Production Diary #5 - Adventures in Pine Mountain!!
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!!"
In anticipation of Day 4, our most complicated day yet, we stayed up late figuring out a plan of attack...
...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!!”
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.
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