Tucker Max and I will probably never be friends. We live by a lot of the same principles, but those principles have led us in very different directions. His daily pleasure is getting trashed and being obnoxious. Mine is eating vegan food and riding an electric skateboard.
Still, that doesn't take away from the fact that he's a pretty impressive human being. He's a much better writer than I am, and has made his living based on just living his life and documenting it.
I like his normal site, but his new blog about making his movie is even better. He does an incredible job explaining what goes into making a movie, and the blog really showcases his dedication to excellence.
When I was picking up my RV recently I saw that my route back to Austin was going to pass only an hour away from Shreveport where he's filming.
Being a Q-List internet celebrity doesn't get you much, but it's generally enough to convince people that I'm not some weird stalker fanboy. I wrote Tucker an e-mail asking if I could visit the set to see how a movie was made.
I felt a bit guilty asking to come by because I know that making a movie already leaves you with 10% more things to do than you have time for, and the last thing you need is some new person standing in the middle of things asking you questions.
The next day the AP sent me an e-mail to arrange for me to visit the set. Awesome.
I arrived in New York from London and visited my good friend Phil. I told him about visiting the set and he became uncharacteristically riled up. He hates Tucker Max. He met him once and apparently he was a huge asshole.
I was certainly interested in meeting Tucker, but was mainly going to see behind the scenes of a movie so he could be whatever kind of asshole he wanted and I'd still be happy.
I had intended to visit in the morning, stay for a couple hours, and then head back on my way. Staying at Katya's the night before messed up my schedule and put me on track to arrive at the set at 5pm. I think I forgot to account for sleeping when I planned my route initially.
I called and luckily filming was going to last until seven or so, so I'd have time to check things out.
By the time I got there I was a total zombie. I hadn't gotten enough sleep for the past two nights and had almost just parked, napped, and blown off the movie.
I wandered onto the total chaos of the movie set. People were running around everywhere adjusting things and looking for people. Tucker walked by me without even noticing that I was there, focused on yelling at someone in front of him.
"Hey... I'm Tynan."
"Oh hey - good to meet you. Come on in."
I followed him as he breezed into the building. The inside was even more packed with people. Everyone was doing something.
For the next hour or two I watched as they filmed one of the final scenes in the movie. It was an awesome sight.
Maybe I caught him on an off day, but Tucker wasn't an asshole at all. When his attention wasn't required somewhere on set, which was about half the time, he'd stand next to me and explain what was going on. Since all of this stuff was new to him too he was able to explain it all clearly in layman terms.
Here are some of the interesting things I learned, some of which may be applicable to all movies, and some of which may be unique to Tucker's movie. I have no frame of reference, so take all that with a grain of salt.
- Very little is shot in any given day. They were shooting ONE scene all day. They just keep redoing it from different angles, focusing on different people, with slightly different timing, with an moving camera instead of the main actor, etc.
- Scenes are shot totally out of order, based on availability of actors, locations, and a number of other factors.
- I now understand why acting is hard. In the scene you are reacting to past events that you've never actually shot, AND you have to do it the same way with the right emotions fifty times in a day. It's not all glitz and glamor - these guys are working.
- There is insane attention being paid to every detail. One woman was taking pictures of everyone's hair so that if they needed to reshoot a scene later the hair would be exactly the same. Another person's job was to watch the scenes as they were filmed and watch for continuity.
- The atmosphere was way more collaborative than expected. Most decisions had several people offering input, including actors.
- There was a lot of genuine camaraderie on the set. Not the forced I'm-working-with-you-so-I'll-be-polite sort of thing, but more of a I'm-going-to-smash-this-prop-cake-in-your-face-when-we-wrap sort of vibe. In fact, Tucker seemed more concerned that the cake smash was caught on camera than many other aspects of the movie.
- This may have been influenced by what I'd read beforehand, but I definitely felt like everyone there was really thrilled to be working on the project and was proud of the job they were doing. Even a couple extras I talked to seemed to take a lot of pride in the whole thing. Maybe this happens on all movies, but I suspect it doesn't.
I had a great time visiting the set and have nothing but good things to say about Tucker, Jeff the AP, and everyone else I met.
They were filming one of the last scenes of the movie when I was there, even though it was the third day of filming. I can't talk about the content of the scene, but it leads up to what is probably the last scene of the movie. The buildup seems very typical Hollywood, but I have a hunch that it's actually going to be something totally unexpected.
I was tempted to ask, but why ruin the surprise? I'll see the movie as soon as it comes out.