last sunday night i was helping sam clean up the kitchen as i was being moderately successful at controlling the anxiety inside of me. i had just come off a rough week of work on a short, one by some first-time film makers, where the writer, producer, and star were all the same person. the hours of the show had been all over the place, doing nights then a day then another night and i had gotten home that morning in time to fall asleep on the couch for an hour, with my shoes on and still holding my cell phone, before stumbling up to my room for another hour of rest and still getting to church in time for sunday school. i didn't mind the rough hours, i've gotten accustomed to that. what had me nervous was what was coming up.
i was starting the next morning on a movie called 127 hours, the new movie by danny boyle. if that name sounds familiar, it's because he won the oscar for directing slumdog millionaire last year and had been one of my favorite directors ever since i saw millions. i was absolutely thrilled to be working on the same set as him; for me, it really doesn't get much bigger. but not only was i going to straight to his show on very little sleep, i wasn't going to be on the camera crew, but was doing video assist: recording and keeping track of all that goes through the director's monitor and playing back whatever scene or shot he should require. in short, being in charge of a little cart with a million different buttons and cables, and only having a brief once-over training on a few nights earlier. further, on thursday the production was moving to southern utah, where we would be hiking into canyons and shooting there. this meant i was taking a whole new package, one that had not really been field tested to make sure we had everything we may need. and i was the one getting thrown into all this. i told sam i was most nervous for monday (my first day on the job) and friday (our first day making it all work in the middle of the desert), and that i was very curious how i would be feeling the following sunday, when i would be done.
i kept a prayer in my heart. today, i found myself looking back and thinking what a good week it was. it was hard, to be sure, but everything worked out just great.
the first day was rather light work on set. i was quietly excited to be on set with the director and cinematographer whom i had read so much about in my magazines and to watch them work, my friend who was on the other unit's video assist kindly came in three hours early before her call time to help me get up and running, and before long, everyone was telling me they were glad i was there.
i spent the next two days watching james franco cut his own arm off with a pocket knife, again and again. needless to say, when i watch this movie on my clearplay next year, i won't need to have the "violence/gore" filter on. (the movie is the story of the guy who got his arm caught rock climbing and had to cut it off in order to save his life) i occasionally had to look away during the cutting of the arm's nerve itself, but i've seen it all. and my friend in props tossed one of the fake nerves onto my cart, anyway.
southern utah was a definite workout. we had to backpack in some of our equipment over a half-mile hike, which for me included a 60 lb. backpack of my gear along with a couple of quite heavy batteries (usually i found some charitable soul to help carry those). our location was 100 miles from our motel, meaning that we had to leave at 5 a.m. to be in time for our 6:30 call. and the first night i arrived in town at 1 a.m. and was up until 3 getting everything ready, pushing through the following day on about an hour of sleep. the next night i got four hours and it felt great. for being a kid who was never good about getting up for early morning seminary or particularly relishing scouting hikes, i found myself at times wondering how i ended up in this job.
it was odd not being in the camera crew, and i found myself instinctively looking up when someone mentioned my former crew. doing video assist is much less stressful, although it can feel a little lonely, since you are the only one in your department. as such, there's no one else to specifically help you move equipment or make sure everything is arranged and taken care of. but i know pretty much all of the crew and we pitch in to help each other out as needed. somehow, it all works.
there were some hard times, too, down there. for varying circumstances, we didn't have much (or any) lunch for either day, one camera assistant suffered from heat exhaustion, and, saddest of all, the gaffer on the other unit passed away in his sleep on friday night. he was the father to our key grip and best boy electric and was well-known and loved by the whole crew. it was a very sad moment on set, but there is a great comradery amongst the grips and electrics and they pulled together to carry on. a very sad day, just the same.
and now i have one week off, then i'm back on to finish out the show. i'm missing some of the most beautiful scenery, but it's so nice to have time off, a week to refresh and take care of some things. for how uncertain things seemed last week, and how far away today looked, i feel really good about it all.