Sunday, March 8, 2009

I Love The Letter "O"

Here's a bit we did for Between The Lions back in the day.  Directed by Jesse Gordon, Pilar Newton did the animation.

It looks simple, right?  Just some kids running around in "slop".

From a producing point-of-view, live action creates a whole slew of hassles.

Start with casting.  This is a union show, but a kids' show -on PBS.  The rate is as low as you can get.  Matthew Messinger helped with the casting.  It's appropriately gender/race diverse.  Christopher Youngsman did a great job as "Sloppy Pop".  The cop, Bill Buell, has done a lot of New York based work; commercials, indie films, procedural dramas.  The kid was OK because it was summer and school was out.  Plus it was only like a two hour call for him.

Oh, now I remember the drummer's agent was a pain in the ass.  But the actor was great.

Next is costuming.  We wound up getting Star Trek shirts and sewing "Sloppy Pop" onto them.  They had the right color and fabric quality and were the right price.  The cop costume was rented. 

A couple points of note on police uniforms -in New York City, at least.  You're not supposed to have a badge with numbers on it.  I think I've seen these on TV shows, but can't be sure.  They may get a dispensation.  Also, and more importantly, if you've got an actor playing an officer -you must have an actual officer on set.  There's logic to this.  If a passerby sees the "officer" and needs help, there will be a real officer there to respond.  The NYPD provides an off-duty officer "free".  And by "free", I mean with a negotiated non-taxable gratuity.

Props.  The drumkit was borrowed from Rubulad when Sari and Chris were renting the space on S. 6 in Williamsburg.  Alex Reshanov loaned the red guitar.  If I recall correctly, Ted Casterline and/or Aaron Carroll made the O and the P.  Swimming pools were from Toys "R" Us.

Now location.  This was a bit of an issue.  We wanted a clear space that looked like it could be a busy street, but for obvious reasons wasn't too busy.  We wanted something interesting and imposing in the background.  We needed easy access to facitilities and water.  The original idea, if I recall correctly, was to shoot in front of the New York Public Library.  That was not in the cards -too busy, other issues.

So we went for the location I wanted -the Brooklyn Public Library on Grand Army Plaza.  Eventually they acquiesced after raising the location fee during our discussion and being generally stingy with their resources.  Like they wouldn't give us any space to base ourselves in.  I had to convince a maintainence guy to let us use the spigot outside.  I mentioned this to Chris Cerf as some point and he was shocked, since the Brooklyn Library was a partner of the show.

The biggest headache factor in live action production is the least controllable.  Consider all of the above issues:  coordinating the schedules of 6 actors, a few of whom have day jobs, a supervising officer, a snarly library, plus all of the usual rentals and behind the scenes details.  If it rains, though, you're out for the day and have to reschedule everything.

And it rained.

Everything was kept in my apartment on 8th Street in Gowanus.  The night before, Alex and I took a midnight trip to Pathmark to get treats and lunch and breakfast.  On these low budget shoots, that's my favorite part.  Getting and preparing the food.

What you really want to know, I know, "how did you make all that slop?"

Oatmeal, uncooked, mixed with blue and green food coloring and water.  Jaime Elderidge was in charge of making the slop.  She created 432 gallons for the shoot.

Epilogue.  After this shoot, Jesse directed and shot for a Bill Maher promo.  Despite professional cleaning, there was a little spec lodged in the corner of the frame.  Oatmeal in the gate. 

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