We trudged through the summer, realizing with each new scene the enormity of our undertaking. Our limited budget, the fact that we were working with untrained actors (our own kids), and the reality that we had no idea what we were doing (!) discouraged us. It seemed like we were always dealing with one setback or another: our tripod broke (still usable but shaky)…one week we had to deal with forest fires in the vicinity, which gave the sky an eerie orange glow and made our outdoor shots unusable…the kids came down with colds and were out of commission for a couple of weeks…we were rear-ended for the second time in four months by an uninsured driver… Bartholomew (the dog) came down with a nasty infection in his ear, which made him almost completely deaf and very sluggish (therefore it was very difficult to capture the running shots of him that we needed)… the trap-door scene was like a mental block for us; we could not come up with the right lines for it (we must have tried the opening sequence fifty different ways!)…our new diffusing screen and stands (a generous gift from grandparents) arrived, but it took us three tries shipping back and forth to get the right set that we needed. A lot of time and hassle and postage!
But there were encouraging things too…and we were learning lots. A successful re-shoot on the log crossing scene (too bland, we decided), boosted our spirits (and we had the fun of discovering some weird unidentifiable worm in the process!)
Working with a dummy was a whole new area to explore...That seemed to be our best option for the scenes where Bartholomew dragged Henry through the fields and down the hillside. First there was the process of making the dummy...Joel wanted it to be precisely Addison's size, so we used Addison as our template. We stretched him out in the living room, dressed in old clothes, and began wrapping him in duct tape. Once we had him all wrapped up (with breathing room, of course!), we cut up the back to free Add, then stuffed the dummy with old rags and painted the "face" peach. We had to admit, "Fred" was rather realistic looking, especially when in costume. Several times when we had him propped up in the garage in between scenes, he gave Grandpa quite a scare. :)
"Fred" served us well for the blackberry scene and Henry's flight over the side of the hill behind Bart. But Joel discovered another option we liked even better for the milder scenes: pulling Addison behind the Kawasaki on a cardboard “sled." With Grandpa or me driving the Kawasaki, towing Joel and the camera perched on a big piece of cardboard, and Addison hanging on behind, I'm sure we were quite the sight! But it worked well, and of course Addison thought it was great fun. With this method we were able to pull off most of the "dog drag" shots without a dummy.
Late summer (2008) we sat down and took a serious look at our timeline. Was it truly possible to get our movie done within the year? That was our initial goal – but our progress had been a lot slower lately than we’d counted on. Either we needed to accept it wouldn’t happen, take our time, and try to refine and really do it right – or else kick it in gear, drop everything and make a big push to get the movie FINISHED! We decided on the latter, knowing how quickly the children were growing and changing (outgrowing costumes!), and knowing that we work best with a 100% all-out mentality.
Thus in determination mode, we sat down with a calendar to map out our plan. We gave ourselves 10 weeks, which took us to the end of October – allowing for the very latest possibility of good weather for outdoor shots. Then we filled in our 19 remaining scenes, which meant an average of one to three a week depending on their length and intensity. We were pleased with how our timeline looked on paper; just seeing the scenes lined out made us feel very motivated and excited to press on!
For our remaining outdoor scenes, we settled into a daily routine that worked well with the bright summer sun: Joel and the 3 older kids headed out for an early morning shoot from about 5:30 to 10, until the light grew too hot. The mid-day break afforded a chance for the kids to nap and Joel to look at footage. Then back out to the set for the evening shoot, from 4 to 9:00.
September 28, 2008
After two rough weeks, we had a much better one last week – it seemed like we finally settled into the swing of things again. This week we are looking at only two outdoor scenes left: the ending scene with the city of refuge, and the rocket car episode. And to consider our 10-week outdoor scene timeline that ends the second week of October, we’re doing pretty well! We’re encouraged, but a bit burned out too – and majorly sleep deprived! Rains are supposed to hit the end of this week, and we’re actually looking forward to them : the possibility of a break and some rest!
About the time we began our intensive shooting schedule, we were thrilled to sign on our music producer. Music was a big piece we had been concerned about – most everything else we were able to do ourselves, but the film score was way beyond our capabilities. We had a very small budget, but we also had very high hopes. (Just what every music producer wants to hear!) To us, knowing it was our first shot at a feature film, with a genre of an all-children cast, we felt that live orchestra could help tremendously in bringing up the quality level of our movie and helping audiences take us seriously.
After much prayer and lots of dead ends, we called an old friend who had played the organ for our wedding 10 years before… To our surprise and delight, J. Marty Cope, an accomplished composer/arranger/church musician, agreed to take on the job as our music producer. We are still amazed at his willingness to join in with such an unconventional, amateur film project…I’m sure it was obvious from the start that we had no idea what we were doing! Nor did we have near the budget we needed for the grand plans we had for our music score. We look back now at our beginner audacity and shake our heads!
When we initially talked to J. Marty, we mentioned a big-name Christian composer that J. Marty knew, asking if he might be a possibility for us. J. Marty asked what our ballpark budget would be for music. We told him we might be able to scrape together around $7000. (Would that be enough?) J. Marty very graciously replied that we could give it a try, but that his friend might be a little busy to take us on. :)
Because he was already working a full-time job, J. Marty brought on a fellow musician and film score composer, Dane Walker, to do the bulk of the scoring. Both guys did a phenomenal job to create an incredible sound track for The Runner. Even with our tiny budget (which did exceed $7000!), they were able to arrange a recording with the Filmharmonic Orchestra in Prague – something way beyond anything we could have hoped for! We still receive comments on the beauty of our live orchestra soundtrack – and we agree that it has been a huge asset to the sellability of our movie. We are thrilled for the quality composers and musicians the Lord brought together to make the music score a reality!