AIR Filming Part Two

Inside the container we fit six actors and up to nine crew members: Director, DP, Gaffer, 1st AC, 2nd AC, Boom, Prop Master, and sometimes Makeup and Makeup assistant. Just outside the container in video village are 1st AD, Sound Mixer, and Script Supervisor. water-heater Water heater and filter for 1400 gallon tank.

ac Red camera.

boom Boom is sending sound to camera and out to video village.

ian-peter Peter has everything under control.

peter-gulley Rockstar Matt Gulley spent the whole shoot in the water with the actors, adjusting lights. Here, he and Peter and making some fine tune adjustments to the set...

actors-laughing Actors find their places...

chuck-shooting Chuck sets the camera...

brandon-red And the shoot looks a little something like this.

joe-red And this.

group-red-one And this.

boots That's a wrap!

PS - For an actor's perspective on the shoot, watch Greg Fellow's behind the scenes footage of AIR:

And you can see Greg's "Part Two" video below (the first 48 seconds don't have to do with AIR):

AIR Filming Part One

It's pitch dark and pouring rain when we arrive for our 6:30 call time, but the actors and crew are in amazing spirits. base-camp By dawn, base camp is built on wooden pallets in the mud.

mud-flats More wooden pallets lead up to set.

genny There is no electricity on site. So the entire set is run off of three gennies.

bates 300 feet of bates cables lead power up to set.

chuck-truck Chuck's office.

ian A 12x12 is thrown over the container to block sunlight.

chuck-pete-ian Set, from the outside. I'll take you inside in the next post.

sloan Paul Sloan, heading to set.

jon-brandon1 Jon Stokes (me), Brandon Scott. The shoot is a success because the actors and crew stay in amazing spirits.

pete-jon Pete Sestina (2nd Second AD) and Jon Stokes (me). We have a dynamite crew - everyone is great at their jobs and I am thrilled.

AIR Rehearsal

We have one last rehearsal two days before shoot. Randy and I are big believers in pre-planning, so we have all production heads attend rehearsal. 1st AD Dan Noa and I run the actors through the shot list and shooting schedule from start to finish. ali-pallas Wardobe Designer Ali Kahn is on hand to test outfits and Property Master Pallas Erdrich is on hand testing everything from flashlights to dry ice.


Cinematographer Chuck teaches actor Greg Fellows to light the flare while Jon Stokes (me) and Sound Mixer Kevin Sorensen look on.


Greg Fellows, Paul Sloan (playing dead), and Brandon Scott. Rehearsing actors is one of my favorite parts of the whole process. And these guys give their all in rehearsal, which makes it really fun and rewarding.

jon-rehearsing-actors Running through every beat. Rehearsal is so valuable because on set there are a million other things to think about - it's best if the actors have a muscle memory for their role by the time they step on set.

AIR - Set Preparation

Auditions were a big success.  We have amazing actors on board and are already rehearsing them.  Producer Randy Wayne has a game plan of how to turn this equipment yard into a working set, and now we get down to the glamorous task of movie making. We clean the yard to make it safe for crew.  Then, with rain all week, we must lay a brick path through the mud so crew can move equipment without getting stuck.

randy-sweep Randy Wayne, producing.

jon-shovel Jon Stokes, directing.

jon-tanks Look at this beautiful brick path. I've found my calling!

randy-roof Randy, be careful!

There's an 80% chance of rain for this weekend's shoot. I'm checking the weather like I check Facebook. Randy and I cover the container roof in plastic tarp to waterproof it, and then cover the tarp in heavy blankets to soundproof it. We have no idea if this will work, so we budget for a few back up plans and hope for the best.

AIR Set Construction

The decision is to build the cave into an 8' x 20' container on the equipment yard. The whole set goes up in one week. charlie-plasma-cutting Charlie plasma-torches support beams across a six foot section of the container.

peter-metal-saw Peter clears out the space to begin hanging aluminum mesh.  He also does a lot of math to figure out how much weight and pressure the water will exert.

peter-model-mesh Peter drops in lumber against the welded bars, and begins hanging aluminum to shape the cave.

peter-mesh The aluminum is screwed into the iron container, which Peter reinforces with several tons of concrete and dirt.  Then Peter fits the inside of the cave with a heavy, waterproof liner.

chuck-peter-foam Chuck and Peter spray foaming. It is freezing cold in the mountains at night. We're working off of Peter's flashlight.

jon-peter-foam 11pm on Friday night.  Foam party!

jon-hands These are my hands at my ballroom dance competition the day after spray-foaming. My poor dance partner had to hold these crusty hands.

Lesson learned: gloves.  The only way to get spray foam off your hands is sandpaper.

paint Production Designer Michael Barton puts in three coats of paint in three tints to texture the cave walls.

paint-and-resin Finally, a fiberglass resin layer is added to water-proof the paint. The resin is toxic so Peter and I have to wear a protective suit with an oxygen mask to apply the coat. I wish I had a picture of this - the outfit is post-apocalyptic.

cans Spray foam, $200.  Waterproof cave, priceless.

tanks Peter fills the cave with 1400 gallons of water off a water truck and fills two 750 gallon water tanks for standby. If you peek inside the container you can see the cave set.

AIR - Location Scouting

My next film shoot of 2009 is a 16 page thriller short I wrote called "AIR."  The premise... Six soldiers are trapped in a cave. The water level is rising and oxygen is running out. In order to survive long enough to be rescued, the soldiers begin killing each other off, one by one.

The shoot is technically challenging but I think we've raised enough money to see us through production. To see if this shoot is possible, Cinematographer Chuck and Producer Peter and I location scouted an equipment yard up in the Verdugo Mountains.

chuck Chuck, in a contemplative pose...

The trick is we need to build a cave that can gradually fill with water. This proves to be much more complicated than I imagined when writing the script. For one thing, this equipment yard has no running water. So we need to figure out how to move 3,000 gallons of water to this location, and then find a place to put it.

chuck-peter Chuck and Peter in deep thought.

We have a few ideas. My main goal is to get this set built well before production, to give us as much time as possible to test camera and lighting.  We need to make sure this is feasible before we drag a crew up here and put them in the water!

peter-chuck Can we fit a cave in a flat bed?