It gets real for me when I start buying things like clothes hangers. That means that a shoot is nigh more than anything else. Of course, there is a script and a vague kind of schedule, but beyond that, there is an agreement between all of the disparate parties we've assembled that this will happen relatively soon. When I know this is a certainty, my mind jumps to things that have been a source of problems during past shoots.
I can't say it often enough. If a film has a tiny budget, it behooves producers to make sure that there are some amenities that make the actor feel like they are appreciated. We don't have a wardrobe person, but we should still have their costumes set up in their changing space in the best way possible so that they can be easily seen and used in proper order. That means clothes on hangers in the order worn. There should absolutely be dressing rooms available. Barring that, there should be a comfy room to hang out and run lines.
And then, there is the crafty and food issues which brings me to toasters. On both The Privateers and DemonUnder Glass, we didn't have the right or enough appliances. We had great coffee makers, but no electric kettle for hot water. We had a microwave but no toaster oven. You really need something to toast bagels or properly reheat a slice of pizza. These items seem unimportant compared to the script – and in some ways, they are not as important. Yet, I was still running around like crazy in drug stores in the middle of the night to make sure we had them on the craft service table the next day. Thus, I am picking up hangers and pricing small appliances for pick up very soon. It's great that it is back to school time. The sales are fantastic. What happens to the appliances after the shoot? We used to give them away to a member of the cast or crew or to a thrift shop and write it off. But now that we have a home for the production company, we'll just store it in our trash barrels (one for glass, one for paper and one for plastic and one for garbage) until the next shoot. I also must address the List of the Impossible ®.
The List of the Impossible is my own name to the elastic, seemingly trivial yet vitally important list of items that an actor, a director or various crew people may need. No one has this disparate grouping of items normally. No one. But film is a strange environment and sometimes requires a sack of goodies that would rival any in a video game. It can be a highlighter (you must have a variety of colors because the actor may hate yellow). I've been asked for cough drops (also keep a variety from the candy type to the all natural), band aids, antacids, herb tea, tooth brushes or dental floss, safety pins, mints, gum (mint and cinnamon for both of those and the dental floss). I had a lot of those items during the last shoot I worked on though it was not my job to be the List Keeper. I don't mind wearing this hat. I am a maniacal list keeper anyway, so this is easy. It's just weird when the bags of strange stuff start piling up around the apartment. There is only one item that I refuse to stock from the List and deliberately make difficult for actors to get – cigarettes. I feel almost as strongly about energy drinks, but I won't not carry them – yet. If they continue to make the crew cranky and a little crazy, I may ban them from my sets.
I assemble these things well in advance, because once the train gets going, there is very little time to think about anything more than the stuff that is on camera. Please note, that this is true only when it is a tiny budget. In big budgets, there are people assigned to fill these lists and get these appliances for Craft Services. The list for Craft Services itself is a whole other matter. I deal with that as a function of feeding the cast and crew. Since I am now a pro-am chef (I am being paid to cook on a limited and exclusive basis), I will be feeding them as well as running sound and other production tasks.
Next Time – What is in the new script?!