The Final Weekend of CHAT
DAY 17, 5-3-2013
Last full weekend. Celebration is not in the air as we roll up to the Falcon's Home location at midnight to discover a small miscommunication. Despite emails to and from our producers, the "location" apartment unit's owners thought the filming of CHAT was done two weeks before -- at least inside their place. Confused? The owners were preparing for a little Jimmy Fallon, maybe an early crash out ahead of tomorrow's workday. And here comes a ring at their doorbell and a movie crew of 30. We remind them of the final scene which needs to be shot out on the porch, how our follow up was actually discussed and ok'd by them, etc. Bottom line, they didn't quite get it concerning our continued needs for their apartment. Soooooooo, what now?
The scene we're filming here is a huge one, the only true fight between Falcon (Rush Pearson) and Annie (Marielle de Serra-Rocca). It's a low point in the movie which turns into a brutal argument. The plan was to use the apartment as a base and shoot out on the porch from 12 midnight to 4am. This would have already been problematic in terms of decibel levels, attempting a rip-roaring scream-fest in the tightly-packed Boys Town apartment house, but now the owners of the apartment wanted no part of it. Through careful negotiation a compromise was reached. We'd be allowed to shoot out on the porch as planned but it would have to be restrained in terms of noise level. Oh, and the crew of 30 would have to work out of the apartment's third-floor stairwell and foyer.
Beggars can't be choosers. We suck it up and shoot the scene. The fight actually works better in hushed tones, something more subtle about the savagry of the moment when it isn't screamed at all. And funny when a 1st AD has to whisper, "QUIET ON SET!" to a crew already in walking on pins and needles, in silent film mode. We pack up in hushed tones and push on at 5am, toward ...
The one bar scene we're filming is at a shushy joint just off the Damen Blue Line. This was Nelson Algren's neighborhood, formerly Polish immigrant, working class. The great and former Busy Bee diner was located only two doors down from our location, now long lost to gentrification and psuedo-boho artiness. Our bar location is so Logan Square hip it doesn't even have a sign out front. Inside, the upscale bar and theatrical-style curtains mix with blue, high-back "Judge" chairs to provide the chi-chi look you'd expect.
The scene we film here is another important one, where Falcon and Annie bond post the disasterous Ivan44 meeting. These are essentially two solitary people -- one, in the midst of hundreds or even thousands of cyber-worshipers she will never meet -- and the other alone, post death of his wife, with a debilitating illness. They are brought together in a desperate attempt to find Falcon's missing daughter. The thriller genre means we concentrate on what happens next, but a good thriller takes time to also do some character work, and this is one of those scenes. You could see how intimacy might suffer from outright sleep deprevation, the filming pushing to 10am, then 11am, yet another all-nighter and straining to get those last camera angles. DP Fred Miller and Director Boris Wexler along with the actors, again, somehow, get us in and done just under the wire.
DAY 18 5-4-2013
Chow For Now! The rest of the week will be spent at Henrietta, a great little restaurant just off the Granville Red Line stop. Henrietta is cool enough to hold its own against the monster Anne Sathers franchise, one of their restaurants right on the corner. We're fortunate they have a short Saturday schedule that allows us to get in there for a pair of scenes; the first, a heart-to-heart talk between Annie and Mary Rose (Caitlin Collins). The second, an all-out, free-for-all with six of the Chat cam girls after work.
It should be noted once for the record that this reporter is the writer of Chat, has a couple fav scenes in this movie. One with poor chubby Syd in the lipo office, preparing to have the fat sucked out of his bloated belly. And this one ... where six girls let fly in a no-holds-barred bitchfest that is more outrageously funny than anything else in the movie. It's not a new thought that amidst death, despair, and physical pain-you might want to find some humor. In script development sessions, director Boris Wexler rightfully kept demanding the scene not exist just to exist. Every scene has to advance character or plot. With this one, we set up the notion that the girls, despite being instructed not to, do meet men on occasion in a face-to-face, especially when "off-line" gifts of several hundred or even thousands of dollars are involved. It's an essential plot set up as both Annie and Mary Rose end up seeing one of the owners, Geoffrey, outside of work.
The juxtaposition of scenes is always important -- here, especially. The all-out hilarity of the six-woman scene is contrasted against the quieter second moment when the girls have left and it's just Annie and Mary Rose. They open up about their backgrounds. Annie, with the disfunctional mother and recently dead movie mogul father. Mary Rose, with the recently dead mother and incredibly disfunctional father (Falcon). It's a balancing out of who they are that we weren't aware of before, thus yet another key scene. 11+ hours later, they're both in the can.
DAY 19 5-6-2013
Henrietta, Day 2. The diner scenes. Hard to describe our activities today without giving away the story. Let's just say we are filming multiple scenes from multiple POV's. Multiple setups and breakdowns by Fred and crew, all starting at 7am.
Funny thing ... You'd expect the location -- way up north at Granville - -would be less active than our downtown Jackson Avenue Board Of Trade location. Not so. Located just off the EL stop, it's a sunny and BUSY Monday morning outside the large windows of the Henrietta restaurant. This means problems attempting to shoot the most basic of scenes. Throw a movie light and some electrical chords out on the street and passersby stop being passersby. They become gapers, gawkers, and oh so curious! We love when people inquire about Chat and are most happy to answer all questions ... but not when we're actually, you know, shooting. Not a great thing when Fred Miller looks through his lens to see people stop and stare right at his camera. Even less when a couple homeless guys come up to the actors outside the window and engage them in conversation about the White Sox. Cuuuuut!
When the actors move out on the street for establishing shots, going in and out of the restaurant, we attempt to "lock down" the street, which is pretty much laughable. Doesn't matter how many of us are out there, the Red Line EL at 9am lets folks out every 7 minutes or so, and there are just too many of them. On the other side of the street, too, has people traffic coming in and out of Anne Sathers. You beseech them, you coddle, you implore them ... we're shooting a movie, it'll just be one minute, please cross the street ok? The hot lights get to them. They waltz by and INEVITABLY end up in frame. It's actually really funny.
Speaking of which, best improv line of the shoot: Poor Marielle. For this scene as Annie she's required to eat bite after bite of pre-processed chicken fingers. Her character just loves that greasy food. Only ... Marielle is vegetarian. Damn that inconsiderate writer! So what to do? Not sure who uttered it but on a set packed with crew and extras, someone recommended a frequently used system: "Put your mouth over it, but don't bite."
Methodically, using two cameras, in handheld and on sticks, we move through multiple scenes, including three critical dialogue scenes between Falcon and Annie. This is their first meeting and for the actors it's a hard-one to pull off in multiple POVs and multiple cameras angles. For Rush Pearson especially, an actor with virtually no previous film experience, to stand and deliever radically different takes on a single scene without losing the subtlety of the moment. Master shots, CU's, Profile, Handheld-and maintain that intensity-is just remarkable.
Boris, Fred, and crew power through setups and scenes. With the exception of the occasion curious passerby the only other issue with the world attempting to wreck our little micro-budget is a sudden burst of alarms from a building across the street, followed by Chicago's finest, fire truck #74 and firefighters, setting their truck down squarely in the center of the street and our camera frame. Cuuuuuuuuut!
We do a full 12-hour day yet again. This will be our last ...
Last full day of production done. Just one day of pickups left, next Saturday.
This shoot is almost over. Shit ... really?
PAUL PEDITTO wrote and directed Jane Doe, an A-PIX Films release starring Calista Flockhart. The film was awarded Best Feature at the New York Independent Film & Video Festival and grossed over 2 million dollars.
Six of his screenplays have been optioned, among them Crossroaders to Haft Entertainment (Emma, Dead Poet's Society).
He has won semi-finalist honors at Nicholl Fellowship Screenwriting Awards and Slamdance.
Other imdb credits include Home In The Heartland, and The Group, which was accepted at multiple film festivals around the country.
Four of his stage plays have been published by Dramatic Publishing Company, two of which were presented on National Public Radio's "Chicago Theaters On The Air" series. Over 25 productions of his theatrical work have been performed in Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York. His adaptation of Nelson Algren's Never Come Morning won 9 Joseph Jefferson Citations including Best Play and Best Adaptation. His adaptation of Ben Hecht's 1,001 Afternoons In Chicago is a two-time Jefferson Award nominee. Pura Vida, a stage play based on his novel, was produced at Chicago's Live Bait Theater, earning a feature article in the New York Times.
He teaches screenwriting at Columbia College and Chicago Filmmakers, professionally consulting on thousands of screenplays since 2002. His book Writing Screenplays is now available for purchase.