INTO THE FIRE
The therapist's office was the simplest of them, so it would be the first day. I wanted an office that was open to contrast the cozy, private space associated with a traditional therapist's office. We found an office rental online.
In the weeks prior, I rehearsed with the actors several times to get the tone right. These scenes were where the central soul of the film lived so the performance was everything, particularly since it had to stand tough in contrast to the high-impact monster scenes interspersed with it.
The night before we began our shoot, I stared at the ceiling for most of the night, completely aware of the cliche. I feel most men who have pursued careers in docile, bookish professions like mine, will often wonder where their mettle lies. I wondered that night how I would do, like a bystander hearing screams from a burning house.
Would I take the challenge or would it beat me? Would I chicken out?
Before we did our first take, I had the actors and crew do a little theater exercise I had learned in a dance class I took on a lark in college. Dropping hands to the sides, one would close his or her eyes and breathe slowly, relaxing the entire body, consciously searching for the tics, posture and nuance of one's own body as to breathe them out, start fresh from a clean zero state. It’s an exercise for actors to step into a character without bringing their own personalities with them, but in our case I felt like I was changing skin, becoming a different person from that moment on.
Like the shoot schedule, our shot list was structured for efficiency with limited camera set ups. I shot wide because I knew the first takes would be the roughest, saving our medium and close shots for later when the actors would be more comfortable with the dialogue and their characters so that we could better focus on their performances.
Ryder, our protagonist, was new to acting but game for the fight. James Ross, the therapist, was a consummate professional in every sense. His dedication to the craft humbled me and his performances awed the crew. I was lucky to have them both. The shoot day went so swimmingly that we had enough time at the end to do a couple fancy pickups that made it into the final film.
All of us were on cloud nine. Our first shoot day was a wild success. Looking back, I should have been more nervous.