Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One of Many Tales

There were many memorable days during the making of "Ranchero." I'll share one of my favorites.

It was about mid-way through our 18 day production schedule. Yes, the schedule was tight. We were shooting at our main apartment location. It was our one day with Danny Trejo. We knew we had a lot to shoot. We knew we were going to work Danny hard. We knew we couldn't afford any screw ups.

Director Rich and DP Mike were well prepared. We hit the ground running and got wonderful footage from the jump. Danny was the consummate professional and everything was moving along smoothly. Then it began; at first just an occasional screech, then building to a constant, ear assaulting, clamour. Little did I know that Jimi Hendrix lived in the apartment, and this was his practice day.

When working on location, there are always obstacles to deal with. We had, of course, spoken to all the neighbors and gotten their blessings for our shoot. However, there is always one who either wasn't home, forgot about us, or was just yanking our chain. After "assurance" from our sound mixer that the audio was unusable, I set off on the unenviable task of asking our friendly neighborhood ax-man to cease and desist. I couldn't tell him too, this was his home, not mine.

As Rich and I ambled toward the offending apartment, a voice behind us steeled our nerve; "I'll talk to him." We turned to see the most recognizable bad-ass in the business striding up to cover our backs. As Danny stepped between us and led the way to the neighbor's door, my confidence built that all was not lost.

There is no real way to describe our guitar player's look when he came to the door and found "Machete" standing there. Danny, in his most polite tone, explained our dilemma and asked for the neighbor's cooperation. And surprise, surprise, we got it. The shoot continued without a hitch, and a happy neighbor got an autograph. Ain't star power great!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

35 or Bust

I'd love to say that my mind set on "Ranchero" was 35mm or bust, but I'd be stretching the truth a little. The fact is that the project evolved from HD to super 16 to 35.

When the project had no money, Rich and I and Director of Photography Mike Bratowski did tests with several "pro-sumer" cameras. We weren't unhappy with the results. Though our range in color correction was definitely limited, Rich and Mike were pleasantly surprised with the picture quality. However, when a little financing entered the picture, we all scrambled to shoot on film. We briefly considered super 16 until an amazing deal for a 35mm camera presented itself. It was an opportunity we couldn't resist.

To me, at the time, making a movie was shooting 35mm. When there was talk of the project, I anxiously awaited the inevitable question, "What are you shooting on?" When I quickly spouted back, "35," there was always two distinct responses. One was, "cool" accompanied by a simple nod of respect. These guys are serious was the subtext. They're making a "real" movie. The other response was quite different. "Why?" they'd ask with surprise. "It's much cheaper to shoot HD." True. And there were other valid points to their argument. But purists still run the industry. And the last thing that I wanted to hear about our movie was, "It's good, but... it's a video."

Of course, things have changed since we began shooting. Technology is moving so rapidly, the entire industry is changing before the digital onslaught. But ultimately, I couldn't be happier with our choice. With Michael's amazing photography and the brilliant telecine work of Marc Wielage, "Ranchero's" look greatly exceeds it's budget.