Amazing – after 19 days of solid shooting, we’re done! The culmination of years of writing and months of planning…done. Weeks of scouting, shooting, eating crafty, stressing about shots, barely sleeping…done. The film is in the can! And now the editing fun begins!
In the meantime, I’d been taking notes throughout the shoot and now have a bit more free time to share some of the stories. This will be a monster blog post. First off, fyi – we shot the entire movie without a single permit (why does LA hate indie filmmakers so?), and had to do some clever sweet-talking to get around that issue. We also did several days guerilla-style, with Quyen, Matt and Alex working their asses off to find ways to sneak shots. Thank goodness for the amazing cast and crew, who kept up good spirits and went beyond my hopes and dreams for getting the footage we did!
And now, without further ado, here’s a day-by-day breakdown of the Troublemaker shoot, as gleaned from my half-coherent notes:
Day 1: We shot in Palos Verdes, at a dear friend’s place. Shoutout to Debesh and the Dases! We started out strong, shooting exteriors and a few driving shots…and then were shut down after two hours by the community patrol. They threatened to ticket us and/or call the sheriff, and we were warned not to keep shooting, even inside the house. We held a small, subtle powwow, moved all the equipment inside, and keep right on shooting. Fight the power! A patrol car passed by nearly every hour, but we just ducked and tried to keep quiet. Made 98% of our day.
Day 2: Our overnighter! We shot at Acapulco restaurant in Westwood, from late night until the wee hours of the morning. This was a pivotal scene which included a fight and a salsa-spill stunt, so it was all very exciting, and special thanks to our actress Viji, who was a great sport despite ending up with salsa in her hair. We did have one dude who came in and seemed like he was on something…Heather, our AD, made the good call to release him, and after he argued a lot, he finally left. Next thing we knew, he’d come back to pound on the windows and our UPM/Line Producer, Jess (known as Tia Jess to me) showcased amazing reflexes by hitting the deck! Though everyone was tired, we made our day and got some sweet footage.
Day 3: Northridge, for an interior shoot at my friend Imran’s place! He kicked ass and helped us out throughout the day, and even helped wrangle his unhappy building manager. Heather basically assured every authority figure who came into our shoot that we were a student production, and everyone seemed to buy it. Woohoo! I always make a point to wear my UCLA or UCI sweatshirts on days that I’m worried about being shut down. Really sells the student-y thing. My friend Hector was hit in the head over and over with a pillow for his big shot, and our actor Jonathan did a great job with pretending to smoke from a bong. Awesome production design by Karuna, who made all the drawings and paintings herself.
Day 4: We shot at a sweet bar called The Trip in Santa Monica. Many, many thanks to John and Ashley, who helped us out there! My husband Vijesh and one of our best friends, Karthik (a.k.a Curly), came to be background players, and had a few beers – for realism, naturally. Our grip Farsh had to leave because he wasn’t of age! Man, I felt old. Our amazing actors, Peter and Pranidhi, nailed it throughout the day and we ended with a beautiful, softly-lit kissing scene outside. More on that shot later. Some of us crew stayed after to drink Trois Pistoles and Allaghash White. A nice way to end a shoot day.
Day 5: We started the day of shooting with a guerilla scene by the side of the 405 freeway. Peter (“Omar”) had to pretend to pee on the side wall, and eventually drank so much water that he actually made that happen. That was a day that not one, but two police cars circled us – one even drove right by – and though the guys glared at us, they didn’t shut us down. Someone must have been sending good vibes that day! I was doubly glad, because that scene involved Pranidhi holding up a bag of “pot” in plain view. It later spilled all over my bag, and from then on, my stuff smelled like parsley and oregano. Savory!
We finished everything we needed there, and then we all traveled many miles to my alma mater, UC Irvine, for a night scene by the side of the “freeway.” We all ate delicious In-n-Out burger, and then headed on-campus. UCI events were great – thanks to Brandon and Gene and the rest of the crew. We all froze together down there. Peter and Karuna did some badass flat tire wrangling.
Day 6: This was one of our B-roll days, all about driving and the road tripping portion of the movie. We used the sweet fancy Canon 7D rig, and plopped it in several different places in our picture car. The footage looks amazing! Another day of not getting shut down by the cops, despite them circling us like sharks. We used the Northridge Acapulco bathroom several times, with Heather cleverly telling the manager we’d be back for happy hour whenever he gave us funny looks. Pho for dinner on Reseda Blvd (so tired that in my notes, I spelled it “fuh”).
Day 7: In Artesia, at a real, live clinic. Huge thanks to Dr. Choi and Kapil Mehta! We couldn’t figure out what color a flu shot was supposed to be until we asked our free medical consultants. Emmanuel, our other UPM/Line Producer, somehow electrocuted himself and had to stick his finger in the cooler for a while. Karuna dressed the hell out of the lobby for our “lab” scene. Our actor, Charles Maze, was about two feet taller than Pranidhi, which proved to be a challenge when trying to put them in a two-shot.
Day 8: We were at the Days Inn in Artesia – many special thanks to Dev Dugal! We shot two locations in one room, and staged all of our stuff in the other. This was a really rough day timewise – Quyen and Matt had to rig up a lot of equipment, but the crew chipped in, and we got everything we needed. We ate some tasty Indian burritos afterwards. Everyone tired – on this day, we were almost to the halfway point. It was nice to have a break on Friday to try and recharge.
Day 9: This day was craaaaazy. We shot in Fullerton, at my friend Mo’s place, and he and his mom were awesome! I got into a minor car accident on the way to set, but my car was full of equipment, and I’d never been in an accident before…The most I’d done was back into a pole. This time, a guy swerved and smacked me on the driver’s side before he spun off and smacked into the concrete median, and then ended up facing the wrong way on the 5. Luckily, none of us were hurt, and the police officer who came to the scene just told us to exit because we were in the way of other drivers. I ended up being late to set, but we got the day going and the shoot was rolling along nicely.
On one of our takes, Pranidhi and Peter had to run out from the gate of Mo’s house. Pranidhi took a bad spill, and was amazing about it! She took a little time to get iced up and checked out, and then was right back in the scene. Mad props to her, because I’m sure that hurt like hell. Mo’s neighbors were fantastic – they were really helpful in moving cars around and generally holding down the block for us. They even gave me a Bud Light as a party favor at the end of the day! Before we wrapped, though, I stepped into a hole filled with creepy black spiders. Eugh.
Day 10: The big car dealership day all the way out in Castaic! We got some great stuff – and that day, we also had Ajay Mehta and Arriane Alexander, both awesome actors. Thanks to Chino and Greg who moved cars around for us and helped us out around the location. We had a lot to cram into this one day, including the climax of the movie. It was a fun feeling to get that part of the movie under our belt, even though the day came with plenty of challenges. Throughout the shoot, I struggled with wearing two hats – Producer and Director – and when we were crunched for time, I felt like Jekyll and Hyde. This was also Heather’s last day as AD, since she’d gotten a full-time gig with the Groundlings! Awww…
Day 11: This was one of our big location move days. Chaos, especially towards the end of the day. We started out in Norwalk, at a friend’s family friend’s gas station, that came through at the very last minute for us – thanks, P-squared! Quyen EZ-rigged the camera and nailed a sweet tracking shot that took Pranidhi from the front door, down the aisles, and into the bathroom. My friend Puneet also stayed on for a few hours to help with bathroom wrangling. Our new AD, Iliana Sosa, was extremely helpful, especially when our SAG rep came by to check out set.
After the gas station, we moved to Yorba Linda, to one of my best friend’s places – the incomparable Priya Shah! It was great to sit for a few moments and chill with her and her little babies. We had down time until dark, but pushing the shots until then really was tough – it felt chaotic and I felt like I was running all over the place. I learned a lot that day about the need to stay calm and focused on-set, and about maintaining set protocol, which had been falling by the wayside. I tried to take a moment at the end of the day to really figure out how to get things back on track and running smoothly.
Day 12: We shot at the Flamingo Inn Motel in Rosemead! It was an amazing day – we got lots of great stuff, including a few driving shots at the end. Jay Uncle, Sarju and his adorable kids were our gracious hosts, and it was a much easier day to manage, since we were in two rooms right next door to each other. Peter and Pranidhi kicked ass in their scenes, which were very emotional, and Quyen and the crew stayed focused despite the insane heat…of “Reno.” I felt the need to warn people about us slamming doors and our loud fight scene, but nobody seemed to care!
Day 13: Man – this was a three-location doozy. We started out at Tanner’s Coffeeshop in Santa Monica, and everyone was very professional and chill. We got our coffee from Tanner’s and tried to stay cool in the heat. Then, we had a company move to the S&W Diner in Culver City, which is an amazing restaurant with a lot of character. Special thanks to Michelle for being so great to us! Quyen and Matt got us some beautiful lighting, and everyone was really efficient, especially considering how little time we had for the scene there.
After the S&W, we had to move back to The Trip in Santa Monica, to pick up that kissing scene again! It got lost in the mix of footage, and Pranidhi and Peter luckily both laughed heartily when they heard that the scene was gone. We managed to recreate the magic on St. Paddy’s day, before the Trip burlesque dancers came in. I ate a jalapeno grilled cheese sandwich.
Day 14: We drove the distance to Costa Mesa, to shoot at Karthik (Curly)’s house! His parents were awesome and kept offering to give us food. This day was a lot of fun, and I got to work with Jaysha Patel again, who starred in my thesis film at UCLA! It was really nice to hang with her and her dad. During an awkward part of one of our scenes, we had a random mailman enter and drop off the mail – he must have been surprised to see a camera in his face as soon as he turned the corner! Karuna got loopy with some anecdotes, and Jess and I got into yet another giggling fit about the garlic bread that broke off in my mouth. Maybe we were all just getting tired?
Day 15: We were in West LA for Day 15, for a few scenes in Rekha’s apartment. There were lots of last-minute changes in plans, but luckily, we managed to make almost our entire day – one scene had to be moved to our second West LA day. Pranidhi had to glue a paper to her face after each take as if it was dried drool. The room was blazing hot, and full of trash that Karuna had brought in especially to make Rekha look like a complete slob. Dinesh was a good sport about us trashing his room, though, and his Jack Russell terrier, Lucky Dog, was insanely excited to see everyone. This was also the day that Jess twisted her ankle, and the crew stuck around to help out – Quyen wrapped Jess’s foot and made sure she could get to her car.
Day 16: Emmanuel hooked it up with a fantastic restaurant called Las Playas in Bell. They couldn’t have been nicer to us – gave us a lovely hot breakfast of a quesadilla, beans, and eggs, and unlimited coffee. Nate and Jon-Michael came down and reprised their roles from our earlier restaurant scene. We used the Las Playas parking lot, and it was hilarious seeing Pranidhi constantly flipping people off for one of our scenes outside! She startled the hell out of three random ladies that happened to walk by. We were plagued by some technical problems in the afternoon, but everyone kept their heads and worked in the best interest of the movie to find a solution.
Day 17: Back in West LA! We shot the morning outside of my apartment, and luckily, I have extremely cool neighbors and landlords. Robert Pike Murray, who played Rekha’s landlord, was hilarious and we got his part done before lunch. After lunch, we went back to Dinesh’s place for more interior scenes in Rekha’s apartment. This time, we cleaned it all up, since these scenes were more towards the end of the film. Matt made some comment about Gandhi that made me burst with demented laughter – maybe a weird form of tension release? Either way, I still think about what he said and it makes me laugh. The lighting was beautiful and the actors did a great job – I really felt the warmth between all the friends in that scene.
Day 18: Another three-location day, and Emmanuel hooked it up again! We shot at the Normandie Casino in the morning, which went splendidly, despite our being very worried about them possibly canceling on us the night before. Emmanuel sat in as a gangsta baccarat player. That’s right, baccarat. Lily was our dealer, and Karuna provided the fizzy drinks. After that, we created a sweeeeet bar in Reena’s theater space, which saved our asses, since all the bar locations ended up falling through. Quyen did a great job with the montage scenes, and Matt was the disco ball wrangler. I, in my ninja cat shirt, decided against a cameo. We shot the last scene of the movie tonight…Almost there.
Day 19: What a day, what a day, what a day! We started out with a pickup scene from first half of the movie. That, and the next scene went off without a hitch, despite, again, two cops circling. One cop drove through the block north of us…one drove through the block south of us…and neither of them came directly down our street. Hell yeah!
Later, we moved to Pasadena and ate pizza, and did some ninja filmmaking in the courtyard of my friend Becky’s apartment. We tiptoed, slated quietly, and whispered everything. Ninjas! Also, Matt lit an exterior scene with a strange desk light from inside the house, and it looked fantastic.
After the scenes in my friend’s apartment, we moved to the car for some driving shots. However, the good luck that had been with us throughout the shoot didn’t last…As we were about to get started, the key car Kinoflo light that we needed for the scene kept flickering out and dying. As we were trying to figure out another way, someone – what I thought at first was a crabby old lady – came out and started yelling at the crew for making noise. Keep in mind, we were still being ninjas. Later, as we went around the corner, she approached me directly and screamed in my face – and I realized she was OUR age! Man – hope she got a good night’s sleep after that. Real good. She stalked away, threatening to call the police.
I didn’t know a solution to fixing the light, which was crucial to finishing the scene, and with the Pasadena cops supposedly around the corner, I was ready to call it a wrap on the shoot. In fact, I did – I donned my Producer hat, and regretfully told my actors to go home. We were already running late, and everyone was exhausted.
Mere moments later, I got a call from Iliana, telling me to meet at the local gas station, where they’d found a way to fix the light! Pranidhi and Peter were game, and cast and crew met up to finish the movie. I was seriously touched by everyone’s determination to finish out the shoot, despite being tired and have already had a long day. And with everyone’s spirits high (Pranidhi blasted “Haddipa” in the parking lot), we finished the movie, and WRAPPED!
This shoot was an insane, incredible experience – I feel really lucky and humbled to have had so many people on our side! Props to the best and baddest-assed (?) cast and crew, and thanks to anyone who read this far.
More updates as the editing process begins, and stay tuned for more Troublemaking!