Tohubohu’s Latest: “Close Quarters”

I have to say, we’ve learned a lot every time we’ve done this, and this weekend probably resulted in our smoothest work yet. Not that it wasn’t without some significant bumps. We drew “Drama” — a tough category for a group whose talents certainly fall more into the comedic vein (though you can feel free to debate our success in that arena). Still, as Drama was a new category this year, it was somewhat rewarding to be one of the “inaugural groups” to give it a go.

On the flip side, we’d lost our writer mere days before. So I, our producer (and my wife) Pam, and a few of our actors all hammered out our script, finally winding up around 4:00 a.m.

A quick catnap (not to mention a much-needed shower) later and we were up and shooting bright and early Saturday morning. We hadn’t had time to work out a detailed production schedule the night before (and several of our actors — being in other shows or rehearsals — had time restrictions), so Pam ordered shots on the fly. A last-minute discovery was that a construction crew was working a few doors down from our location, but at that point it was too late to move — we just scheduled our outdoor shots for the lunch break and hoped the noise wouldn’t carry inside.

Our editor was working on-site, grabbing tapes (and the very detailed notes from our script supervisor) and putting together rough cuts of scenes right there. We finally wrapped around 8:00 p.m. — the earliest we’ve ever finished one of these shoots — and I took over shot-logging and capture so our editor could grab a quick rest. But by about midnight, we had all of our footage captured and a rough cut of everything but two complicated scenes put together.

Unfortunately, we also discovered that we had some story problems. We ran the rough cut past a couple of test audiences (okay, past some coworkers I was able to shanghai to watch it), and there was a lot about the character relationships that wasn’t coming through. So we (i.e., Pam) hammered out a quick prologue scene and sent her, our D.P., and a couple of actors out to shoot it while the editor and I kept at the cutting. Our “second unit” finished shooting by 2:00, and we folded the new scene in, color-corrected and scored the film, rendered a letterboxed version (an agonizingly slow process), and dumped it out to tape.

At 7:28 p.m. — just two minutes before the final deadline — I ran through the doors of the Warehouse Theater, two copies of Tohubohu’s official entry, “Close Quarters,” in hand. Which will screen this Friday night, May 12, at the AFI Silver Theatre, at 9:30 p.m. (tickets are available via their website, hint, hint).

All in all, an extraordinary weekend, a thrilling experience, and something I’m likely to keep doing for as long as I possibly can. It’s just great to have a chance to do this — and most importantly, to have a finished product to show for it.

Thanks all for participating, and congratulations to everyone who gave this a go!