Behind the scenes

by John Manulis, Producer of “Believe in Me”

Hollywood’s version of ‘friendly fire’

Our past journal entries have hopefully communicated the fact that filmmaking is neither a predictable process, nor a clean, bloodless post-industrial one.

There is a lot of calculations that go into to the making of movies, born of the confluence between nature (daylight/nighttime hours), union work regulations and the number of shots that the complex organism of director, crew, cast and equipment are able to accomplish within a standard shooting day. It often requires the producing/directing team to make painful decisions.

For example, you may have heard that we have had some issues with the weather over the past several weeks. On Friday, caught in another futile battle with Mother Nature, we worked past midnight (and well beyond our standard, budgeted, 12-hour shooting day) in order to shoot a crucial scene involving our two leads that we were loathe to lose. The ramifications of that single decision go far beyond the heavy financial hit of shooting a 16-hour day … essentially trapping us between that late night’s work and our big cotton-picking scene scheduled four days later.

Union regulations require a 10-hour “turnaround” (non-working time between shoot days to recharge batteries, and, ostensibly, to have a life) for crew and 12 hours for cast.

The result: short shooting days for our basketball games at Gattis Junior High School on Saturday and Sunday, in order that we might gradually nudge our morning call time earlier towards daybreak on Tuesday; and a reduced number of shots, or scenes, in our planned weekend workload to fit the shorter shooting day.

Caught in the vise between that Friday night decision and the need to begin shooting at daybreak on Tuesday, was a scene about the basketball game between Ideal and Middleton, and the dedicated innocents who had stuck by us all day to perform as the Ideal basketball team, their coach, and the school’s marching band … casualties of film … Hollywood’s version of friendly fire. It’s a painful situation for producers and director, but the film industry proverb, “sometimes you have to kill your babies,” warns us all that we are likely to be faced with hard realities that will require us to sacrifice elements of the script, or a set, or a scene that we have long considered sacrosanct, in support of the overall picture.

Our work is rife with these decisions, where no-one wins, but, hopefully, on balance, the picture benefits.

To those who experienced this situation first-hand Saturday night … our apologies for the unfortunate introduction to filmmaking, but know that we appreciate your support and consider you to be a part of the movie in spirit, if not in flesh.