Sideways Rain and Six School Buses
When the last thing you need shows up on set, sometimes your only option is to pivot.
It’s early June on a beach in Oregon, 45 degrees outside and pouring rain. A massive wave crashes on the shore and drenches the entire cast and crew up to our knees. That’s when it hit me: This is the most miserable shoot I have ever been on.
It was also, somehow, the most fun. Weird how that works.
This was my first time to the Pacific Northwest, and it was exactly the way I pictured: cold, wet, and beautiful,with low-hanging clouds rolling over evergreen-covered mountains. But it didn’t start out that way.
When our plane landed in Portland, it was a perfect June day: sunny, warm — not a cloud in the sky. The story we were telling required four main scenes: a beach wedding; a cliff; a tattoo shop; and dirt bike trails. We scouted out all of the locations and turned in for the night feeling really good about the next two days of filming.
By the time I woke up, the temperature had dropped to the 40s and it was raining sideways. Literally sideways.
OK. No problem. We’ll just shift some things around and film the beach wedding and cliff scenes in the afternoon, when it was supposed to be nicer out.
When the afternoon rolled around, it was still pouring rain. We had filmed all of the interior scenes that we could in the morning, and now it was decision time. Do we drive two hours back to Portland to film the tattoo and dirt bike scenes tonight, and then drive two hours back to the coast in the morning? Do we extend the shoot an extra day (and eat the extra costs involved)? Or do we start cutting significant scenes?
Our original plan had gone out the window, but we rolled with the punches. Luckily, our producer booked our hotel right across the street from our location, so we were able to quickly assess the situation and roll within minutes if needed.
After changing out of our soaked clothes (our ponchos were no match for the sideways rain) and much deliberation, we came to the tough decision to cut the dirt bike scene and add time at the coast. Knowing the purpose of each scene was crucial to being able to make this decision. We knew we could cover the significance of the bike scene in other ways.
The next morning, I woke up and looked out the window. It was still raining, but at least it was vertical! We waited as long as we could, and the rain finally let up.
I looked out the window one more time before heading down to the beach. Horror fell on my face as I witnessed six school buses pulling up right in front of our location.
Six. School. Buses.
There were probably 300 kids that poured out of them and swarmed straight to the cove we were planning on filming in.
We were out of time. We had to film, rain or shine — kids or no kids. So we headed down towards the cove.
There were students everywhere. It was a nightmare. But luckily (?) it had started raining again! The crowd thinned out and we were able to get to work. We filmed in the miserable conditions until our camera literally shut down due to the rain.
It turned out beautifully. The conditions were perfect for the mood we were going for. Ultimately, the shoot was a great success. But it didn’t succeed because of the execution, it succeed because of the planning. The plan gave us the confidence to pivot.