When we last left Sean Gillane and his merry band of San Francisco pranksters, they were shooting green screen footage on the street, guerilla filming at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, and generally trying to stay one step ahead of the law. In the meantime, I went to Los Angeles to work with Paul Osborne. But the schedule, as it sometimes does, took me back through San Francisco. Knowing that CXL was designed to shoot in chunks, I got ahold of Sean to see when they were filming next. As luck would have it, the next shoot dates coordinated perfectly with my trip through town.
And that’s how CXL became the first repeat film in A Year Without Rent. A person could win a lot of bar bets with that little bit of trivia. Of course, if you managed to find someone who cared enough about A Year Without Rent to wager on it, they surely will have read this.
There’s something disorienting about coming back to a project after some time on another one. You recognize everyone, so there isn’t that day where you have to explain to everyone what exactly it is you’re doing. The familiarity is nice. You’ve even shot in this location before, so you know where everything is.
Because there’s still that other film that you just worked on. Was it all a dream? Did you really drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back? How long were you gone? Is this Narnia?
Everything has changed, but everything is the same.
Which is maybe why I spent 5 minutes looking around Sean’s apartment for the china ball, only to realize that this film doesn’t have a china ball. And why I spent another 5 minutes at craft services trying to find one of the Vuka Energy Drinks we had in Los Angeles. I liked them. Why are they not on this shoot?
It’s not so much confusing as it is mildly disorienting, which is somehow worse. There’s just enough coherence to trick you into thinking you know what’s happening.
But let’s talk about the day.
For every film in A Year Without Rent, I’m sure to ask the filmmakers beforehand for some parameters of what they don’t want seen. This almost entirely becomes a spoiler question. I usually say that I obviously don’t want to reveal your big plot twist, but if two crew members get in a fight, then that’s obviously a different story.
CXL probably has the most interesting thing on their “don’t show this” list (so far). All I can say is that it’s a striking visual that is a massive spoiler and the first thing you’d want to put on the poster. You can probably guess how much of a dilemma that puts the production in. On the one hand, you want to protect your movie and the viewing experience for your audience, but the thing you most need to hide very well may be the thing that draws in the most audience. It’s like if you made SE7EN for $50,000 but still had Kevin Spacey in it. Hide Kevin Spacey and you fuck up your marketing. Promote him and you spoil your movie. You can’t win.
Still, it’s a good problem to have.
But today we’re shooting a bunch of that spoiler stuff. It looks really cool and the process behind it is pretty awesome and essentially perfect for one of these blog posts.
There came a point in the day where I said to Sean, “hey, I’m just going to start taking pictures of this and not run them because you’re definitely going to want them later.”
That struck everyone as a good compromise. There’s plenty of time to figure out what to do with them.
Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.