By L. Tanner Smith
First of all, so sorry I haven’t posted about Production Days 11-18–but this post about Day 19 (the final day of principal photography) should make up for it.
This was a very stressful day for me. For one thing, it was rescheduled due to a COVID-19 scare. (It was negative, thank God–but who could tell in the moment?) For another thing, it was the last day of production. Two weeks after the original planned date, I was bracing myself for something–ANYTHING–to go wrong.
But let me make it clear–whatever it was that would go wrong, I would find a way to work around. If there’s anything this production has taught me, it’s to be as resourceful as possible. Here I was at this point. I had thrown out the budget. I had changed a few scenes for convenience’s sake. And even I didn’t think my team and I could make it this far making this movie in this crazy, CRAZY time in modern society. Whatever it took…I was going to finish this thing on December 5, 2020!
My lead actress Heather was all in, as I knew she would be. And I knew she had better be on her A-game, because this was the day she was going to have to do some stunts–her character, Delilah, was going to fall to the ground numerous times to demonstrate part of her unfortunate MS-relapse effects. These “falls” were based on my personal experience, so I could tell her what they feel like for me…but we needed to practice safety, obviously. So, I called in a favor: Naomi Chaffee, a young stunt choreographer who would teach Heather how to fall forward/sideways without getting hurt. (We also had mats for Heather to land on.) Good thing she was there–Naomi’s instruction for Heather to fall on her forearms instead of her wrists was an important safety tip I might have overlooked otherwise!
We spent the afternoon working on the falls and a few little things here or there (including a reshoot for one of the support-group scenes). I bought everyone dinner at Five Guys before we headed to the hotel where we would spend the evening doing some guerrilla filmmaking. Heather would dress as a hotel employee (someone to check stock, clean restrooms, things like that) and I’d have her walk the halls of this Embassy Suites to get candid shots of her pretending to “work.” (I also let Naomi act in a little cameo performance, as a “thank-you” for her help earlier.)
And then came the most important part of this final shoot…the scene in which Del gets fired from her job by her cranky boss, Bill (played by Wayde Bowser). Jackie Jarvis, my actress friend who was previously in the MWAC vignette What Not To Say To People With MS, also appeared in this scene as Del’s friendly supervisor Andrea. Also appearing was my co-producer (and fiancee) Kelly Woodruff in a bit part as an employee who snitches on Delilah to Bill about Del’s habit of sneaking into hotel rooms and sleeping on the beds, thus sparking a heated conversation that ends with Del getting fired…and then telling Bill off before she leaves (that’s all I’ll say about it for now).
Wayde couldn’t make it in person this night, but I knew he had waited too long to be recast. This is an example of how resourceful no-budget filmmakers need to be: I had him video-call his entire role through Zoom. And give Wayde his due credit: even though he was literally “phoning in” his performance, he came through! (His character was based on a boss I didn’t like–and right as I called “cut,” I knew I didn’t like HIM. Just kidding!!)
And then after numerous takes of this long, dialogue-heavy scene…that was it. The end of production for Millennial With a Cane. It was bittersweet to say the least.
I remember it was about a year and 3 months ago when I wanted to write a funny (but honest) story about living with MS. (It’s not autobiographical–while some of the things that happened to the main character happened to me in real life, the story itself is its own thing.) So I wrote MWAC–immediately after finishing the first draft of the screenplay, I knew I wanted to make it into a feature film. I wanted it to be “different” from my usual work. I did so many things I thought I was supposed to do because I thought I needed the fanciest equipment, a larger crew, lots of money, etc….and then COVID-19 happened and my attitude sort of changed. I learned that it’s not about what you have–it’s about what you do with it. So I had minimal resources…and that just made me more resourceful!
It’s been a wild journey to say the least. And I have to give a special thank you to everyone who cheered us on from the beginning of production (July 6th) to the end (December 5th). We definitely couldn’t have done it without your support.
Now begins the post-production process. What will happen to MWAC when it’s ready to be shown to the world? Well…I don’t know–but I do know that it will be a journey I can’t wait to embark upon.