At the beginning of this year, I wrote and directed a short film for my Production I class at Kent State University. This is Part Three of a four-part blog series dives in-depth into the process of creating How to Be a Productive Member of Society, my first [proper] short film… because this was the first film I produced and directed that had a complete and proper film set, planning process, production process.
Filming officially began at 11:29 am on March 12, 2023, although crewmembers were there as early as 8 am to start preparing the location. We were filming in my girlfriend Bella’s apartment, so we had to start moving things around to make this look like Keith’s bachelor pad, which his later wife would eventually move into. We stripped a lot of the personality of the apartment away, as Keith is meant to be a pretty plain and vanilla guy. This meant lots of blank white walls and little decor. In addition, we had to blackout the windows of the bedroom to sell the “nighttime” effect. This was achieved with some blackout material, dark blankets, and tons of gaff tape on the inside of the window (this would typically be done on the opposite side of the window, but the apartment was on the 2nd floor, so this wasn’t doable.) Luckily, the window had blinds to help cover the blackout material. Some crew spent about 45 minutes setting that to make sure absolutely no light was shining through, and it turned out great — outside, it was 11 in the morning, but inside, it was 11 at night.
After 100 or so shots (!!), we wrapped at 6:32 pm, with a fourth take of scene 40, shot AA; a shot of Keith and Amanda asleep in bed together. We then had to clean up and part ways, but this was only the first of our 6 total shooting days; we’d be picking back up again over the next weekend with our office scenes.
The rest of the shooting days were mostly a blur. On the day we filmed in the office, one of our actors (who was supposed to play the Coworker character) unfortunately wasn’t able to make it to set the day due to extraneous circumstances, which threw off the rest of filming that day. We ended up bringing in an actor who was very luckily available last minute, and since the role was pretty minor, we did so without auditioning. This is something I never hope to have to do again, but the show had to go on, even if they weren’t the initial casting choice we planned. And Kelli, who took on the role, did a great job filling those shoes last minute. This happening, however, lost us a lot of time, and forced us to have to come back to the office location for an extra shooting day to film the rest of our scenes, as we only had that office for a limited amount of time.
The manager for that office had opted for our filming to be scheduled on a Friday… while there were actual staff working in the office. They weren’t necessarily in our way, but we were definitely in theirs, and it was awkward to be interruptive to their workday; there was only so much we could do to keep the film set quiet and not crowded in the tiny space. Seemingly due to this, the manager initially was not very open to the idea of us coming back for an extra day of shooting. We ended up having our professor contact them, which ended up successful in getting us the location for the extra day we needed.
I think this is a good time to note that for every location we filmed at, we did our absolute best to clean it up better than it was before we got there. This included taking photos of the original layout and setup of the specific location so that we could put everything back to how it was. We made very sure to stick to this, and I even had some crew stay behind to ensure we did things like take out the trash and wipe surfaces down that we had been near.
Another hiccup we encountered was towards the end of March. We were supposed to shoot at a lake for our outdoor honeymoon scene and wedding scene (we had moved it to be outdoors since the church said no). The night before this shoot was supposed to take place, a windstorm took out electricity to a pretty big portion of Kent and knocked down many trees and power lines. Worried about how our location was going to look, my producer Heidi and I drove to the location the night before, only to find it inaccessible due to many downed trees and power lines; you couldn’t even get into the parking lot.
We ended up finding another park close by and opted to film there instead, as we were not going to be able to add any extra shooting days with our cast and crew’s schedules. We did film here without a permit, but in our defense, our emails and calls went unanswered. We didn’t run into any issues while there, luckily — and I think it ended up being a better location anyway!
We then had our final production day on April 13. This was the extra day we needed to film a few more crucial office scenes, as well as our bar scene and the shots of our characters walking outside. It was a bit of a packed day, but we managed to persevere and ended up wrapping at 6:54 pm, with a shot of Keith walking to his car. We cheered, exchanged hugs, and then said our goodbyes. The film was finally done — now time for postproduction!