This photograph was taken by Alex Harris, @thesouthinanewlight on Instagram, in Raymond, Mississippi during our production.
This begins the final series of blog articles I’ll be writing along with First Time in a Movie and Community that track the production history and experiences we had on our latest film Son of a Gun. Director’s Notes will focus specifically on my thoughts about our movie and the making of it as I process them over the next few months.
Director’s Notes: Why Weather Doesn’t Worry Me
Years ago, we had a film shoot planned, one of the 52 shorts we made in 2013, only to find out a few days before production the forecast predicted heavy rain throughout our schedule. Everyone thought I should cancel but this is exactly the kind of obstacle I hoped to encounter when making 52 films in 52 weeks, a project I conceived as a sort of self-imposed boot camp to get better at producing/directing. I figured out that we could shoot in the rain with a plastic bag over the camera but knew we couldn’t record sound in a downpour. Therefore, I removed all the dialog and turned this short into a silent picture. When we showed the 52 films back in 2014, some people felt it was one of the best of the series.
Flash forward five years to April 2018. We were coming up on the biggest, more challenging weekend of the Son of a Gun production: capturing our battle scenes in Raymond, Mississippi. I had cast and crew hitting me up at least a week in advance with warnings about the weather. “What are we going to do?” was the overall question and concern. As the shoot drew closer and the forecast did not change, they persisted to know if I would alter our plans. Could I reschedule the shoot? Could we push it back a few days?
On a low-budget production with a tight schedule, these changes are nearly impossible. Out of experience and stubbornness (I am definitely the latter), I held onto the schedule and insisted we would work with and around the elements. We showed up in Raymond early the morning of April 14th and it was in fact storming. Nevertheless, I wanted to work. The plan we loosely devised was to film the scenes backwards from what we’d originally planned, with the darker, more gritty version of events captured first and hoping for the sun to peak through for the more glorious take on the battle.
We pulled two vehicles onto the Raymond park path, just my truck and Nick’s (the director of photography). Rain coming down hard, we rolled down our windows to talk and he notified me that it was looking worse and worse, with possible tornadoes. He suggested that we get off the battlefield and wait it out at a gas station not far away. Bandit, my dog, and I decided to stay. The tornado sirens went off but it didn’t get much worse than some heavy winds. Here’s a Facebook video I took at the time as part of my daily journals from inside the truck.
Within twenty to thirty minutes, everyone had returned and we were back to work. Though we had to juggle some actors’ schedules, we successfully worked around the rain until it stopped and finished the day/weekend on schedule.
I don’t worry about the weather because it’s unpredictable. Yes, it can be inconvenient. It can change your movie for better or worse. It can even be dangerous. However, I choose to work with it and around it to always keep pushing forward with the movie.