|Erik Kandefer, lead cameraman, sets up the camera for the main shoot in the living room for “second story man.”
On a dark stretch of road just outside of downtown Brockport, a small bar called The Ridge House is illuminated by high intensity HMI lights. In the parking lot of the pub, a ragtag film crew prepares for one last shot before lunch. Although, at 8:30 p.m., the word “lunch” is stretching it.
It’s a Tuesday night in the middle of January. Wrapped in layers of winter jackets, scarves and long underwear, the cast and crew of “Second Story Man” is half way through its 14th day of shooting. They have four more days left; four more 12 hour days left. In the glow of the 2,000 watt bulbs, Neal Dhand’s sharp featured face doesn’t seem to show any sign of fatigue. Instead, there is a sort of intensity, an electricity in his eyes. Neal has a Masters in Fine Arts from RIT’s School of Animation; fresh out of school, this is the young director’s first feature film.
The plot revolves around the aftermath of a robbery gone bad. Arthur Black (Christopher Domig) and his girlfriend Monique Low (Valerie Monique Evering) are small time thieves who rob people at gunpoint. Arthur, who has a limp, is the getaway driver, Monique is the gunwoman. While pulling a job at a factory, Monique is shot by Max Rivers (Danny Hoskins), a security guard who was drunk on the job. This starts Arthur on a dark path of trying to exact revenge on Max.
Standing off-camera, outside the bar, Christopher and Danny get ready for the scene to commence. They have already rehearsed the scene twice and finished one take.
Quiet is called for on the set. Camera and sound are checked. Neal stands at nearby monitor, seeing in real-time what the camera is capturing. A bundled camera assistant steps in front of the camera with an electronic slate and calls out the take number. Snapping the marker closed, the assistant jogs off camera.
“Action!” calls Neal.
Danny and Christopher come around the corner of the bar, walking away from the camera toward two chalked Xs on the ground, their marks. Christopher’s character, Arthur, holds a cane for his limp.
Max asks Arthur what happened to his leg. Their voices are almost impossible to make out over the roar of the passing cars, but their concealed microphones seem to catch the dialog. Movie magic.
|A monitor displays what is being filmed in the other
room. Lindsay Goranson, playing Janet Rivers, talks
to Christopher Domig, who is starring as Arthur
Black in “Second Story Man.”
“I got hit by a car, twice,” says Arthur.
“The same car?”
“You mean, buh… buh buh,” says Max, showing the car running over an imaginary Arthur, then backing up and hitting him again.
There’s a pause, as the two address each other with their eyes.
“Naw,” says Arthur, with a smile.
Laughing, Max responds, “Ah, you had me going there for a while.”
With that, the two go off, presumably to have a drink at the bar.
“Cut!” calls Neal. “Alright, that works for me.”
With that, the crew gets ready for lunch. Orders are barked to the grips and gaffers and production
“Kill the lights, let’s make it safe!”
The camera equipment is stowed away. The crew works quickly, as quickly as can be expected in 15 degree weather. Of the past 13 days, most of them have been outdoor shoots. After today, they head indoors. Finally.
Inside the Ridge House, production assistants or PAs, scurry about bringing food to hungry cast and crew. Cold hands grip warm sandwiches. The interior of the bar is quaint. A low ceiling place with a pool table and a jukebox owned by Dave Baase, a mustachioed man who has offered up his establishment for the day, including a
Bar patrons stare at the famished crew. They’re not used to this. Brockport isn’t exactly Los Angeles. That’s a good thing, says Scott Lancer, executive producer for “Second Story Man.” It means that people are less jaded, more likely to offer up their homes and businesses for an independent film, pro bono.
That’s important for a low budget film, a category “Second Story Man” easily fits into.
“I’m not saying,” says Scott, when asked about what the budget is. “I will tell you that it’s more than a fancy new car.”
In his late 30s, Scott is a man of average height and build with a goatee. He’s not eating with the rest of the cast and crew, yet. They have to eat before he does, just in case there’s not enough to go around. He, unlike Neal, wears his fatigue all over his face. He’s been putting out fires since “Second Story Man” began filming two weeks ago. His job title does little to explain the extent of his work. Beyond securing funding for the project, Scott is also a carpenter, a driver, the man who signs everything, the man who gets yelled at, and the man who doesn’t sleep.
“My fiancé gave the PAs instructions to make sure I eat,” says Scott. He lost eight pounds in the first week of filming. When he speaks, it’s slightly disjointed, as if he’s thinking of six things at once, and talking is a secondary concern. “I just found out about that recently.”
“My job is to make sure that, if there’s a problem, that they [the cast and crew] don’t know about it or don’t notice it,” says Scott. Yesterday, two shooting locations fell through, and there was a mad scramble to find replacements. They got lucky, a Chinese restaurant, a tavern and a hardware store were all willing to let them use their property.
“You know what he [the hardware store owner] said when we asked him? ‘Okay, sure.’” Just like that. A half hour before shooting was scheduled to begin, they had found replacements for their locations. They got lucky.
There are a lot of reasons why the Rochester area is great for filming, says Scott. “Part of it is the look, part of it is the feel, but the most important part is the people … People here are supportive of the arts.”
One of the PAs pulls Scott away. It’s time to eat lunch.
At the end of a folding table, Danny and Christopher are stealing onion rings from a crew member’s lunch; their food is still in the oven. Danny, a Rochester native, and Christopher, raised in Austria but now based out of New York City, are both veterans of theatre and the short film scene. However, this is their first feature.
Danny has worked with Neal before, but Christopher is a fresh face in the crew. The two actors, playing adversarial roles in the film, both have great faith in the film. Taking a seat at a booth out of earshot of Neal, Christopher and Danny chat about their experience with the director.
“For me, he’s the kind of director that I really work well with as an actor,” says Danny, still in costume from the outdoor scene. “Someone who’s very specific, very clear, has a very strong vision of what he wants and is able to articulate that in a number of ways to his actors.”
Christopher, leaning back in the booth, is excited to see where both the film and Neal end up going. “I really think he’s going to be a great film maker,” he says. “You can tell he’s got a great vision for the film. The reason why you find so few great film directors is that you’re kind of looking for a genius, who is able to articulate a vision, work with a writer, work with the crew, know when to push on.”
“I think it’s going to be a great film. It’s riding a fine line,” says Christopher, eyeing the meal being set out for him at the bar. “It’s not an easily categorized film and it doesn’t resolve the way you think it would. I think we’re doing a pretty good job portraying these people’s humanity, which I feel lacks in most or some big budget films.”
The actors get up to go eat just as Neal walks over, fresh off of a call. This has been a working lunch.
“It’s been pretty crazy, luckily I’ve got good people around me, Rick Staropoli, Scott Lancer, two people who really allowed me to work, without them I don’t make the film,” says Neal. “It’s an independent film, so it’s a battle for everything, for financing, for press, for the
But despite the troubles, Neal is confident in the film. They’ve done their homework. The film has a wide target audience, they’ve done the film festivals before, they may have even already secured a foreign distribution deal. At least by their own accounts, “Second Story Man” is going places.
That’s not to say things won’t be rough going. After wrapping in four days, Neal and the rest of his team at Discreet Charm Productions will enter the post-production phase. It’s a process that he’s looking forward to, says Neal, but he’ll definitely miss the excitement of the film set.
|Christopher Domig, playing Arthur Black, thinks between takes of the “Second Story Man.”
Standing by the pool table, the PAs take a break from their hectic job. In a way, it’s more than a job, it’s their ticket into the film world. They aren’t getting paid, it’s a volunteer position, a résumé builder. They come from all walks of life.
Rachel, who went to SUNY Brockport for theatre, has been a PA before, working on “Hamill,” back in November. After wrapping on “Second Story Man,” she plans on heading down to
“It’s where I got my first paid acting job,” she says. She starred in an all-naked improv routine called “Nude’s Line Is It Anyway?” at a nudist club last summer.
Rebecca, who originally applied for a PA position, wound up being hired as the script supervisor after the producers got a look at her resume. Rebecca has studied at Stanford and Cornell and holds three degrees.
“I’m trapped in America,” she says with a straight face. She’s been trying to move to the United Kingdom, but has been running into trouble with the British government. So while she waits for her visa, Rebecca decided that she’d better keep herself busy.
Then there’s Kate, who, when she heard that there was a writer for Reporter on set, admitted that she too had gone to school for journalism — broadcast journalism specifically. She has a master’s degree from Syracuse.
“I hated it,” she said, noting that print journalism was going down the tubes. (Editor’s Note: We’ll see about that.)
Another PA, Ryan, has no aims at getting into the film industry. Instead, he’s content with adding set construction to his resume. Currently unemployed, Ryan spent the last eight years in retail, even traveling abroad for sales trips. Now, he’s looking to get
The beeps and static of walkie-talkies clipped to each PA’s jacket signal that lunch is almost over. The cast and crew begin to get ready for another trek into the cold. Robert Swedenhjelm, the sound mixer for the film, slowly gets off his bar stool. He’s one of the oldest crew members on set today and one of the most experienced. Robert has nearly 30 features under his belt, and he knows what the crew is
They’ll be really happy once the filming wraps, but they’re going to be depressed for two weeks afterward, he says. It’s like a family
“Second Story Man” wrapped on January 23. The film is expected to have a Rochester premiere in late summer. For more updates, check out http://secondstorymanmovie.com or follow them on twitter @secondstory_man.