We are super excited to announce that our filmmaking guide “1 Camera, 2 Lenses, Crew of 3 or How We Shot Not One, But Two Feature Films With No Money” in which we share our experience on shooting our debut feature films will be out on September 8th exclusively on our blog. You can find more details about the launch in the following couple of days. Meanwhile, let me share how the actual shooting of my debut feature film the “Sixth Day” began.
Principal photography on “The Sixth Day” started on the first weekend of June 2011, the beginning of the hot Bulgarian summer. Despite our intense preparations during the previous few weeks before the start date, it all went wrong on Day 1. It was a disheartening experience. When it happened, my first thoughts were – “…we’re never going to make this!’’ But without being fatalists, we regrouped and got things under control.
Our first scene was a DAY/EXT in the mountain town of Dobrinishte in the Pirin mountains in Southwestern Bulgaria. This part of the country is a gorgeous region but in the summer it can get extremely hot with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius (100+ F). Especially in the higher altitudes, you can feel the sun blasting you in the forehead more than on lower altitudes such as in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia, where we shot some of the latter scenes of the movie.
As we were starting to shoot the first scene with the sun shining on the LCD screen of my trusty Canon 7D, I could hardly see my framing not to mention any focus whatsoever. I mean, that back LCD is bad enough as it is. And yes for some music videos, I could have gotten away with pulling focus from it (something I’d advise against again) but on a feature film, that’s not something anyone should be subjected to.
I pulled a cheap plastic Viewfinder frame from my camera bag that I had brought with me, but alas it quickly lost suction with the LCD frame on the back due to the intense heat, which disintegrated the cheap adhesive…
A frame grab from “The Sixth Day”
Adding to our camera troubles, our Sound recordist was experiencing some unwanted and interfering noise coming from a nearby group of people that were camping and being super loud. After assessing our options, we packed up and headed back to base without shooting a single frame of usable footage.
It was a dreadful feeling… I felt so bad for my cast and crew that I started having doubts whether we should call the whole thing off…
I guess you can imagine the disappointment the actors and the crew felt at this very moment. However, we pulled back together and went back to the location where we managed to get that first scene in the can by the end of the day. All I can say is that you should be ready for gear malfunctions and other factors beyond your control such as a rowdy and loud bunch of drunks nearby.
In such cases, stop, go back to base if you have to and return at a later point to finish the scene. That’s about all you can do. Oh, and get an external monitor with a sun hood – best advice I can give for shooting exteriors in scorching heat.
Night sky over Dobrinishte during summer
At the end of Day 1, which seemed at that time as one of the longest and tiring days of my life, we ended up shooting 2 full scenes – quite a feat given our major troubles and schedule setback in the morning. This is how we started shooting “The Sixth Day”, on one hectic and very hot summer day in June 2011.
Despite the dreadful experience on Day 1, which almost turned out to be a huge failure (thank God, it didn’t), things moved along in a smoother fashion during the next few weekends in June and July as we continued to shoot according to our schedule. Check out the trailer below.
The story continues on September 8th. Mark this date!