(In celebration of the release of Love in the Time of Monsters on DVD 2/17, I'm doing a recap of our adventures. Read part one here)
If you ever want to really get to know someone, nothing beats a long road trip. Between the idle chatter, music choices, and how they are at "iSpy", you can get a really good idea of what kind of person they are. Luckily for us (Mike, Andy, and myself) we all got along, otherwise the whole movie would have fallen apart.
As we entered 2011, we were all really excited about the prospect of making Love in the Time of Monsters, even if we still weren't sure how viable it was. Real talk, making a movie is a big deal and there are a million reasons not to do it so we had to be sure our reasons for doing it were air tight. So, our first order of business was a trip to the would-be Uncle Slavko's All-American Lodge: The Patrick Creek Lodge in Gasquet California.
Nestled in the redwoods 20 minutes from the Oregon border, the PCL is an amazing place and the perfect location. The only problem is that it's 12 hours from Los Angeles. As they say, good things come to those who wait and we were in it for the long haul.
It took us a while for our schedules to align (between holiday holdovers and work, times were tough), but ultimately on March 5th, 2011 we climbed into Andy's Jetta and set north. Now, it's not like we didn't know each other before we started the drive, but we certainly came out of it closer than we had been previously. The excitement was palatable and it finally felt like we were on our way to making the movie a reality.
The lodge was exactly as advertised and somehow way better than the photographs. The owners, Greg and Ellen, welcomed us with open arms and gave us a thorough tour of the lodge. Ideas exploded inside me as I saw the potential of the place and finally understood why Mike felt the need to go find a location while he was writing.
Now, not only was I onboard, but I started seeing new and different ways to play out the action. It was the beginning of the movie transforming from words on a page to images on screen. But the biggest thing I remember about that Scout (beyond the great Bigfoot burger in Willow Creek and almost getting sick on the winding roads of the 101 because of it) was my first encounter with Paul Bunyan.
Standing in the rain in the parking lot of the Trees of Mystery, I found the first shot of the movie, even if it wasn't exactly what was scripted. See, the first scene in the movie was originally scripted as a found footage type scene with the entirety of the action happening via the POV of Dad's camcorder. It was certainly a great way to get into the movie, but the more I looked at Paul, the more I knew it was wrong. The power of scouts, right? Sometimes you see angles that you'd never even think of when just coming up with ideas on the page. It's a decision that I still feel very strong about and I get immense amounts of joy when I see that exact shot in the movie today.
Our time was too short, unfortunately, and after a day of exploring the area and making sure it was not only right for us, but something that the area would want, we had to head home. Short timeframe or not, the scout was a massive success and we got back to LA ready to really put the wheels in motion.
(Incidentally, if you're interested and want to read about our 'of the moment' take on the Scout, check out the archives. That's right around we started the blog and there's all kinds of neat bits tucked into the articles)
The months that followed were a mixed bag of successes and setbacks. I'll get to those in detail in a later article, but the summary is that we added some key people (including Line Producer Rob Overbeck and Co-Producer Allison Vanore), secured a majority of the cast, and had almost all of our funding fall through. That last one was a real kick in the nuts. Better still, the decision to push our start date came on my birthday. However, we used the setback as a rallying point and came back stronger than ever.
In September 2011, our original shooting date, we travelled back to the lodge with our expanded key crew on our big second scout. This time, instead of cramming into Andy's Jetta the six of us (Andy, Rob, Allison, our then DP Justin Martinez, our documentarian Ben Turner, and myself) hopped into a rented minivan and returned to the lodge. This time, instead of just a fact finding mission, we walked through the entire script in each location and started planning out what we were going to do.
The alternate purpose of this scout, and the inclusion of Ben, was to make a promotional video for any potential new investors. It was decided that we should bolster our business plan with a video component so in addition to shooting a scene from the movie we interviewed some key people, shot some B-Roll and basically tried to make the movie look as attractive as possible. There's a lot of 'for private use' only stuff on that video, so I can't post it, but just take my word for it that it's pretty great.
This scout was notable for being the first time I verbally pitched the entirety of the the Love in the Time of Monsters script. It was one night after dinner while having a beer with Ellen that she asked "What is this thing anyway". I don't know if she was ready for the hour that followed as I acted out the entire movie, but the reaction of the room seemed really positive.
As a director, this kind of physical pitch was incredibly helpful as a memory and flow exercise. I was able to see what scenes were working, which weren't, and work through anything that was problematic. And honestly, there's nothing else that will get you as connected to the material. By the end of preproduction, I did my routine a half a dozen times and I knew every inch of that script.
The rest of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 was full of hard choices and a determination to make the movie. We secured funding (but not as much as we hoped), we lost Justin (something about selling a movie at Sundance. What a jerk) but gained an awesome replacement in the mega talented Jorge Urbina, and secured the rest of our cast and crew. OH. Also I got married.
As a general lesson, I do not recommend getting married before making your first movie. Getting married is awesome, as is making movies, but they are most definitely events that should have some separation. They're both crazy stressful time sucks that require you to have a steadfast vision in the face of hardships, and no sane person should try to do them at the same time. I, clearly, am not a sane person. (For the record, neither is Allison, who had the crazy notion to get married a month after the movie. Talk about crazy!)
However it was after our wonderful wedding (and ridiculous honeymoon)in April 2012 that I found myself completely encased by the movie-making process and the first order of business was another scout. This time Andy, Rob, Allison, Jorge, Production Designer Jon Bell, and myself hit the lodge to make some final decisions about how we were going to get this thing done.
The most stand out thing about this last scout (beyond it coming weeks after my wedding) was the press we got. On the previous trips we were very focused on the lodge and how to get what we needed out of it; however on this trip we expanded our view and started interacting with the town of Crescent City. It was, quite honestly, one of the best decisions we made as they have been huge boosters of ours ever since. I will forever be indebted to all the wonderful things that city provided for us.
Also, because of all this, we got our first bit of press: Front page news in the local paper. It was pretty awesome and had us all looking like fools before breakfast.
The scouts, while vital to the logistics, were what really made the movie feel real to me. It's one thing to have a script and to tell your friends about it, but an entirely other thing to actually stand in what will soon be your movie's reality. And don't even get me started on how nuts it is watch the thing grow into something to be proud of.
Anyway, next time I'll try to get into some nitty-gritty about the stuff we did in-between scouts. It'll be fun, you should come back.