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“Exit 18”: Production Phase

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This is part 2 of a 3 part series on the “Exit 18” project…

Interviews

Filming started almost immediately after the proposal was agreed on, mainly because the band was in the midst of some music video shoots and rehearsals already. A few key interviews were held around this time, but the mistake in that was I hadn’t really gotten to know who these guys were. As a result, there was some trial and error before I settled on a strategy for what I wanted to do with the interviews. Instead of using anything music related as a backdrop, each member would be interviewed in a setting that spoke to who they were as an individual, something personal – besides the music – that would say something about them.

For Mike, he was the PhD exercise junkie, who’d jog up and down Harvard Stadium’s steps with friends; Joe, the guitarist, was the chemistry teacher; Dan, the bassist, was the no frills outdoorsman who enjoyed walking around at a local park; and Chris, the drummer…well, he just “chills” in the basement all day. Since Veneer wasn’t a big famous band, I hoped this approach would offer the audience a way to connect with them. A view into who they were as people, perhaps playing a little off the “veneer” concept and looking beyond their musical personas.

Copperfield’s

The other major part of the production was the March, 2010 concert at Copperfield’s in Boston. This event was a big part of doing this project, to gain experience filming a live event of this size. I had no experience at it, but knew it would be a multi-camera shoot, involve dual-system sound, offer no control of lights, be hard to predict what the guys would do, and little opportunity to practice. The best I could do to prepare was to film one of their performance rehearsals at Boston College as a pseudo live event. We cleared out a classroom and shot it with 2 cameras, giving Dennis Ganz, my trusty 1st AC, direction for specific shots so I could determine what kind of coverage would be necessary for the real thing. If you compare the non-live “This Day Forth” segment at the beginning of the film, with the live “Rifle Girl” segment at the end of the film, you’ll notice the framing and shooting style are very similar.

The Copperfield’s event went fairly smooth. The only near disaster was underestimating just how dark the place was going to be. I had planned to use the Canon 5D for hand-held medium and close-up shots, and the Panasonic HVX on sticks for locked off wide and medium shots, but it was way too dark for the HVX. Bumping up the gain helped some, but since the blacks tend to already be a little muddy on the HVX, I worried how noisy it would end up if I cranked up the gain. Fortunately, I had a Canon 7D on hand, thinking I might try to do some slow motion stuff with it. I swapped the HVX for the 7D, and gave Dennis a crash course on how the camera worked. From there, Dennis set up a Zoom recorder near the sound board to record the event, and off we went.

Greg Kushmerek, a photographer friend of mine, had offered to do stills for the event. Throughout the hour performance, we kept moving, stepping, and ducking around each other on an already tiny and crowded stage, shooting from the periphery, keeping ourselves out of each other’s frame. All the while, Dennis would adjust his frame every now and then to keep Greg and I out of view as often as possible.

Party Bus

The only other filming were a series of b-roll sessions at Boston College for practice and performance rehearsals; of Joe in the “studio” recording his tracks; the band wandering around Boston; and a production wrap-up with Joe’s party bus birthday celebration. It was in preparation for shooting Joe’s party that the idea of incorporating Greg’s stills into the doc occurred to me. It was a mix of inspiration from having seen Philip Bloom’s “Lucky Lucky” video, and hearing Veneer perform a cover of The Killers “When You Were Young”. I spent the entire night of the party bus shoot collecting sequences of stills, with the plan to create a stop motion video of that evening set to The Killers song, transitioning to a montage of Greg’s photos, and finally the credits. I liked what I saw in my head, but depending how the footage came together, I wasn’t sure it would work with the rest of the doc.

By this point, it was May, 2010.


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