As with the writing of the previous year, the scenes I wrote during the school year of 2006-2007 were inspired by the film texts I had read and the movies I had seen since filming. After two years of filming, why would I still be writing scenes? I thought I was doing what was necessary to fill in gaps in the story. If I had been more knowledgeable of the screenwriting process, I would have eliminated superfluous scenes and not wasted the time filming them in the first place.
About half of what I wrote during this school year were scenes that fit between ones that had already been filmed and the other half continued the film from the end of what had been filmed.
Just like David Lean and James Bond had inspired my writing one year earlier, to this inspiration I had discovered the filmmaking of Blake Edwards and the film music of Henry Mancini. Both working together, and separately they had a profound impact on me.
The reader might be asking at this point, why did I continue to add scenes and not just call it good at this point? That is an excellent question and one that I may never be able to answer.
This day's filming included a scene from the very beginning of the film and another from much later in the film both involving my friend Craig and in the setting of my Dad's office. Since we used my Dad's own office for Slim's office set, we used my Dad's associate's office for Dr. Colossal. It required virtually no set decoration since it already looked like someone's personal office.
For the interview scene, we had two cameras. Because of the size of the office, there was no way to get Tubba and Dr. Colossal in the same shot, so we used a reverse shot instead, as if each shot was what the opposite character would be seeing. We then moved the two cameras and got close ups on Greg, who was a second interviewer and a shot of Craig and Greg together so they could exchange looks.
The next scene we filmed was a single shot of Craig speaking on the phone to Slim (a scene that was filmed early in the same summer). I would read Slim's lines from off camera so Craig had something to respond to on the phone. He did a great job reacting to a phone conversation that really wasn't happening.
As far as I can remember, this day of filming marked the last for the summer of 2006 as school started up again.
I'm actually leaving some days of filming out when sharing these stories become some entire days ended up in footage that I eventually decided to cut. Once again, complete the script before you begin filming!
This exciting day of filming began early in the morning. It had to because we were allowed to film at a local Wendy's, but it had to be before they opened around 10AM. I believe this was a Sunday morning. I was so thrilled--we were filming in a real Wendy's. A family friend is the manager and he gave us permission to use the space.
The scene began with Slim entering the restaurant and ordering some food. The menu has changed in over 10 years of course, but at the time they only had options 1-9, so the joke was that Slim could not order a number 10. Today he could probably go up to number 20! I was planning on one of my friends to play the cashier, but when she became unavailable, I asked any of the Wendy's employees if they would like to be featured in Slim. One woman was eager to do it and she was fabulous. The service she gave to Slim's character would make Wendy's Corporation proud. Once she completed her scene, everyone present gave her a standing ovation.
The second part of the scene was to have Slim meet with Captain Sudden. However, Matt forgot about our filming date and was unable to be there. Creativity thrives on the unexpected. We solved our dilemma with having another actor in a Nunzie costume with his back to the camera and for Slim to finish the conversation on the phone.
With three costume changes, my Mom actually played three roles in the same scene. She can be glimpsed as a driver dropping Slim off at Wendy's. She causes Slim to wait in line while placing her order. Finally, she is a spy sitting behind Slim and listening in on his conversation.
A few years after filming these scenes at Wendy's, the particular franchise was awarded a complete renovation. The restaurant was closed for about 3 months. They demolished the entire building and built a brand new one in the same location. Because of this scene, I will always remember this Wendy's the way it was.
Filming on this day was very mixed up. We began by filming a scene from Part II of Slim, then filmed a scene that takes place right after the very first scene filmed the previous year, and then finished with scenes that take place after the first scene filmed that day. If this doesn't make sense to you, don't worry, it doesn't make much sense to me either.
The first scene takes place at a prison camp where Tubba is forced to clean a pool. We were at my friend Mike's house for the full day and filmed on the deck of his pool. It was raining so none of us wanted to swim for fun.
The next scene moved to Mike's backyard, but at a different angle than the Excavation Site scenes filmed there the previous summer. As I mentioned in a previous post, even though this scene was a follow up to the tractor chase, my Dad had sold the original tractor. So we used Mike's Dad's completely different looking tractor instead. This is what you do when you have no budget. I was very picky with this scene. First take, I didn't like the lighting. Second take, I didn't like the angle. Third take, I didn't like the amount of camera movement. The fourth take was just right, or else I just gave up.
For the rest of the scenes on this day, we relocated to a field beyond Mike's back woods. Apparently, someone else owned the land but didn't care if anyone else used it, or so I was told. What I liked about the field was that it had some hills so characters could be together all on one level or be staggered, depending on what was called for.
We didn't have a generator like big time film crews, so for lighting, we had to rely on one of those battery operated spotlights that you would use on your car in an emergency. The camera had to operate on battery, so this gave a limit to the amount of time we could spend filming. When you have a time limit like this, first takes often seem to be better than usual.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, my friend Greg became involved as a performer in Slim. The Gravel Pit scene was one of his character's shining moments. I believe all the script had for this scene was one line. Something like "Baghead chases Slim, they have a big fight, and Slim finally wins". With so much clear direction for the scene (haha), most of the sequence was improvised.
My friend Annie knew of a large gravel pit in the area that many people used for 4 wheeling. The location was perfect. We were there mid afternoon, and the sun seemed right in the perfect place in the sky. The center point of this location was a massive metallic structure complete with conveyor belts and tanks. Surrounding this structure was cast off pieces of metal and hills and hills of gravel. The area was perfect for wide shots of characters running and not seeming to get anywhere.
Climbing up these piles of gravel proved difficult. You had to run fast enough so that you would make upward progress before your feet would sink in the gravel. It also meant you had to run the camera up like that to get shots from on top of the piles of gravel.
The funniest memory I have of that day is when Slim's hat fell off the catwalk at the top of the structure and onto a conveyor belt below. In my Slim costume, I was too bulky to climb down and get it, so Greg had to sneak down and retrieve it.
The title sounds like a hospitality review site, but it is actually the settings of the scenes filmed within one day.
My friend Rickey's family had a large guest room in their house. It had a pair of twin beds that looked like it could be a hotel room. Years later, I ended up cutting most of the hotel scenes, but they were still an enjoyable experience for my friends involved in the shoot. This was at a time when most consumer level cameras still recorded video on tapes. Each tape could hold an hour of video at most. For all the filming, we must have used about 25 tapes. I mention this now because one tape ran out in the middle of a career-highlight performance at this hotel setting. Not really, it was simply a shot of Slim trying to get into bed at the hotel. To change the tape, the camera had to be removed from the tripod, turned upside down, the first tape was then ejected vertically and the second tape fell into place.
Rickey's family also owned and operated a Japanese Restaurant (today they own and operate Yoshi Restaurant, which is the best Japanese restaurant in Maine). They were very kind to allow us to film at their restaurant before it opened for lunch. As a zero budget film, the important thing to keep in mind while filming at this unopened restaurant was that every other table was empty. We were careful (mostly) to aim the camera away from the other empty tables. Some carefully placed crowd sounds helped the illusion as well. The best part about filming at this restaurant was that we were given free food to eat as we worked. I cannot overstate how generous Rickey's family is.
I first met my friend Greg in Preschool when we were both 3 years old. In Second Grade, his family moved to Minnesota for his Dad's work. Later, they moved to Tennessee. Fortunately, they returned to Maine when we were both beginning our Sophomore year of high school. With Greg's return, he became very involved in the production of Slim, both in front of and behind the camera.
When his family moved back, they bought a large new home. His house was perfect to represent the interior of Varvara's mountain estate. The entryway is huge and made for a wonderful first impression of the scene. The stairs in the house had more than one landing and the railing over the second ending made a perilous shot during a fight scene.
We used the dining room for our characters' dinner conversation. One funny thing was that they had not yet finished painting the last wall of the dining room. So that made for a comic shot of all the paint buckets and an unfinished wall. My friend Angel loaned us a dress for Kalee to wear for the dinner scenes. This made for a dramatic transformation from the Nunzie outfit. We had two cameras (one on each character), but still used several takes in order to get coverage using different angles.
We also used the kitchen for when Slim needed to make a phone call. There was a large island in the center which made a convenient spot for characters to sit after the phone call. The scenes of Dr. Colossal on the other end of the phone were not yet filmed so I had to react to what the character would be saying according to the script.
Overall, Greg's house made a convenient location and we spent a full day completing a lot of scenes that made the final cut.
When I say that this film developed with me, I mean it literally. What the film was at the beginning of writing was not what it was by the end of filming. But I guess this is a cliche.
Two things happened my Sophomore year of high school that influenced Slim. One, I discovered James Bond reruns. I appreciated how many locations each Bond movie used. I wanted Slim to travel the world like James Bond--an out of shape, awkward James Bond.
The second influence on me was seeing epic roadshow films. Unfortunately, we don't use the word roadshow much anymore. It basically describes how a film was presented. Instead of cramming in as many showings in a day as possible, a theater would show a film maybe three times a day. The format of the film itself would almost always include an overture, intermission, entr' acte, and exit music. Check out The American Widescreen Museum for great information about roadshow presentations.
For me, I was introduced to the roadshow format through a school paper I wrote on the historical accuracy of film. The research introduced me to two of the greatest films of all time, Gone With The Wind (1939) and Doctor Zhivago (1965). They were such a great influence on me that I decided Slim would be a sprawling epic with an overture, intermission, entr'acte, exit music, and a 3+ hour runtime (yikes)! The film in my head became like David Lean meets Blake Edwards--what a combination!
The entire script I had written in 2005 really became just Part I of the overall script by the summer of 2006. After the intermission, Slim ends up across the world and on further adventures. This change in direction led me to film more in the second summer of production than I had in the first summer. Did I mention how important it is to have a complete script before production starts?
For the scenes between Slim and his boss, Dr. Colossal, a group of us invaded my Dad's office. I wanted Slim's own office to be messy. The funny thing is, the only items we had to bring in to add to the atmosphere were candy wrappers and "artifacts".
Across from the desk was a wall of file cabinets. This left us with very little space to maneuver the camera. Since I was going for a classic film making style, using a tripod was perfect for static dialogue shots. The only issue was that we couldn't really get both characters in the same shot. It would look silly for them to be on the same side of the desk, and we couldn't get the camera far enough back to capture both from across the desk.
Craig did a fabulous job as Dr. Colossal. He kept a straight face no matter what was happening. He would freely improvise and it was hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him.
By the end of that first summer of filming, we had spent about 9 days filming and had accumulated about 3 hours of footage. I had no idea how much more was to come in the next summer.
Filming in public is always an experience. Especially, when you are wearing stuffing to appear fat. We had permission from my Dad's building manager to film in the alley around his building, but any pedestrian passing by would still enjoy the view of a misshapen man with a big hat and his blanket wearing friend.
There were five of us working on this day's scenes and I believe that each person had a turn operating the camera, for better or for worse. The alley scene involved a lot of traveling shots. Not having a Steady Cam made this difficult so, as always when there is no budget, we got creative with how we filmed. Instead of one long take down one alley and around the corner to the next alley, we split the movement into several takes and interspersed shots of Nunzies in pursuit.
At one point, Slim's large pants came unpinned (I had to pin them to fit around my waist), and it took the help of two friends to readjust Slim's pants and Slim's fat. At one point during the struggle with the fat, I yelled out "I can't get it up!" and then realized what I had said.
By the end of filming in the alley, a group of shady women came outside their place of employment to smoke. One of them said "I don't want that camera on me" and I could confidently say "don't worry, it won't be" (gag).
After the alley filming was done, we traveled to my house to film some "mansion" interiors. My house is not large, but once again strategy and creativity make miracles happen. In order to make it appear like more than two stories, we simply filmed characters walking up the same set of stairs several times to look like multiple floors. We placed the camera in the farthest corner of the living room and arranged the furniture to make it appear as a large bedroom.
By coincidence, my parents were planning on replacing the carpets, which of course included ripping up the old ones. As a bunch of high schoolers, we could not pass up this opportunity. We incorporated ripping up the rug in the scene. Unfortunately, we became a little overenthusiastic in our rug ripping and we ending up knocking over an end table and a lamp. Luckily, nothing was broken, but it was a funny moment looking back.