This film was the brain-child of Erin, who tapped Rachel to write, Drew to play opposite herself and me to direct and co-produce with her. In pre-production, she handled all the costume design and logistics and I handled the technical stuff like camera/lens choice (Blackmagic Cinema Camera/Contax Zeiss). Now you might have guessed by the title that this is a period piece. We didn't have a large budget to work with, but we both agreed that we didn't want it to look that way. That's usually a bit of a contradiction when you're talking about shooting a period film, even a short one, outdoors in New York City. After the first location scout (well the first "real" one; we virtually scouted using Google Maps initially), we ran into problems in every location. "This one's too close to that overhead highway for sound to work", "This one has a modern skyline we can't cheat out", "This one has too much foot traffic", etc etc etc...
After a couple of weeks of this, I tried (oh I tried) to get Erin to change the time period to modern times. It would be a different animal, but one that's film-able on a budget. She stuck to her guns and we kept looking. Another week of this and I was very close to convincing her, but we had one more place to look at. The very last place I thought of was one I'd dismissed as un-shootable: Prospect Park. Now Prospect Park is not the largest park in NYC (not even in the top 10), but try walking every inch of it looking for a specific location that has very little foot traffic, has decent light, has no buildings visible on the horizon and is away from street noise. We walked... And walked and walked and walked... Until we found a spot that was overlooking a lake. People were far enough away on the other side that, if I left the background out of focus, you wouldn't be able to tell they were modern, mostly bearded, bike riding Brooklynites. Golden hour light would be beautiful. We could make this work!
Just kidding; it's not the end AT ALL. We hired Dan Green, who we worked with on another project, to handle audio duties (Dan is like several crew members in one), put an ad out for PAs (who were awesome), asked Heather Smith to be our set photographer (also awesome) and they, along with myself, were the whole crew. The way the sun was oriented meant it was best to shoot at sunset. We arrive on time, actors are made up, camera is built, audio gear is ready and we start to run through blocking one last time before rolling. It's our moment. But... But what's that sound? Sounds like music. Loud, location sound ruining music. We scouted at the same time of day and knew there were no concerts planned at the Bandshell. WHAT IS THIS!?! It turns out that some group that I would probably love if they weren't ruining the hell out of our shoot, sometimes throws pop-up concerts in Prospect Park that only people in the know are aware of ahead of time. They happened to have one at the very same time we were shooting. I mean the same time we were planning to shoot because this was not happening with a full blown concert going on. After weighing our options, we decide that Dan and I would walk the other side of the park and see if there's anything we missed; any place that would work. Everyone's getting nervous now because even on a low budget indie film, time is money. Dan and I walked... And walked and walked and walked... Nothing was right; we were losing time and were worried that it was just not possible to shoot at all. And then it happened. It was like walking into an oasis after being stranded in the desert. Tucked behind the boathouse was a little area with interesting wooden architecture and had it's own lake, was far enough away fro the concert that Dan gave a (reluctant) thumbs up for audio. Because it's very hidden, there was almost no foot traffic even in the late afternoon. Perfect! We ran back to the other side of the park and did a hurried company move to the other side. We re-block everything and start rolling. The sun was starting to go down, but we could change the shooting order to make that work in our favor. We were flying through things now. Erin and Drew were really nailing everything. I'm happy, they're happy and-- What's that sound? WHAT'S THAT SOUND!? That would be construction. That's right. Construction. I looked at Dan and he shook his head. We were about 3/4 of the way through and Drew hadn't gotten to his monologue yet. One of the PAs checked with the construction crew and they were there for the duration. That's it. We're done.
We couldn't get past the construction noise and couldn't go back to the other side of the park even without a concert happening. There was no time. Should we re-record the dialog later? We weighed options and Dan says he would be willing to donate his time if we did it another day. We all made a plan right then to come back the following weekend just before sunrise and that's what we did. For our own safety, the police wouldn't let us in to the park until it officially opened, which ate a little time (and maybe saved our lives and equipment), but on the second day we shot the whole thing without compromises over the course of about 4-5 hours. The best part is: Even through the unforeseen challenges and essentially having to shoot the film twice, I'm really, really proud of the film we made here. I hope when you see the full film that you like our little labor of love.
All of this taught us a valuable filmmaking lesson: Pop-up parties are the worst!