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PICKIN' ON FILM: Making a movie takes real effort

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Last week, I wrote about my experience working in New Orleans on the set of an independent film called "Breaking Night."

This week: what went on during our four days of filming.

The first day started in Behrman Park. The night before, I got an e-mail about how we were to dress on set. As an extra, I was instructed to dress as close to 1970s style as I could.

Producing a Wrangler pearl-snap shirt, jeans and boots from my own arsenal, I went to work.

On set, everyone is in a rush.

The director of photography is carrying the camera all day and lining up shots so they will be filmed how the director envisioned.

The production manager is keeping everyone in sync while the actors wait in the wings to be called to the set, but only after the costume designer along with hair and makeup people have worked their magic.

The grips are constantly moving the various lighting and electrical equipment, setting up tracks for the camera, and making sure the heaviest gear makes it to the right place.

They work incredibly hard. At any second they can be called in to move lights that took them an hour to stage.

There are stills photographers taking pictures of everyone to document the whole team at work. Their photos can be used for continuity, press releases and also the enjoyment of crewmembers, whom the viewing public won’t see. We also had Pamela, a great social media director updating our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

The production team is called on to do just about anything. I helped with our awesome craft services, worked with the art department, recorded candid behind-the-scenes video footage during takes, manned a Generator, as well as about 50 other various tasks.

The extras scene took 15 minutes after a 90-minute setup of the shot. You’ll see me in the background reading a book, but you’ll have to look close because I was sporting a beard, much to my Mawma Jeanne Bragg’s disappointment.

One shot called for the actors to sit on the hoods of 1970s-era cars. To keep the talent from getting burned, I would pour water over the hood of a car then sit down to be out of the frame, wait for the shot to be over, then stand up and pour more.

The actors were working hard in the beating sun so we ran water and sunscreen to them constantly.

The tradeoff between running all day to set things up it offset by the time in which you stood by to let the actors and camera operators get what they need.

Things go from being a rush to being a “hurry up and wait” situation.

Once the shot is set up and the camera is rolling, the crew would line up under a black canvas screen to view a monitor and see the fruits of everyone’s labor.

Many times we would watch the shot and after viewing director Yolonda Ross’ incredible vision, we’d excitedly clap and yell to let the cast and crew know that they really blew us away.

They did many times. Breaking Night is full of killer footage.

The art department transformed a house back to 1979 for the second day. We shot in the house all day and after finishing daytime scenes, the grips transformed the lighting to make it appear that it was night outside.

I was standing outside during a take when a second line parade came down the street. I couldn’t think of a cooler New Orleans moment to be a part of.

I helped art return the house to normal early the next day then took the main actors out to St. Charles Parish for the third day. This day and the next called for shooting “magic hour” scenes, which takes place during the last (and best) sunlight of the day.

Because there is only a small amount of useable time when the light is perfect, it is extremely important. I watched the cast and crew get the shot in an impressive 12 minutes.

On our last day we met at 3 p.m. and shot until dawn.

It wasn’t until then that I finally understood the script. It all came together awesomely. I would mention more about the story but it’s Yolonda’s to tell, not mine.

After we packed everything up, I brought out my cooler and we all sat on the edge of the Mississippi River and toasted wrapping as the sun rose above New Orleans.

Everyone worked hard to pull off a magnificent achievement. We were lucky to have a wonderful cast and crew in which everyone got along and worked hard. I have been told that such a thing is very rare and it makes "Breaking Night" that much more special.

Thank you, Yolonda, for making one of my greatest dreams come true. I cannot wait to see the film and I look forward to seeing your work in the future.

I did get my po-boy, by the way. Parasol’s in the Irish Channel made a simpler dream come true.
Tagged under  Entertainment, John Bragg III, Movie, New Orleans, Voices

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