Hi! I’m Darek Kowal, creator of the comedy/horror web series ANYTOWN, USA! My show tells the story of an every-day, All-American, modern family … of cannibals, living in suburbia and dealing with rude neighbors the best way they can … by eating them. Our first 10 episode season is available at www.anytownusaseries.com and season 2 is currently filming! Besides Anytown, I’ve been a professional writer for over 10 years, received a B.A. from Columbia College Chicago, and have written feature scripts for several independent production companies, including the producers of ABC’s Castle.
I’ll be doing a regular posting here at Stareable, in hopes of sharing my experiences with the filming of season 2 & any other thoughts and observations I can make about media and the creative process. Let’s get started!
Today we’re going to talk about the shoot that almost wasn’t.
With season 2 underway, I decided the first day would be something easy to knock off the rust of a summer away from the camera. I highly recommend this after long breaks from being on set because filming is a physical activity and those require warm-ups. Stretch those hammies!
The scene was:
3 actors (1 of whom has zero lines), 1 location, 3 pages of content in 5 camera set ups.
Easy. Right? RIGHT?!
Right. Easy. Until you get a call at 8am on the day of the shoot from one of your actors telling you that they’re not coming.
Now what? Do I tell the female guest star who’s driving AN HOUR to be there not to come? Do I tell the crew not to load up the truck? Do I waste a week of prep and hope I can pull everything back together at a later date?
No. Of course not. You don’t cancel the shoot!
It’s hard enough to align the planets and get everything you need in one room at the same time. It’s even harder when you have a MICRO budget. People have lives, jobs, other interests. When they offer you their time, you don’t cancel and hope to get them back some other day.
So, what do I do? It’s a scene that requires 2 males and 1 female. Where am I going to find another male actor in less that 10 hours?
I immediately called actors I’d cast last season. Oh, they’re all busy tonight? Perfect!
Now what? I can’t find another guy and the only other person I know can be on set tonight is my girlfriend who … believe it or not … is a girl. A very lovely girl. There’s no way she can pass as a guy …
Unless, she’s covered head to toe … and ALF.
I know, this is obviously not ALWAYS an option. Not every script or show allows for the creative leeway as Anytown, USA. But, the point is … be adaptable.
Be willing to work around problems with creative thinking. Resources can be limited but IDEAS ARE FREE.
We threw my girlfriend in the ALF costume, filmed for 6 hours, and … as I review the footage now … created a scene that is weird and funny and insane in a way that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. Certainly not if I’d canceled the shoot.
So, the point is … whether it’s on set or in post, if your back is up against the wall, never stop thinking. Don’t give up. Search for creative solutions. Is the scene going to be 100% what you planned? Probably not. But when is it ever? Be willing to adjust on the fly while also keeping the thematic elements that inspired you to create that scene in the first place.
And maybe have an adult-sized Alf costume nearby.