So now we’d arrived at the third phase of the process–the adventure of the shoot itself.
Actors began arriving the day before from all over the country. As with every film, we shot the movie out of sequence to make the most efficient use of our time and resources, so when actors arrived they only stayed in town long enough to shoot their scenes and then they were gone again. All except David Strathairn, of course, who played the lead character and was with us for the duration of the shoot.
The Peterborough Manor where we housed the entire cast for the duration was an exciting place for those three weeks what with actors arriving and leaving and rehearsals taking place in the dining room in the evenings and on several days scenes being shot in the parlor, kitchen, and in two of the actual bedrooms, as well as outside on the porches (see Part 7 of this series for more on the Manor).
In fact, thinking back on the shoot of this film, I appreciate even more the lucky break we fell into when we were able to book the Manor for the entire shoot. It was one of the key factors in bringing the cast together and making us all feel like we were on vacation at movie camp for three weeks. Don’t get me wrong–we took our work very seriously, but we had a good time doing it and eveyone living in the Manor together certainly contributed to that spirit.
Each day of the shoot began about 5 a.m. right in the middle of downtown Peterborough with breakfast at Gatto’s restaurant for the entire company. Richard Gatto, the owner of the establishment, like everyone else involved with the production, was a complete team player, supplying two wonderful meals a day to our small army, and I must say that his coming through for us like he did played no small part in our successful shoot. Film crews like good food. Supply good food and you have a happy crew. The food was fabulous and we had a happy crew.
Actual shooting began at about 7 a.m. every day and, depending on the locations, the work went on for approximately 12 to 14 hours. Lunch was served at Gatto’s if we were shooting downtown or catered into a carefully chosen venue near some other location in town where we knew we would be when stomachs began to growl. I was always amazed at how the crew in charge of meals seemed without fail to have the food where it needed to be, when it needed to be there. And we had a craft service always right there and available throughout the day for drinks and coffee and munchies.
I stress the food thing because it became clear very early on that this piece of the puzzle was critical to get right if we hoped to keep everyone cheerful as the long days ticked on.
Another lucky break for us was the weather. That fall in New Hampshire had been up until the shoot itself an extremely wet one. In fact, the entire southern part of the state had just experienced some of the most severe flooding in many years and for several weeks leading right up to the shoot the rains were relentless and at times torrential. Then suddenly the weekend before our Monday start everything cleared up and we had beautiful fall weather–albeit sometimes very cold–for the entire shoot. The movie gods (as well as the sun) were shining on us.
Well, almost…there was one day–the second day of the shoot–that we generally refer to as…
(Next: Our day from hell…)