Production Diary #10 - The Long and Lonely Road of Post-Production

 WOLF PACK!!!

IT US!!! The Tin Can Brothers!!!! We know it’s been a while since you’ve read one of these lengthy but charming posts. Trust me when I say we wish we had a more to update you on over the last several months. But we want you to know that….

It’s Alive!

^—“It” in this scenario applies to a lot of things: each of us, our hopes and dreams, also our crippling anxiety about our futures, etc. But namely, the project that brought you all here: The Wayward Guide for the Untrained Eye!

THE STORY SO FAR

Before we dive into a long, descriptive post, let me give a simple update for those who aren’t interested in reading:

-We do not yet have a release date for the series. We are currently pitching the show to a number of different distributors to try and find a home for the first season. Based on how those conversations go, we should hopefully have a better idea of the show's future within the next two months.

-Since many of the rewards coincide with the content of the show (and may contiain spoilers), we will be sending out rewards closer to the release of the series (which, as stated above, is still undetermined). But keep an eye out for another round of google hangouts and podcast casting if you’re a part of those tiers!

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Don’t let these neutral updates worry you. Wayward Guide WILL see the light of day. But we want to do our due diligence to share it with the widest possible audience simply BECAUSE of the countless hours we’ve put into it so far. Since mid-January, myself, Brian, Corey, and our other post-production collaborators have been working to transform hours and hours of raw footage into a dazzling and completely realized series unlike anything we’ve ever put out into the world. And for the most part, things have been moving pretty smoothly, albeit slowly. Our biggest hold-up during the post process has been scheduling--

WAIT A SECOND JOEY. You said that was a PRODUCTION problem!!! Getting 50 people to show up on the same day and all that nonsense!!! But now all the work rests on, like…7-10 people’s shoulders!!! How hard can that be?!?!

I completely understand the logic there, Disembodied Internal Projections of Angry Critics. But in November, we were paying people very little to deliver for us over the short, but intense, block of several weeks. And now, we're asking folks to work for a similar small scale but for weeks/months of work on an open-ended timeline.

Myself, Brian, and Corey’s hearts are in this project 100%, until its final moments. It’s our baby. The small stipend we paid ourselves to work on WG was spent long ago on rent, but our investment in bringing this to life runs deep. The same can’t be said for other collaborators we hire, and understandably so! For them, it’s a job. This is an industry where you can’t afford to be on a project for longer than necessary. A girl’s gotta survive!

We’ve sat with the project for many months now, stewing over all of the elements that make it whole, rewatching scenes hundreds of times, finessing the timing of a joke ten times over. It’s PART OF OUR LIVES. For many people, it was just a few weeks of their life. Just recently, we had Benji over to watch the fine cut of the whole series and give any notes. As we rolled through the episodes, he laughed as he admitted to forgetting about shooting most of the show. To us, that thought seems preposterous. But to Benji, who has worked as a DP on several dozen jobs since Wayward Guide, it makes sense.

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EDITORS, ASSEMBLE!!!!

The first step in any film project is taking ALL that stuff you shot and putting it together into some kind of thing that tells the story you had written months before. This part of the process is long, arduous, and daunting. After Corey spent several days synchronizing ALL of the footage with the sound files and then organizing it into folders based on episodes and scenes, we were ready to begin. Brian and I split up the episodes between the two of us so we could begin assembling separately (to cover the most ground) and regroup as a trio to fine tune the edit.

While many find this stage of the process frustrating, I actually quite enjoyed it. Getting to sit with the footage for these extended periods of time really gave me a deep knowledge of the show that we shot, as both an advantage and a curse. I became incredibly familiar with all the options we had for a given shot, how certain choices meshed with others, and the creative ways we could make something work as result of a shot or moment we regrettably missed. Becoming THAT ingrained with the material really gave me a newfound appreciation of just HOW instrumental editing is in the crafting of a show’s story, tone, and overall vibe. This new perspective also temporarily ruined watching most shows or movies for me because I couldn’t view them with unbiased eyes. I was CONSTANTLY on the lookout for continuity errors, poorly timed cuts, and strange coverage choices. I COULDN’T UNSEE THE PROCESS. I KNEW TOO MUCH!!!!!!

By March, every episode had a some sort of shape. Certain sequences were just a string out of useable clips. Some were more refined and closer to complete. And thus began the journey towards picture-locking! Picture-locking is the stage in which you put all the finishing touches on your cuts and essentially lock in the edit so that it doesn’t change for sound and color correction. But once you pull that trigger, the duties of the editor are COMPLETE!!!!!

…Except we each are wearing about 35 different hats during this process so our job is actually never complete. BUT, it’s a major task to check off the post-production list. So for as many hours as we could devote a week, the three of us would get together in some fashion and replay moments over and over again, splicing and dicing on a frame-by-frame level, much to the dismay of our roommates who were often forced to listen to a single line repeated endlessly, until the cut was where we wanted it. And now, several months later, all episodes are picture-locked and ready for the next stage of the process.

CHALLENGE: FIX IT IN POST

As we’ve stated before, most productions of our size and bigger tend to have weeks to prep for a shoot. The film can be thoroughly storyboarded and shot-listed so that the team knows exactly what they’ll need to get on the day. We didn’t have that luxury and, thusly, many shot choices needed to be revised or made up entirely on the day. “Fuck it!!” we thought, “This is a problem for FUTURE us!" (a phrase that gets tossed around often at TCB HQ). And while it was luckily only a handful of instances, our lack of prep/experience on the day came back to bite us in the ass in the editing room where we had to save moments through lots of surgical cutting. Even more frustrating was finding certain shots, that I distinctly remember spending LOTS of time trying to get, don’t work at all in the final cut. And realizing we could’ve used that time to shoot something more useful instead. All of this was, however, a very useful learning tool for future projects. Always shoot with the edit in mind. If you can make the cuts in your head on the day, you’ll save yourself hours down the line.

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WORKING A-SOUND THE CLOCK (BAD PUN! COULDN’T THINK OF ANYTHING BETTER)

Meanwhile, as TCB continued with finessing the edit, the first 3 picture locked episodes were sent off to Matt and Mark, our pals over at Ears Up Sound Design, to begin the process of cleaning up audio tracks, building a world with sound effects and atmospheric design, and ultimately mixing and mastering the score into the episodes. If the names Matt and Mark ring a bell to you, it’s probably not because they’re incredibly common names, but because these buddies were our sound designers and album producers for Spies Are Forever!! Since then these guys have BLOWN UP in the sound design industry. Last year they opened an incredible state-of-the-art studio space in Los Angeles, have worked on theme parks around the world including Shanghai Disneyland and Abu Dhabi’s Warner Brothers World, as well as the Muppets Take the Hollywood Bowl! Basically, they are in high demand and we were super lucky that they wanted to board this small project and TURN UP THE VOLUME on it’s quality (Or turn down the volume. Or make sure the the volume is appropriate so you can hear the dialogue and score simultaneously but not feel like one is overpowering the other).

CHALLENGE: BUSY BODIES

The one issue you could potentially run into working with major industry professionals is that your small project will be put on the back burner if a bigger gig comes down the pipeline. For many months, Matt and Mark had been bidding on a contract to be the HEAD HONCHO sound designers on several new rides at a Warner Bros. Theme Park in Abu Dhabi. And after securing the job, they were splitting their time between here and the Middle East for the better part of the last year. This was an INSANELY awesome opportunity for them and we were in no place to outbid Warner Bros. for their time. We knew this going into the process and planned to work around it as best as we could. But over the last few months, as we’ve come to a close on the first 3 episodes, and Ears Up has been too swamped with the opening of the Abu Dhabi park to put the finishing touches on their work, we had no choice but to bring on another sound designer, Austin, to help facilitate the finalizations of those episodes before Matt and Mark returned to the States. Luckily, Austin (who came as a recommendation from Ashley Clements and Brendan Bradley from their new series Sona) was an EXCELLENT resource, insanely quick, super game, and an overall joy to work with. So it was a win-win in our books. THANK YOU AUSTIN!!!

THEY ARE MUSIC MEN! THEY ARE WHAT? THEY ARE WHAT??

One major update from the post-production process that we’re super stoked to share is that our frequent collaborators, the super cool duo that is TalkFineClark Baxtresser and Pierce Siebers, will be joining the team to help compose the score!! With the scale of this project and the amount of content that would need music, it became apparent that Chuck wouldn’t be be able to complete the process on his own. So after writing an incredible opening theme song and setting the mood with various motifs in episode one, we passed the baton over to Clark and Pierce to fully bring to life the scope of melodies we’ll hear in the show. Over the course of multiple projects with these dudes, we’ve developed shorthand that makes working with each other efficient and fun. We know how to communicate at this point. WE GET EACH OTHER. And needless to say, what they’ve brought to the table so far has been excellent.

CHALLENGE: WORLDS AWAY

Similar to our main roadblock with Matt and Mark, the toughest part about working through the score is the fact that Chuck, Clark, and Pierce, all live on the east coast. While none of the Tin Can Brothers could truly hold their own in a musical jam session, sometimes it’s just easier to bounce ideas and notes off each other IN the room rather than by trying to get 5 guys on a conference call.

GIVE IT A LITTLE COLOR

Though we are not QUITE in the stage where we do a full color pass of the show’s footage, I do have an interesting anecdote about it that requires some mundane technical description. SO BUCKLE UP.

The footage we shot for the show is high definition. So much so that we couldn’t upload and edit it on our computers in its MOST uncompresseed state without all the programs crashing. Thusly, we use low res versions of the footage called proxies to edit most of the show. These proxies are also missing the LUT, essentially a camera filter that the entire show was shot with to give the colors depth and complexity. Without it, the shots looks dull, flat, and overall very gray. Any actor we showed it to went “Oh shit! Do I REALLY look like a corpse?!” After months of editing, this low res display just becomes the norm! We looked at the footage like this almost every day! Then, on the night Benji came to watch footage, he tested a few shots with the camera LUT and it was WEIRD to see the difference in how much better the end product would look. But we like to joke that, out of pure comfort, we want the show to look dead and gray, because it’s what we’re used to. LOLZZ

pre-LUT

pre-LUT

post-LUT

post-LUT

WOW. How drab!

WOW. How drab!

Oh my!! The richness of contrast!

Oh my!! The richness of contrast!

And that’s basically where we’re at right now! This past week alone we’ve been able to share the 98% complete first three episodes with lots of friends and industry folk, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Most of the processes will continue for episodes 4-10 and a whole other round of creativity will begin as we put together the PODCAST!!!!!

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Thank you for taking the time to read this overwhelmingly detailed post. Hoping it helps shed some insight on the realistic timelines, struggles, and successes of a project of this scale. Be sure to send all the good vibes our way in the coming months as we try to make big things happen with Wayward Guide!!

Much love, 
Joey

Production Diary #9 - Here, At the End of All Things

Sup Guide-sters!!!

Here we go. The moment we had (& you have) ALL been waiting for is finally here: the last two days of production on Wayward Guide!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

As the calendar crept closer and closer to the end of the year, we were eager to shoot the final sequences of our show and begin the next stages of this project in 2018.

Now remember: these shoot days were not part of the original schedule. We, foolishly, believed we’d be able to move the entire company, midday, up in Pine Mountain, to shoot several exterior scenes ON TOP of almost 11 pages of interiors in the morning. Inexperience is a funny thing. And we were full of it way back in October. Additionally, our town hall shoot days were grossly overstuffed and we had to come to terms with finding another day to shoot an entire sequence there (or maybe even somewhere else! More on that in a second).

Luckily, the cast needed for these pick up days was VERY minimal and everyone was free. Just 5 characters on day one and 3 on day two and NO juggling of one million actor schedules. Huzzah? Indeed.

DAY 13

It’s going to be difficult for me to talk about what we did on this particular day as it is perhaps one of the most spoiler-ific sequences of the whole shoot. It is LITERALLY the climactic scene. But having a day to JUST focus on that was a gift.

In fact, being in that space at ALL was a gift. During our scouts leading up to block two, we had explored a number of options for where to shoot this scene. It didn’t HAVE to be at the Town Hall location, as originally intended. It was written in a way where we could justifiably move the action elsewhere. Even in the scene that precedes it, where a character directs everyone to where they should be heading next, we shot multiple versions DEPENDING on what location we were able to lock down. That’s movie magic people!! We could’ve COMPLETELY rearranged our vision in the middle of shooting and you would’ve been none the wiser.

We were ultimately able to return to the American Legion and stick to the what was in the script. PHEW. But there was a catch. And let’s face it, at this point with this production, when WASN’T there a catch? We could only be in the space from 6 AM to 6 PM, with a HARD OUT at 6. Due to the size of this production, we often went overtime with our schedule, shooting until the last possible minute and then rushing to load out. On this day, we could not do that. There was an event using the space that night and we had to scoot our asses out of there. It was all hands on deck as Alexis wandered the halls, shouting out a countdown.

Benji "The Master" Dell

Benji "The Master" Dell

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: You Gotta Be Truckin’ Kidding Me!!!

This day’s challenge wasn’t so much a problem on the day, as it was one leading up to it. The evening prior, I received a phone call from Corey, who was finalizing the shot list with Benji, who had just spoken to Walter, our Gaffer (Electrician). Apparently, a friend was using Walter’s Grip Truck (a large vehicle that included ALL lightning/rigging equipment we were using the whole shoot) to run errands for Walter while he was working another job on the day off. When stopping for gas, this guy filled the tank up with diesel instead of regular gas. If you aren’t aware, using diesel on a vehicle that doesn’t require diesel, is effectively like drinking a vial of poison. The car has to be immediately towed, drained of the diesel, and flushed through, or serious damage can occur to the fuel system, engine, and injectors (<— I googled that last part but I still knew it was pretty bad).

You may be wondering how this all affects me. Well, being the free producer who lived closest to Hollywood, I was tasked with heading to Quixote, a film equipment rental company, to pick up their last remaining grip truck in all of LA before they closed at 7 (it was 6:30), drive it up to the mechanic in Burbank, and help this poor boy, as well as Walter and another grip on our crew, unload the entire Grip Truck and reload it onto the new one. It was certainly a hell of a lot more physical work than I was expecting to do that evening, but the swiftness with which the problem was solved gave me such a deep appreciation for our crew, the physical strain they’re willing to put themselves through to get the job done, and how efficiently our team’s communication had gotten (albeit 2 days before we wrapped). The downside: This truck was already booked as a rental for a different production the following day and so the equipment needed to be transferred onto a THIRD truck in the middle our shoot the next day! #FUN!!

DAY 14

Even after a month of early mornings, excessive physical labor, and late nights filled with brain-numbing decisions, I woke up the morning of Day 14 bursting with jubilance and ready to wrapper this sucker up. We were about to complete the most difficult aspect of Wayward Guide Production (unaware of the horrors that awaited us in January when we saw the complete tally of expenditures that got us to this point) and, by golly, we were running on sheer pride to get us through the day.

We were at Canyon Ranch, an outdoor filming location in Thousand Oaks that would double as a roadside outside of Connor Creek, a spooky cabin, and miscellaneous forest scenes. Even though this was looking to be a late night, Canyon Ranch was, luckily, our most comfortable exterior location yet. We had access to a larger barn with plenty of room for costumes, make-up, crafty, and general holding, tons of parking, and all of our shooting locations would be within 200 yards of each other. Plus, we only had 3 cast members to wrangle (4, if you count Nick Lang who came out for a fun part we can’t talk about here). Sure, there was a large hill to walk up every time you needed to get back to the barn, but that was a MINOR inconvenience for our team at this point in production.

Corey's Car, AKA The APN Company Vehicle

Corey's Car, AKA The APN Company Vehicle

This was all TOO good to be true, right? RIGHT. Well…almost. Around the beginning of December, many areas of Southern California were hit with terrible wildfires. Areas in Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, and even close to many of our homes in Encino/Sherman Oaks were devastated by fast-moving flames that left many in danger. Paige, our costume designer, was forced to evacuate her family’s home during our Dead Canary days. As this disaster raged on (due to strong winds throughout the state), it became clear to us that Canyon Ranch, though not in danger of fire reaching it, was potentially going to be hit with serious drafts of smoke from the north/south, making the air quality unsafe for our completely exterior shoot day. Thankfully, this is a scenario that did not play out, but could do nothing but cross our fingers during the days leading up.

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: MAKE IT SPOOKY!

A spoopy place

A spoopy place

As we mentioned before when describing our Pine Mountain days, lighting a vast exterior space at night is difficult. Canyon Ranch didn’t come with any standard lighting to make the space shootable so we needed to start from scratch. And to cover the space we would be filming, we needed something powerful. Enter what was, perhaps, our most expensive and coolest piece of equipment: the Condor. This large cherry-picker-esque crane required its own operator, separate generator, and some SUPER bright lights, but DAMN was it cool. Staring up at this imposing machinery truly locked in the feeling that we were making a “real Hollywood movie”. Finally! On the last day!! The Condor could essentially mimic moonlight, if the moon were much closer to the earth and positioned perfectly to light our scene. Coupled with an industrial strength hazer, this delightful movie ranch-by-day was looking creepy AF at night. The biggest problem was manipulating these two elements efficiently and quickly. We’d pump a bunch of haze but by the time we could tweak the lights to hide everything and make it look good, the wind had blown it all away. This process was necessary, but tedious, and by the time we were ready to move from our clearing up to the cabin exterior, we had exhausted our evening’s supply of hazer juice. Luckily, the remaining shots didn’t require haze, but the minor oversight of only grabbing ONE container of hazer juice was on par for our production.

But now, some nice thoughts:

Despite the few goofs (and honestly, NO production is free of them), our final day on Wayward Guide was really special. The sequence of our shooting schedule made it so that Joanna was our first to wrap in the day, Steve was next, with the final scene entirely Mary Kate. We didn’t plan for this journey to end in such beautiful and poetic way akin to watching the few hobbits return to the Shire with Frodo leaving for the Grey Havens forever. But it did! From top to bottom, every member of this crew busted their ass for 14 days to help bring this show to life. Many of them didn’t have a good reason to (other than the minimal pay they were getting) and could have easily walked away from our crazy production. But they stayed. They showed up day after day, put their amazing talents on display, and worked together to create something that none of them had a creative investment in the way myself, Brian, and Corey do. That level of dedication and teamwork was alive and well on our independent film set, and it warmed my heart.

Sibling Love

Sibling Love

In the end, some champagne was popped, a few tears were shed, and an endless amount of “Thank You’s” were expressed as we hugged and packed up and disbanded this temporary fellowship forever. As different as theater and film are, a set isn’t unlike the process of putting up a show. For a short period of time, you work closely and intensely with a small group of people towards a common goal of creating this unique piece of art and uniting under a singular vision. And just like that, after the closing performance or a final shot, it’s over. It’s insanely cathartic (and potentially emotionally unhealthy???) to go through something like that. And like the Lord of the Rings (Yes, I WILL continue to draw this comparison), it changes you forever.

EPILOGUE:

….HOWEVER. In true Wayward Guide fashion, the evening wasn’t over yet. Around 1 AM, most of the crew was finishing wrapping at the location and we all got into our vehicles to leave Canyon Ranch. Our caravan of cars began with the art department van, which left about 5 minutes before most of us. I was riding with Corey and we breathed an enormous sigh of relief as we drove down the windy rode out of Canyon Ranch to the highway that would take us home.

Suddenly, as we rounded a dark bend, we noticed our art department van pulled over to the side of the rode. My mind raced to, “Oh shit! Did they pop a tire?” That thought was instantly dispelled as we continued around the curve and the true reason was revealed: a car, about 50 yards ahead, in the middle of this one-lane road, COMPLETELY ENGULFED IN FLAMES. Yup. You heard it right. One of the PA’s from another stopped car filled us in: First and foremost, this wasn’t any of OUR team, nor was anyone in the car currently. Another couple had hit this “accident” mere SECONDS before the art van and were stopped up ahead also. According to them, a rogue “boulder” had rolled down the mountainside, hit this car, set it aflame, and the owner got out and ran away. Huh. By this point, several more of our cars were backed up behind this “accident”. I keep putting accident in quotes because it was very clear that this probably wasn't an accident at all. Namely, there was no boulder to be seen. Also, the driver just ran out. into. the. WOODS. Whether they were drunk, a felon on the lam, or committing insurance fraud, something sketchy was going on.

Wayward Guide: The Car!

Wayward Guide: The Car!

And because the road was SO narrow, none of us were going to risk driving by this vehicle that could explode at any minute (based on our knowledge this happening from movies). So we stood outside, waiting for the fire trucks to come deal with this and clear a path. The wider roads coming off of a suburban intersection were FEET beyond this car. We could almost taste the freedom.

More Fire Car Pics!

More Fire Car Pics!

To make matters MORE inconvenient, when the fire department finally arrived, put out the car, and used the jaws-of-life to break it down, they informed us that it would be at least 2 HOURS until we could pass because this “accident” was now considered a crime scene. Since the driver had run away, they have to consider it arson and needed to wait for the police to investigate. Our only option was taking a 45 minute detour BACK into the canyon to pop us out on another highway entrance. We had lost ALL of our fighting spirit. Back into the mountains (…of Moria?? See! The LOTR references are uncanny!) it was.

Well past our bedtime, winding through the Santa Monica mountains, at the end of some of the toughest months in our lives, we had no choice but to chuckle to ourselves: How apropos that this entire production was quite literally ending in flames.

We’re smack dab in the middle of post-production as I type this so have much less to report at the present moment! Stay tuned in a few weeks for an update on what our (very) chill post-production process has been like for Wayward Guide!

Love youuuuuuuu,
Joey

2 More Weeks to See Solve It Squad in NYC!!

HEY YOU GUUYYYSSS!

Long time no update. We've spent the last month working our booties off to get The Solve It Squad on its feet and now we are finally up and running. We actually just finished a fantastic first week of shows. The NYC audiences have been terrific and we are having a ball doing the show again!

Photo by Allison Stock

Photo by Allison Stock

We don't have too much to report about Wayward Guide. Things are still chugging along in post production. The three of us have picture locked the first five episodes of the show. Those edits are complete-o, in the can, finito, DONE. The last five episodes are in a rough assembly form, but still need a lot of finessing before they're locked. Matt and Mark are continuing to design and mix our sound and we're working with Chuck to create the musical themes. We are also now in the process of writing the podcast (more to come on that), which we will be recording upon returning from NY along with some ADR for the first couple of episodes. We're certainly working to create the best possible product for you all and thank you for your patience. We will keep you updated as we go with new developments and new production diaries! 

Regarding your Kickstarter rewards, they unfortunately will not be ready to be sent out next month as originally planned. Many of these rewards are contingent on the completion of the series and are designed to be enjoyed simultaneously with the show and podcast. Thusly, some rewards will be sent out closer to the release of the series, which we're aiming to have happen in the Fall.

"Look, Ma! A real life movie set."

"Look, Ma! A real life movie set."

While you wait...this is a friendly reminder that the Solve It Squad will be running for another 2 weeks at the TBG Mainstage Theatre in NYC!!

"Do you know how insane that feels!?" - Photo by Allison Stock -

"Do you know how insane that feels!?" - Photo by Allison Stock -

Tickets are still available to come see the show live. If you can't make it all the way here, we're also offering an HD Digital Ticket of our NYC production. This is available now at solveitsquad.com/digitalticket

XOXO,

TCB

PRODUCTION DIARY #8 - THE DEAD CANARY (WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME)

Out of the Frying Pan and into…ANOTHER FRYING PAN!!! Ah, yes. Can you smell it? Another location, another face melting adventure.

As our delightful third day at the office sets in Van Nuys came to a close, the main task for production was transporting our enormous power generator across Los Angeles. For a number of reasons, including that it was Sunday, the usual methods of doing this were unavailable to us. So, a decision was made to rent a big ass truck (see picture in the last production diary) and tow it ourselves. I will recount the tale in a story called: JOEY’S BIG BOY TOW TIME RIDE TIME.

I think it’s safe to say that few of us soft-handed plebeians have towed a gigantic generator behind an enormous stake bed truck? Am I correct? If not please comment below. Anyways, because of the carpool situation, it ended up being Joey's responsibility to get the job done. I’ll let him chime in now on what was going through his head:

“Holy shit I am not equipped to do this shit shit shit this thing is heavy and I can't really see what's behind me oh fuck can I merge do I have enough room to merge shit shit shit”

At 11pm, he arrived at our next soundstage and discovered, after driving down a narrow and dark alley to where we were told a gate would be open, that the gate was actually closed and he had to go to another gate. Like Odysseus shooting a single arrow through 12 golden axe heads, Joey backed the 16' truck with generator in tow down the alley hitting nary a stray cat. Like a big boy! So, that’s fun!!

Now, onto the Dead Canary shoot days!

DAYS 11 & 12

It was nice to be on another soundstage because of some of the things touched upon in our last update: the control we had over light and noise, nice amenities, and staging areas for equipment and catering. Essentially, the luxury of not having to worry about people walking onto the set or construction workers hammering away down the street, which happened many times in Pine Mountain.

The only slight annoyance at this stage was that the bathroom was REEEAALLY far away. So, a decision had to be made: what’s more cost effective, renting a porta potty or taking the time to let people walk to the restroom. THESE ARE THE REAL QUESTIONS PEOPLE!!! There was a very realistic “Bathroom” set on the soundstage, which we had to remind people not to use. I cannot stress enough how realistic this fake bathroom was.

So realistic

So realistic

Our call was somewhere around 9 or 10 on the first day in the bar, which was a relief, but a rigging team came in at 5am to start hanging lights. This is because while the set was standing and the warehouse was designed to easily rig lights, a soundstage doesn’t usually have a rep plot like you would find in a theatre space. So, we had to light the bar from scratch.

Sometimes when larger production come in to use a space like this, they will still spend additional time and money decorating the set to make it more specific to their story. We sort of used the set as is because we didn’t have the art budget to gussy it up. But I must say, I was very happy with how it looked and it matched the exterior of the Dead Canary well. It also provided enough space to maneuver the camera easily, which a lot of the actual locations we looked at for the bar did not.

We got to bring a lot of our actors back for these days because a handful of scenes from throughout the series take place in the Dead Canary! Including a dream sequence where we got to play with some bizzaro camera movements and colorful lights!!

Fun lighting!

Fun lighting!

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Schedules... Again

Like usual, we were flying through a ton of pages a day PLUS working around last minute actor conflicts. For some reason everyone got auditions, callbacks, and jobs these days! But as per usual on this production we made it work, shooting out of sequence and doing what we had to to get through the day. On several occasions we had to use stand-ins to read off camera for eye line.

As very special treat on Carlos’s last day, he catered lunch for us as a surprise treat! What an incredible guy!! That day…we ate like KINGS AND QUEENS!!!!

Taco Party!!

Taco Party!!

At this point in the production we had wrapped several of our actors, but post bar days we wrapped 85% of the cast and the reality that the process was almost over (no matter how hellish and challenging it was at some points) was starting to sink in. And it was sad guuuuyssss!!!! It’s such a joy to work with your friends.

Aside from the ever-present challenge of pivoting our creative desires to (attempt to) accommodate time and budget, the days at the bar stage went smooth as silk. Sure we went overtime both days…but still…

Following the Dead Canary shoot, we had a day off...kind of...

And then onto our final two pick up days, which will be recapped in a production diary COMING SOON TO A COMPUTER NEAR YOU.

Bye, 

Brian

Production Diary #7 - Over the Hump!!

Wayward Guide-lings!!!

Hey there wayward friends! Happy New Year! The three of us took some much needed time off to decompress from the shoot over the holidays (and not be around each other for 16 hours a day!) and now we’re back at it working our way through post-production. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

When we last left off in production, Team Wayward was about to take our Thanksgiving Break for a whopping 10 DAYS!!! 

Turkey was cooked and eaten, naps were taken, and some sanity was regained. But come Monday November 27th, we hit the pavement for four days of prep to take us into the final stretch of shooting. 

Los Angeles - 2nd Shooting Block

The majority of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of that week was spent location scouting. A lot of prep for the 2nd Block was neglected during the 1st Block because of how many issues we kept running into on a daily basis. Having the opportunity to reset and set ourselves up for success going into the 2nd Block was essential. Our heads were spinning with various exterior woods locations, warehouse spaces, bars, and offices (the final locations we needed to find). These days were filled with scheduling scouts, making offers, striking deals, and a LOT of back-and-forth between Joey, Brian, Alexis, and myself as we drove LITERALLY all over LA checking out options with our increasingly specific requirements. Does it have enough space? Is it on the first floor (for ease of lighting)? Can we combine three different story locations into this one physical location so we don’t lose time moving the entire company?

We tried for real locations (e.g. you rent an actual restaurant to shoot a restaurant scene in) because we didn’t have the time or money to rent empty soundstages and build our own sets. But as our options dwindled, we started to explore standing sets. What's that, you ask? Some stages will have permanent sets than anyone can rent and use. They’re often commonly required locations like courtrooms, hospitals, and police stations that would be difficult to actually shoot in, otherwise. They have their positives and negatives, but they were looking increasingly attractive.

Day 8

And just in the nick of time, we locked a soundstage with standing sets in Van Nuys for the first 3 days of Block 2.

Lots of people were incredibly happy to be moving into a soundstage for 3 whole days! That meant no packing up at the end of the night. It meant reliable internet and bathrooms. It meant dedicated rooms for craft services, lunch, wardrobe, and makeup. And it meant a ton of scenery, furniture, and props that came with the rental!

Random note: this was our FIRST day of having Titus on Set! We had already spent so many days with a lot of the other characters, it was a strange feeling to start working with someone new! But like a lot of the cast, it was great to work so closely with someone we had known for years, but hadn’t worked with before!

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Lighting The Stage

So here’s the huge disadvantage of using a soundstage instead of a real location: lighting. When the Cinematographer and the Gaffer (basically the lighting designer) look at a space to figure out how to shoot it, they’re always first going to see what existing practical lights they can use in a space. They’ll use those as the motivating light source, and add other lights to enhance and shape the scene.

Mary Kate is a rebel

Mary Kate is a rebel

But since we were on a stage that wasn’t a real office… it meant there wasn't a ton of existing lights in there. No one has to do real work there! So it required a ton more time to light the scenes, as well as renting equipment (like a generator) that we didn’t need on other days.

Day 9

This was the big day, we finally got Sean Astin on set! To be honest, from the get-go we figured it would be a long shot to get Sean in the series. We’ve known him for a long time, but he’s a busy man dealing with Stranger Things and whatnot. So when he said yes, we were delighted, but incredibly cautious not to get our hopes up since so much could happen scheduling wise at the drop of a hat to mess it all up. But the moment we saw his smiling face on set, I think all three of us breathed a huge sigh of relief that we had been holding in for months. Of all the things we discussed ad naseum during this process, we never once even discussed what our plan B would be if we had to recast Sean, probably because we thought we might jinx it! But he was here on our set, to say our words, and bring to life the character of Artemis and Paul’s boss! Which brings us to…

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Directing Sean Astin

Saying Sean has a lot of experience would be an understatement. He’s literally been making films since before many of us were born. Directing and working with him was incredibly intimidating.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s the nicest, kindest, man who wanted to do the best possible job. Which meant he wanted to rehearse the scenes a bunch of times with Mary Kate and Steve, ask us questions about why lines were written the way they were, and offer suggestions. And while we had comparatively few pages to shoot this day, it was still a lot and we couldn’t give him as much time as we’d have liked, in an ideal world.

Sean asking Joey a very important question about his props

Sean asking Joey a very important question about his props

As we shot, Sean would go through the scene, and often stop himself and start again from the beginning to try a different performance or to get something better. He would often start over before getting to the end of a scene and I would be standing there thinking “No! Don’t go back to the beginning! This is all great, but I need a take of the end!” But who was I to cut off Sean Astin?! He ultimately gave us so much to work with and gave an incredibly funny performance I can’t wait to show you all!

Day 10

After a “leisurely” Day 9, we were back to the grind for Day 10 which involved a ton of pages, and a ton of locations. We needed to re-dress the studio lobby to be the waiting room for Silas's office we shot on Day 8, re-dress Lesly’s office to be an APN conference room, and dress/light Artemis’s cubicle as well as several other APN hallways. PLUS we had to try to get one close-up pick up shot to match an exterior in Pine Mountain. Oh, and after 3 days we had to load everything out of the studio (including the generator) for the next location. Yikes.

Joey must be giving Very Serious Notes

Joey must be giving Very Serious Notes

But, the fun part of the day was finally having Darren on set! Darren was the final actor that we hadn’t seen yet on the production and we were grateful that his schedule worked out to make it possible. We had a great time playing with him, and letting him get sillier than some of his other recent roles. He even added an ad lib that we liked a lot, and decided to call back to on our last shoot day!

Ryan Reynolds in action

Ryan Reynolds in action

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Working Ahead

With the tall order of everything that had to get done, it was all about trying to work ahead. This way, the prep work we needed to shoot the next thing would be done by the time we were ready for it.

The Art Department really transformed the lobby

The Art Department really transformed the lobby

We finished shooting a little early on Day 9, so the art team had time to re-dress Lesly’s office the night before. The whole day required us to leapfrog around the space. It was a constant struggle to figure out, who/what can we be prepping right now? Can we move everything out of the conference room and take down the backdrop? How loud will that prep be/can we do it while we’re shooting in the lobby? It made the day even more challenging because we couldn't fully immerse ourselves in the work of the scene we were in, lest we fail to plan ahead to the next thing and waste time later.

And then finally, we had to get out. We tried to start packing up as much as we could early on, but everyone had really settled into the space over the past 3 days, so it was still a beast to get everyone (and everything) out the door to move to our next location.

Joey driving the MASSIVE truck towing the generator to our next location

Joey driving the MASSIVE truck towing the generator to our next location

Stay tuned for the next update about The Bar set featuring fake bathrooms, crazy schedules, and tacos!

Corey

Production Diary #6 - The Great Return to Los Angeles

WOLF PACK!!

Hope y'all had a relaxing and wonderful holiday season. As you sit cozily next to the fire, eating leftover honeybaked ham, and hotly anticipating 2018, how about some more stories from the set of Wayward Guide??

Los Angeles - 1st Shooting Block - 2 Days Later

After returning home to Los Angeles from Pine Mountain, the cast and crew had a 2 day break before resuming production. I should note, however, that it was never really safe to call these days "breaks", but rather "days we weren't shooting". The work didn't stop. Location scouts needed to happen for our next 3 days (as they had both just been confirmed), Corey and Benji needed to prep shot lists and overheads having seen the new locations, crafty runs for food were necessary, and finding replacement crew (due to scheduling conflicts) were just a few of the main tasks that needed our attention.

Our hubris as indie filmmakers on a project of this size could be summed up in this sentiment, expressed on the days leading up to the end of Block 1 - "You know what? When we get back to LA, things are gonna be SO much easier!" In some respects, we were right. Easier access to civilization where we could run errands quickly, better weather, shooting indoors, everyone getting to sleep in their own beds. But we quickly figured out that there was no reprieve waiting for us. With a project as ambitious as ours, at this budget, we were always going to be dodging bullets. The buck didn't stop in Pine Mountain. 

Day 5

Uh Oh!! Did Lauren forget her lines??

Uh Oh!! Did Lauren forget her lines??

Availability of a quality "library" set was limited so we had to be open to adjusting the location of Aubrey's (Nick Lang) place of work. Luckily, our script didn't call for anything TOO specific and we could theoretically place the characters in a home or office, rather than a full-blown reading hall with endless shelves of books. We were able to outbid for a location we found on Peerspace that had a incredibly unique look and matched the quirkiness of tone. There were 12 pages to shoot that day (again, a heavy day on most features is about 2-3 pages), but the scenes were all contained inside one room, like Day 1, so we felt confident we could make it work. Aubrey's "home" has some hilarious scenes with awesome character bits that may be a bit too spoiler-y for this post. But I can confidently say that this day showcases, once again, that Nick Lang is the greatest actor of us all. After coming off of consecutive exterior shoots, it was nice to return indoors where we could focus on performance and let the actors chew scenery. Not to mention, the space was a convenient 5 minutes away from many of our homes and RIGHT down the street from a Trader Joe's! And they had a pool!!! What luxury!!! Seemingly, this was the perfect location...

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: There is NO Perfect Location

One of the biggest issues with this specific location was, quite literally, the location. This became evident on the tech scout the day before. The house rested smack dab in the middle of Franklin Hills, a gorgeous neighborhood where the houses are crammed tightly along very narrow streets and sit along the hillside, expanding vertically, up steep inclines. For cast/crew parking, loading/unloading our grip truck, and landing all our equipment, this is FAR from ideal. From the street, there was a 40-step incline to the poolside. The outdoor area served as actor lounge, production offices, equipment holding, hair/makeup, and craft services. This proved to be logistically difficult as 3/4's of that entire space was taken up BY A POOL (which no one fell into! Silver linings!). Inside, we only had access to the room we were shooting in, two small bedrooms downstairs (used for wardrobe) and a bathroom. Needless to say, things were TIGHT. We were trying to fit a LOT into a very small space (both physically and creatively, with the day's page count).

Everyone seriously preparing for a scene, except Steve

Everyone seriously preparing for a scene, except Steve

All of this would've been completely manageable and oddly charming if it weren't for the property manager. We've decided not to share her real name for the sake of privacy, so we'll just refer to her by a codename we established on-set: The Babadook. In an effort to remain diplomatic, I'll just say this: this woman was the worst kind of site rep a film shoot could have. She hovered around set constantly, glaring at the crew and grimacing at every move we made. She was overly protective and nit-picky about each and every adjustment we made to the house, treating us like children who weren't going to clean up after ourselves. She even stopped production to call a crew member out for making a lighting adjustment on the roof, pulling us all indoors to scold us and make an immature scene, demanding an apology (which we had already done, verbally and profusely the second we realized there was an issue). Having a presence like her around added an unnecessary stress to an already demanding day. As frustrating as she was, The Babadook became a legendary nemesis on our set, bonding our cast/crew even tighter over a common foe and giving us some great stories (that may end up in our BTS ;)) 

Day 6

The American Legion in Pasadena was our home for the final two days of shooting in our 1st Block. We were lucky to book their enormous multipurpose room to act as our Town Hall location for Connor Creek. The Legion had an incredible amount of space for our production to sprawl, as opposed to all our previous shoot days. We had access to so much of the facility and the freedom to give every department the room they needed to work effectively. And, boy, was it necessary. This day was easily one of the largest days of production. We had two long scenes to film with about 18 cast members present, all with speaking roles. From a shooting standpoint, we had been anticipating this day since the beginning. Our shot list had 3 times the amount of coverage required on other days. And because of the size of the room, flipping the world for lighting (shooting one direction of a scene versus another) would take too much time. This forced us to block shoot, meaning, we would have to shoot everything, facing one direction, for both scenes, and then do the same for the other direction. Block shooting requires a LOT of communication with the cast and crew, to make sure we're all on the same page with exactly what scene we're on. Without giving too much away (BECAUSE SPOILERZ OBVI LOLZ!!!), these Town Hall scenes needed to elicit a certain sense of pandemonium and are CHOCK-FULL of bits, monologues, important discoveries, as well as plot development. Luckily, every actor brought their A-Game and we ended up getting some WILD footage that features the biggest ensemble of Connor Creek's citizens in the whole series!  

Our Connor Creek Town Hall!!

Our Connor Creek Town Hall!!

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Getting It All In the Can

Like I said earlier, we knew this would be one of our toughest days. Barring any last minute problems that could arise, these Town Hall scenes were always gonna be a challenge. Even if every one was firing on all cylinders, a lot of folks felt like making these days was a fool's errand. And around lunchtime, after attempts to move quickly, some missteps in shooting order, and several moments where a lapse in communication created tension between our core team, we had to face the reality that we weren't going to finish shooting these scenes on that day. Luckily, there was a solution. One that required more time and money, but a solution nonetheless. 

At this point, we were already planning a pick-up shoot day after production was originally scheduled to wrap. Due to some logistical hold-ups, one of the exterior locations in Pine Mountain was unavailable so we decided to move those scenes closer to LA. With this new scheduling predicament at the Legion, we'd need to add an additional pick-up day. The scene we were hoping to shoot on Day 7 was self-contained, only required 5 actors, and could, theoretically, be shot in a different location, should the Legion not be available for our pick-up day. By freeing up Day 7, it allowed us to spend the rest of Day 6 shooting out our larger crowd scenes and spend the entire next day covering everything we missed facing the stage. THANKFULLY, every single actor this affected could make the change work and everyone handled it like a pro.

Mary Kate, doing GREAT work!!

Mary Kate, doing GREAT work!!

If reading about our juggling of schedules is confusing to you, I completely understand. I, myself, had to stowaway in the kitchen for about 15 minutes after this conversation to sit in silence, have a small cry, mentally deal with the overwhelming decisions we were making on-the-fly, and push forward. 

Day 7

I think it's safe to say that Day 7 was the chillest day on set for Wayward Guide. Making the call to add days was the best decision we could've made at that time (albeit an expensive one that we'd pay for in the long run). We were able to focus solely on a smaller group of actors who never leave a single location, facing a single direction. Plus, we had a late call and only shot for half the day! It was a breeze!!! 

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY:  Half the Actors

As stated above, this was a day devoid of any major issues. The only minor inconvenience we came up against was only having half the actors present. Instead of calling ALL 18 cast members to act, off-camera, for the actors onstage, a few of us on production were stand-ins for the day. This way, the actors on-camera had correct eye-lines when looking at different characters and had actually people to deliver their lines to, instead of chairs with tape on them. Plus, it allowed a lot of the production team to flex more of their performance muscles. Wes, our AD, gave such a convincing Joanna, that we almost decided to recast! ;P

People on stage are VERY important people!

People on stage are VERY important people!

As we wrapped Day 7, our team was ushered into our 10 Day Thanksgiving Break! We were super grateful for the time off and in need of a recharge. Come Monday, November 27th, we were back in it, scouting locations for our 2nd Block and prepping everything we needed to finish production on Wayward Guide! But more on that soon!!

Much love and Happy Holidays,
Joey

Production Diary #5 - Adventures in Pine Mountain!!

Hey, friends! 

We’re back with tales from our first four days of production in Pine Mountain, CA. This has been our first experience shooting on location outside of LA and boy OH BOY has it been fun/exciting/educational/infuriating/exhilarating!!

DAY 0

After a week of prep we headed up to Pine Mountain, CA in a 15-seat passenger van full of equipment for the first block of shooting. While the production team prepped the AirBnBs everyone would be staying at, the rest of the cast and crew trickled into town throughout the evening and into the night. A few crazies even came up the morning of the first shoot day. Call was at 5AM!! Mary Kate and Steve were the only actors to stay up with us on location the entire time. The rest of the talent would either drive up for their scenes and drive home that day or just stay with us for a night or two.

Day 1

The first day started early and we barely got any sleep with all of the preparation that had to be done the night before. Luckily, we could roll out of bed and into our first location, which was in the basement of our AirBnB. Because of scheduling, we had to get all of our scenes in Paul and Artemis's Connor Creek Guest Room done while we were in Pine Mountain. Rolling a location into our living accommodations was also a great way for us to combine costs! We had a lot of pages to get through that first day, but because we were contained in one room it was very manageable. In the end, the basement ended up being a great location for Artemis and Paul’s guest room and we were even able to source cool set dressing from the actual mountain home to help create an authentic feel.

Corey explains a moment in the Guest Room to Mary Kate.

Corey explains a moment in the Guest Room to Mary Kate.

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Catering and Coffee

Feeding a cast and crew of about 25 would be a constant challenge throughout our time in Pine Mountain. There are approximately 4 restaurants within quite a few miles of the town and the roads in and out are windy. With so many people, their various dietary needs, and little time to spare in our packed days, it was a challenge to find 12 different catered meals that fit everyone’s needs.

One lesson that we learned over and over throughout this production was that things will go wrong that you can not anticipate. Our first instance of this was when, mere minutes into our first morning of production, our industrial coffee maker that we had planned to use for all of Pine Mountain broke. Uh oh. Coffee is fuel for long production days. We remedied the problem by commandeering two small coffee makers from our Airbnbs for the rest of the week. 

Steve sits on an apple box preparing for his OTS. Often times when an actor is not on camera his/her position is cheated to help sell the shot.

Steve sits on an apple box preparing for his OTS. Often times when an actor is not on camera his/her position is cheated to help sell the shot.

Day 2

For the entire second day we were parked at a local hybrid pizza shop/antique store. Yep, that’s a real place. It was a small, but we fit in by placing actor and crew holding on one side of the restaurant, HMU in the kitchen, and wardrobe in an area out back behind the building. We shot in the actual antique portion of the store, which was broken up into two spaces and dressed to be a Florist Shop and a Mystic Shop. This was another example of getting creative by combining physical locations into multiple sets in order to be as economical as possible.

Tara having some fun with Best Boy Electric, Inga, on the Florist Shop set.

Tara having some fun with Best Boy Electric, Inga, on the Florist Shop set.

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Locations

We had yet to lock the library location we had to shoot at in 5 days. So with shoddy internet (and after weeks of already looking for the right location to no avail) we had to squeeze the task of finding a library location into our already busy second day of shooting.

Production Designer, Jake, and 1st AD, Wes, stand in for camera in the Mystic Shop.

Production Designer, Jake, and 1st AD, Wes, stand in for camera in the Mystic Shop.

The Mystic Shop also featured our first lighting special effect shot which took some time to figure out, but ended up looking awesome! We'd show it to you, but NO SPOILERS, ya know??

Day 3

Day 3 started with our Butcher Shop scene. This location was also squeezed out of another part of the Pizza Shop by dressing the pizza counter to look like an upscale, eclectic butcher shop. Low budget film making beebee!! By putting all these sets in one location we were able to avoid the time suck of moving all of our equipment from location to location. That afternoon we moved outside and into our first exteriors of Connor Creek.

Art Director, Teagan, prepares props for the Butcher Shop.

Art Director, Teagan, prepares props for the Butcher Shop.

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Filming Outside

Throughout the day we bounced around Pine Mountain filming various parts of the town and racing against the light to get all of our shots in. The ideal weather condition for filming outside is overcast because it diffuses the light of the sun in an even way. Of course, just our luck, it was SUNNY AS HELL outside.

It would sometimes takes 2-3 hours to shoot a single scene, so by the time we would flip to get coverage of the other side, without good cloud cover, the light would have already changed. This made filming order difficult and required some on-the-fly shuffling of our daily schedule. Besides lighting shenanigans, we had to battle the pedestrians and cars in the town making sound and passing through the background of our shots. Because we didn’t have the resources to close off streets like a big production would, we had to talk to a mix of interested and annoyed neighbors about why we were wreaking havoc in their streets. But most people just wanted to come over and say, "Hi! Watch out for the bears!!"

Corey: "One day, Steve, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king."

Corey: "One day, Steve, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king."

In anticipation of Day 4, our most complicated day yet, we stayed up late figuring out a plan of attack...

Day 4

...BUT because this day had our first night shots of the project, we also has our first late call time. While it’s nice to get a full nights sleep, ironically, after days of averaging 4 hours a night, the extra hours made it waaaay more difficult to get up. Our bodies were like, “We sleep forever now??” And Wayward Guide was like, “Nooooo!!”

Joey, calm and well rested, doing some work.

Joey, calm and well rested, doing some work.

The day consisted of all exteriors, split between the day and night. During the day, we fought some of the same challenges as the day before. We also had to shoot towards a parking lot, which required a lot of car shuffling and nicely asking the locals to move their vehicles. This was our heaviest actor day of the shooting block so it was great to have a bunch of new people (and fresh energy) up for the day.

CHALLENGE OF THE DAY: Night

Not only was it cold up in the mountains at night, but without much ambient light we had to bring all of our own instruments to light the night effectively. During the day, we used bounces to redirect sunlight toward where we needed it, whereas at night we had to create all of our own light sources in addition to positioning them. The trickiest and most time consuming move was flipping the world to see a forest exterior that Mary Kate runs out of in Episode 5. Because we didn’t have the time or resources to fully light these shots, we piped thick fog into the open area and bounced light off of it.

Picture up on a foggy night exterior.

Picture up on a foggy night exterior.

Amidst all this craziness, we all had a blast shooting up on location. It was an incredibly bonding experience living and working together away from home. We also learned a TON about what it's like to shoot outside of LA at this scale. And most importantly…the footage looks incredible!!

More updates coming soon!

Brian, Joey, & Corey