Thursday, October 7, 2010

Swordbearer-the final two shoots

Last monday and tuesday, the final two shoots for the Swordbearer film took place.

The location for both nights was the Cane Ridge Meeting House, which is one of Kentucky's most historical locations. Dating back to 1791, the place served as a spiritual meeting house, a function that it still has today. In order to preserve the timber building, a stone superstructure was erected over the entire meeting house. The meeting house itself included a wonderful room of timber, in which there is a raised dais fronted by a wide podium/counter. It is a two level structure, with a second level gallery.

For our purposes, the superstructure and the meeting house itself were incredibly appropriate for the council chamber and Ascendant's private apartment locations for Swordbearer.

Assistant producer and unit production manager Cara Worick identified this site, and arranged for the shoots to take place from 5pm onward on both nights. (pictured Cara Worick, taken by myself)

The first night involved the Moorkai council chamber scene, at which the mage DJEMO addresses the Moorkai council regarding the conflict between Jarl Suum and Jarl Thran.

The cast for the night involved Roni Jonah (Djemo), Sonny Burnette (Latacolc), Nathan Day (Solesan), Matthew Perry (Thran), Jason Crowe (Suum), Kala (Abby Cook), Jeslon (Corey Stringer), Mendani (Natasha Smith), Jalanin,(Courtney Lantz), a second Djemoan mage (Cara Worick), as well as additional council members Russ Croley, Tim Stamps, and some extras/observers that included Rick Lawing and Rocco Pepe. (photo of Jason Crowe, taken by myself)

Roni had a tough task for both nights, as the two scenes were dialogue intensive and a great proportion of the dialogue involved her character Djemo. Roni conducted the address of the council with a commanding presence and intensity.

We did do a few takes involving some improvisation between Baliak and Thran (John Wells and Matthew Perry), for consideration on a possible insert to go at the beginning of the scene. We did some improvisation between Margaret Edwards and Matt when we did the beach scene at Ft. Boonesborough, which turned out fantastic and is definitely going to make the final cut. The improvisation on Monday sounded fantastic as well, as Baliak and Thran engaged in some brief conversation prior to the convening of the council. I have great hopes for this segment also making the final cut. Working with actors of the caliber of John and Matt allows for attempts such as this, which has the potential of deepening the scene and character development when it works. (photo of John Wells as Baliak, taken by myself)

We got an extensive amount of coverage, including some really nice jib shots targeted for the beginning and end of the scene. The council members turned in a great performance, and our coverage included many individual shots of council reactions. Cinematographer Aaron Champion worked a lot of the night in a stabilization harness, while Sven Granlund ran a second camera.

Several new outfits were debuted from the costuming department, including Solesan's, Gomaton's, and Jeslon's. As has been the case with this production, costuming looked fantastic. Abby Cook and Maggie Miller really excelled with the custom designs that were used in these two shoots. (Photo of Corey Stringer as Jeslon, taken by myself)

The crew really flowed well, including some new faces, like Tim, who was our sound recordist for the two nights, as well as Daniel (who was an extra in our tavern scene), who stepped in to help AD and grip for the night. As always, Robin Blankenship was a big help, straddling the costuming department and production assistant duties. Justin Powell,wearing his trademark hat, was everywhere on the set with the setups, putting lighting and assembling the jib on the 2nd level gallery or positioning lighting on the first level. Both nights we accomplished our entire shot lists, including the addition of a couple of additional shots not on the original list, with an hour to spare in terms of our projected shoot times each night.

It was a rather cold night inside of the building, which under other circumstances might have turned into a negative, but the cast and crew continued to show the "can-do" spirit and endured the chill while maintaining a positive vibe. Of course, as always, I had Monster Energy Drinks close at hand (and so did John Wells, who also has superior taste in energy drinks) to assist!

Tuesday night we moved to one of the side apses in the stone superstructure building for a different scene. The apse had 3 tall arched windows, in which we placed banners reflecting the colors of House Suum and Dejmo. The scene called for only five actors, Sonny Burnette, Jason Crowe, Nathan Day, Ryan Buckley, and Roni Jonah, who had another night with extensive dialogue.

As with Monday's shoot, Roni turned in another excellent performance, displaying some great intensity that I really feel came through very well on the midshots and closeups. Sonny, Nathan, Jason, and Ryan also turned in strong performances, and the lighting scheme used in this scene really looked nice, in terms of what Aaron and Sven were getting on camera. (Photo of Sonny Burnette and crew)

We were afforded a great opportunity due to the uniqueness of the location, in that there was an outer, second level window in the meeting house that looks over the center of the apse. I definitely wanted to take advantage of the free high angle shot, and we set up a jib to get an intro shot for the scene that I am confident will look very nice. (Photo of Matt Perry and Aaron Champion, taken by myself)

Everyone was in a great mood at the end of the shoot, even the curator of the property, James, which always is a good thing when shooting on location!

There will be a few small pieces to get for a montage sequence planned for early in the film, but the principle production phase has successfully concluded. A new phase gets underway, as there are a few key effects shots, a stylized montage, a full score, sound design, and much more to tackle in the post production period of Swordbearer.

The production on Swordbearer was a really fantastic expereince. This is the third project in a row as a director that I have worked with Matt and Sven and Cineline Productions, and I really believe that we took another large step forward. From Shadows Light, to Sirens, and now Swordbearer, we have made progressions in production and execution. (photo of Sven, me, and Matt)

I was elated to have Aaron Champion as my DP on this project. I had gotten him aboard Scott Sullivan's latest project, SantaBoy last spring, which I served on as a producer and first AD, and after being around him on that project I was really looking forward to working with Aaron on Swordbearer. Things were organized and flowed so well between Aaron and myself ... going over shotlists, discussing a few additional shots, looking at technical issues, or whatever the case might be, I feel that Aaron and I were on the same page all throughout. As with Matt and Sven, I hope that my next project has Aaron on it as well. (Photo of Aaron and myself)

I will be writing a lot more about this project and those involved with it, but figured this should be a good set report for the final two shoots.

I will be sure to keep everyone posted on progress in the post-production phase. We are tentatively aiming for a later January premiere of the film, with a trailer (perhaps a couple of versions) to be released before that.

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