Filming Day 1: You’re Smokin’! …No, Seriously, You’re Smoking.

Yesterday was my first day on set for a new student film. It’s with the same university where I did my last film, and the people are always great to work with. This was no exception.

It was a special day yesterday because, besides being our only non-12-hour shoot, we had a dog on set! When I read the script, I pictured a big dog, but the dog that was used was  lap dog, but not one of those annoying yippy, shaky ones. He was super cute and super well-behaved. I guess because I’d never worked on a film with an animal before, or maybe I forgot how high-quality these films are for student films, but I kind of expected them to just use one of the crew members’ dogs, but this one was very friendly and really well-trained. Even so, it’s hard to work with animals, because they like to sniff things every now and then.

Before the dog left, the director wanted to shoot the poster picture. I think this is the first time I’ve ever posed for a poster picture, and this pose was a kiss. I knew that my leading man, Mike, and I would be kissing, and it wasn’t a big deal; from the moment we met, we got alone really well and he made me feel very comfortable. But kissing for a film, and especially for a picture, is the least romantic thing in the world. The point of having the dog in the picture was the have him looking at us, kissing, so we had to kiss and then wait for the trainer to get the dog’s attention and hold it. Then when we started to shoot the actual scene, the kiss was less about the kiss than how it looked. So as our mouths are mere millimeters apart, we’ve got five people studying us closely through various lenses saying things like, “Can you move a little to the left?” and “Tilt your heads more that way,” and “That was a little too fast- can you kiss more slowly?”, all while a boom mic hung just above our heads. Nothing sucks the romance out of a moment more than those things. All in all, we shot that part of the scene at least two dozen times from various angles.

Thankfully, my and Michael’s rapport was not affected by the romance-less kiss. We had a great time the whole time we were on set (in conversation, I found out that he went to college in my hometown), and the crew was really awesome as well. There was one very strange boy, who the director has vowed to keep off the set for the rest of the shoot. He’s one of those people who doesn’t pick up on social cues, though he apparently has no diagnosed disorder. While he was able to be quiet when we were filming, as soon as they shouted cut, he would talk in an over-loud voice about anything and everything, stammering his way through unrelated stories, and at one point, sitting under a counter with his headphones on, he started to sing Hey Jude.

It took us a long time to film the kiss, and by the time we were done, it was about ten p.m. and everyone was starving. Caitlin, who seems to be in charge of the whole thing, ordered pizza and it was the best thing I have ever tasted.

For the first time ever on a film, I had to wear a body mic. These are taped under your clothes, with the tiny microphone taped somewhere around the sternum. Normally, the power box, which is smaller than a standard walkie talkie, gets put in the wearer’s pocket, but I was wearing a skirt and didn’t have any pockets. The second choice is to clip it to the inside of your pants (or skirt), under your shirt, but my shirt was tucked in. Finally, the sound guy crafted what was basically a gaff tape garter for me, which I wore as high up on my thigh as possible, with the mic box basically resting just under my butt. This was awkward for a million reasons, the first being that the garter was just a little bit too big, so it kept slipping down my leg no matter how much masking tape I stuck to my tights, and the second being that, with the box being located where it was, I spent all my downtime sitting on it, and it got really hot.

Around 10:30, Michael finished his last shot and it was my turn to do a solo scene, which contained only one line but some very complicated lighting. I think the point was to make me look like an angel or something, all backlit and halo-y. So they experimented with some bright lights behind me and I guess the effect was good, because they all kept going, “Wow. That’s perfect” and snapping pictures both on the primary camera and their phones. It is certainly very nice to be told many times that you look stunning in the scene, but I was getting a little antsy; I had to catch the last train home, and also, the lights were REALLY hot. My back was to them, but I was only a foot or so in front of them, and my back was burning. As they got ready to shoot, the director of photography looked at me and said, “Uh… is her hair smoking?” People laughed the comment off, but he kept squinting at me. “I think her hair’s smoking,” he said again. This really freaked me out. I’m very protective of my hair, and I also didn’t want to be a fireball. But I was a good actor and stayed in place until another guy said, “Do you have hairspray in your hair?” I did. A lot of it. My hair is untameable and I’d doused it pretty well. “Get away from that light right now,” the guy said, and I stepped away. It was then that I could smell the burning hair- MY burning hair. From then on, I was kind of afraid of those lights, only stepping in front of them right before we were about to shoot.

Today was a longer day; I will write tomorrow, when I am not so exhausted!

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