MWAC Production Days 2-4

By L. Tanner Smith

In my previous post, I mentioned that we’ve had some scheduling difficulties…it got worse.

It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just a crazy year for everyone. Things kept coming up, whether it was sickness or personal issues or something else that just couldn’t be helped. And it’s a small indie project anyway, which gives everyone their own personal leeway.

Not to mention, we’re making this film while in the middle of a pandemic. You do what you can do. (And safety first!)

With that said, when we shoot, we make really good progress.

Heather Elaine as Delilah “Del” Stone

Day 2 was exactly one week after Day 1: July 13th. I shot more individual scenes with lead actress Heather Elaine–a lonely day in the life of “Delilah ‘Del’ Stone.”

Day 3…was 17 days later: July 30th. As you can probably imagine, I was excited to finally get back to filming but also incredibly nervous something was going to go wrong that day too. And something did: we had no crew that night! We had Heather and two key supporting actors (Benjamin Gipson as “Liam Jacobs” and Elissa Schrader as “Meadow Keaton”), but my cinematographer was held up, my co-producer had to work, my executive producer planned on coming (from Arkansas, no less) but was unable to make it due to sickness, and since we had do a different set of scenes due to rain, we missed out on having a couple potential crew members too.

Just because it’s a small indie film doesn’t make things any less stressful. But it also makes the good parts all the better.

Naturally, I was like “UH-OH!!!” BUT…I still had the equipment…I still had the actors…together we had shared ingenuity…and we were gonna get it done anyway!

(Eat your heart out, Robert Rodriguez…I mean that with utmost respect.)

From left to right: alopecia-stricken Meadow (Elissa Schrader) and MS patients Delilah (Heather Elaine) & Liam (Benjamin Gipson)

And so, we did! It was a great time. Heather, Benjamin, and Elissa got along so well and were also able to improvise together on-camera, which made my job even easier. This was also the night that the scenes we shot were what I like to call “hangout scenes.” The characters are a trio of friends hanging out, watching movies, eating dinner together, and lightheartedly joking with each other, while also establishing plot/character development. As a director, this is personally my favorite type of scene to shoot.

By the end of the shoot, I had a huge smile on my face. This was what I was waiting for after so many setbacks and delays that kept getting in the way the past couple weeks.

Director L. Tanner Smith and Cinematographer Keenan Capps with face masks

And then after another schedule delay, Day 4 came nine days later: August 8th, with Heather, Benjamin, and Elissa again. This time, we did have help: we got our cinematographer Keenan Capps back, and co-producer Kelly Woodruff was our boom operator. And this was an all-day shoot, from noon to 9:00pm. Let’s do this…

For starters, WE FINALLY LEFT THE APARTMENT!! Haha, but seriously the first two scenes, set in a moving car, put us to a good start. People (and critics) will say that acting while driving isn’t easy, but in the case of Heather, I don’t think it’s that hard. (It was a little hard for Keenan to be curled up in the passenger seat to get the shot. All I did was hide in the back with my mic and makeshift boom pole.)

And then, it was back to the apartment, where Kelly took over as boom op (and also became a second camera operator in a truly effective way–I won’t go into it here, but it was really good stuff), Benjamin brought his chops for what was meant to be a simple setup-for-final-act scene, and Heather…wow, Heather…I’m still trying to find the right words to express my utmost gratitude towards her dedication towards this project, but trust me when I say she is becoming this movie!

And last but not least, after a dinner break, Elissa joined us for the last part of the day. This part of the shoot was simply in good fun, as I had both her and Benjamin improvise scenes as part of a montage for late in the film. (Who knew you could get great jokes from a wig?)

Elissa Schrader and wig

And that was the end of a day that reminded me that while we at Millennial With a Cane may be moving slowly, we make great progress as we keep going! There will be more errors, of course, but it will all be worth it in the end.

Oh, and yes, Elissa did have her head shaven to play the part of Meadow. Here’s a fun behind-the-scenes video from that event:

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