It's been a great first week of prep! We arrived last Sunday to Halifax; Paco (Writer/Director/Producer) Batman (his dog) Ricky (Producer) Begoña (Director's Assistant) Miguel Angel (Post-Prod Supervisor) and Lorena (Friend). The snow that made this past winter the worst in Halifax in 60 years is all but gone, and we seem to have brought the sunny Madrid weather with us. We went out on a quick supermarket shopping spree and then settled into our homes away from home for the next few months.
The next morning we arrived at our production offices which was still being set up. Nothing is more energizing than the excitement of a team moving into new offices for the start of work on a film. Linda Ambury (Line Producer) and effective ringleader, is without a doubt the homemaker in the bunch. While the production offices are pretty nondescript, hers is without a doubt already the warmest and most welcoming; complete with a picture of her beautiful great-grandmother when she was a young lady, and this flyer which wisely advices anyone entering her office:
After a few basic introductions, Jason Shipley (1st Assistant Director) and Linda packed us off into vehicles and off we went to scout this beautiful city and its surroundings. This first week has been all about finding and locking the locations where we will shoot. Paco and I had already been to Halifax, to hunt for the perfect filmmaking spots (Paco in fact 3 times.) However this time around, time is of the essence, and decisions need to be made. So we move around urgently together with members of the various departments: locations, transportation, direction, art department, camera and production - each weighing in on the pro's and cons of each candidate location. The challenge is mind-boggling when you take into consideration all the factors that have to combine to make for a perfect location. Not only does it have to work for the script, the location must be available, gettable within budget, controllable for traffic and neighbors, oriented against the sun in just the right way for the director of photography, logistically viable for the assistant director, suitable for the large convoy of trucks that make up a production unit, and workable for the art department to dress or build. Indeed, Shaun Clarke (Location Manager) and Andrew McInnes (co-Locations Manager) are unsung heroes who deserve far greater recognition than they get for the incredible work they do.
To their credit, much of the initial work to select locations is now behind us, which is not to say of course that the locations department's work is over. Far from it. Now they have to secure these locations - and hold them. Not an easy task. You never want to be the location manager that found a location that enamored the director, that worked for everyone else and which then suddenly becomes unavailable!
It's impossible to capture the level of activity that surrounds us now that we're 27 days away from the start of production. Four days into the start of prep, and the crew contact sheet already has 42 names on it. I'll do my best on these dispatches to explain why each of these people is so necessary and what it is they do.
I do have one final thought for now. It never ceases to amaze me how well oiled a film crew can be, even when that crew has never worked together before. I can't think of any other type of work environment where a large crew can assemble instantly and be at work without orientation and without missing a beat. I think part of it has to do with the timeless tradition of apprenticeship that exists in film. Filmmaking is still very much a craft, and where there is craft there are masters and there are apprentices. The difference between them, it is said, is that masters have already made all the mistakes that apprentices have yet to make.
The crew of The Healer has its share of masters. Javier Aguirresarobe our director of photography is undoubtedly one of them. Whether he's shooting one of the Twilight films, or a film for Woody Allen, Javier is already showing Paco and I (and the others no doubt) what makes a great director of photography - great. And we also have our share of apprentices who I hope will fondly remember their time on THE HEALER as one of the films early in their careers on which they made a few mistakes and thus learned their craft. Andre Pettigrew (Trainee Production Coordinator) Ryan Kamperman (Assistant Production Coordinator) Heather Harvey (3rd Assistant Director) Johanna Shurko (Assistant Background Casting Director) Alex Mayer (Production Assistant) Natalie Posner (Production Assistant) and Laura Posner (Actress and Production Assistant) Kaitlyn Bernard (Actress) WELCOME!
You remind me of my own early experiences - one in particular as a coffee boy for Tom Hanks! I would happily trade my own Producer position for yours anytime. But I must have your youth as well...
Enrique Posner (Producer)