When you've got a rain scene to shoot the last thing you actually want is rain.
The shoot had been on the books for weeks. Actors and stuntmen were coming up from L.A. Proper arrangements had been made with the city and permits secured. Armed guards were hired to watch our backs as we did our thing in the alleyway in Downtown Fresno. Lots of Monsters and Rock Stars were purchased for when the hours dragged on into the late night and early morning.
And, of course, we'd made rain rigs. Rain would fall. Our rain. Rain we could control.
What is it they say? If you want to make God laugh, try to make a movie? (I'm paraphrasing.) Just as we were setting up our gear and getting the actors and stunt men outfitted, it started to rain. Pretty much exactly as we didn't plan and as the forecast predicted. No, actually, it started to POUR. These weren't angel tears. The angels reached down into hell, hoisted their fallen brethren up high, showed them all they were missing, and watched them weep. This was some heavy freakin' rain; the bitter tears of the damned.
We had 14 hours to shoot a complicated, 45-second fight scene and two homemade, now incredibly dinky lookin' rain rigs to do it with.* Shots need to match from moment-to-moment and our rain rigs couldn't even hope to replicate such a torrential downfall. What if the rain stopped? If the rain held this way for all 14 hours, we'd be golden. If it didn't then the whole project was compromised.
We were in the heart of Downtown Fresno. Drought country. Of course the rain wasn't going to hold.
DP Kyle Gentz freaked. Did the rain coming down in sheets and flooding the alleyway look awesome? Yes, but that wildebeest stampede that killed Mufasa was pretty awesome lookin' too. Not everything that looks awesome is awesome. So many things could go wrong with real rain, not the least of which is some very, very expensive equipment getting very, very ruined. The more likely scenario? Nothing would match shot-to-shot as the rain waxed and waned, making editing a nightmare if not impossible.
We started shooting anyway with more than a little bit of prayer in our hearts. Generally speaking, you shoot all your wide angles first. Actor Brandon Quinn and the "thugs" he was to beat up, all stood out there, soaking wet, and ran through the choreography they'd rehearsed just the day before in sunny L.A. Each hit registered on camera with about a million bucks worth of flair as water splattered every which way. Seven inch deep puddles rose up and enveloped the actors' shoes and ankles and threatened to drown those who had fallen.
Distances were hard to judge with everyone's vision compromised by the water. One heart-stopping hit put Brandon on the ground so quickly those of us watching thought he'd smashed the back of his head on the concrete. Thankfully, there was enough puddle there to break the impact. Punishing as it was, we couldn't have asked for a better looking storm.
And then, it stopped.
Amazingly and fortunately for us, the rain stopped right as we finished all the wide shots. We had rain for exactly as long as we needed it, and then it was over. This meant the closeups could be captured in more controlled conditions, with the rain rigs and a hose with a sprayer at the end proving more than adequate for such tight shots.
Over and over again the actors performed the fight. Over and over again we radioed up to Tina on the 6th level of the parking garage to turn on the rigs and let the rain fall. Every angle of the fight was covered, every hit got its own close up. What looks like improvised chaos on screen is anything but. Every hit, twitch, glance, foot pivot and drop was all choreographed and timed to the second.
At 4:45am we finally wrapped. Later the same day, at 11am, we started up again. The rest of the weekend shoot was a cakewalk by comparison. We snagged small moments at a park, a house, outside a jail, and in a parking garage to fill out Slugger's world a little. Travis' son, Kalos, gave a stellar, heartbreaking performance as Slugger's son. Brandon, clearly a father himself, gave the emotion right back at him.
In another great moment that day, we had a problem with one of our props. We wanted to show how Slugger's Parole Officer was no longer allowed to carry a gun by focusing in on his new weapon--a stun gun. Only problem is, when holstered, a stun gun looks a lot like a regular gun. Some quick on set improvising with some yellow tape gave the stun gun enough accents there was no mistaking it for anything that might fire a bullet.
There's still one more shooting day left to complete the trailer. That day is scheduled for the end of the month and we're gonna need a ton of extras. Keep your eye on our Facebook page for details!
Brock Heasley is a writer with Tremendum Pictures. To save the world, he creates art. Has the world ended yet? No? Then it's working. He just recently wrote and directed his first short film, THE SHIFT.