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Tales from the Trenches: X-Rayed Film Stock and Actor

Tales from the Trenches: X-Rayed Film Stock and Actor

Articles - Directing

Tales from the Trenches is MovieMaker’s latest weekly feature where we hear how independent moviemakers of all stripes overcame seemingly insurmountable circumstances to get their movies made. Think you’ve got a war story that can top this one? Send it (less than 1,000 words) to {encode=”” title=””}.

Things never go according to plan, so we weren’t fooling ourselves when we scheduled a 19-day shoot for our feature film comedy about pre-marital counseling, I Do & I Don’t. We knew we’d get slammed with something, we just never knew what exactly—until the surprises came in the form of X-rayed film stock and talent health issues.

I’m always cautious of the sensitivity with raw and exposed film stock, so we took the precautions to have our film either driven or trained from Kodak in New York down to Baltimore, where we were shooting. One of the producers bringing down a batch of raw stock, however, failed to tell us he’d changed his travel plans and came down via air travel.

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We were two days into filming with this stock when we got a call from the lab, PostWorks: There were the telltale flashes in our dailies. Our film had been X-rayed prior to opening it. Two full, 12-hour days of shooting were lost. Comic gold from scenes with our cast, including funnywoman Jane Lynch, was lost, adding two additional days of shooting.

After those reshoots, we were back on schedule. Actor Matt Servitto had three down days and went home to New York to check in on his wife, who was pregnant with twins. While home, Matt began to suffer chest pains and went to the hospital for a check-up. Within hours, Matt was under the knife getting quadruple bypass surgery.

We still had two more days of shooting with Matt to complete. There was nothing we could do. We sat down for story sessions to figure out a way to rework what we had in case Matt, and his character, were never to return…

Fortunately, the procedure and Matt’s recovery went extremely well. Five weeks after wrapping, cast and crew rejoined to film Matt’s final scenes.

In the end, we shot for 23 days, only four days over schedule. The reshot scenes are even funnier than the originals and no one ever notices Matt Servitto’s post-surgery weight loss and immense scar down his chest—thankfully, since he was the only character who had nude scenes!

Steve Blair is a screenwriter and freelance producer of television commercials and independent films. As a screenwriter, his quirky and engaging scripts have led to options with American Zoetrope and Alliance Atlantis. He resides in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, Melissa, an architectural historian. Steve produced Mentor, starring Rutger Hauer, and the drama Red, starring Brian Cox. His next writing project, Sweet Baby Jesus, is an ensemble comedy that retells the story of the Nativity, but in 1969, as hippies Mary and Joe visit her mom for the holidays in the chickenpickin’ town of Bethlehem, Maryland.

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