SFFilm Monday: All about rough terrain

I watched only one film Monday, and it was a disappointment. But I also covered a discussion about difficult locations – even if some of them weren’t really that difficult.

D+ The Whaler Boy

I suspected the Russian government greenlit this movie to scare adolescents from watching American porn. Teenaged Leshka lives in a whaling town at the eastern edge of Russia that seems to have no women. He’s obsessed with an American stripper he sees on the Internet, and does some pretty stupid things. Warning: The film contains the slaughter and butchering of whales, nudity of the most mercenary sort, and a ridiculous ending.

Discussion: Filming in Extreme Locations

I tuned in for this discussion about difficult location shooting, with directors Tasha Van Zandt (After Antarctica), Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina (I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)), and Maimouna Jallow (Tales of the Accidental City). SFFilm’s Rod Armstrong moderated the discussion.

The crazy thing was that only one of these films was really shot in “extreme locations.” Rather than repeating the discussion verbatim, I’ve organized the discussion by film.

After Antarctica

This is the only film of the three that was really shot in extremely difficult locations. It’s also the only film I haven’t seen.

Director Van Zandt told us thatwhen filming in the Arctic and Antarctic, it can be a disaster if “something is missing. That’s why so much has to be done in preproduction.”

She also told us that “We were in postproduction all this year. We were working remotely with each other.”

Someone in the virtual audience asked about backing up and batteries. Van Zandt advised that when filming in extreme cold, bring more batteries than needed. Keep the batteries close to your body heat. Light-weight solar panels can help. Bring extra backup media – at least two drives in two locations. Keep them as far away as possible.

I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)

I liked this film a lot. It was shot in Pacoima, an LA neighborhood not far from Hollywood. Filmmakers have been shooting there since at least 1928. But I’m Fine was shot during both a heatwave and the COVID pandemic, so it had some special difficulties.

A dream scene shot in a large swimming pool took “at least five hours.” Everyone wore goggles to protect their eyes from chlorine. Well, everyone except Kali, who was on camera as well as co-directing. When it was over, “I was just seeing blobs in the water.”

“We had to plan for [shooting] a feature film during a pandemic in a heatwave. We couldn’t have a food table with different people touching the food. We gave each person a food bag. Only one person was touching the bags.”

Tales of the Accidental City

I also
liked this film very much. But it was shot entirely in the director’s house and front yard. I don’t consider that to be an extreme location.

But without COVID, the film wouldn’t have been made. Director Maimouna Jallow was creating a stage play when the pandemic hit. “I debated on how to do this. I picked filmmaking.”

“Covid forced us all to do new ways. We pushed the boundaries of what we could do. I don’t think I would have considered making a film otherwise.”