A day on the set of 'The Gift' [Movies]

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The lunch break came after this scene, and everybody headed to Café Fraiche on Brownsboro Road. Maybe “break” isn’t quite the right word, as Travis and the crew took the downtime as an opportunity to discuss logistics for future scenes and e-mail or text important information to people not present. During a brief lull I commented to Travis that he seems to be pretty adept at the whole filmmaking thing; even though it’s his first film, it looks like he has been doing it for a long time. He laughed and replied, “I’m glad it comes across that way, because it doesn’t seem that way to me at all!”

After lunch we trekked to the next location: Eyedia, a furniture consignment store on Mellwood Avenue. The setup for the first scene shot there was simpler: the existing lighting was adequate, and the camera was handheld instead of mounted on the tripod. During the shooting of this brief scene, the crew set up the lights in another section of the store.

Here again Travis took care to identify the location for the audience: the shot focuses first on the Eyedia logo on the wall before panning down to Chuck and Douglas for their lines.

Every so often a customer would walk into the scene unawares, and while unintended extras are not necessarily a bad thing, a person can’t be shown on film without their consent… so one of the production assistants would have to chase them down, explain the situation, and ask if they are ok with appearing in the film, and if so would they please sign this consent form? (Nobody minded, but if somebody had, the scene would just be re-shot.)

The next scene, in the other part of the store, was also quite brief, but it required the whole lighting setup and some rearranging of the furnishings.  As with the other shots, the scene was blocked out, rehearsed to check for sound quality and the best place to hold the microphone, then shot a couple of times in order to provide options for editing.

The scene wrapped, and we had about thirty minutes until we had to be at our next location: Café Fraiche, once again, wherein would be shot a brief scene in which Bill and Alan have lunch.

The café closes at 3:00, and they generously gave the cast and crew the run of the place after closing. Six extras were brought in to sit and eat at tables in the background. (Production assistants Jessica and Kenisha also make brief cameos as diners in this scene.) The lighting setup seemed a bit complicated – the several lights which were set up underwent constant tweaking until everything was just right.

While Travis seems like a director content to allow the actors to explore the role on their own – especially since he was using people with experience – he was a bit more hands on in this scene, directing them to lean forward or back in their chairs, largely to ensure all the extras made it into the shot, and instructing Douglas to speak with his mouth full at one point. Several takes were filmed before wrap.

With the production way ahead of schedule, nothing more could really be filmed that day until nighttime, so a break was declared at 4:00 with instructions to meet at the Blind Pig at 6:00. I, unfortunately, could not rejoin them, so I thanked Travis and the crew and bid them all adieu.

There are currently no set plans for the premiere of “The Gift,” but a screening at this year’s LGBT Film Festival in August is a possibility. Stay tuned for updates and notifications on screenings.

Photo: Kenisha Thompson.

About Allan Day
My "real" job is bartending, but I'm a writer and a filmmaker, owner of Monkey's Uncle Productions LLC. I am also a single father, avid reader of books, watcher of movies, and listener of music. My idols include Kurt Vonnegut, Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Kaufman, Lloyd Kaufman, Lars von Trier, Ingmar Bergman, Thom Yorke, Jonsi, Don DeLillo, and David Foster Wallace.
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