Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Up in Smoke- part 2

Our first thought was that we probably lost all the film we shot that day and will need to re-shoot- on our dime. Secondly, we needed to get another camera ASAP so we could finish the food shots; third, we needed to check on studio and crew availability. Fourth, get the students out of the studio so it doesn’t look like I was spending all the time with them while an arsonist was having at the camera.

Jim, our producer and I huddled together very quickly and formulated a plan. A new shoot would cost about $30,000. Our insurance deductible is $5,000. We were in a 35K hole. It was interesting because we all acted very calmly and in the moment, but what were we going to say, “This has never happened to us before.” No, it never happened to ANYONE before. We were making bad film history.

We called our camera shop, another 35mm camera was just returned, so we could run over and pick it up. Our actress and most of the crew was free tomorrow if we needed to reshoot. The stage we were on was booked, but we found another one. Except for the rushing sound of our money going down the drain we felt we were in good shape.

As we waited on the new camera we broke for dinner, which for Jim and I meant pacing and worrying. The camera came, we set it up and believe it or not we were pretty much right on schedule. We shot the first food shot, great. We set up for the second shot, turn the camera on and … Nothing. Camera number two is dead. Wile E. Coyote has just run off the cliff for the second time.

We called our camera shop again, it’s 7pm we get their service. The owner calls back and yes, there is another camera, but you can’t record sound. That’s OK, it’s just food shots. P.A.s make another trip to the camera shop. We think we are in OK shape. The camera comes, we set it up and discover another problem.

We had been shooting 1000 foot loads of film. This camera only accepted 400 footers. We had a square peg,round hole deal on our hands. Our assistant cameraman thought he could go into a dark room and break our 1000s into 400s, but he wasn’t certain. Our prop man was shooting a commercial the next day for another company. He said they were shooting 400 footers, let’s get film from them.

8pm. The other company gives us 2-400 foot loads with our promise of replacing them in the morning for their shoot. Camera three is up and running and for the next two hours we knock off food shot after food shot. We call wrap at 10:15- Fifteen minutes past the magic 14 hour mark, We are into a double day. Our crew is cool, though. And realize what we went through and agree to not hit us for going 15 minutes over. (We still blame the agency. The delay in selecting a popcorn bowl cost us probably 30 minutes or more.)

We are not off the hook yet, we need to process the film and see what we lost. We sent it to the lab and the next morning they report it is fine. We only lost a few frames of footage right at the time of the fire. Later we learned that camera had a wiring problem which caused the fire. The second camera had dead batteries. In our rush to get another camera we didn’t check the battery power. We replaced the 400 foot rolls of film and when all was said and done, we paid our $5000 deductible and pretty much broke even on the shoot.

We got a good story out of it though.

You can see the Molly McButter spot at click on film demo reel .



Wonder Woman said...

Some days you don't get any breaks! It's amazing that you were able to do so much dispite all of the crazy stuff that went down. That speaks very well of you and your crew! I watched the Molly McButter spot awhile ago, and I would have never guessed you went through so much to get that done! I'm impressed!

Beth said...

I actually thought driving up and down the 405 from LA to Orange County was dangerous, but nothing compared to your job. I have had days like yours - but yours seemed to end up better. Great job - I am also impressed.

PeterH said...

Thanks for reading. As I wrote, we got a good story out of it. And when you see the spot know one knows anything happened. BTW I have driven LA to Orange County and the 405 can be brutal. I hope your trip is worth it.


Layla (aka Barbara) said...

WOW, never a dull moment in the film business. I tried to watch the demo but must be too tired to find the right one, but I did watch some other clips!!!

PeterH said...


Thanks for the comment. Go here and click on play demo reel. Molly McButter is maybe the 4th spot in. Denny- the original is first.