Written by Jack Cook
Making an independent film has many challenges. At the end of the day you have to make a choice—either quit and pack your bags, or stick around and figure out your problems. In my opinion the answer, in my humble opinion, is always: The Show Must Go On.
The Private Eye is my directorial debut, and the way I pulled it off was by bringing artists together that had the same dream I did… To make a great movie. I used every favor I had, and my determination completed the project from script to screen.The following story took place during production, on the set of The Private Eye, and is a perfect example of how the show had to go on. We were about to film the last scene, on the last day of principal photography. It was the taxi scene with Matt Rife, Erik Griffin, and ELLIOT. At the time, Erik Griffin was one of the most popular actors in the movie and also a good friend of Matt’s, so needless to say I was excited and I didn’t want anything to go wrong.
Prepare for the inevitable.
Denzel Whitaker and Matt Rife in 'The Private Eye'
The day started out great. We had three scenes to shoot with Erik, and his call time to set was 12pm. Erik showed up on time and went right into hair and makeup.
Everything was going as planned... until it wasn’t!
One of the most important parts of the scene was not on set: the taxi. We rented a taxi from the same company that we rented our police car from (for a prior scene), which arrived without any issues. As the director, I quickly jumped into action, calling the company that we had rented from. I was informed that the taxi wasn't starting, but not to worry—it was being towed to our set.
My stomach dropped. That wasn’t going to work for us. Why? We need a moving taxi...
The taxi arrived on set, and the man who dropped it off started working on the engine. Magically, he was able to get the car to start, but I had a gut feeling that there was a chance the engine would stall.
So I quickly did what any great director would do: I started with the wide shot. I had a feeling the car would break down, and I would be unable to get the wide shot with people pushing in the background. After the second or third take the engine stalled, just as expected. This was an embarrassing moment for me in front of my cast, but the show had to go on.
As the day went on, I knew I only had one opportunity to film with Erik, so we would have to do whatever it took to get the shot with the taxi moving. While we were trying to figure out a solution, I put my hands on the back of the trunk. I’ll never forget the assistant director (the very talented Max Gray Wilbur) saying “We can push the car. Keep an eye on the monitor.”
And that is exactly what we did.
ELLIOT in 'The Private Eye'
The next thing I knew, the crew gathered around and we started to push the taxi so we could get the interior motion shots. I was thrilled that we figured out a way to get this done, figured it would be smooth sailing from this point on. But that just wasn't the case… as we were pushing the taxi, we realized it had a flat tire.
We had to adapt once more to our circumstances, so we shot the rest of the scene as a stakeout, where the car doesn’t move. In the end, it all worked out for the better as we got the shots we needed and that scene is one of my favorites of the movie.
Making an independent film is not for the faint of heart. It takes flexibility, courage and of course waking up every morning knowing that …the show must go on.
Catch The Private Eye releasing in theaters February 9
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