more BEER TRAIN details (photos, props, script sample, etc…)
So in all my BEER TRAIN updates I’ve only managed to squeeze out the most general of information. In fact the actual process over the last couple of months has been a relentless and tedious grind characterized by many tiny details. Each time I sat down to summarize it all, I was left feeling overwhelmed by the task and I would just give up after a few half-hearted stabs at it.
WHAT A LONG STRANGE TRIP ITS BEEN
For starters, I live in Houston and all of the casting and filming was done in the Austin area. I work full time at my day job to pay the bills so each weekend became another forced drive to Austin to work on the project. My car got more and more cluttered with junk as I sort of lived out of it over these last months. In theory I had it all worked out… I sold the idea to my wife this way: I would take the kids out of her hair for the weekend so she could do her work (this was supposed to help her to tolerate my spending so much time on the project) and while I was doing my thing the kids would get to see their grandmother. Everybody wins! And for the most part it seemed to work except for the toll it took on my mom’s immune system being subjected each week to a new germ cocktail of kid cooties.
One especially lame evening I got a flat tire with the kids in the car and what normally takes two and a half hours turned into a seven hour ordeal. But overall it worked fine. By the end of the process I was pretty exhausted with the commuting back and forth of course. These were not exactly relaxing weekends.
Most of March was spent casting the roles we needed. Our weekend meetings with our little skeleton crew would have us going over actors submissions, planning what was coming next, discussing the timeline we hoped to do things on, etc… We got a bunch of actors submitting their info to us, but once we started to have auditions the field suddenly thinned out considerably. The first audition we had was from 1-5pm on a Saturday and our first actor didn’t show until 3… Much of the time I felt like I might throw up.
That all of this was being staged from my mom’s house, the house where I grew up and went to high school, did not help much with my feelings of professional credibility.
We found ourselves struggling to fill out the cast and eventually I was sort of drafted into an acting role myself. I had not really wanted to act in the movie. Writing, producing, and directing were plenty enough for me, but when it came down to it everyone that auditioned got a part and we still needed another actor.
With each passing weekend I kept waiting for some kind of watershed moment that would tell me that this was actually happening… That the project was finally rolling on its own momentum… And after each weekend I would feel a fleeting sense of accomplishment that would quickly fade as I realized that so far we had only been talking about doing all of this and nothing had really happened yet.
Compounding my growing sense of anxiety was the fact that rehearsals were being held during the week when it was impossible for me to attend, and as far as I am aware there was not a single rehearsal held where everybody actually showed up. I started to have a creeping sense of dread. If the shooting weekends went anything like this we were screwed.
SOME GOOD LUCK
Meanwhile other things were coming together perfectly.
Whenever I felt disconnected from the project for being stuck in Houston during the week I could always fall back on busy work like creating props to keep myself occupied.
One of the benefits of working in a print shop is having access to various tools of the trade. On my lunch hour when nobody was looking I would print stuff out on the color printer, print out copies of the script, etc.
On a whim I asked my supervisor for a quote on having some four color process CMYK printing done on sticky labels (I hoped to use these for labels on my beer bottle props). I expected to hear how much it would cost and quickly abandon the idea. Instead the owners offered to do the printing for free because they considered it a test case for something they wanted to attempt anyway.
I also put together this porno magazine prop using nothing else besides my own perverse imagination, Photoshop, the color printer, and the shrink wrap machine in the bindery. It looked so good a couple of my actors thought it was real and that I was creepy for being so proud of it.
the porno as referenced in the script
We also had the great good fortune of lucking into some free screen printing through the guy that is going to be doing our editing. I gave him a basic logo design to work from and he created the artwork for the cardboard boxes that will be the cases of Treefrog Beer:
Considering we spent next to nothing on props we managed to have some really professional looking stuff.
The last weekend of April we finally put it all together and started filming.
Sheriff Tate pays the guys a visit (first weekend’s shoot)
Another stroke of good luck involved our getting a real life small town police officer to play the role of our small town Sheriff Derrick Tate. He even used to be a Sheriff before he switched to the police department and he brought his uniform to the shoot. He even rewrote a scene where he is on the radio with dispatch so that it would read as more authentic, and he had brought his police radio to use. He even went so far as to call ahead to tell law enforcement about our shoot in case they happened to pick up the transmissions they would know to disregard them. He really came through.
All the prep work paid off. Our Production Assistant Jamie scouted some awesome locations for us to use and things went really well once we started filming. This was by far the most fun part of the entire thing for me. All of the organizational stuff to make it happen was less satisfying in part because the results are delayed and at no time guaranteed. But filming gives you an immediate sense of getting something done.
The bulk of our filming was done in Wimberley, Texas about a half hour from Austin. The first weekend’s shoot we were out there both Saturday and Sunday. The following weekend we did do one location shoot at Fran’s Hamburgers on Congress in Austin.
our audio guy John Mace
Thanks to our sound guy joining us at the last minute things went much more smoothly than they otherwise would have gone. Without him we would have been scrambling to get the sound, not have really known what we were doing, and the quality would have suffered for sure.
my brother Mike rockin’ the Director of Photography gig
The second weekend of shooting was a bit more rocky due to one of our actors having to cancel because of a family emergency. We replaced him about 24 hours beforehand and went ahead as scheduled. Considering how little time our new guy had to prepare he did a fine job.
All and all things went really well. It has been an educational experience to be sure. Considering this was my first attempt at doing anything like this I feel lucky that everything went as smoothly as it did and people seemed to really enjoy themselves.
From here we move into editing what we have, then probably scheduling another weekend or two of filming to fill in the gaps. Once we have everything we need we will be putting together a promo package to seek funding for the feature length project.