Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ice Ice Baby!

"A number of images put together a certain way become something quite above and beyond what any of them are individually." -- Francis Ford Coppola

Last Saturday, I dreamt that it was the evening premiere of this project. The audience, consisting predominantly of individuals with disabilities, had just spent the day sailing with several local adaptive recreation programs. Many of these individuals were still wearing their PFDs (Personal Floatation Devices) as they filed into the theater. In my dream, I knew the film wasn't ready, but the theater was filling up rapidly, and we had to show the audience something. So, I decided to run the video, even though the music and graphics hadn't been added. Just before showtime, I made my way to the stage and gave a brief introduction about the project. As I prefaced the film, I noticed that everyone had begun to leave. Apparently, most of the people attending the screening had bussed in for the day and had to leave in order to catch their rides. It was devastating.

So why do I mention this dream, other than to prove how random my subconscious tends to be? Well, I've been obsessing over this project for a while. I constantly think: How will this thing look when the last cuts are made? I'm optimistic, and encouraged by the footage we have so far. Still, I've yet to assemble any of the shots and it's intimidating to think of how difficult it will be to compile 32 different sports into one cohesive display. Usually, a film doesn't even begin to take shape until the images, graphics and sound are combined.


Yesterday, Jeff (DP/Prod) and I flew to Sacramento to shoot sledge hockey (or sled hockey for those who dislike associating with or using words that end in "ge". The whole sled hockey sequence has been very frustrating. Particularly the selection and coordination with willing participants. Originally, we had planned to film our local National Ability Center team. Unfortunately, they don't have many players with SCI on their team right now. So, we had to search elsewhere. Next, we contacted the Colorado team. I met with the team a few months ago and was really excited about working with them. However, try as we might, we could not nail down a commitment from the team, which was too bad.

...And then...the Sacramento Lightening struck. Eager, willing and ready to help us out. Our unit manager made all of the arrangements with the team, and this time we nailed down a shooting date. It seemed that at long last, we were finally going to be able to shoot sled hockey. I'm not sure why it has been so difficult to coordinate with talent, but it has. That's not necessarily any one person's fault. People get busy and windows open and close. It's all about timing and pouncing on those moments when they appear.

Jeff and I brought the shoulder mount and jib arm down for the shoot. That ended up being a lot of equipment for a four hour shoot. I'm glad we did bring the jib because we managed to get some killer shots of players scoring goals and checking each other into the side walls of the rink. I think we may now have to reconsider the rating of our production.

To get around Sacramento, we used a rental car and Jeff's sexy and reliable GPS system, affectionately known as "Nüvi". With her sultry English accent, Nüvi never failed to get us accurately from point A to point B. At times, she got irritable and condescending. But by the end of the trip...I had found a new love. And no, contrary to what Jeff may tell you, I did not sleep Nüvi. You never, ever steal another guy's GPS.

Sacramento is very flat and very spacious with strip malls a-plenty. I'm not used to the absence of large landmarks such as mountains. There were also a large number of people standing around holding advertising. Practically every corner had some kid holding a sandwich board, making every attempt to attract potential customers.

At 3:00, Jeff and I (and Nüvi), arrived at Skatetown Ice Arena. We took a look around and felt very, very old. The average age of everyone in the Center was 13. It was a little awkward. We met and discussed shots and politics before unloading all of our equipment. We dressed warm since we were going to be spending the next six hours in a refrigerator. Ice arenas get very cold. So cold, in fact, that by the end of the shoot, I had lost all sensation in my lower torso, legs and toes.

The team began to arrive around 4:30 and they were a great bunch of athletes. They were easy to work with, friendly and extremely patient, given the nature of a shoot* (see "nature of a shoot").

We began shooting locked down shots first and then moved on to handheld. The team ran scrimmages, three on three with a goalie. It was great. For many of the shots, Jeff and I wore helmets to avoid being hit in the head by flying pucks. And let me just say, I came close to getting nailed more than once.

At 7:30, we took a snack break and offloaded our footage to a backup hard drive. Twenty minutes later, we were back at it. We broke out the jib arm to capture some sweeping shots of players slamming each other into the side walls. I purchased a pack of white Mentos, hoping a few of the players could spit them out like teeth. It didn't work out as well as I'd hoped.

Towards the end of the shoot, Jeff hopped in a sled to shoot some tracking shots. We didn't bring the steadicam because the ice provides a very smooth surface for hand-held tracking.

We wrapped the shoot at 9:05 PM and cleared off the ice as fast as we could. Jeff got a ride on the zamboni and I finished filming interviews with each of the players.

Both Jeff and I had a great time shooting the team. They were a joy to work with and were very accommodating. After all, it isn't easy to play a full contact sport like hockey with a production crew constantly getting in your way. In addition to being very professional, the Sacramento Lightening team is fast. The team name is very appropriate.

The footage turned out great and I'm excited to see how the sequence cuts together.

Jeff and I spent the night and took an early flight back to Salt Lake this morning. We've now shot 11 sports, 10 of which are completed. We still need some pick up shots for alpine skiing, but we will have to shoot those in April or May.

Up next...

*NATURE OF A SHOOT: shoot, stop, wait, setup, shoot, stop, wait, setup, shoot, stop, bathroom break, wait, setup...


The Maag Family said...

Every post gets us more and more eager to see the finished project! It's looking so good.

Now, as far as that last picture... when are we going to Maui?

Laika said...

Sledge Hockey looks ace, they don't seem to do it here in the UK.