passageway. It took over an hour to set up the shot and another half an hour to rehearse the actors and the camera move as the kinks were worked out. After six takes, the AD called a wrap on the movie.
An exhausted crew burst into lots of cheering and hugging. Everyone was tired from working so hard for five weeks, and we were happy to finally be finished, yet everyone had bonded and come to rely on each other over the course of the arduous shoot – and we were now all about to go our separate ways. It was a bittersweet moment.
By the time we were on the road, for the final time, from set to crew quarters, it was around 9am. After shooting all night, we were eager to pass out in our beds. Some of us would be leaving after a full night’s sleep, but I needed to be on the road by noon. Back at crew quarters, I packed, said some good-byes, and grabbed an hour of sleep.
I then climbed into my car for the long drive home. Going on only an hour of sleep, I was concerned about driving safely – I knew to pull off and catnap if I started to fade. However, a steady consumption of coffee and loud music kept me alert, and I had no problems behind the wheel. My drive home was 17 hours, but I broke the drive up over two days. I drove 9 hours that first day, then stopped for the night. Instead of staying in a hotel, I elected to instead stay at a campground. As the sun set on what was technically still my final day on the shoot, I relaxed in solitude, staring into a campfire, reflecting on the intense, crazy, difficult, and extremely fulfilling five weeks I’d spent making my contribution to an awesome film.
Thanks for reading.