The wonderful production of “Wonderful”: Part Two

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

Mark and his posse pose for the camera.

The call on Sunday, our first day, was 11:00 AM, and I was up at 8 buying a few last minute items. We had stored some things at my friend Josh’s apartment (thanks Josh!) and went to pick them up and meet on 47th and 10th near a small park. There was a slight chance of rain, but that wasn’t bothering me; what was bothering me was the forecast of pouring thunderstorms for the next two days, when we were going to try and depict a lush countryside where it was *not* raining. I tried to put it out of my mind as Mia got the cast into costume and makeup and Vadim and I scouted for the right sidewalk to shoot on. We decided on 48th and 9th Avenue, which looked better than the original location but had more people.

When we began shooting I quickly started to regret moving closer to the action. Shooting four people walking down the sidewalk with the camera walking backwards was hard enough. Doing it while blocking access to an entire city block, with our resources, was next to impossible. We had one person on either side of the block, two when we could afford the manpower. But try asking native New Yorkers not to cross the street, or to wait a minute before doing so or take an alternate route. Reactions were varied but we quickly learned a few new ways to say “fuck you.”

Noya and Pao

We had other challenges to overcome. The batteries for the camera did not store as much juice as we had hoped and we needed to begin charging two of them immediately. Toby valiantly went from restaurant to restaurant looking for a place to charge them, finally finding one until they changed their minds an hour later. Noya and Katherine, our female PA, were much luckier. Katherine found a very willing restauranteur and Noya had befriended the staff at a Dunkin Donuts who happily let us charge one battery. This proves once again that charm is nothing compared to having boobs.

The guys at Dunkin Donuts liked us so much that they invited us to hang out in the store on breaks; we’d acquired a break room! It was such a relief – we were dying in the 90°-plus heat. Mark had to wear a buttoned-up heavy leather jacket for the whole shoot, popping it on before shots and throwing it off with a gasp of relief after I said “cut.” Noya’s denim jacket was sweltering.

The Dunkin Donuts guy asked if he could film us working, and I was more than happy to oblige. What harm could some footage of us on YouTube do? Then, in the middle of a shot, I noticed that he was standing right there on the sidewalk pointing the camera at us. It really killed the cinema verité and we had to reshoot…

Many New Yorkers seemed on a mission to get in our shot, or at the least to tell us off and show their ability to walk down the street. Aside from the classic “you can’t stop me fom walking” crowd, there were the crazies. One woman dressed head to toe in green with a guitar over her back in a bright green case passed the same intersection three times. An elderly man walked in circles about 15 feet in front of the camera and got increasingly agitated every time we asked him to move. His positioning next to us was definitely accidental..I don’t think he really knew there was a camera. The greatest moments were when I noticed a person who was about to enter the shot and had to yell “excuse me” at the last minute, usually accompanied by a light touch/shove. With a pop song blaring and three people walking backwards with a camera, the more intelligent New Yorkers figured it out pretty quickly.

We're makin a video!

zomg we're making a video!

Halfway through the day we moved to a crosswalk near Circle Line tours on the west side. I’d chosen the speific location for the afternoon light that washes beautifully over the characters, which it fit the hyperreal sepia look we were going for.

You’d think that dealing with scores of tourists next to a busy tour line would be a challenge, but you’d be wrong. Tourists visit New York with the expecting to be ordered around like cattle and told where to stand, and we were happy to oblige. We easily blocked off a whole crosswalk and several lanes of traffic through a parking lot!  The biggest disturbance was one group who thought we were shooting a video for the Jonas Brothers. After the shoot Mark’s dad gave us a ride to Delaware Water Gap, PA, where his parents had set up a sweet living situation for us.

Driving to PA in Mark’s father’s Winnebago, I felt good about what we had achieved. I said many times before the shoot that having all those moving parts was streasful and I couldn’t wait until the footage was captured and it was just me and my laptop. As soon as the shoot began, though, I found I was reveling in the group creating and having fun. A previous sense of panic had been replaced by an (eerie?) calm. Though business was on my mind, I was also having a blast being around and working with my friends.

We pulled into Mark’s driveway and I tried not to think about the rain forecasted for the next day.

Our all star crew for the day:
Mark Fagnano (Assistant Director / lifesaver)
Vadim Putimtsev (DP)
Mia Bienovich (costumes/set/makeup)
Han Fang Pao (assistant camera) (
Mark Williams (singer extraordinaire)
Noya Areto (beautiful woman)
Andrew Burten and Travis Erickson (sexy men)
Zach Charles (everything awesomeness man)
Toby Cohen and Katherine Atwill (PAs)

Yeah we found a limo. Yeah we took a picture.



One Comment to “The wonderful production of “Wonderful”: Part Two”

  1. […] one of four. Skip to part two.) Noya covered in […]

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