You know how some people think that the day changes when the clock strikes midnight? You're walking around with them and at 11:59pm they say Tuesday and at 12:01am they say Wednesday, and even though they're technically right, it's really confusing? When I used to work a graveyard shift, there was a guy who did that every day and it drove everyone nuts.
Well Day 5 of DECORATION started at 12:30am. At least, the story of it did.
I'm on the couch in the living room, winding down to sleep. The lights are off. Nicolas comes into the living room and tells me that they won't need me for tomorrow's shoot. And then he leaves.
I try to sleep, but that kind of gets your mind racing.
I often say that there's a better version of A Year Without Rent that involves a camera crew following me around because I can only capture a fraction of what happens, but they wouldn't have been able to capture that unless they had set up a camera rig to record absolutely everything. And I don't know that they would have been set up at 6 something in the morning when Nicolas comes back in, this time more combative, to really give me a piece of his mind.
Of course, I'm barely awake. In retrospect I should have discretely turned on the audio recorder on my iPhone, but I don't remember to do a lot of things before I've had any coffee. But here's the basics.
+ Nicolas, who doesn't have a Twitter account, is mad about some tweets I sent from set. He doesn't know what they are, exactly, but he's heard about them from someone else. You've seen some of them if you've read the rest of the DECORATION posts.
+ He "doesn't care what I write", but his concern is that what I'm Tweeting is affecting the morale of the crew. That's a fair concern. In this case, it might be unfounded, since the tweet he seems to be talking about was pretty obviously a joke about how I couldn't believe someone in the crew hadn't seen a certain classic film. Or he had never had a bloody mary. I forget which.
And there was one sent to someone that said the film I was on wasn't going well. That should have been a DM.
+ Not only does he not care what I write, but has, by his own admission, no idea what A Year Without Rent is, and he doesn't care. You'll remember from Day 1 that this isn't a film I approached. They approached me. For the writer, director, and producer of a film of this size to not have any idea who the press person they've asked to come on set is (or what he's doing there), is stunning. This is not a large production, by any stretch of the imagination. And this is not the first production in AYWR. What I do is pretty well-established by this point, both the blog writing (like this) and the tweets from set. Like, for example, Paul Osborne's FAVOR, which Cheryl Nichols worked on.
If you seek me out, ask me to come to the middle of Arkansas (on AYWR's dime), and don't know what I'm going to do on your set, that's 100% your fault. It's not like I happened to be in Arkansas and stopped by on a whim. And it's not like I'm doing anything I didn't do on FAVOR.
+ He's upset that I haven't even bothered to read the script, which is something he requires everyone to do, because everyone needs to be on the same page and have the same passion for the project.
From what I can tell, the script has changed nearly every day.
No one has given me a script. When I point that out, his demeanor changes considerably.
+ It's a long conversation. Really long. Cheryl comes in and expresses her concerns, but it boils down to one thing: I shouldn't be helping this film. The director doesn't want me there, and AYWR functions best when the filmmakers are willing participants, which is something that I assumed would be the case from the initiative they showed in asking me to drive 833 miles to get there.
Thing is, I'm not leaving. They're on the schedule and I'm in the middle of fucking Arkansas. If this was LA or Seattle or New York, that's one thing, but I don't know anyone in Arkansas. So I offer to read the script, and that placates him. Sort of.
And they have some valid points about the nature of AYWR and what value it actually provides, because it varies from film to film. But the process doesn't, and when you approach someone, you need to know what you're getting. Is AYWR a good fit for every film? No. But it's your project. You know what AYWR is and your should know what your project needs and requires. That's your responsibility. Otherwise, you're just wasting everyone's time.
Once the day does actually start (late), we head to a cemetery to shoot the titular Decoration Festival.
I've searched Google a couple of times looking for information about the Decoration Festival, and have found nothing, so I'll have to rely on the film's IndieGoGo page: "the town's sons and daughters return to celebrate the lives of ancestors buried in the cemetery."
Apparently it's a big deal.
We get to the cemetery and it looks like, well, a cemetery. Ten or so locals show up to serve as extras, and a skeleton crew walks around the cemetery with them while the rest of us kill time by attempting to play baseball with an orange wrapped in tape and making a swing out of some rope and a gobo arm. There's not a whole lot else to do.
So they didn't really need me after all, but I don't think that's the point.
Eventually, they come back.
What's they've found out from this excursion with the locals is that the festival isn't something they're prepared to fake. It's elaborate, with lots of flowers and, well, decorations all over the cemetery. The whole town comes out. To do it like this would look terrible. So the new plan is to push that scene to the actual festival--in the spring.
Keep in mind, the movie is named after this festival. They know what this festival entails.
It's not the first thing they've pushed. I've seen them reschedule a couple of Arkansas interior scenes to shoot in LA, but this is a pretty big shift. It's a hard thing to shoot around, it being kind of important. Not to mention the fact that they're going to have to match fall exteriors with spring exteriors, and the leaves have definitely changed already. They either have to use what little they got today and make it work in post, or they have to come back in the spring, which brings up a whole host of potential problems with continuity.
I can't imagine they'll ask me to join them in the spring.
Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.