Holding for Sound: Field Notes From the Filming of “Zeus” – Part IV

The following is a continuing account from the filming of “Zeus”, an independent screenplay written by Jeremy H. and me. It being my first foray into DIY filmmaking, I was proud to have been apart of the process, to incorporate aspects of home into the story and to do so with a number of great friends and family.

Friday. Friday was hell. Earlier in the week we had scrambled to get in touch with Hinsdale Central School to find a third day to film the Olympics. They said Friday, so all the previously scheduled scenes for the day — the Olean Center Mall, arcade, interior of Marc’s truck — were thrown in Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday, oftentimes replacing lunch and dinner breaks. Those scenes were simple in comparison to the Zeus Olympics.

Weapons of choice, HCS locker room scene

Now would be a good time to briefly explain the film’s premise. A brief synopsis: A semi-fictitious and legendary gym teacher dies and two friends reconnect to commemorate his legacy by holding an Olympics comprised of gym class games in their hometown gymnasium. Silly.

The Olympics are the entire movie, maybe 15-20 minutes of three dudes running around a gym, hitting each other with foam bats, destroying each other on the wrestling mats and running over fingers in a scooter race. Up until Friday, we hadn’t filmed a second of the nine Olympic events. We entered HCS by noon, knowing full well that we might not see daylight for another 24 hours. Some of us were convinced we could pound out filming in under 10 hours, but me, I was thinking a minimum of 14 hours. Granted, I didn’t have any previous experience in film, but given the amount of time we had spent setting up presumably easy shots throughout the week, I knew we were in for a very long day.

Hunter had a plan: One hour for each event, not a minute more. He set his watch and we got to work.

“Steal the Bacon” was a cinch. Ditto for the next three events, which included Jeremy taking foam balls to the face. That probably took the most time. Fast forward because I quite honestly don’t remember details.

With four events down, we were closing in on hour five. One of Hunter’s essential lights burned out early in the production, so he was forced to make do with a smaller version that wasn’t as adequate. He could have spent a number of hours trying to find the best lighting options, but this late in the game, we had to hustle. There was no such thing as perfection. Not now, anyway. It was “Point and Shoot” for the rest of the day. No redos unless absolutely necessary. Though, I’ll say that it kinda got more fun trying to shoot under deadline. With the culmination of the fourth event, it was dinner time, our small refuge.

Marc (blue tank top) primed to destroy weaklings in wrestling
office
Zeus's office, complete with a borrowed stuffed bobcat, which, if damaged, would have doubled our entire film budget

By the way, let me deviate from Zeus chronicling to tell you just how well we were fed. Our great friend, Morgan, spearheaded ALL meals, from Monday through Sunday, cooking up ridiculous meals or ordering in pizza. I’ll speak for everyone when I say that it was the food that kept us going. Honest to god. Anyone can go without some sleep, but, man, don’t mess with the food. It kept our spirits up, let us forget for an hour that we had each slept under 15 hours since we got into town. Props to Morgan and Emily, who cooked a couple of money meals herself, homemade mac n’ cheese most memorably.

The clock read 8 p.m. We had five move events to go, and my projected finishing time was becoming more realistic. Getting out by 2 a.m. sounded lucky. As previously stated, I don’t quite remember what happened the rest of the night. Exhaustion was closing in. There came a point when my mind clicked off. On some scenes, I did sound while laying down in the center of the gym, mic pointed toward Jeremy hacking away at whiffle balls that exploded into white shards upon contact. How the hell the others were able to mobilize and even run around, exerting physical energy, was beyond me. We were losing sight of our “hour per event” goal, too. Once midnight hit, we still had about three events to go, a fact that messed with our psyches. But we barreled on, the walking dead.

Somewhere between midnight and 3 a.m., Hunter had shot everything he needed. It couldn’t have come at a better time. The dudes were getting ornery and tense. Who could blame them? As for me, I was legitimately losing sight in my right eye. Yet, the night still wasn’t done. We had to tear down, clean up everything, leave the school spotless. I think we got to sleep sometime around 4 a.m. Saturday morning. The worst was over. Most scenes from here on out were relatively simple. However, Marc’s time on set was dwindling. He had to be out and on his way to work by 1 p.m. Saturday. Give us a few hours sleep and we had maybe four hours of filming time to get the final scenes involving Marc.

That was a concern that could wait a few more hours. Friday had turned out to be the most difficult, most taxing, and the day was about to slip away behind heavy eye lids.

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