If you've never witnessed a movie being made, your knowledge of the process may be limited to the common, offhand summation, "It's a lot of waiting." After spending last Wednesday on the set of Olive Juice, an independent film that's currently being lensed in Central Florida, I can offer a slightly more informed perspective:
It's. A. Lot. Of. Waiting.
You wait for the cameras to roll. You wait for equipment to be moved. You wait for gofers to return from drug stores with extra hair spray. Sometimes you even find yourself waiting to wait.
As they huddled around a private home in College Park for the second half of a two-day location shoot, the members of the "Olive Juice" production staff were doing everything possible to make the inevitably slow process run smoothly. Nick and Alex Karvounis -- the film's Las Vegas-based producer and director of photography, respectively -- had assembled a crack team of local pros to help get their romantic comedy in the can. Veterans of the local cinema, TV and theater communities joined forces with volunteer production assistants and film students, receiving and transmitting up-to-the-minute orders over headset mikes that had been paid for by an investing patron.
Still, Wednesday morning's first shot -- in which star Leighanne Wallace was to emerge from the house while verbally sparring with her on-screen fiance (Michael Hartson) -- met with unforeseen delays. The overhead noises of a helicopter and then a plane played havoc with the audio, followed by the distracting sound of a neighbor effecting some unannounced home improvements with a power saw. Three hours of preparation nearly flew out the window, and it was all the Sears Home Center's fault.
Shooting the breeze
When work moved indoors, the proceedings were temporarily closed to all nonessential personnel. A measly Pulitzer Prize away from essentiality, I instead hobnobbed with the remaining members of the crew (and Nick Karvounis, the most accessible of the film's creators) to learn more about the project.
What I discovered: The three-week shoot (which ends Saturday, Dec. 11) is the culmination of two years of planning. The Karvounis twins are partners in From Within Productions, a company temporarily headquartered in an Orlando apartment. The story -- a lighthearted fantasy about a woman (Wallace) who falls for a pet-shop owner on the eve of her nuptials to another man -- was written by director Ken Hastings (like the twins, a graduate of the New York University film school) and based on the impressions of O-town life he's built up after eight years of residency.
The best dirt came from the P.A.s, who shared hilarious tales about the Backstreet Boys fans who were following the crew from location to location. (BB heartthrobs Brian Littrell and A.J. McLean have cameo roles in the film.) One mother, I was told, had complained that she had "taken her daughter out of school for nothing" by dropping in on a day when no Backstreeters were slated to appear. Now that's parenting.
I whiled away another hour by polishing off a copy of the script. "Olive Juice" is indeed a date movie of the Hanks/Ryan school, albeit with frequent references thrown in to our local dance-music culture. (Someone was bound to film "Sleepless in Orlando" one of these days.)
The ban was lifted in the afternoon, and I was allowed to watch the filming of a dinner scene between Wallace and Hartson. To my amazement, the Gregorys -- the family of "movie fans" who had offered their immaculate three-story house as a location -- permitted the crew to run a camera track across their Formica floor to facilitate a dolly shot. The track disappeared before any scuff marks could be left: No more than three takes were filmed of any setup.
That's not a lot of coverage, but a tight schedule and limited budget don't allow for dawdling. The dailies, I was told, were looking good. No one was worried.
After the day's wrap, Wallace unwound in her trailer, candidly admitting that Littrell's involvement stemmed from his status as her real-life boyfriend. She briefly ran down her professional resume, which included an appearance on TV's "Silk Stalkings."
"It's not a well-written show, obviously," she acknowledged.
"Olive Juice," in comparison, was a "great shoot," and something to be proud of as an actress -- or as the film's co-producer, which she also is.
When our interview was over, Wallace thanked me for not making Littrell its focus. There was much more about the film, she said, that was newsworthy.
I didn't tell her that Wednesday's final shot had nearly been scuttled by a group of teen-agers, who drove through the neighborhood in a Jeep Cherokee while bellowing, "WE'RE GOING TO THE BACKSTREET BOYS CONCERT!" at levels that threatened to ruin the recording that was going on inside. It was a great story, but I knew she wouldn't mind waiting to hear it.