Tales From The Big Chair: I’m a Problem Child

Finally recovered from Texas Frightmare Weekend hangover, filmmaker Shawn Ewert once again takes us down into the filmmaking trenches.

Eddie Murphy? Cillian Murphy? Murphy Brown? I’m not sure who it belongs to, but I know it’s a law that basically says anything that can go wrong, will. Truer words have never been spoken when it comes to filmmaking. I have never heard of a single film going the way it was planned, or a production that did not have a whole host of problems. Here we are, two weeks into production on Sacrament. Why should we be any different?

Day one is always stressful. You are trying to get into the right headspace, trying to get all of the cast and crew on the same page, and the paperwork…dear lord, the paperwork. No matter how much paperwork you took care of ahead of time, there is always more. Thankfully, we have some wonderful folks to help take care of that on set which leaves me free to unleash the full power of my control-freakish inner demons.

After we decided on where and how to best shoot a couple of scenes and what lighting would be best, we finally got down to the fun part – shooting the film. The first shots went off great, and everyone got to relax enough to get into their respective grooves. The cast really shined as we let them do their thing. After a few scenes were shot, we ran into our first medium-sized problem. More to the point, it ran into the script supervisor’s car.

To keep things consistent, and cut down on some costs, we decided to use my truck in the film for one of the characters. After showing one of the actors where I wanted the car to be, I handed them the keys and I walked back inside to help set up the shot. After a couple of minutes, I started hearing a commotion, and people were going outside. Wondering what’s going on,  I go outside, and I see my truck has backed up, but not moved in the forward direction. Apparently, my truck had been backed into the bumper of our script supervisor, leaving a dent big enough for two fists and then some. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Everyone was very cool about the whole thing, and the police were there pretty much immediately. Wait, did I mention our first shoot was at a police station?

The rest of that weekend went off, pretty much without a hitch. A few delays thanks to Mother Nature, but no more accidents. After a long day of shooting, we finally headed home for some well-earned rest. Of course, I was so amped by day one excitement, I couldn’t sleep. I was, and am, so proud of our cast and crew. They did a wonderful job, and I could not ask for a better group of people to work with.

Week two brought us a very different kind of problem. We worked for months on pre-production of the film, and had everything lined up right where we needed it. Literally two days before we were going to start shooting week two, I got an email from the owner of one of our locations telling me there was a problem. No big deal, I am a pretty smart guy (I think) and we can find a solution to the problem.

Apparently, a false alarm had gone off at the property, prompting the fire department to come out. It happens, but obviously it’s a waste of the fire department’s time. When they came out, however, they found problems with the property. Again, it happens, but it should not have really affected us. That is, until someone opened their mouth to an already angry fire marshal about a movie being shot on the location. After about 50 emails between the owner, the city, me and our location scouts it was really not looking good. We were going to have to find another location. Adding to this the damage tornadoes had done to the town, we had to hustle like mad to find another location.

It turns out that finding empty hospitals that will allow you to film is not an easy task. There are many, MANY empty hospitals in Dallas/Fort Worth, but trying to find the owner, and then trying to convince them to turn the electricity on for two days was tuning out to be a much harder prospect than we thought. Thankfully, one of our scouts knew someone that had a location that was not too far off from what we were looking for. Basing our decision on a few photos, and a desperate need of a location, we rescheduled everyone for the new joint.

As it turned out, the problems with the previous location could not have been more of a blessing. The new location ended up being better than I could have hoped. Not only was the location almost perfect for the scenes, the person running it was incredible. We had to start a little later than we wanted to, and we ran later than we had planned, but everyone pitched in and we got it done.

So here I sit, waiting for week three to get started. This will be our first week with our group of lead actors. Last minute problems be damned, this weekend will be amazing. We have a great crew working with us, and I could not be more proud of the work everyone is doing. When people come in and give it 150%, you cannot help but push yourself to the limits for them too.

Shawn Ewert
Born and bred in North Texas, Shawn started writing short stories at a tender age. Following a deep love of film of every kind, he was encouraged to pursue his love of writing. Growing up during the heyday of the slasher film in the 80's, Shawn immediately developed an affinity for horror films that bordered on obsession.

Currently, Shawn is working on a number of different projects. Focusing his energies on Texas indie films, he moves from writing to directing, acting to set photography, and even catering film shoots to move into any role he is needed on set.

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