Aaron – 1 – "Shooting Begins"

hollywood sign or bust

Well, here we are.  For the first time since 2005, I have written my own movie and put it into production.  This time, though, I’m actually going to finish it :).

This is the production journal for this little ol’ short of mine, Aaron, but this first entry also has to double as a sappy little commentary on the fact that I’m finally doing this.  So, first – the sap.

Basically… it’s about freaking time.  It’s taken me a long time to move past fears, hesitations, and my natural perfectionism to be able to take this little venture.  It’s very satisfying to have taken on this project and to have brought it to fruition.  I’ve been in a mood of production, lately, with all of my creative endeavors, and Aaron is the first one out of the gate.  I buckled down and finalized the screenplay on January 4, 2011 – the perfect start to a new year.  As I mentioned perfectionism above, it’s always been the most petrifying trait in my hopes of making movies.  This time, though, I’ve been able to skirt it.  I made sure to remind myself, going into this production, that this is a process of learning… and I need to begin that process or I’ll never grow a fraction of the amount that I will by getting out there and, potentially, screwing up.  So, yesterday, I officially got out there… but I definitely did not screw up :).

Enough of the personal intro, though… onto the production journal.

There won’t be story spoilers, by any means… but it’s a PRODUCTION journal, so I’ll be talking about locations and other details.  If you’d rather just see the movie fresh, don’t read on – these posts will always be here later.

For Aaron, the pre-shoot details were fairly minimal, so I didn’t want to start these entries until I actually put something through the camera lens.  After all, I’ve done pre-production plenty of times – I wanted to wait until I was actually successfully shooting something ;).  Never the less, there were a number of important things I needed to work out before starting.

First, was the look of the character.  I am the writer/director, but also the movie’s only featured role.  This is an interesting project, because it’s a re-purposing of an older idea.  The original character was from a feature-length story, and somewhat different.  This time, among many other influences, I began by envisioning the clothing style and short hair of Joe Pantoliano’s character, Teddy, from Memento:

Joe Pantoliano as Teddy snapshot from Memento

And the glasses from Gene Hackman in The Conversation:
Gene Hackman with glasses in The Conversation

I was able to find the perfect clear-lens glasses online through Zilziewear.com, the short hair was courtesy of my mom and an electric razor, and I found two prop-shirts and a jacket for a grand total of $7(!!) at thrift stores in San Clemente.

Then as for locations, I began pouring over the story and figuring out what I need.  Nick Reiber (my camera-man and irreplaceable crew member on this shoot) suggested checking out the La Crescenta Motel (formerly May-Lane Motel), and it ended up being perfect for two locations.  It’s a fairly well-known location in its own right, having been used in a number of movies and TV shows… and now I’d be adding one more to that list ;).

Jan. 28, 2011:
Today, we began the actual shoot.  I had a room booked at the La Crescenta Motel, so I headed up to meet Nick at Bree’s place (right near the motel, which is why he knew of it), and we headed out.  I had sought out a location in downtown Los Angeles, and had planned on shooting a couple of scenes down there before returning to the hotel, but after dropping Bree off at her job in Glendale, I found everything I needed without having to waste the extra time driving down to L.A..

Barring one scene, I won’t really have the pleasure of directing other actors in Aaron (since it’s just me), but it was exceptionally energizing to be calling the shots on my own production.  Nick and I have a wonderful working-relationship, wherein our communication is always immediately understood.  Because of this, we were able to breeze through a couple of short scenes in downtown Glendale.  It really was the perfect location – very much non-O.C., but without the hectic nature of the downtown L.A. area.

Then, it was on to the motel.  I checked in, and was given room #8… which, according to my Internet reading, is one of the most requested rooms because of it’s movie-use.  It’s apparently the room used by the titular character in Win A Date With Tad Hamilton, though I discovered that they actually switched the room numbers for production (changing the real room 8 into a fake office so the motel could keep running during production).

La Crescenta May Lane Motel room 8 door

Regardless of whatever the heck my room number was, driving in and seeing the old sign and very familiar layout of the motel, I was very excited :).  The exterior is for one location, the interior for another.  I’d seen images of what I HOPED was the interior of the motel rooms (since they may often use sets for that), so I was almost a little anxious to find out what my room looked like.  Of course, then I walked in the door and smiled:

La Crescenta May Lane Motel room interior

Obviously, that’s from after we were already shooting, but that lighting is all natural.  It was more than I could’ve hoped for shy of having peeled wallpaper and cockroaches – but even I may not be that dedicated to my craft to actually shoot in a place like that.

Shooting, again, went quickly at the motel (before AND after a late dinner break with Bree back in Glendale), and it was completely due to three things: 1. I had been very prepared for shooting, knowing everything I needed and putting my overly-detailed mind to good use for a change, 2. I actually am a pretty competent director (NOT a toot of my own horn, as I still have plenty to learn), so I was able to keep production tight and make good decisions on the fly, and 3. I had Nick shooting for me.  Those are not in any order of importance, because Mr. Reiber knows how invaluable it is to have someone working on your movie that you can rely on (what I’ve done for him), so I was thrilled to finally be able to call on him for that same value for my own production.

Heck, we even got to shoot a shower scene… one of those things that’s just a staple in movies, and something I’ve been thinking about including in a movie for a very long time.  And don’t worry.. it’s not one of THOSE shower scenes ;).

I had originally planned on staying the night at the motel, but we wrapped up early enough, so I just headed home.  Of course, I headed home while listening to The Rolling Stones and singing at the top of my lungs because I was so happy with the day’s endeavors… but still, I headed home ;).  This is only a short movie (est. 15 minutes run-time), so we only have a few days of shooting left.  So far, though, I’m thrilled with what we’ve done.  Yes, the movie is coming along splendidly (and, as was the intended tone, very creepily), but it’s been just as much about the “firsts” and general pride in accomplishing things.  In one day I began directing a movie that I’d written, I shot on location somewhere other than Orange County suburbia (and, L.A., at that), I was able to stay on-point and never lose control of the shoot, and I have not only booked a room at, but shot part of my own movie in, the famous La Crescenta Motel.

Not a shabby way to begin, I say :).


About Mark Mushakian

Just a man who loves God, women, kids, dogs, movies, and every other lovely thing in life :)
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2 Responses to Aaron – 1 – "Shooting Begins"

  1. Nick says:

    Going over the footage now. Looks great 😉


  2. danny kneip says:

    very happy to hear about this. keep up the good work. this is what you wanted to do and now you are doing it! try your best not to get too excited at the beginning, but maintain enthusiasm throughout and you'll have, hopefully, the end product you were hoping for! 🙂


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