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On Set of an Indie

by Juliann Lee

My first day on the set of Saltwater proved very transformative. I arrived on location at the Director, Lise Swenson’s house, eager and energized from my 7 a.m. shower. I admittedly expected people to be running around with chaos following them. It was, after all, an indie film with a mostly student-run crew that had zero to little professional experience, myself included in the zero bracket. Instead, I was met with a very professional team of students setting up for their respective departments calmly and with intent.

Every department had their ducks in a row. The makeup and hair department claimed a part of Lise’s office as their glam center. The crafts department set up a large table in the living room and filled it with breakfast items and much needed coffee. The Cinematographer, Frazer Bradshaw, and his Assistant Camera Operators lugged all of their equipment into a free room which also housed his beautiful RED camera. The Production Sound Mixer, Ross, a.k.a., my boss on set, recruited my help in carrying the sound equipment into the designated equipment room.


It was only the second day of shooting and the house was filled with excitement and nervousness, much like the atmosphere around one’s first day of school. After some gracious patience on Ross’s part, I got the hang of the sound equipment and how to handle everything as the Boom Operator. Once everybody had their equipment ready the First Assistant Director, Amy Covell, called a crew meeting and laid out what would happen and what would be expected. A recap of what worked and didn’t work on the first day of shooting was given to us by the Unit Production Manager, Alex D'Arata Newby. After some encouraging words from Lise, Frazer joined in to compliment the crew on their professionalism and hard work. He relayed how pleasantly surprised he was of this all-student crew’s drive. And with that we were ready to go!

The first couple of scenes required a closed set in the bedroom because of the intimacy of what the scene called for. This meant micing the room and not using the boom. The set fell quiet as the scene started. I waited outside the bedroom watching the monitor with the script supervisors, Ross and assistant director. The realness of this movie started to sink in and I couldn’t help but smile to myself. A year ago, if someone had foretold that I would be part of a movie I would have laughed politely at the absurdity of it all. This was a far shelved dream of mine becoming a reality and I thought about how grateful I was to have my first movie set experience with a crew that dreamt the same thing. 


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