The wonderful production of “Wonderful”: Part Three

Travis, Mark, and Andrew strike a pose

This is part three of a four-part series. Check out part one and part two!

Shooting in the countryside had its challenges, but they were nothing compared to shooting in the wilderness of Manhattan, and the Pocanos part of the shoot was much more laid back.

With hats made of fruit and clothing items designed to get dirty, we didn’t know what would happen and shooting in chronological order helped avoid a continuity nightmare. On a shoot with limited time and first-time actors, I would always recommend this method if possible; it also was easier to keep everyone on the same page.

We were lucky in that Mark lives in a stunning area of the Pocano mountains, Delaware Water Gap. It’s a shocking 90 minutes from Manhattan, and about 300 light years as well. The cool breeze promised mountains and fresh air – and rain, lots and lots of rain.

Our first shot was in a brambly patch of woods. Zack and I went down early to begin setting up, putting up colorful tape. It was as we were almost finished that Zack said, “is that poison ivy?” Shit.

We all agreed that the answer was “I don’t know but probably not” and continued on. The actors got into position and we shot a few takes, every once in a while stopping for poison ivy-related tasks. We googled it on our phones, called a knowledgeable friend or two, stared at it a bit, went from “no it’s not” to “I’m feeling itchy” to “let’s just finish this and then bathe” to “no it can’t be, there’s no poison ivy here is there Mark?” “yeah there’s a lot” “what ?!!”

In retrospect I don’t think it was; we showered after the shot and continued on.

The next challenge was the impending threat of shoot-ending camera-wrecking thunderstorm doom. I checked the weather forecast compulsively which was, of course, always wrong. We spent our break times with one person watching the Weather Channel and one at a computer, arguing whether it was about to pour or clear skies.

When shooting the next scene we heard thunder and began to feel rain; Vadim pulled out a tarp and we headed into “thunderstorm pace,” where
a scene that would have taken 40 minutes to shoot was magically completed in 10 through a combination of panic, attentiveness, and sacrifice of vision. The rising call of the weekend became “why can’t we be doing this at thunderstorm pace?” the answer to which was, of course, because we are trying to make it look stunning.

We dodged the rain, taking shelter during the bad pours (not very much of it) and using umbrellas and tarps for the light drops.

We got to play with silly string, bubbles, and lots and lots of paint. Lots. Of paint. It was so much fun mixing colors, throwing it on trees
and body parts. Tempura paint did pretty much everything we wanted it to and was so sensual on camera. Primary colors
turned to secondary colors, water poured on them made the paint run down their bodies, and Vadim captured it beautifully. Mark used his first guitar for the shoot, which no longer worked. By the end it looked like a work worthy of MoMA.

Attention and energy waxed and waned, but overall we kept up fun-loving and hard-working attitudes. There were very few arguments and those that we had were resolved quickly. Working as a part of this team, I understood my role as a director in a way I haven’t on smaller projects. The crew wanted the video made, and made as well as possible, and they were trusting me not only in my vision, but to be
authoritative and direct the days. It didn’t feel at all like a power trip, it felt like naturally stepping into one of the roles on the set, with its own duties and expectations. On past shoots time had not been so short and peoples’ roles had been more amorphous, so I did not feel the ins and outs of the director’s role so acutely.

The last day ended with an anticlimax as Vadim announced that we had no more light left to film. There were a few more shots that I would have liked to get, but such is life (our second day’s call time was 7:30 so I bumped back the third day to 11:30 to keep the crew sane, giving us a lot less time.) Mark’s parents served us the most delicious dinner and we rapidly said our goodbyes, some leaving to New York and two staying in PA for the night to bond with Mark’s parents and take the bus in the morning.

This is my career experiment; I’m not trying to work my way up through a career ladder, but rather doing exactly what I want to be doing and hoping to do it at a high level. I’ve been told that this is the only way to make it in film, and I believe that to be the case – that at some point, an amateur has to take the reigns of a film in order to become an expert.

If you are still reading after these three long entries (bless you, you must be really bored at work) I’ll tell you about my thought experiment. Before the video I was in a panic about whether or not everything would go through and we would get everything we wanted, and I considered: what if somebody told me that no matter what I did, it was predetermined that the video would not be successful and in all my endeavors I would fail. How would I do things differently? It’s a great thought experiment because it asks, why *else* are you doing all this? My goal, then, would be to have fun with the film and see it as an expression of our mutual friendship and collaboration. Walking to the car that last night, I felt the camraderie and tried to hold it, feeling that this was the essence of what we were trying to do.



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