An awesome day on set of THE BLIND SIDE
John Lee Hancock, generous friend and mentor, let me shadow him for a few days of “director’s school” earlier this month. Big difference from the time I spent on my own set when we shot PB: back then, I hadn’t been on a feature set before, so I concentrated on staying out of the damn shot and not tripping over anything while trying to figure out what everybody’s jobs were.
As my eyes and brain have now adjusted to the sight of hundreds of crew scurrying around wielding lethal-looking equipment, I was able to focus on how the hell you go from the mostly-solitary work of writing a screenplay to directing a multi-million-dollar production.
I feel luckier than maybe any screenwriter outside of JLH, himself, when he learned from Eastwood. I mean, I was just happy to be on set, absorbing what I could. Certainly never expected JLH to have or take or make the time to answer and encourage questions (including those I didn’t know enough to ask).
Cool as it was to meet Sandra Bullock, and to chat about our kids with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, it was way cooler when JLH explained the effects you get from different lenses and when to use them.
Yesterday was different from my previous days on set, ‘cause Munchie, our aspiring actress, worked as an extra. The scene was a high school volleyball game and Munchie was in the stands with a couple hundred other extras. When they first filed in, she was all the way on the far side of the bleachers. But somehow, when they were setting up the shot, she was moved a few times and got herself placed just over the left shoulder of Sandy’s stand-in. (This was 100% coincidental. I asked.) She sat with another girl and her mom and they didn’t realize the pretty girl in front of them was Sandy’s stand-in, but Munchie acted perfectly professional when April left and Sandy sat down.
Because they were in the shot, Munchie and a small handful of other extras didn’t get to break when the others did, but my kid never complained. When they were finally released for lunch, her energy was great. “John talked to us three times and said we were doing great, and Tim asked how we were doing, and Sandy said ‘Don’t eat too much popcorn,’ and the lady with the cool afro came up and put product in my hair!”
After lunch I introduced Munchie and her new friend to Sandy’s co-star, the sweet-faced and sweeter-souled Quinton Aaron.
Later, when her scene finally wrapped (after ten hours), she didn’t want to leave set, so we went to the second location and I got to formally introduce her to JLH and a few of the producers. Each time I made introductions, she was warm and poised, shook hands and chatted a moment. I was never that confident as a kid. (Or for most of my adult life, to be honest…)
We spent about an hour watching the next scene on the monitors before heading home. The second location was tight and Munchie stayed quiet and out of the way, like she’d been on set her whole life. If I had any reservations about schlepping her to auditions or shelling out for classes, they’re gone. I couldn’t be prouder of her – she acted like a pro all day.
And now, back to my rewrite, ‘cause as much as I enjoyed visiting John’s set, I’m itching to get back to one of my own…