Sun Tzu says a battle is won in the preparations. Chuck DeRosa (Cinematographer), Phil Napolitano (2nd AD), and I are blocking the movie, start to finish. We have to block it and rehearse it like crazy before a single actor sets foot on set. There's nothing worse than actors standing around bored while the director scratches his head.
(Phil and Chuck at work)
Phil is a work horse, and drew up battle maps of the whole location. Chuck and I are trying to come up with creative ways to navigate from scene to scene, while preserving the integrity and momentum of the script.
We've divided the script into 23 "scenes" and mapped each section accordingly.
Chuck and I have been watching a flood of movies to prepare for the camera blocking. We're using "Elephant" traveling shots a la Gus van Sant, "Masculin-Feminin" medium close ups a la Jean-Luc Godard, "8 1/2" swiveling tracking shots a la Federico Fellini, and static "Before Sunrise" two shots a la Richard Linklater.
My two biggest sources of inspiration for The Last Hurrah are Woody Allen and Richard Linklater. Not only is their often neurotic and philosophical dialog an influence on the script, but I'm drawing enormous creative sustenance from their style of shooting.
"Slacker" uses handoffs and reveals to pass the POV from character to character - a narrative style I've enjoyed performing hundreds of times in improv. And nearly every single scene in "Annie Hall" takes breathtaking risks of cinematography and sound design. Long shots, 360's, POV's, tracking backwards through a crowded party - all elements we will incorporate into The Last Hurrah.
For sound design, Chuck and I are watching a lot of Robert Altman. We've had some discussion on how to cross fade from conversation to conversation throughout the party, and I've strongly decided I want the sound to motivate the camera, and not vice versa. Chuck shares my religious convictions on POV. I don't even like establishing shots. A single instant of unmotivated camera movement creates massive POV issues.
For lighting design, Chuck and I are assigning thematic moods to each section of the map, to make the movie feel as if it has distinctive scenes, even though we never cut. Thus we have a map divided into sections labeled "Heaven," "Hell," "Eden," "Police Interrogation," "Limbo" - it would probably seem like nonsense if I posted it here. Best to keep some things hidden.
The weather is scorching hot, but Phil is a trooper and I love how fast we can bust through our work.