Message Received… The Making Of (Part 3)

So it was down to our final day of shooting on Karolyn Szot’s Message Received.

7.30am call time. With just a small crew, we headed out to the front of Evanston Township High School to grab a wide establishing shot. As we unloaded our gear onto the sidewalk and started putting the crane together, a bus from the nearby Double Tree hotel pulled up right next to us. Next thing we know, out pours a group of young Asians who start taking pictures of the high school. It all seemed rather bizarre to us at first, since 1) it was really early on a Sunday morning and 2) our dear neighborhood Evanston Township High School isn’t usually a hot tourist attraction. I’m pretty sure they weren’t expecting to see a film crew on a random sidewalk either. So as much as both groups tried to carry on like nothing unusual was going on, we all couldn’t help but take repeated glances at each other, wondering what on Earth the other group was doing there.

I thought it’d be fun to see if I could determine where the group was from by identifying the language in which they were speaking. So as I worked with Benz to set up the camera, I put my eavesdropping skills to use.

Can’t quite hear them… oh wait, i think they’re speaking in English… hey, that accent sounds familiar…

“AH!” I exclaimed to Benz excitedly. “THEY’RE SINGAPOREANS!”

Our actor Johnny Langan talking to the students from Temasek Academy, Singapore

I haven’t been home in a year, so seeing them brought tremendous joy to my heart. Can you believe they were also from the school where my dad used to teach? Talk about coincidence! Oh boy, the odds of that happening must have been one in a million. Apparently, the students from Temasek Junior College’s Integrated Programme were there on a Science and Mathematics trip and had visited ETHS earlier.

Karolyn decided it’d be a great idea to ask them to be extras in the movie and after some persuasion, they kindly agreed. So now we’ve got a shot of our main character James walking to school with lotsa fellow schoolmates! Sweet. :)

The next shot took us around to a parking lot at the back of the school. What we didn’t realize was how popular a place to park it would be among the lacrosse moms going to support their kids at a game going on nearby. One of them even stopped to ask us for directions to the field house. Good thing our Gaffer Brandon knew exactly where the field house was. “It’s over there, where the sign says field house… (pause)… darn, that made me sound like a total douche.” Being on crew’s tremendous fun, especially when you witness something like what happened next. It basically involved our Sound Designer Marshall sprinting across the parking lot after our moving U-haul truck, yelling at the top of his lungs. It was epic. Good thing we had all those donuts right before.

DP Josh filming Johnny texting behind the wheel.

Then off to St. Paul’s Forest Preserve again it was to get shots of Johnny driving and getting into the big crash. We knew that it was going to be a challenge filming our two cars getting into a head-on collision without actually damaging the vehicles or hurting ourselves. It involved precise steering and the ability to apply the brakes on time so we’d stop right as we were about to collide, all while avoiding the regular traffic along that road. So it was lead actor Johnny, DP Josh and Director Karolyn in one car, and me in the other. (I certainly didn’t wake up that morning realizing I was gonna be a stunt driver!) After several attempts to make it look like the two cars actually collided, we decided that a different strategy was needed. We treasured life too much to get close enough for the shot. That was when the brilliant suggestion of starting the shot with the two front bumpers touching and having both drivers go in reverse was made. The rest of it will be done in post-production. Oh, the magic of moviemaking! :)

Director Karolyn and DP Josh taking a shot of Johnny from outside the car

After a delicious lunch at a Chinese Restaurant (the rendezvous we went through to get there is another story altogether), it was on to complete the final few shots of the movie. With both Karolyn and Josh both outside the car concentrating on the shot, I took it upon myself to direct traffic to go around us. That’s when a lovely old couple on a stroll stopped to talk to me.

“Are you the same group that had the wrecked cars here yesterday?” the lady asked.

“Yes, that’s us!”

“So what’s the movie about?”

“It’s about the dangers of texting while driving, ma’am.”

“Oh! A worthy cause! Good luck!” She said, nodding her head in approval, as they both waved goodbye and went on their way. Aww.

Josh leaning on the hood to get the shot as Karolyn gives Johnny directions.

Our crew went through great lengths to make the film pretty, even if it meant our DP Josh working those back muscles, leaning on top of the hood with his legs stretched out for balance to get the final shot.

And with that, we could finally clasp our hands together and yell out with joy those three magic words: It’s A Wrap!

After months of preparation, 4 days of shooting and hours of lost sleep, we’re finally ready to move into post-production. Our Editor Andrew and Sound Designer Marshall are gonna have a fabulous time.

While looking back on the fun times and crazy adventures we had on set will definitely put a smile on all our faces, what I’m most excited about is the impact the finished film will have. Yes, it’s going to look fantastic and sound amazing, but more importantly, it’s going to make our roads a safer place for all.

Thanks for following our journey so far. Look out for Message Received next year, coming to a screen near you. And finally, please remember, don’t text and drive.

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