If you've been following along from the start, you'll remember that earlier this year I took a ferry out to Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Maine, to work on Andrew Brotzman's NOR'EASTER. It was very cold in the North Atlantic Ocean in February, and I think everyone pretty much assumed that would be our only ferry film. Because, really, how many people film on remote islands?
That's why it was a little surprising to find myself back on a ferry mere weeks later, this time heading for an island off the coast of Washington State. Is it a sign of a new island film movement in indie film? Were we all so enamored with LOST that we just had to find our own little Dharma Initiative?
Probably not. My guess is it's just a coincidence.
The West Coast film in question is Kris and Lindy Boustedt's THE SUMMER HOME. Written by the Boustedt's and lead actress Wonder Russell (CONNECT TO), it's a small character drama revolving around two nomadic characters who come across a house on the ocean.
We're filming on Lopez Island (but the film isn't necessarily set on an island. I think we just need a shore), hence the ferry, in the summer home of someone in Wonder Russell's family. The cast and crew arrives on two different ferries. In the first one: myself, co-director Kris Boustedt, DP Ty Migota, and AC Nicholas Davis. None of us have ever seen this location before, or anything beyond a couple of photos of the exterior.
Think about that for a minute. How many times do you check out a location before you start filming? Three? Four? But if the location is decently far away and you're working on a short turnaround, you might not be able to do a proper location scout. And without a proper location scout, you're pretty much just flying blind.
And the house is, well, it's pink. Really, really pink. Grandma pink. I'm not sure photographs could have done it justice, even if we had them, but here's one.
The schedule calls for our first shot on Day 1 to be a single person on a dock at sunrise, only the dock is a little different than we thought--chiefly there's a big huge post in the middle of it. The sort of thing you can't exactly shoot around to get the effect they're looking for. Well, not easily. So maybe shooting around it isn't the best idea. Maybe you use it to your advantage.
It's pretty clear that despite not having seen the actual location, these guys are well-prepared. I sat in on a couple of pre-production meetings and watched them go over and over the script, trying to squeeze every last bit out of it.
So maybe that's a decent substitute for not seeing the location. Sure, it's a hassle, but you have to compensate by scouting out the emotional locations until you know them like the back of your hand.
Will it work? We'll see.
Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.