Greenspoke Principal Photography Redux

Who would think that shooting a film with several exterior scenes in Seattle in December was a good idea? No one. The weather in Seattle in December is unpredictable, giving everything from snow storms to spring-like days to tropical storms dumping warmish rain. Luckily for Greenspoke, the weather cooperated. Thank you Jim Castillo. I had great plans to give you a blow-by-blow account of the shoot. Hah! Here are some highlights.

Day 1: Beach and parking lot scenes
Location: Golden Gardens Park

I wanted to get the toughest scenes out of the way first. We rented the Bathhouse at Golden Gardens for makeup and to give everyone a place to eat and warm up. This was our first day and Tess Malone utilized her 10+ years in film and television to get us working together well. I spent the first hour or so running around checking things until Tess chained me to the monitor. We spent too much time on the parking lot shots but they look great. About 8 hours of usable daylight this time of year, so I could actually say “we’re burning daylight people” and it meant something.   We had some frantic moments as the sun sank into the West as we tried to get it all done.

Actors and background performers (Tess used this term for extras – much nicer huh?) leapt into Puget Sound (which is cold all year round). Leading man Tim Gouran went in 3 times and he is still speaking to me. If anyone has to jump in again, I’ve committed to jumping in too. Brrr. Luckily the beach footage is cutting together nicely.

Day 2: The shower and living room scenes
Location: Our house (eek)

Greenspoke had the largest film crew I have worked with so far. Doors came off, furniture went in all kinds of new positions and a month later things are still not all back in place. The shower is a vintage affair that fairly drowned the actors before getting way too hot – then for the first time in years we ran out of hot water. To top it off, I had carefully placed two large bathsheets on the counter for the actors to dry off – these got scooped up when the set was being dressed and got dumped in the laundry hamper.  I had to give two cold mostly naked wet people every hand towel in the house and a hair dryer to dry off and warm up.

Day 3: Governor’s bedroom and bath
Location: Shafer Baillie Mansion

This was a great day. Indoors, mostly dry, excellent location for the scenes with plenty of room to move around.

Day 4: Street biking scene, newscaster report, dream sequence
Locations: West Seattle street, Lee’s Martial Arts in West Seattle

My dp Ryan Purcell HATED the dream sequence location. Securing locations is right up there with getting music clearances on my list of things that make me want to pull my brain out through my nose and smack it around. Once Ryan got that I was firm on shooting at the martial arts studio, he dove in and got me some really nice footage. I dove in and tried to show the actors how I wanted them to fall. Bad idea.

Day 5: Laboratory scenes
Location: Seattle Central Community College

I stepped out of the shower and had a completely immobilizing pain in my back and hips. After standing in place for what seemed like 5 minutes, I started moving very slowly to get myself dried off and dressed. When I finally made it downstairs, Kurt and Tess were both sympathetic and concerned. I figured out that I could move faster if I used an old cane that we had sitting by the front door. This made for a grand though slow entrance when we arrived on set.

Kate Sowell, our location contact and technical advisor, had agreed to play the lab technician in the opening sequence. I wanted someone who knew how a pipette worked and didn’t get the lab geeks in the audience hissing. She did a great job, although I think she got a little frustrated when we had to knock a styrofoam cup off a counter 30 times before the dumbass director was happy with it.

Day 6: Emissions Station
Location: South Seattle Emissions Station

My back was definitely on the mend thanks to some wonderful heating pad thingies that Tess recommended. Our technical advisor and location host Bart Richter helped keep us safe and helped our actors understand what the machines did and how they worked. He even got in a car for on of the scenes. The weather was cold and we had a few weird moments of sunshine that will need to be eradicated in post.

Day 7: Protest and presentation scenes
Location: North Seattle Community College

School was still in session (they were having finals) and we were going to shoot a protest scene outside the library. Only about half of the extras showed up, so many of the protesters were cast members.  My favorite protester is our 2nd AC Staci Bernstein. Totally focused and into what she was doing. Then it was on to the presentation scene about the Greenspoke project, held in a nicer lecture hall. Ryan and crew did a great job lighting the space and hiding the blackboard to make it less school-y.

Day 8: Exterior Ruri’s apartment, John’s bedroom
Location: Capitol Hill and Greenwood neighborhoods of Seattle

Our last day and the first day that we got any significant rainfall. EZ-ups (tent-like structures) on the sidewalk helped somewhat, but it was really cold being out there for hours. Buses, jets and traffic noise were giving our sound guy fits. Chris Swenson and his crew from the Seattle Office of Film and Music came by and cheered us on. After that we headed to my friends Patty and Austin’s house in Greenwood to completely disrupt their lives and drop a very strange man in their bed. They were good sports as always and Patty will even make it into the blooper reel.

Overall impressions

There’s nothing like hearing your words and images come to life with a good crew and actors. Working with the RED footage in Final Cut Pro has been OK but is really straining my poor MacBook Pro. A much-loved tool (the Trim Edit window) in FC Pro crashes every time I try to use it with this higher res footage. I’m working around that but the finish edit will be tricky. I’ve completed a very rough cut and have played around in Apple Motion a bit to try it out for some of the simple visual effects. The trick now is to keep moving forward toward a finished product. It’s easy to get bogged down in all the details.

Thanks to all of you who worked on the project or supported me in this effort. Some things I love about making movies are the collaboration with smart fun people, the creative “greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts” and our shared excitement over seeing something new emerge from a script and a stack of drawings.


3 Responses to “Greenspoke Principal Photography Redux”

  1. Kevin Campbell Says:

    Cannot wait ’til the finished product is out. It should be a good view!!! I was one of the background performers at N. Seattle C.C. and had a blast; it was my first time.

    Best wishes on the release!!!

  2. Kevin Campbell Says:

    No worries; it was fun.

    Glad to hear that all is moving forward!!!

    Have a great day,


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