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Andy Graham August 11th, 2006 06:27 PM

Bizzare, strange, downright bad luck of filmmakers
This thread is dedicated to the most bizzare, strange coincidental and the downright bad luck of filmmakers.

We have now shot our second feature length film and i'd like to talk about fate for a minute. In our field we are at the mercy of so many things natural and uncontrolable, i am absolutely certain that there are some great stories out there about shoots gone wrong...shoots gone absolutely disasterousley and shoots gone freakishly perfectly.

I for one would like to hear them!

I'll start with my first film "Roslyn" which is set in the woods....we had a prime beautifull location scouted out near my home. I had played in it as a child many years ago and it was our primary location where the bulk of filmming would take place.... it had stood for as long as i can remember and in the two weeks we had planned to shoot it was completely chopped down!. But that is not all, we also had the worst recorded downpour of rain recorded in 80 years... a flood even noah himself would have been scared of!.

Anyway are we alone here?...


K. Forman August 11th, 2006 06:38 PM

I wrote a feature length story, that was inspired by a small town, about 40 miles west of me. It was really little more than a 3 way intersection with a flashing light and gas station. Apparently, it grew up quite a bit over the past couple of years since I drove through it last, totally blowing the setting I needed.

That the stuff you want to hear?

Andy Graham August 11th, 2006 06:52 PM

well kind of... more like things that happen on a shoot that is set i.e actors booked ,holidays taken, money spent etc the "get it now or never" kind of shoot when you just cannot plan for acts of god or otherwise.

When you are presented with an impossible situation that you have to fix in the next 20 minutes... that kind of thing

Guerilla filmmaking at its best

K. Forman August 11th, 2006 06:55 PM

That whole movie was cursed from the start. Everybody loved it, yet I just couldn't get it off the ground. I rented a suite to hold auditions over a weekend. I had over 200 folks respond that they wanted a part. When it came down to audition time, I had a whopping 11 people show, a good 30 short of what I needed.

Andy Graham August 11th, 2006 07:04 PM

11 out of 200 is harsh man!.

cursed is a good word and they should teach it at film schools all over the world!

They should have a "what to do in a jam" course or somethin!

They teach you what to do if someone is stabbed in the neck with a screwdriver but not what to do if an actor says they're "uncle has had a heart attack" and they leave you needing an actor in the next 10 minutes!

K. Forman August 11th, 2006 07:50 PM

That is why the theater uses understudies. Hmmm... ;)

Cole McDonald August 11th, 2006 07:56 PM

In my feature that is currently in post...first day of shoot:

1) DoP fell off a ladder and was laid up for a week (had to run the camera myself...no option to reschedule)

2) Boom operator was trapped in his driveway by a parade that he was unaware of...my kids were in that parade (I went to others during the season).

3) Lead actor's pipes burst and flooded his basement...he was late

Throughout the shoot:

1) schedule slipped (my fault)

2) Riverfront beautification project blocked the shot with wild flowers I had planned during my location scout the year before.

3) DoP had relatives pass away

4) DoP had his daughter hit by a car (she's fine)

5) Lead actress cut her hair in the middle (drastically)

6) Lead actor shaved (I learned to make fake beards really quickly)

7) Sunset doesn't include the treeline :(

8) Many days rushing to beat the rain.

9) Crack house (?) across the street from location had an hour long fight outside...we broke for lunch (the DP caught some of it on tape ;) ).

10) 'B' camera had a finger print on the lens... on the inside of the back element. Ebay is hazardous sometimes :( It looked fine through the viewfinder...footage is contrasty and noisy...clock battery was dead too, so every battery change had us resetting the frame mode and everything else, would have been good to know up front.

End result:

We learned so much on this shoot that made it all worth it...that was the point of the shoot...end goal...to shoot a feature that I can enter into festivals (permissions correct and finished product - acheivable).

Kept going through anyway...did most of the technical side myself as the director...liked having a crew though...much less to think about.

Jeff Cottrone August 11th, 2006 11:23 PM

I have a few from the short film I did last winter. We had like ten shooting days spread over five months. Most of the problems happened b/c, as it turns out, actors have lives outside my film. And weather sucks too.

--I filmed in November on the back side of a downtown building and there was no snow. But two weeks later when I was scheduled to shoot the front of the building, which in the movie is moments apart, there was snow everywhere. Reschedule. Reshoot. Change script.

--We were scheduled to shoot (and, btw, the real bitch of all this is scheduling. it is not easy to pull people together, and then you finally do, and something happens to ruin it and make you do it all over again), but the scene was on the roof of a 20 floor downtown building. In November. We needed no rain, no snow, no wind, and a miracle. We got rain, snow, sleet, wind, and no shoot. Reschedule. Reshoot. Learn how a green screen works.

--My lead actor was obsessed over a girl who just cheated and broke up with him. But then she decided she didn't like the new guy either. So my actor would call off scheduled shoots (the night before) whenever she wanted to hang out. What can I do? He's working for free. And we already had too much filmed to pick someone else. Reschedule.

--The other lead showed up like five shooting days in with a brandy new Florida suntan and longer sideburns. He figured people go on vacation in real life. There's tanning beds. Hair grows. What's the big deal? But, I explained, how many people do you know who leave one room and enter the next room with a sudden suntan and longer sideburns. He didn't quite get the concept of moviemaking. Well, the real problem was...he was also the one who showed up five shooting days in, and he says...(I'll never forget this)..."so...what's this story all about, anyway?"

--Oh, yeah, btw, the first thing my actors would do when arriving on set is read the scene we were shooting (for the first time) so they could memorize their lines. One might think, well, why did I cast them? Because they were perfect for the role. The real irony of all this was that they WERE the roles. This is exactly what my characters would do and be like in real life. So the joke's on me for writing those characters. Yeah, real funny.

--Another actor shaved his goatee without checking with me. It was five months apart from his two scenes, but only seconds apart in the movie. Luckily, it was a minor part, so we just shot it again.

--One time I had a scene with four actors, which I tried to schedule for weeks but it kept falling through. Then finally the night arrived, but, of course, as it turned out, things went wrong at the last minute and they could each only be there for short times, of which, only about ten minutes overlapped. So I got two wide takes of everyone in the room and the rest of it was filmed one or two at a time. Not nearly as planned. But it cut together.

--This is a good one: I had a scene with three ninjas w/ M16's (fake, of course) who are scripted to pull up in a white van on Main Street in downtown Rochester, jump out of the van, and storm into the building. I figured, I had the building release signed, if we do it late, I think I can get two or three quick takes without any major hubub. I mean, people rob banks for real and get away with it. We can watch out for cops. So...the joke's on me, again, because I didn't realize our scheduled ninja night was the same night as a huge rap concert at the nearby Arena. So when I looked outside the lobby doors to check it out, five cops cars went by in like two minutes. They were everywhere. But, being stubborn, and inexperienced, and impatient, I didn't want to postpone the shoot. Winter was coming. We had to get this in. So I told the ninjas to wait inside the lobby, NOT in front of the glass doors, while I pulled the van around. Well, by the time I pulled the van around, three cop cars were on the sidewalk in front of the building. One of my ninjas was walking outside toward them, M16 in hand (no mask, thankfully). Luckily, he looks like a complete goofball and the cop knew it wasn't real. So I approached this rather good hearted cop (considering the situation) and explained what was going on, and showed him the building release. They kind of got a kick out of it, scolded us for being stupid, then made me call 911 to report what we were doing so they could be dispatched to the scene. They also told me the real reason they came over there in the first place was because someone had just called in a bomb threat on the pay phone out front of the building. Because they had so many cops in the area for the rap show, two of them actually pulled their cop cars out of my way and supervised the whole thing. Three takes anyway.

--One last bit: oh, I forgot my actress called off a shoot one day because she got in a minor car accident on the way (not hurt). Reschedule.

--But the one day I was worried about from the get-go was the last day of shooting. It was the lobby scenes where I needed like 15-20 extras to just walk in the background and make the lobby look populated. As you might imagine, not the easiest roles to fill for free. So I called upon my family, of course, who are obligated, but also my extended family and friends and such, who are not. This was the one day I kept repeating to my Bad News actors that no one could call off. You must show up. This was the one day nothing could go wrong. Except, until now, every single freaking time we were scheduled to shoot, something significant would go wrong. I never worry (b/c it's pointless) but I couldn't stop worrying about this. I would be exhausting my list of people who would show up and do such a thankless role. This was my only shot at making this scene look real. So I pulled my two most unreliable actors aside and offered them $100 to show up that day on time, ready to go. But to keep quiet about the money. They couldn't understand why I was offering them money. I truly don't think they realized what a nightmare they were for me. All they ever did was show up, and unprepared at that. They had no idea how hard it was to pull all this together. Oh, and btw, my lighting guy backed out the first day of shooting, so I had to do that role too. And my sound guy, if you can call him that, sometimes wouldn't show up, or call, so I often had to tape a lav mic to the ceiling. Once, when my sound guy did show up, we were shooting this scene when I heard this bang in my headphones, so I looked over, and he fell asleep. The mic hit the wall as he slumped over on a stool. Granted, it was past midnight, but dang, you know, could anything else go wrong. Please? Anyway, for this last day of shooting, I kept repeating a billion times to my actors, if anything goes wrong, our movie is screwed. You have to show up. On time. Prepared. It's a long day. With lots of people. Please don't ruin the movie. And for the love of God, everyone showed up on time and nothing went wrong. The only frigin' day nothing went wrong. And the crazy thing is, even with all this crap, and there is more, and there is even more with this stupid computer and all the post-production disasters, even with all this, it came out pretty good. I'll post it sometime in the coming weeks. Geez, thanks for giving me this outlet. It was very therapeutic.

Andy Graham August 12th, 2006 03:30 AM

Jeff, Cole
thanks for that its good to know this crazy crazy stuff happens to other people aswell!.

This thread could be like a filmmakers AA meeting .....we'll all sit round in a circle and just let it all out and youl feel better, comforted in the knowlage that your not alone!

keep em' coming folks, these stories crack me up.


Mathieu Ghekiere August 12th, 2006 08:29 AM

A couple of years ago I was making one of my first shorts, for school, and I needed to have a car hitting a girl on a bike.
So we planned to 'edit' the accident, some close-ups, you know... no budget filmmaking at an early age.

Then we laid the bike in the ground next to a pretty high trafic (don't know the english term) street. So some cars passed over because they thought somebody was really injured...
Another stopped, then told us a couple of miles away, there was somebody REALLY hit by a car...
So then we moved over to a more quiet street, but there there were less street lights (it was a night shoot)... damn...

For another short, last year, I wanted to shoot in an old train station, ugly halls. 3 weeks before I go to shoot, they decide to paint the tunnel and make it nice and new looking... damn

Heath McKnight August 19th, 2006 08:58 PM

My advice is to ALWAYS make sure the location is secure and have a back-up ready to go. And write your indie films to be shot mostly inside, since none of us, not even the $135 million Miami Vice, can deal with weather.


Heath McKnight August 19th, 2006 09:13 PM

Hey everyone,

We moved the thread here, to our Techniques for Independent Production forum and re-named it so EVERYONE can post their indie production horror stories! Thanks to Chris Hurd!


Heath McKnight August 19th, 2006 09:16 PM

More tips:

1. Shoot the movie consecutively, not one day on, a week or two off, to keep them from cutting hair, dying, etc. (all that's happened to me on my shoots).

2. Understudies are a good thing! I'm trying to find a new actor after our schedule move got in the way of a play he's in.


4. Don't shoot the movie yourself, get a DP (unless the DP has worse luck than you, like what I read earlier in this thread).


6. Schedule, plan, plan, plan, and plan some more! You're going into battle. The more planned and prepared you are, the less you have to act like a producer and be more creative.

7. Have a shot list or storyboards, block EVERYTHING out BEFORE you get on set.


Heath McKnight August 19th, 2006 09:25 PM

Okay, my horror stories:

1. On my first film in college, back in 1995, we had NO actors, so we tried doing it ourselves. That didn't last. We re-cast and shot. We had to do one more day of production, not even a WEEK after the filming. And our actress dyed her hair! ARGH! (Halfway through the movie, it goes from natural blonde to red, outside, then blonde again.)

2. A feature we tried shooting over a summer on weird days off had stunts, too many characters, and the same actress I mentioned above who NEVER showed up. ARGH again! Feature never finished--we were shooting in 1997.

3. On the last day of production on a volcano spoof film I did (short, for college), my long-time girlfriend and I broke up, not even an hour after production.

4. On my first official feature, one of the actresses didn't show up one day, saying she was stuck at an airport. The next day, our MOST IMPORTANT and expensive day, at a movie theatre that was only closed that day in August 1999 (and major holidays), everything on the line, she said my co-writer bailed on her. We scrambled to find a replacement who was twice as old as the character, so we split the character into two. In the DVD doc on the film's history, we talk about it.

5. On my latest film, we had two false starts after two seperate investors backed out at the last minute. We hadn't cast last summer when we were promised money. We had cast this summer for the shoot. Fortunately, I was able to finance it, so we didn't lose any momentum. Unfortunately, the schedule change got in the way of my lead's play, so we're on the hunt for a new actor.

No matter what, try to avoid simple mistakes, and have a great time. But be quick to solve problems! Don't let it get you down. Have plan b's and c's ready to go!

This is a great thread!


Joe Carney August 19th, 2006 09:39 PM

Now we know why the big studios build sound stages and hire flesh eating lawyers. hehehe.

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