CLASSROOM: How to Turn A Culver City Garage into a 1988 NYC Subway Scene
Here at Sinema, we often pick out articles that help us approach the everyday production hurdles in the most creative ways to cross post; so that our readers here would get to benefit by encouraging them to think out of the box from the conventional “tried and tested” safe approach. We were contacted by the Co-Founder of Slamdance Film Festival – Dan Mirvish (who happened to read our cross post article on how his pal Mark Stolaroff’s shot car scenes at night on a micro-budget for ‘DriverX’) to share this, so here’s the cross posting share to you Dan!
There is little better than when Filmmakers find a creative, budget-friendly, and effective solution to a massively expensive production hurdle. When prepping to direct my recent feature Bernard and Huey (which after an award-winning festival run and theatrical release just hit Amazon Prime this month), one of the biggest challenges was going to be how to shoot our flashback scenes for our “young” Bernard and Huey. The script was originally written by Oscar/Pulitzer-winner Jules Feiffer in 1986, based on characters from his comic strips that went back to 1957.
In the original screenplay, the contemporary scenes of middle-aged old friends Bernard and Huey happen in the mid-80s, with flashbacks to their college years in 1960. When I first started working with Jules I told him that on my indie film budgets it’s hard enough to do “one-period” movie, much less two. So we agreed to move everything up about 30 years: The contemporary scenes were now, and the flashbacks were set in the late 1980s.
Feiffer had written a great scene of young Bernard and Huey on a crowded, moving New York subway, noticing a particular woman, and discussing ways to attract “the urban chick” (yes, this is a satire of toxic masculinity). But where would we find a working 1980s era New York subway to shoot on?
Even though almost the whole film is set in New York, we were planning on doing most of principal photography in Los Angeles. (Hey, Hollywood’s been shooting LA for New York for over a century… what makes me so special?) Besides, I live in Culver City, so I could stay close to home. We were going to shoot all the interiors and a number of exteriors in LA, and then go to New York for two days of exterior shooting. But we could only afford to bring three of our leads with us to New York: Jim Rash (Bernard), David Koechner (Huey) and Mae Whitman (Huey’s daughter, Zelda).
For the flashback scenes, we’d cast LA-local actors Jay Renshaw as a young Bernard and Jake O’Connor as a young Huey. Prior to shooting, we’d done four days of rehearsals in my kitchen including both sets of Bernards and Hueys. We knew the flashback scenes would take two full days of our 14 days in LA. Even if we had shot the flashbacks in New York, it’s illegal to shoot on the NYC subway and besides, it doesn’t look much like it did in 1988. We started to research to see if any of the Hollywood studios had any vintage subway cars on their lots. The studios have been known to throw an indie film a bone once in a while, but we were still looking at a US$10,000 location fee at best. And that’s if we’d been able to find one.
via: No Film School
Image Credit: Dan Mirvish