This past summer I got to work on Da Big Zip (no spoilers in this article), a feature film currently in production by writer / director Nick Alonzo with Cluck Films. Da Big Zip follows Noah Alonzo as Oz, an aspiring rapper and drug dealer / stoner as he tries to recover from the loss of some of his product and Mario Anthony as Dre, his rap battle rival. This is the fourth feature film from Nick Alonzo and he does a great job of building on scenes to create engaging sequences in his films. He also does a great job at creating an atmosphere on set that will ultimately support the scenes he films.
I was on set to help gather paperwork and to act as a doorman, luckily I didn’t have to do much in the way of acting.
The scene we were shooting was at Society Chi, located at 3012 West Belmont Ave. It looked like a random storefront from the street. Once you walk in, there is a counter, a living room area, a kitchenette and half of the space is divided into a performance space with overhead lighting and speakers.
The day we were shooting there would be around thirty extras on set. As people arrived, I stood by the doorway and handed them a simple release form.
Nick had planned out where he wanted his extras to congregate in the space. When most of the cast had arrived and signed in, filming began.
I was stuck by the laid back atmosphere. In some ways I felt like Nick was hosting a big party and throughout the evening there was a party vibe.
Many of the extras were friends and associates of Nick or fans of his work. In the past, when I’ve been on set with that many people, there was always a certain level of tension. I didn’t feel much in the way of tension on Da Big Zip. Everyone was cooperative and did what they needed to do. It may have helped that the extras needed to look like they were at a nightclub.
Nick used a megaphone and he did double duty as Director and 1st AD. He did a great job working with DP, Gregory Garibay. Part of Directing is managing time on set and managing cast and crew expectations. With his directing style and using long takes to cover the scenes, filming went pretty quickly. Everyone on set was pretty chill and filming wrapped early.
I think one big take away is that Nick did a great job setting up the situation on set so that the acting would come naturally. He needed extras who would dance and act like they were at a party; and the atmosphere created on set matched the needs of the scene.
In dealing with that many extras, there are usually a couple of crew to manage the people but because Nick knew everyone in the room and the expectations of the extras were understood, they were able to work with a lean crew and everyone did what they needed to do.
Between takes Nick would work with the cast to craft their dialogue for the scene and make sure they hit the important beats.
I had a lot of fun on set and I even got a few seconds of screen time. It was nice being on set to help out a colleague. It was also great seeing how Nick ran his set as well as his directing style. Nick and Greg worked on a number of films together and you could see their rapport on set. Nick handled the choreography of the scene and Greg captured the coverage. The atmosphere you create on set can influence the scenes you’re filming.
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