I teamed up with Maribeth Romslo and HelloSunshine Films again to work on a very ambitious project, initially a short film which turned into a pilot episode for a story called The Last Job. The project was another collaboration between Cristina Pippa and Maribeth Romslo, both Co-Writers and C0-Directors on this project.
Broken Lizard member and Minnesota resident Erik Stolhanske was the male lead — many of you may remember him from his role as “Rabbit” in Super Troopers. He’s the one drinking all the maple syrup — and yes, he really drank maple syrup — 3 bottles!
This shoot mostly took place at a lodge in western Wisconsin, about 2.5 hours outside the Twin Cities. The whole cast and crew stayed on location for the five day production — that brought many logistical, physical and unforeseen challenges to overcome. The entire crew needed transportation to the lodge, a place to eat, sleep, shower, etc., all while creating and maintaining a 1970s setting to film in the same space.
You can see me in all these pictures hovering around the Director and Director of Photography — my role for this project was Assistant Director (AD). In pre-production I worked with Maribeth, Cristina, Director of Photography (DP) Marcus Taplin, Producer Matthew Brown and many more to prepare for the daunting production — together we scheduled the five day shoot down to the last minute, assembled equipment and the crew, found the film’s unique locations and created an on-camera environment (props, costumes, etc.) to match the 1970’s setting. And don’t forget food — everyone needed to eat!
Pre-production really is the key to a successful shoot, and there was plenty to coordinate to make this shoot run flawlessly.
During the production, my job was to be the captain of the ship, the vocal leader. The AD is the boss of the crew and the manager of the set — the Director is in charge of the creative vision, the DP crafts the visual and the AD is in charge of the logistics of executing those visions.
I had a fantastic Second AD — she helped keep background tasks running while we worked through the shoot and maintained an open dialogue between myself and the rest of the set.
This production was the most ambitious project I have ever been apart of — we shot 22 pages of a fairly complex script in five shoot days.
That is an insane amount of work to be completed, which led to a lengthy and thorough pre-production process — we had to utilize every minute at the lodge to get it all done.
After all that planning, it was my job to keep the 33 person machine running seamlessly all five days. It’s a lot of coordination and collaboration with a host of creative minds and requires decisive leadership and delegation.
We had many massive hurdles to overcome outside of finding costumes, decor and a Cadillac from the era. The second day of production our second lead actress was extremely ill back in the Twin Cities. We had to scramble to hire another female we auditioned for the part, find transportation for her to the set and get her up to speed with the script, her character, etc.
We also had a massive snowstorm on the second day (thankfully we were filming inside). At the beginning of Day 3, the landscape was covered with fresh snow, the best winter backdrop for our story. Day 3 was scheduled to be shot entirely indoors.
Day 4 was scheduled to be our outdoor shoot day, but was forecasted to be warm enough to melt all of our snow. So we worked expeditiously to swap the Day 4 outdoor shots into Day 3 — we made this decision in an instant, over lunch, halfway through our shoot day. Believe it or not, even though it was a constant shuffle, we completed all our outdoor shots just as the sun crept below the horizon.
In the end, we finished every single shot to capture the story. It was an exhausting production — but it was the most rewarding one on my resume to date.
The project is currently wrapping up with post production.
Photos by: Tanner Morris Photography — Matthew Deery