Except for a lack of sleep, I was totally ready for my 2nd day working on the set of Gone Girl. I had my radio, my call sheet, and the same pile of button-up shirts I brought the first day at the request of the casting company. Today I expected to actually be standing in for Boyd so I was really looking forward to it, as well as wondering how that was going to work with my P.A. duties.
Well, the answer was that it wasn’t. I walked out to the van at 6:40 and there stood Yarden. “Zach, my man.”
“What’s up Yarden?”
I got in the van which already contained another crew member and Jody, Rosamund’s stand-in. A 4th joined us a minute later. His name was Paul, and he had just arrived from St. Louis to join the Production team. Yarden poked his head in the van and said, “Zach, do me a favor and give Paul your radio.” Shucks. Just when I was ready to show that I almost knew what I was doing. Oh well, I had stand-in work to do today so it was cool.
I got to base camp at the Giant City Lodge and commenced eating breakfast. Egg casserole; pretty good. I downed a second cup of coffee to help prop up the four hours of sleep I was running on. Ryan asked where my radio was and I told him I gave it to the new P.A. He gave me a thumbs up, then told me to go to the wardrobe trailer to “get my colors”, aka costume garb.
To get to the wardrobe trailer I had to go out and ask a van driver to give me a ride. She took me a half mile or so down the hill to another parking lot where there were 3 trailers parked. She pointed out the correct one and I went inside. There was a woman there who I asked about my colors, and she directed me to Tom the wardrobe boss. I stepped outside to meet Tom and he said he would bring my stuff up to me at base camp and that I could go back up. So I hopped right back in the van and headed back to the dining/check-in/dressing room area.
The room filled with more people over the next hour as extras and crew arrived. Some extras were brought back from the day before and some were new. We one-day veterans enjoyed regaling them with stories of the previous day and everyone was getting along well. Sidney (Lola’s stand-in) and I immediately got sucked into some kind of old lady card game that played similar to Scrabble with an old pistol of a gal named Elsie. No sooner had we played our third round when Ryan came in and asked for almost all the extras, leaving only a few people left there. I then decided I needed cup of coffee number three. I took a sip, then decided instead that I needed to have a power nap. Boyd’s first scene was #3 on the day’s schedule, so who knows how long it would be before I got called out.
I laid my head down for about 10 minutes until I heard Ryan walk in and say, “aww, we already lost this guy.” I decided it probably wasn’t appropriate to straight up sleep in the waiting area, so I went back to the coffee. Boy, this was going to be a long day.
Yesterday the weather forecast was for rain, but it had cleared overnight and we had sunshine all day. Because of that, Fincher basically threw most of the schedule out in favor of doing some of tomorrow’s scenes such as a couple of them at the pool, and one in the water tower. Sidney got called out to the pool leaving me pretty much alone for a few hours. I knew better than to not bring any books or anything, but I thought I would be doing P.A. work to fill my downtime. Whoops; here I was again left to wait for hours with nothing to do.
Extras came and went and I had fun getting to know a couple more of them. Tom came in at 10:20am and gave me my colors. I think I pull off the redneck poacher look pretty well.
I waited another couple hours until finally I got called out. Ok, here we go! Sidney was there to walk me to the set and give me the rundown on how things go. Not much to it; she just told me who the important people were, including Courteney, David’s 1st assistant director. We introduced ourselves to each other and she directed us to climb the spiral staircase to the water tower. I hadn’t received the script pages yet and asked her for a copy. She gave me hers. I felt a little silly about that when we got to the top of the tower and I had a look at the scene we were doing. Boyd had one whole line. I could have just read from Sidney’s copy. Oh well… now at least I have my own.
I was wowed by the treetop view of the surrounding forests for a moment until I heard David calling for us to go to the railing. This is where I finally got my first directions from David Fincher:
“Zach, move six inches closer to Sidney. Ok now bend over and hang your arms over the railing. Good.” Yay! We stood there for about 10 minutes while they positioned the cameras. In that scene, Lola and Boyd were to simply stand in those positions and interact with Rosamund as she walked down the sidewalk below, so most of the “fun” stand-in work was happening with Jody down below. Production assistants marked the sidewalk with tape using a tape measure – Sidney told me how Fincher is extremely detailed in his setup – at the pool earlier he wanted the chairs to be so many inches apart, etc. He then directed Jody to go through the motions and look up at us while they zeroed in the cameras.
After that, Lola and Boyd came up. I saw Boyd hanging around a couple times yesterday but didn’t say anything to him. And now was not the time either; it was time to get down to business. And oh, what tedious business it was.
Amy is hustling down the path with a plastic bag full of cleaning supplies.
Amy looks around, mystified, then looks up at JEFF and GRETA, hanging out, sharing a joint.
GRETA: Climb on up!
AMY: I’ve got laundry.
GRETA: Bumper boats later?
AMY: Yea, sure. Sounds good.
Shooting those five lines and 10-15 seconds of camera time took from about 12:45 to 3:30. True story. Fincher is so incredibly meticulous; it’s almost unbelievable. He micromanages everything, and every part of his camera shots are crafted to his liking. He cut two branches off of one of the nearby trees and attached them to booms to customize the shadows they cast over Rosamund when they did shots of her from above.
The one moment I got to talk to Boyd was about a 20 second break in the action. Fincher stepped away from the monitors to change something on set, and Lola and Boyd turned and walked away from the railing. Boyd came right up to me and introduced himself. “Hey man, you’re my stand-in?”
“Yea, I’m Zach. Nice to meet you!”
“Cool. Are you from around here?”
“Yea, Cape Girardeau…”
(from below) “… come to the front!”
All of us thought David was calling for stand-ins, so Sidney and I rushed to the railing. “No, team one to the front.” Crap! We ran back and the actors took our places.
They have two cameras at their disposal. We began with one on the ground facing up toward the tower to show Rosamund in the foreground and Lola and Boyd in the background. The 2nd was set up on the sidewalk facing her as she approached. We took I don’t know, maybe 20 takes in that orientation. Then they changed one of the cameras to be a closeup of Lola and Boyd from the ground and we did 20 or so more takes. Then they moved one camera to the side to catch Rosamund head on as she turns to face the tower, and one on a crane above her facing down. 30 or so takes from that orientation. I’m telling you, the man is a complete perfectionist. I did enjoy the last half hour or so though when they had Lola and Boyd descend one level lower on the tower (both cameras were off them, focused on Rosamund), allowing me to move back to the front and look down and watch the whole production.
At that point all of us still waiting on the tower – me, Sidney, Paul the P.A., the prop guy feeding Boyd an endless amount of burning clove cigarettes (the joint), and Tom – were starving for lunch. Lunch was scheduled for 2:00… oops. But finally we were relieved and told to descend from the tower. Of course the moment we got on the ground, David noticed something he didn’t like about the last few shots. Something about a light reflection they needed to change, so they brought over a black truck to park in the space by Rosamund to affect the lighting, sent Lola and Boyd back up, then did about 10 more takes. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to go back through all that video and piece together all the best shots into one perfect scene. I would love to know the number of terabytes of digital video they end up with by the time filming is over. Petabytes even.
We finally broke for lunch and I stuffed my face big time. Ryan sat across from me and Sidney and we had some good conversation about various movie-themed things. At one point Ryan did a Richard Dreyfuss impression while building a mesa with his mashed potatoes. (Name that movie.) It was fun.
After that there wasn’t much else. I was quickly losing touch with consciousness as my metabolism broke down dealing with my overstuffed belly. At about 4:45 Ryan came in and said they were wrapping me. I changed out of my colors, gave them to Carrie from wardrobe, and waited for Ryan to come sign me out and send me to the van. I finally got out of there at 5:30. Short day for me today! I will actually get a full night’s sleep tonight. I’m so happy.
Oh, and screw carrying 4 shirts on hangars to base camp again tomorrow. Thanks casting, but it looks like Tom has me all set.
- my career as a P.A. has ended
- did my first bit of standing in
- Boyd seems very nice
- Fincher is cruelly meticulous (but if that’s what it takes to make Fight Club, I’m on board)