Production Diary

Day 83: Camp Keep the Lights On by

Ira Sachs and Thure Lindhart on set in Phoenicia

Good day yesterday, and now it’s six a.m. in upstate New York. We are all staying at the Catskills Seasons Inn, a bit like Camp Keep the Lights On, as the boundaries become different, and the times. Instead of everyone going home after the 12-hour shoot, we all go out for pizza and calzones in Phoenicia. The first night, after a day at the Phoenicia Diner and then the Peekamoose Blue swimming hole, I felt so exhausted, it was very difficult to then continue, socially. There is something about leaving a set and being alone that can be a relief. But last night, more relaxed, less tired. I still feel like the camp counselor. Now that Veronica Lupu has gone, I realized that I’ve become the oldest person on set. I call myself granddad with a mixture of pride and aversion.

Later in the day, everyone’s more relaxed. The days seem easier, even if the scenes don’t. I worry at times that I’m becoming too comfortable. Scenes seem to pass and I can’t be sure I got the best out of them. But I think it’s just a feeling of time moving, of now being in the days of counting down until we are finished, instead of gearing up to continue. And the footage is coming in, well, strong. I get excited now to go into the editing room.

Some things I’ve noticed about directing: If the scene isn’t working or the actors seem stiff, pay attention to the pauses (or lack there of) between lines in the script. Several times in the last few days, just by pointing out a space that should (maybe) exist between two lines of dialogue, suddenly the actors fall into their rhythm. A scene that sounded false then sounds true. Small adjustments like that are often what’s called for.

Shooting the big break-up scene yesterday inside the house, I started with singles on Zach and then on Thure, thinking it would be smart to get their best work tighter, before going to something wide, where I could see them both. A mistake, or at least it didn’t work out. We shot and shot, and the scene worked, but it was not what it could be. After lunch, we stage the master and I think the change of angle—as well as even more the “rehearsal” that came with the earlier shooting—meant that the actors were in the zone. The scene was something different and we had crossed the line, turned it around. And so we needed to re-shoot the singles. One of those moments where everything is moving forward (we are finishing things on time), but suddenly it is my job to stop the wheels and turn us backwards, to slow us down and start over. Very much like what happened in the break-up confrontation between Dina Korzun and Darren Burrows in Forty Shades of Blue. A similar accident lead to having to re-shoot.

Ira Sachs

writer, director, blogger

Ira Sachs is a writer and director based in New York City. His films include Married Life (2007), The Delta (1997) and the 2005 Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning Forty Shades of Blue. His most recent film, Last Address, a short work honoring a group of NYC artists who died of AIDS, has been added to the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and MoMA and played at the 2011 Venice BIennale. Sachs teaches in the Graduate Film department at NYU and is a fellow at both the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. He is also the founder and co-curator of Queer/Art/Film, a monthly series held at the IFC Center in New York, as well as the newly established Queer/Art/Mentorship, a program that pairs and supports mentorship between queer working artists in NYC.

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