They always say that you need to be prepared for anything on a film set. And while my past shorts were relatively controlled environments, I’ve already learned that you can never be prepared for everything.
We shot Talisman on a Monday and Tuesday in what’s been one of the rainiest summers in recent memory. When we began putting this idea together and scouting locations, we had been in the middle of a dry spell at the beginning of Summer. I’d written Talisman with a very specific location in mind. It was perfect. A wide open field that backed up to thick woods, with an access road that ran through the middle. That road would be perfect for us to have the space we needed to set up.
On Sunday, the day before the first day of filming, I decided to take another walk to my perfect location. What had been an ideal spot was now swampy and completely overgrown. Worse yet, was that it was also tick infested. I knew at that moment I was in trouble.
On Monday, day 1 of production, we took another walk with the crew and made a final decision. Our “perfect” location was a no go. So we pivoted and drove to a local park. We walked deep into the woods and found the ideal spot to film. It was literally perfect and better than what I had initially envisioned. We ran through everything and finalized the choreography. On Tuesday evening, we would return to shoot it. Crisis averted
Or so we thought.
We returned Tuesday night, after having shot all but the woods scene and one final scene. We had fallen behind schedule on day 1, but thanks to the preparation of the cast, we were able to make up ground and get back on schedule. We filmed a quick scene, then loaded the gear and headed back to the park, ready to finish this thing up.
As I pulled into the parking lot for the park, my heart sank. It was a Tuesday night in August and there were people everywhere. As I got out of my car, I realized we’d driven into the middle of a jazz concert in the park. There were police everywhere. I knew we were sunk.
Of course we’d be able to finish the film at some point. But it wasn’t going to be tonight. And since we were already approaching our budget, adding a shooting day would have destroyed the budget.
I walked to where the director of photography, Danny Gevirtz had parked. Danny carried a huge light and some other gear in his hand as he walked passed the police officer. I saw him stop and exchange some words with the cop and then continue walking. I looked at him and he waved me on.
I ran back to the car and got the rest of the gear and gathered the rest of the cast and crew. We drew some strange looks as we walked past the crowd, but we made it. We were going to get our scene in.
I later found out that the cop had asked Danny what we were doing. Danny told him we were making a movie. The officer had asked if it was a prank video, and Danny told him no. He then let everyone pass. It wasn’t easy getting clean audio in the middle of a jazz concert, but we waited until between songs and then we’d roll. It was unorthodox and took a long time to get our shots, but we were getting there… until the rain came.
It goes without saying that film gear and rain do not mix well. It started as a light mist, which didn’t scare us off. But as the rain intensified we reached a point where we knew we had to shut it down. We stood to lose thousands of dollars in equipment if we didn’t.
We pulled what equipment we could under the canopy of the trees and set up a make shift shelter out of fall mats for the rest. And then we held our breath and waited. I constantly checked the radar on the weather channel app on my phone. It looked like the worst of it was yet to come. I was so disgusted, I couldn’t even speak. I had tried to prepare for everything, but on this night, Mother Nature had bested me.
Just as we were ready to sprint from the woods with the equipment, I checked the radar one more time. Danny yelled to me that there seemed to be a break. And the app on my phone that had seconds before shown dark greens and reds and yellows on the radar was now showing clear.
We shot the final scenes and packed up. Somehow, we had gotten it done. It was an exhilarating feeling that I won’t soon forget. An hour or so later, we wrapped the last scene and production was complete. I got to yell “that’s a wrap” on my first production as the cast and crew gathered to watch a secret scene that wasn’t in the original script. It was an incredible feeling. Despite the obstacles, Talisman was complete.