first feature

Shooting Summit - Day 6

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January 23, 2013

Today, day 6, I was up early and back to trying to figure out the schedule with Matt. (At this point in the shoot, my production manager had stopped doing her job and became merely an occasional PA who exclusively sat in the house, but that’s not a story worth telling.) He kept bringing up the suggestion that I cut the gas station scene, or at least trim it significantly. I refused. It was too important to the film as a whole. It's a slow-paced scene – to be honest, the whole film is intentionally slow-paced – but it's a scene that totally plays with the genre and hints at what makes this film different. Beyond that, and most importantly, it's my character-building scene. I pitched my indie horror as refreshing and different because of the character development, the character dynamics and the subtext. This scene is what, I think, exemplifies this. It is the scene that separates the kind of people who will like my film from the ones who’ll be annoyed by how much the characters talk to each other. I understood why Matt was pushing for that scene to be cut, but I wouldn’t budge. We didn’t come up with a solution in this moment because we needed to see how on-schedule we could stay tonight. With half the film taking place during the day and the other half at night, as well as half being inside and half outside, we had some difficult rearrangements to consider.

We got rolling again around 5:30pm. However, tonight was colder than previous nights; -14º almost all night. We kept buying more and more of those hand and toe warmers in bulk, but they were being used up insanely fast. I was handing my credit card out, barely paying attention to the receipts coming back. I was merely stuffing them in my pockets because there was no time for anything else. There are many reasons why I walked away from Summit production with $6,000 of credit card debt; this is one of them.

The one good thing about the cold, I suppose, is that it kept the snow on the ground. We hadn’t gotten any fresh snow in a few days and if it had been warmer, the snow would have melted. For continuity’s sake, I was grateful, but man was the cold brutal. Going inside for warmth almost made it worse because the defrosting process was painful. It was almost better to not feel our toes than to feel them thawing out. The cold was slowing us down significantly.

We had gotten all the pickups from the night before and we were almost done with what we needed for the night, but it was almost 3am and the cold was visibly affecting everyone.

Matt was pushing me to cut some of the dialogue. It was some of my favorite dialogue; the dialogue that gets them to decide to walk in that house. 

His suggestion would have taken away any level of character motivation. The film would be pointless and generic without these moments. I understand why he was pushing; he had to. But I put my foot down and said, “I'll cut shots. I'll even cut a few suspenseful moments here or there later on, inside the house, but I will not cut lines; especially in these scenes.” He said he got it, "Understood." That’s what he needed to hear. He now knew the worst-case scenario moving forward – if we had to cut, it was coverage, but I wasn't budging on stripping the scenes of their character. I'm 100% positive that he's glad I refused to negotiate that point. Our movie just wouldn't be worth anyone's time if I had.

 It was frustrating having Matt try to push me to cut things, but I appreciate that he questions me from time to time and forces me to defend why something is so important. It keeps me on my toes and thinking about what I ultimately want people to get out of the film. I also think Matt is great at reining me in when I'm being nitpicky. There was one moment in the night where I was obsessing about how a pile of snow on the car looked staged. I wanted to get art in to fix it, but that would have eaten up 10 minutes of the night; 10 minutes we didn’t have. He assured me that if something like that stood out, he would tell me, but it didn’t in this case. He was right. When I watch the film now, my eyes never gravitate to that spot. That's why I suppose it's great that my AD is my editor, at least in this instance. I love that he was on set and a part of shooting the scenes, making him just as familiar with the footage as I was. However, having him wear both hats prevented any post from getting started during production. Early on in pre-production, I was really hoping to have an AE on set so that we could log footage and maybe get rough cuts of scenes going along the way. This wasn’t possible because I had to cap the amount of people in our house at 20. We were already shorthanded on camera crew, utilizing a PA who, although meant well, was inexperienced and managed to break something every time he touched it. Although, he did come in handy for holding down that damn silk (will come up later)! We theorized that Matt could start cutting at some point without an AE, but Matt and I both underestimated how little downtime he’d have. I think anyone who is working on their first feature should attempt this, assuming your editor is not also your AD, because it would have likely cut down time spent in post-production by months. I also believe it would have helped us see where we needed additional inserts to allow scenes to breathe a little. Ultimately though, it was for the best that Matt was my AD and editor, even if we didn’t get to make any post progress on set like I was hoping. I wouldn't have been able to handle anyone else as my AD on set. He was my right hand man, and I could never have trusted anyone else as the editor. Matt was and is as invested in this film as I am. 

At this point, it was after 3am and the actors were shivering like first-time polar bear club members. There was one point where Rob was delivering a line and he could barely move his lips. I called cut and tried to give the cast a break inside. I took them in, but I could see that John was jumping up and down outside. With a clearly passive aggressive tone he yelled to no one in particular, “My toes are starting to hurt and I’m now not okay with it.”

I decided to call it a night. We couldn’t keep going. I told Matt we’d pick up these shots another night. He asked when and how. I said we’d talk about it in the morning. I barely slept that night. I was going over the schedule and might have found a solution, but it meant a day of even longer hours than the 12 to 14 we had logged the past two nights. I didn’t know how everyone would feel about it, but it was the only way I could see us being able to finish.

Shooting Summit - Day 5

<- Start from the beginning.

January 22, 2013

Today, we weren’t planning on rolling until around 5pm, when it got dark. I spent much of the early part of the day trying to figure out the new shooting schedule. The problem was that we had completely lost one of our daylight days. The 21st, after shooting the dead body scene, we were supposed to head over to the gas station (which was conveniently 5 minutes away from Linda’s house) and get the scene that takes place there at dusk. However, our 30-hour driving shoot completely messed up the possibility of getting anything done after we shot the body scene. So, I was trying to figure out how we'd fit that into the schedule since we had to transition to overnight shoots for the next 2 days. Barbara, the gas station owner, was leaving for vacation on the 27th, so I knew we had to fit it in the schedule before then, one way or another.


We started setting up lighting at around 3pm. I was periodically checking in on how it was going outside but mainly concentrated on talking with my actors because, once we were out in that cold, there would be little time for direction. 

We got rolling at around 6pm. This was one of my favorite scenes of the film, when the characters first arrive at the house. This was the scene we had rehearsed the most during pre-production. It was so exciting getting to finally see it come alive, especially with the blocking. 



Overall, the night went smoothly. It was -10 degrees again and almost unbearable, but being able to periodically go inside made it a lot easier on everyone than the driving scenes. Of course, the relief of going inside was always bitter sweet when the reality of having to go back out would present itself. 

Wearing 1 under-armor, 2 thermals, a hoodie & actually 2 winter jackets. Was still freezing, but, somehow, I was smiling.

The cast goofing before rolling. Photos thanks to Emma.

The budgetary problem that presented itself tonight was the purchasing of hand and toe warmers. I anticipated having to get them, but not at the rate we all ended up needing them. They say they last 8 hours. I’m fairly certain that my entire cast and crew will agree with me when I say you’re lucky if you get 2 hours out of them.   

Erin, 2nd AC, slating like a champ.

Erin, 2nd AC, slating like a champ.


The scene we were shooting was a 5-character scene with 10 pages of dialogue. 


We had about 8 different camera setups and had to do full run-throughs for almost all of them. I was crossing my fingers that we’d get it all done that night, but of course we didn’t.



Daylight crept up on us at around 4am and it was time to pack it in. We moved as quickly as we could, but I didn’t want to rush it.

It was definitely a minor emergency that we had fallen more behind, even just slightly, but the night was so productive and so much less stressful than the past night of shooting that it felt great regardless. That scene is still maybe my favorite when I watch the film now. The performances are just so brilliant, and I love the shot construction John and I came up with.

 Everyone was in bed by around 6am, but I stayed up to try and figure out the schedule moving forward. The next night, we were shooting again, picking up what we missed tonight and attempting what was already on the schedule. I did eventually sleep, but only for 3 hours or so. 

Shooting Summit - Day 4

<- Start from the beginning.

January 21, 2013 (Continued)

Picking up where I left off, we had just finished shooting all the driving scenes of the film over almost 30 hours, and I sent the cast back to the house to finally sleep (though I later found out that no one gave them keys and they were locked out for a while before Ryan and Ricardo found a way to break in,) but we, the crew, weren’t done shooting. We couldn't be. We had an actress that we had brought up from New York City the day before to be a dead body in a pretty pivotal scene of the film. If we had stayed on schedule from the beginning, we would have woken up on the morning of the 21st and shot the scene with her, and then she would have been put on a train back to NYC. However, because we were so behind schedule and she had to be back that night, John, Matt and I agreed to take a select crew (of those that had been able to sleep during much of the night before's shooting) to get this scene done. Then we'd go right to sleep.

Our shooting location was right around the corner, in the front yard of my boyfriend's mother’s home. She, Linda, was so sweet to everyone, offering us breakfast and coffee (as you can imagine, we drank A LOT of coffee during the making of this movie). Liana, the actress, was already at the house with our makeup artist getting all dead looking. 

As per Murphy's Law, another bump in the road happened. The dead body shot was meant to be a dolly shot. We realized that the wheels for our dolly never actually left the rental house, an oversight by our team but more so by the rental house. They were closed and 4 hours away, so we improvised. John's an excellent problem solver. If you're reading this and you're looking for a DP, you should hire him, and make sure you pay him well. Unfortunately, I could not afford to do so, which is just another testament to his loyalty and commitment to a project and his passion for his craft. Anyway, the solution was to change the shot into a jib shot, but of course, having not expected to use the jib until 2 days later, we did not have the weights for it. In true indie style, we managed to make some sandbags and a backpack work. The shot looks great. Not quite what I originally envisioned, but it totally works. 

The shooting of this scene was productive, but I could feel myself crashing. I knew I wouldn't make it much longer. I was past 4 days of not an ounce of sleep at this point. I had made it 3 days before, for other film projects or the combination of school and work, but I had not passed 4 days up until this point. It was like things were moving fast and slow at the same time, maybe like I was moving in slow motion, but everything around me wasn’t. When we wrapped, it felt like a miracle. We all headed home. My head was spinning. I took a shower (I really needed to do that), got in my sleeping bag and finally just knocked out.


This is a funny story. It was not funny at the time, but became hilarious in hindsight. In a half asleep, half awake daze, I heard Matt's voice coaxing me out of sleep. What he was saying registered, "The cops are downstairs." I bolted up and down the stairs. There were two police officers standing in the doorway of the house. I didn't know what time it was. I was groggy and confused. One of them looked at me, asked if I was Christina, and then said I needed to call my mom. I was worried. I was thinking maybe someone had died, maybe she was in the hospital, maybe there was a car crash. The fact that my mind immediately went to the worst is so telling that I am my mother's daughter because when I managed to find a phone with a full battery and call her, I soon realized that the reason cops were at the house was because she was worried about me. Apparently she had grown accustomed to being able to reach me during the first two days because we weren't actually rolling; and when I said we were shooting overnight two nights ago, it didn't occur to her that maybe we were still sleeping. I can't blame her. She called my phone; it was dead. She called Chris', Kelsey's and Matt's, all dead. She was scared that she had given us all food poisoning or that there was a gas leak in the house or that we had gotten into a car crash. I was so pissed that she called the cops, but I couldn't stay mad at her. It became a running joke on set that Christina's mom had called the cops anytime the doorbell rang from that day moving forward. After I stopped being so irritated, I was able to make the joke too. What scared me about the cops being there was that it was a small town and people talk. The cops knew we were shooting a movie in the town; we had let them know. The owner of the vacation house knew that we were using her house to shoot in, but what she didn't know was how we had made it look. Not that any of the changes were anything more than temporary art direction, but from an outside observer it may have looked like we trashed her place and were just going to leave it like that. I was afraid the cops would tell her that. But when one of them inquired about the look of the house, I was able to convince him that it was all reversible, “just some boards velcro’d onto windows and stuff like that.” He left feeling satisfied, but not without reminding one more time that I should make it a point to not leave my mother worrying.

It was 1pm. I had slept for about 3 hours. I felt like crap but still more refreshed than I had in days. I needed to do something to thank my cast and crew. I wanted to celebrate the accomplishment of the past 2 days, not just throw them back in the next day. The budget wasn't there to take them out to dinner, but I was already over budget; and who needs good credit anyhow, right? I needed to take them out for some much-needed R&R, and show them that I appreciate that they stood by me and the film in those conditions the past few days. So as people woke up throughout the house, I let them know that we were going out to dinner. They were excited.  

I called up Elizabeth's in Pittsfield, MA and made a reservation for 20 people at 7pm. Now let me tell you about Elizabeth's. It's this hidden gem in the crappy area of the Berkshires. It looks like a hole in the wall piece of crap. It's an old house turned into a restaurant. When you walk in, it looks just like that; no renovations or decoration. It's just an empty old beaten up house with tables downstairs where you can watch the food being made, or upstairs where we were seated. Despite how Elizabeth's looks, it's some of the best food I've ever had in my life. They have a very family vibe there. They only take cash, and if you don't have cash on you, they genuinely will take an IOU. I’ve heard stories of people forgetting their wallets and they really were able to give them an IOU. It's an old Italian family, and the chef makes phenomenal pasta dishes. Very vegetarian friendly (important factor for me,) but pleases the meat eaters at the same time. They're also just really cool people, in my opinion, because they make their social opinions known. They have a rainbow flag hanging by the door in support of equality, and they have various anti-establishment quotes by historical figures painted on the sides of the building. I found this very risky for a small business in not the most liberal of areas when I first went there with my boyfriend and his mother. However, it totally made me like and respect them, even before tasting the food. 

Matt & Ricardo at dinner

As for the food, it’s fixed price $21.50 per person, which includes a salad big enough for everyone to share. The salad, man oh man, is that something everyone should try once in his or her life. It changes with the seasons. It's the best salad I've ever had. I love salad and I'm infatuated with this salad. My boyfriend dislikes salad and he loves this salad. Even Ricardo, who apparently hates all vegetables, enjoyed the salad! If you're ever near Pittsfield, seriously, go there. We all ordered and proceeded to have a great evening full of conversation and laughter. It's what everyone needed. 

I'm glad I was able to do it. In the end, the bill was $550. That's with 20 meals, a couple of appetizers and a few drinks, not including tip. Now for me, someone who typically has no more than $20 in my bank account, that was a lot of money to drop on dinner. But thinking about New York City prices and how two people can go to dinner and easily spend $100 on a meal without even ordering dessert, I think it's pretty awesome that I fed 20 people in a nice restaurant that had portions big enough to take home leftovers on $700. 

All in all, it was a wonderful night. We even stayed up for a bit afterwards because we could sleep in until the afternoon; we weren’t shooting until overnight the following evening. Side note, the house we were staying in seemed to have been frozen in time and had stopped moving forward  at around 1998. That feels accurate because there was Scream 2 but not Scream 3 on VHS. I went to bed shortly after dinner but apparently some cast & crew watched Star Wars on VHS. 

That was the first night where I actually got some sleep, a whopping 5 hours!


Shooting Summit - Day 3

<- Start from the beginning.

January 20/21, 2013

We all woke up early, repeated the process of getting the trailer ready and headed out to the roads we had been on the night before. This time it was daylight and there were cars on the road. Cops knew we were shooting in the area, but not with a DIY process trailer. How we didn't get pulled over, I do not know. Spirits were high. 

The cast and I were admittedly very happy that we got to roll from the first scene instead of jumping forward the night before. However, the reality of losing a whole day of shooting was something that would soon sink in. The thing is, the flatbed we rented from U-haul was from Vermont. We had checked in with local U-Haul's near Pittsfield, MA and reserved the flatbed we needed, but when we arrived on location, they all randomly decided to be closed that weekend. No notice on their website or anything. The closest one open that had the flatbed was a few hours away in Vermont. So, we had to send someone out to go pick it up, in addition to exchanging our 10-foot truck for a 14-footer (the gas for driving to and from Vermont was an unforeseen expense) and they needed to be back by 10am on the morning of the 21st or we'd be charged for an extra 2 days. So what was supposed to be two full days of shooting with 7 hours of sleep in between, needed to be pulled off in almost 30 hours, with no real sleep time. Everyone was aware of this going into the day, but I know no one expected it would be as brutal as it was.

I should probably mention at this point that it was freezing, It was around 20 degrees out during the day and we had to turn the heat off in the car for sound recording. It was bearable, though, because we were working. We were rolling, finally. It was going well. The shots were looking great; the actors' performances were perfectly on point. We got a lot done. I was excited. 

All Stills are from raw footage we shot each day.

We had one situation during the day where a guy was following us with his car. When Matt and I approached him, he admitted that he thought we were trying to rob the isolated houses. I thought that was an odd assumption since we'd have to be the least inconspicuous thieves in the world, but I imagine seeing a no-budget film crew shooting a movie around your neighborhood isn't something you encounter everyday in Canaan, NY. He left us alone after we explained ourselves. Outside of that incident, the day went off without a hitch. It was long and cold, but productive and, dare I say, fun.

It was then that we started to lose light, and there were three daylight shots left to do that were absolutely imperative. There were also two more artistic ones that I could sacrifice, but didn't want to. We decided to jump into the night scenes and see what time we wrapped them. We'd come back just in time for the three shots, and the flatbed could be on its way back to Vermont by 7am.

The night stuff didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped. We were getting the shots we needed. Just like the morning, the shots looked phenomenal and the performances were amazing. The problem was the set up time for shots was staggeringly long, especially in the conditions we were dealing with. We were surrounded by pitch-blackness outside of our own lights. It had dropped to -10 degrees and the wind burned our faces. It snowed on-and-off throughout the night, so heavily at times that we had to stop moving for John's sake. I cannot commend John enough for being the superman that he was on that platform in the weather; and I cannot thank him enough for being so committed to the project and sticking that night out because it was absolutely ridiculous how much everyone had to push themselves to get through it, particularly the camera/lighting crew. Peter, Erin, Charlotte and Adnan had to lug lights around, and set and reset lights over and over in that cold. I was grateful and impressed, and terrified that they’d walk away from the project at any moment.

During new lighting set ups, we'd send the cast to one of the heated cars, and while we were rolling, the crew was usually in heated cars. Kelsey, John and I, on the other hand, were in the cold the whole time. When the heat was off and new lighting was being set, Kelsey and I would sit in the frigid trunk. It was incredibly uncomfortable having to squeeze back there with the both of us lying flat, ensuring the camera didn’t catch us in the front. At least during breaks we could sit up straight. I'd be running over the shot list and checking in with Matt about progress. Kelsey stood by me in the cold, even at times when she could've gone to a heated car. She and I had already been friends for over 2 years at that point, but I think a special bond was created shooting Summit (which would add to our future creative partnership). She kept me sane in some ways because she laughed with me when there was nothing we could do but laugh or cry over what we were dealing with. More importantly, she was someone I could lean on a little, someone who didn't have a particularly stressful job on set, allowing me to vent to her when it was all getting to me. Leaning on people is something I'm not good at. I'm used to people leaning on me. But she was great at being that person for me, and I don't think I would've survived without her in the 20 minute set ups in the car when we just had to sit and wait in the still cold. One of my favorite stories from production is when we both stepped out of the trunk to stretch our legs. We attempted to get our blood flowing because we felt like our toes would literally freeze if we didn't, but the wind was so bitter outside that we had to get back in. We both crawled into the trunk and found ourselves saying, "Okay. Okay. Okay," over and over again through deep breaths; a kind of reassurance. What's funny about this is that we didn't realize we were both doing it until we had been doing it for over a minute straight. It made us laugh. We needed that. 


When I say a U-haul truck eats gas, I really mean it, especially when it's towing an SUV, atop a metal flatbed, with lights all over it, going against brutal winds and bearing the weight of 8 people inside. Now, I had of course budgeted for gas, but not this kind of gas. The 30 hours we spent doing driving scenes really ate away our budget, as well as our shooting time. Maybe the only good thing about having to stop and go get gas every couple hours was that everyone got to take little cat naps, though not everyone napped (including me, of course.) I was mostly concerned with John getting rest, and luckily he was the type of person who could fall asleep easily. I’m the type of person who takes a long time to fall asleep; and I’m actually much better running on no sleep than just 30 minutes of it here and there.

The first big hitch in the night was when we were going up a winding hill, and Andrew didn’t want to push our luck trying to get up and produce a repeat of the night before. So, it needed to be backed down the hill, which luckily was not nearly as steep as the previous evening. Colin, popping in as the jack of all trades he definitely ended up being on set, revealed to us that he drove a tour bus for awhile a couple years back and could back the process trailer up with some guidance. It was a slow, slightly painful process, but he pulled it off. Crisis averted. We managed to do circles and avoid that hill, as well as any others, for the rest of the night. 

The other big problem of the night came as our clocks crept past 2am and we still had two shots remaining. We were waiting on more gas to come back for the truck, and John was taking a nap in one of the cars. I was in a car with Matt trying to figure out what would be the best way to get the shots. The option that made the most sense was to push forward and get the last few shots completed, and then let everyone take an hour nap in the cars. Then we’d get the 3 daylight shots and quickly after let the cast go home and sleep. Matt didn't think we could push them and wanted to just call it a night. I didn't see how we could possibly do that and have a finished film in the end. We had already cut out all the coverage except for what was absolutely necessary, and we had been told by John 3 days before production that he had a paying gig that he had to fly out to the day before what was planned to be the last day of production (he had miscalculated). So, going over-schedule was not an option. If we didn't get the scenes done by 7am tomorrow morning, we'd not only run the budget over more than we could handle, but we'd also lose another day of shooting that I didn't think we could get back. So Matt asked me what I wanted to do. I told him to go talk to the cast (and crew) and present these two options to them but make the consequences of the latter clear; then see what they say. It was an ask-them-what-they-want-to-do-but-really-tell-them-what-the-plan-is kind of move. It had to be.  

At this very moment, Rob, one of my actors, came storming over and opened the door. He started venting frustration about the situation at hand, clearly fed up with the fact that we were all sitting in separate cars and no cameras were rolling. In a fit of delirium, no doubt from the lack of sleep over almost 24 hours, he shouted, “I’m not shooting anything else,” and marched off into the woods with no apparent destination. It then just occurred to me that Matt and I were so busy problem solving that no one had updated the cast on why we were waiting (though we had assumed they were napping.) Lauren, also one of the actors, was in the car during my chat with Matt. She has since gone on to become one of my closest friends, but at the time we had a much more clearly defined director/actor relationship. She was all for pushing forward and finishing what was required in order to make the movie work. Her enthusiasm and commitment were definitely helpful in giving me what I needed to make the calls I did that night. If I felt like I was abusing my power or taking advantage, I don't think I would've pushed everyone to keep going; but it was an impossible situation. We had to keep going, we just had to, but first we needed to find Rob. Matt ventured into the woods to locate him and managed to get him refocused. Matt's good at that. I'm not great at diffusing situations; my ego sometimes gets in the way. It's why I'm not an AD, I suppose. The next day, Rob thanked Matt for reining him in. (I must say, of course, having gone through this experience and knowing better now, I can tell you that better planning would've avoided this entire situation & I'll never allow myself to have to make calls like this again.)


Matt then pitched the plan to the others. Ryan was onboard, as was Ricardo. To speak about Ricardo for a second, I just have to say how grateful I am to him for being such a good sport. One of the first things he said to me, when I cast him and asked what he usually wears when it snows, was “I don’t go in the snow.” He was not looking forward to the cold, but he ended up being the guy that really kept spirits high on set. He entertained everyone, especially John, with his impressions and singing (his Reggae song “Got stuck in a ditch last night, but Summit-movie gonna be all right” was a big hit). He just rolled with whatever came at us, never complained, just said, “You got it boss, whatever you need.” I love all my cast members, but I just wanted to give him a shout-out right here because I think there’s a good chance John would have quit on me at some point if he didn’t find Ricardo so entertaining. Lauren even told me after the fact that she maybe would have gone crazy if not for him. 

Back to the story, Lauren, Rob, Ryan and Ricardo were all onboard to keep going. Emma was a hold out, but Matt managed to convince her. So, we kept going, but it was hard on everyone. We ended up with just under an hour between the night scenes and the following day scenes. So we sat in the cars and waited. Almost everyone slept. I did not. As soon as we had light, we got rolling. 

We got the three shots, but had no time for my two more creative shots. One of those, a mirror shot that hinted at some of the subtext of the film, I'll always miss a little every time I watch the film. Matt got us wrapped and then had everyone quickly break down the process trailer. He got the flatbed on the road at 7am on the dot, and I sent the cast home to sleep. 

Now that it's been a year since that day and the film is cut, I can say that I made the right call that night (only considering the circumstances). The scene just would not have worked without those shots, and the entire experience and what we put ourselves through that night would have been pointless. I do miss the two shots that I could've had, but those are the things I suppose directors will always feel about their work, especially when made with no budget. The 26 hours that it took to shoot those 15 minutes of the film were brutal, but they resulted in some amazing content; content that I'm really proud of, and I believe everyone involved will be proud of as well.

So here's the kicker, we weren't done shooting for the day.

Shooting Summit - Day 2

<- Start from the beginning.

January 19, 2013

On day 2, we all got up early to finish the process trailer and get ready for the day. I sat in the kitchen with the cast over breakfast running lines and giving notes. I also checked in constantly on the progress of the trailer. The hours ticked away. Finally, by around 5pm, it was ready, but we had lost the opportunity to start with daylight scenes. A part of why I wanted to shoot the driving scenes first was because they'd be the hardest to get through and clearly the most risky. I felt that if we got through that part, the rest of production would be easier. I can't say that I ended up being wrong because the phrase "we got through the driving scenes, we can get through this" definitely ended up being a saying on set. (However, the built up stress of these scenes at the start of production kind of laid a foundation that we took with us through the rest of production.) The more prominent reason I wanted to start with driving, however, was because I was determined to shoot the film in order as much as possible. The characters go through an emotional transition in the film, and I really wanted to method-direct as much as possible knowing that the living conditions of the next 2 weeks would take its toll on them. Of course, I couldn’t have predicted just how bad it would be for all of us.

Having lost the light, I couldn't start with the opening scene of the film in the car, but I could still start with the subsequent scene(s) that took place at night. I decided we'd take the 15-minute drive over to the back roads we had scouted a month earlier and roll until 11pm. We’d then head back out at 6am for the daylight scenes. Having already lost half of the day, we couldn't afford to lose the night as well. Andrew, Matt and John got in the front of the U-haul, while the cast got in their seats inside the picture car (Summit-mobile) while Kelsey, my script supervisor for this shoot, and I got in the trunk. This is where we would take refuge with a 7 inch monitor for viewing as we drove from Lenox, MA to Canaan, NY with a car driving on either side of us for safety. 

We arrived at the back roads and set up the platform for the process trailer. The camera crew set up the camera and John got up on his platform to start rolling. I wanted to find a nice, easy drive with minimal winding. In order to do that, we had to drive for a little bit longer. I noticed we were going uphill and that the U-haul very quickly started to struggle as it went up steeper. I had a feeling that we shouldn't keep trying to get up the hill and wanted to relay that feeling but, of course, my walkie talkie wasn't working properly (all the walkie talkies stopped working after day 3). Suddenly, we stopped moving and I heard the sound of tires struggling to find traction on ice. Then came the smell of burning rubber. Matt came around the back of the car and lifted the trunk. He told me we were stuck. No shit.

We all had to get out. John took the camera into one of the nearby cars. Matt said that he was going to guide Andrew to try and turn around because there was someone's driveway back there. I didn't really see how we could turn around on such a narrow road even with a driveway because of how long we were, a 14-foot U-haul and a flatbed with the Summit-mobile on it. I said we should try to back it up, but Matt wanted to try his plan. He didn't think it'd be safe to try backing up because the narrow road curved. So, they attempted to turn around. As they got the U-haul itself on an angle, they encountered the problem that seemed glaringly obvious to me, they had to whip the flatbed with my car on it around to the other side in order to actually drive the car down the road. Unfortunately, there was no flat land on either side of them to do this. We admitted defeat, but our backup plan to call for help would also fail. My production manager called triple A. They said we were too big. U-haul said they couldn't help us. No local tow trucks were available, and the people whose driveway we used pretty much said, "Yeah, you guys are screwed," but in a really nice way. People are so nice up there.

About 40 minutes go by. I'm stressing. Matt is freaking out. He's telling me that there's a ditch on either side of the road and that the only bit of pavement they had to work with was the driveway. The process trailer had a ditch that led to tree filled woods in front of it and a ditch that led to someone's house in back of it, and it was sitting at a 90 degree angle between them with no way to cut to the left and take the whole thing back down the hill. Matt, Andrew, Colin and two of my actors, Ricardo and Rob, were up on the hill all brainstorming together. Matt was instructing Andrew to pull the U-haul forward to the left a little, then back it up and repeat, but he was essentially just rocking it back and forth in place. There was no way they'd get enough space to pull the whole back end around the bend. My production manager comes over and tells me that she thinks if we unhook the flatbed from the U-haul, the angle isn't steep enough that it'll just roll back into the ditch. She thinks it’ll just stay in place. If this were true, they'd be able to slowly make enough progress with the “a little to the left forward, a little to the right back” method and pull the U-haul around. Then once around, hook the flatbed back up. I skeptically said, "You think?" And she said, "It's your call. I think it'll work. But yeah, your car might fall into the ditch." I had to make this decision. I, who had never been in a situation like this before, who had never even owned a car before and never would have invested in one if it wasn't needed for the film, who had only gotten my license 5 months earlier just to buy the car for the film, had to decide what was the right call here. So I said, "Okay, what else are we going to do. It's been over an hour and I don't see any other option. Do it." Matt came over and reassured me that it would work, though he didn't seem so sure. My production manager said maybe I should go back to the house so that I wouldn't have to see my car roll back into a ditch if it happened. I didn't want to leave, but she convinced me. A car had already taken John, the rest of the camera crew and 3 actors back. 

Jesse, our PA, drove me back to the house. I was told over the phone, shortly after leaving, that they had unhooked the flatbed and it did not roll back into the ditch, a small victory. John and the camera crew went to bed with plans to wake up bright and early for shooting, but I stayed up with a few others to wait for the situation to be resolved. With Colin driving, Matt and Andrew coaching, and Ricardo and Rob pushing and pulling, the U-haul truck managed to turn around after an hour or so. When I got the call, I was so relieved. When they all returned to the house, they were met with a round of applause, from the few of us who were still up. It was a moment of triumph. We hadn't shot a single frame, but we accomplished this. It was ridiculous that we even had to deal with it to begin with, but it was our one thing that we could be proud of thus far. We had to see the silver lining. We had learned a lesson, hopefully early enough that we could still catch up with the shooting schedule.

Did I sleep that night? Of course not.