Victoria---After four days of intense efforts everyone
heard the words that meant the pain was over. "Thats a wrap..." was spoken by Director, Michael Veronneau, on
late Wednesay morning after a tiring string of days on location.
"Gin and Tonic: the movie" is based on a theatrical script that Michael came
across over two years ago on the ArtAge Publications website (www.seniortheatre.com/). But the production could not move forward because he could not find actors will to take on this two-person,
10+ minute long comedy. One look at the length of the script and they were already shaking their heads. But early this summer, at her summer camping retreat, Margaret met and discovered an actor
who was willing to take on the lead role of "Stan".
|L to R: Annie, Phillip and Margaret
Phillip Pryce-Jones has considerable acting experience, and when shown the script did not hesitate
to say "yes." David Fuller got the ball rolling, organizing Margaret (who initially took on the role of Olive) and Phillip
to do some rehearsal. It was during one of these sessions that Margaret and Phillip discovered that they had a mutual
friend who also enjoyed acting. Annie Spracklen was approached, and the rest, as they say, is history. The project had two actors
and had passed a critical milestone.
Several locations were examined and eventually winnowed down to the 'best' comprimise solution. The clubhouse
at Margaret's townhouse complex was selected as the site that had the best balance between "looking right" and having usable
space for setup of cameras and equipment. But before we could give it the green light we had to seek permission to modify
the scipt---as the script refered to an office in an office building, where "Stan" had seen "Olive" several times in
the elevator. We had a club house complete with pool, hot tub, sauna, kitchen and games room---no office and no
elevators. And the games room (our location) was filled with a pool table that could not be moved. We discussed draping it
in a big pink elephant costume and asking people to ignore it...but felt that might not fit with the overall theme of
"Necessity is the mother of invention"---so we hit on the idea of having "Olive" working out of a temporary
office in a senior fitness centre. This dovetailed nicely with Stan's dialog because at one point in the script
he introduces himself to Olive as a 'Senior Fitness Consultant.' And so it could be easily explained that he
saw her "...in the hallways" of the fitness centre and we could drop the elevator. A quick note off to Bonnie Vorenberg,
ArtAge President, explaining the problem and proposed solution and we were given permission to modify the script. Hurray!
|Before - Games Room with no pink elephant
the location did have its problems. A big ceiling to floor length window that would grow bright and dim as the sun and clouds
see fit---not as the director sees fit. Two sets of glass paneled double-doors leading into the room, and a 3' x 7' mirror
hanging on one wall. Lots of opportunity for unwanted reflections. A few pot-lights, and suspended lights over the pool table,
but very little room illumination and all tungstan...heavy on the warm "yellow" colour. Contrast that light with the
big sitting room and kitchen outside the games room that has plenty of windows and is ablaze with blue-tinted 'daylight'.
looking at snapshots of the room (see "Before" picture above) Dave proposed that we change the room's lighting
towards daylight balanced light. This would mean swapping out the room's existing light bulbs for the shoot, but at least
we would not have to worry about wrestling with mixed lighting…i.e. shooting from a "yellow" room and including parts
of the 'Blue" sitting room. The proposal was accepted.
|David - Ready to Start!
Then Dave started to dream big.
He pitched the idea that he and I split the purchase of an inexpensive fluorescent, daylight-balanced light kit from a site
that he had discovered called ImageWest (www.imagewest.tv). To make a long story short, we ended up with seven club members
chipping in enough money to purchase a 4-light "Cool" Flo kit, that comes with three soft-boxes and one umbrella and all necessary
stands, and throws 3,840 watts of output. Team purchasing power! (see picture "After" below)
|After: Games room with new "Cool" Flo light kit
we have actors, a location, a revised script, and a brand new light kit. Next we needed a shooting plan. If you were
editing this story ("how the movie came to be") on your NLE---at this point you'd insert the sound of squealing tires as the
production-car skids to a halt. Taking a script and planning the production is a sobering process. Generally actors will stand
where you want them to stand, and move where you want them to move. But you need a reason to place them in a specific spot
as well as a reason to move them.
there are some excellent resources to assist ‘wanna-be’ directors…and in my case those resources were:
q Margaret Chamberlain
and David Fuller
Single Camera Drama” a book by Michael Crisp; and
q “Film Directing
Fundamentals: See your movie before shooting 2nd edition, a book by Nicholas Proferes
is no way that “Gin and Tonic” would have made it as far as it has gone without the guidance, suggestions and
support of Margaret and David. Their support was steadfast and tinged with appropriate amounts of humour and honest critique.
And I owe a debt to Michael Crisp and Nicholas Proferes for their illuminating text, examples and drawings that helped me
bring the script from a theatrical document to a screenplay and eventually shooting script/plan.
the previous collobration that Margaret and I produced (The Birth of Jesus), this
production called for a more sophisticated series of camera setups. We had to wrestle with dialog, audio, and a range of shots
that went beyond anything we had done together. In discussion with Margaret and David, it became clear that we would need
to consider shooting with two cameras. Fortunately, they both use Sony VX2000 cameras, so we knew that we were working with
cameras with equivalent features and capabilites.
two cameras, you potentially can reduce the number of times that you will need to shoot a scene. One camera can be shooting
a two-shot, while the second camera is taking a medium or close up shot of a character. When you get a good take, you have
two good shots for the edit. However, using a second camera also introduces risks and complications. We decided to try using
two cameras, and a few weeks before production day arrived, Margaret and David got together to go over their cameras’
settings (exposure, etc…) to make sure that there were no surprises when we started shooting actual footage.
|Gord - Capturing Audio...
used five “floor plans” showing all the locations in the games room where we would be setting up the cameras.
And then I went back through the script annotating it with the shots we would be making and how long they would “run.”
Time was running short and so Margaret and I decided to forgo the storyboards that we had originally planned. Our preference
would have been to spend some time sketching out storyboards for the major shots—as we are firm believers in the power
of pictures to convey to the crew what shots will be captured. In any case, we ended up with about 13 camera locations that
were used to capture all the footage. Sometimes we had two cameras running, and
at other times just one camera.
|Alice Thomas - Scene & Take...
September 16th was our setup day. With the genereous help of Gord Wicks all the equipment, lights, and props were
lugged into the clubhouse and the room setup. Then we had some precious time
to setup and experiment with the new lights “on location.” By placing cameras in the various planned locations,
and viewing the results on a 13” produciton monitor (thank you Dave!), we were able to satisfy ourselves that lighting
was no longer an issue.
Monday morning we gathered early and did some last minute fine tuning of equipment. By 10:00 a.m. both Philip and Annie were
on site and getting a tour of the location. They appeared suitably impressed with all the equipment gathered in the games
room, and then we jumped into the fray with a two-hour rehearsal.
|"Did you hear the story about...." says Stan to Olive.
In the afternoon we started shooting.
The afternoon went by and we were happy with the progress, but that evening, as the footage was being viewed it be came apparent
that we had an audio problem. Audio was being captured from a Rode Videomic mounted on a boom pool and connected to our ‘master’
camera (Margaret’s). We were getting some some ‘handling’ noises from the boom and a bit too much reverberation.
So first thing Tuesday morning we spent some time experimenting until we got better results.
Because of the audio we needed
to reshoot the scenes again. We were a bit downcast at ‘losing time’ but in fact it turned out for the best as
Philip decided that he wanted to take a different approach to his role and he was more comfortable with his revised performance.
Tuesday also saw the crew grow by one additional member---Alice Thomas joined in and provided able assistance with various
tasks as well as operating the clapboard (slate) for all our scenes.
|Philip as "Stan"
Tuesday went by in a blur---but
our planning was paying off---by the end of the day we had master shots and a variety of medium/close up shots for almost
every scene. Wednesday morning we shot the final scenes and then a series of cutaways. We packed up and bid adieu to the clubhouse.
The production is now in editing,
and the footage is being made available, along with a copy of the shooting script, to club members who want to take a shot
at editing. We hope this has been a positive and fun learning experience for all involved.
|Annie --- as "Olive"
Look for Gin and Tonic coming
to a contest near you…!