Finally after two years we are shooting Almost There.
As one of the crew put it this movie is on the fuzzy line between documentary and scripted show. In Hollywood terms my part of the documentary is "based on a real person". So it comes down to me being an actor playing a person based on me. Except I'm not an actor. That’s the fun part.
The crew at our Seattle hotel. Left to right: Marco Teufen, audio - Nikolai von Graevenitz, Director of Photography (DP) - Jacqueline Zünd, Director and Beatrice Minger, Assistant Director (AD), Unit Production Manager (UPM), cook…..
We shot me leaving my condo. Except we used an apartment on Queen Ann Hill with an outstanding view. I wish my condo had that view.
RX100 camera - I wanted to take photos of me being photographed but I couldn’t use my Canon 5D DSLR camera because it is too big to carry on set. So to “shoot the shooters” I purchased a Sony RX100 point and shoot. Unlike cheaper point and shoot cameras it has a popup view finder for sunny days and it shoots Sony Raw. Our DP also owns one. Most of the photos on this page were shot with the RX100.
We shot for 3 days in Seattle then went to Malibu. This is a view from the Malibu RV Park. The crew has two RVs and of course I have mine.
Nikolai and Jacqueline watching me frolic in the waves. The Canon C100 sends a WiFi signal that is picked up on the iPad making the iPad a monitor. Pretty slick.
Notice the models and photographers in the background. This must be a popular beach for photographers. There were 4 or 5 groups shooting.
The most difficult part of this experience is letting go. I don't know what's going on most of the time but then I don't have to. All I need to do is "hit my mark" and allow the director to pull the character, who is a lot like me, out of me.
Tuttle Creek campground near Lone Pine, California.
They had paid for a warm motel but decided once we were at the camp ground it was better to spend the night there at 28 degrees than go to the motel. My batteries were charged and I had a lot of propane so not so bad. Next day we had a good breakfast then did some more shooting.
During the shoot friends would ask how it was going. I had no idea how it was going. Partly because I didn’t watch the dailies, I thought it might make me a bit self conscious, and partly because I only had a rough idea of what they were after. If the Jacqueline was happy I assumed it was going well.
After breakfast they went to a corner to discuss what I am to do that day. I’m not invited. Wouldn’t do any good anyway. Virtually all conversations are in German.
Tonopah was a cold depressing place but the crew liked some of the visual aspects like the Clown Motel and the old graveyard.
Me with my ever ready Sony RX100 taking photos of the crew. “Shooting the shooters.”
They also liked the hallway and casino in the Tonopah Station Motel where we stayed. Nikolai made a nice tracking shot of me walking the length of the hallway to my room.
It was too cold to stay in the RVs so we put them in the parking lot.
By the time we hit Tonopah we had been working and/or traveling for about one and a half weeks without a break. That plus not being listened to by the director and being isolated by language finally got to me. Saturday morning I told Beatrise, the assistant director, that I was going to drive to our next stop in Las Vegas that morning hours before their scheduled departure and take the next day off. Then I left.
Turns out I was the leading edge of the revolution. Sunday evening we went to the Paris casino for a great dinner followed by the rest of them arguing in German for about an hour about scheduling and break time. It was decided we would leave the next day at 11AM for Hoover Dam then Palm Springs. I, and I think some of the crew, thought 8:30 would be best because we had to shoot at Hoover Dam then to drive to Palm Springs for another day off.
We drove across the Hoover dam road. From the upper parking lot with the dam in the background they had me calling a friend.
On to Slab City
The crew sets up to shoot me getting out of the RV at an undisclosed desert location on our way to Slab City.
At Slab City we shot me arriving, a morning coffee at the Traveling Pals, etc. The crew on LOW road discussing, in German, the next shot.
We also continued to have Marco record my voice over in the rig. Marco hates flies, he can hear them in his headset.
She had11 pages of voice over dialogue for me to read mostly taken from my emails or previous interviews sometimes rephrased for brevity. The first few sessions Jacqueline had a difficult time getting what she wanted from me. Mostly due to her directing technique in later sessions I got much better at making subtle changes and giving her the reading she wanted.
Nikolai following me walking around Slab City. The camera is on a gamble that holds the camera steady even as Nikolai walks with it. It’s a great device but difficult to balance and he can only hold the weight for so long.
Notice I’m walking around the desert in a long sleeve flannel shirt and no hat or dark glasses. Who walks around the desert in a long sleeve flannel shirt and no hat or dark glasses? They didn’t want to hide my face. Like I have such a good face? I complained, to no avail, because I had some surgery on my face for cancer and I don’t need more sun. At the hot tub at the Fountian of Youth they said I should wear the hat. I thought how nice they are thinking of my health. No, they wanted the hat because it shows how hot it is.
Jacqueline and I “fight” over the hat. She won but no hats were harmed during the production of this film.
They wouldn’t let me shave or get a haircut during the three week shoot but as I got to look more and more like a homeless man Nikolai cleaned the beard up a bit. Small crew, no makeup department.
Fountian of Youth
If that’s not a great 3rd act I don’t know what is.
Jacqueline decided that a good ending to my journey would be me meeting Barbara. So we went up to the Fountian of Youth where Barbara and I used to dance to film us dancing. The last shot she thinks will be Barbara and I walking off together.
Nikolai shoots Barbara entering to dance hall to meet Hollywood Bob, lucky woman.
What happens next? Go to the Postproduction page.