Film-making never goes as planned and this short was no exception. We were rained out and then snowed out on the first day! People from Cape Breton know what our weather is like and are not surprised at that statement. I jokingly say that Cape Breton is the only place in the world where you can get a sunburn and frostbite on the same day. Week two we got rained out again. Week three was looking good but an hour before the shoot the rains came so we had to postpone it again.
Steve Osmond (“Grant”) agreed to come over to my house anyway so we could work on blocking his interior scenes. The handgun I had for the shoot was a BB gun and it looked like a BB gun. So we had to rehearse it several times so the gun was always placed a certain way so the “fakeness” of the gun wasn’t too obvious. My good friend, Andrew Parland, had a more realistic-looking BB gun with the exception that it was clear plastic. He painted it flat black and that was the gun we were going to use.
The fouth week the weather was nice and it was go time. The day of the shoot our hair and make-up person couldn’t make it, but I also received an email from someone who was interested in doing makeup for Dead Hunt, and Aleah McPhee agreed to help us out at the last minute. What a relief. Not to mention our DP (Director of Photography) Brett Holmes brought a better looking gun. With the gun in so many scenes it had to look real.
Originally written to be shot using my house (Filmmaking 101 – use what you have) but we changed locations to my youngest daughter’s house because the old floors in my place squeak too much, and that would have made recording audio a nightmare.
With Brett Holmes as DP and running Camera A, and my friend Richard Dean running Camera B, we shot all the interior and exterior shots at that location. It took a lot longer than expected but we got it done. When we started packing up to move the shoot to the graveyard, Cheyenne Amero (“Penelope”) received an urgent call and had to leave. Brett and Aleah also had prior commitments so Steve, Richard and I headed out to get the graveyard shots.
Most of it went fairly smoothly but when I got home and reviewed the footage I didn’t particularly like the look of it – not from a shooting point of view, that was great, but it was the “feel” of the footage that I didn’t like. As I mentioned, it was a nice day – it was actually too nice. The bright sun didn’t fit the dark and dreary emotion of the story. With fingers crossed I asked everyone if we could reshoot it the following week. Thankfully they agreed.
The weekend was forecasted to be cloudy – the perfect atmosphere for the moodiness of the film – but that was a dangerous game to be playing scheduling a shoot around Cape Breton weather. Once again I drove my daughter crazy by taking over her house during the morning because the harsh sunlight coming in from the windows we did on the previous shoot would not fit with the cloudiness of the outdoor shots. Unfortunately, Cheyenne had prior commitments that meant she would be out of town for the next three weekends. We had the choice of waiting another three weeks, or using the footage we already had of her and try to darken it a little in post. We opted to go ahead with the shoot.
Michael MacDonald (Legend of the Psychotic Forest Ranger) volunteered to help out and came on-board as a camera operator. My buddy Richard slipped the night before and fractured a rib and spent most of the night at the hospital so he was out of commission. We re-shot Steve’s interior scenes paying close attention that everything looked the same as the previous week. There’s a couple of continuity errors but they’re not so bad as to hurt the overall film, and for how long it took us to get this far, rescheduling it again wasn’t an option.
On the way to the graveyard we stopped along a stretch of road to get a shot of the car driving towards the camera then panning with the car to catch it driving away. It would have been a great shot if it wasn’t for all the traffic. The road was usually not that busy but when the cameras are rolling, Murphy’s Law likes to make guest appearances. People even stopped to see if we were broke down and needed help. You have to admire Cape Bretoners and their willingness to stop and help strangers.
And then the rain started – just a few little sun showers, but we abandoned that shot and headed for the graveyard.
The sequence shows the car pulling into St. Mary’s Cemetery, but the scenes were actually filmed at Black Brook Cemetery. I’ve been there a few times over the years as a photographer and I knew that I wanted that crooked old tree in the shot, but the gates and stone fence at the entrance to St. Mary’s looked so much better. So we used that for the scene of the car pulling in – everything else was shot at Black Brook.
When we arrived at the cemetery Michael mentioned how poignant it was that we were shooting the scene of Grant visiting his mother’s grave on Mother’s day. A few people were visiting gravesides but thankfully they were on the other side of the cemetery so we did not interrupt their visit – and nobody called 911 on us because it looked like some military guy was going to shoot himself.
We got most of the master shots and a few closeups and pickups shots done, but I guess the sky got a bit too emotional and started to cry because it started to rain again. Steve really is military and standing in the rain doesn’t bother him. He was such a trooper he would have stood in the rain all day if we asked him to, but electronics are not fond of water so we had to get it finished as quickly as possible. We shot the last couple of scenes in quick succession and called it a wrap.
Well… a wrap for that day.
The exterior shots of Grant leaving the house had a baseball field as a backdrop. Not very exciting. When I originally wrote the screenplay it called for a little house with a view of the ocean, so Steve and I shot the opening sequence at my house the following weekend.
Editing the film was not without it issues either, but I’ll save that story for another day. All and all, I think the film turned out really good… and it only took us a month and half to get all the footage. The flashback scene with my oldest daughter and my grandson is whole other story that I’ll sum up in six words – working with kids is not easy.
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