One of my earliest gigs in New York was a disaster. I am not kidding. At the time, I was renting the corner of some kitchen, where I slept on an inflatable air mattress. I thought there was honor in being a starving filmmaker. That sentiment, combined with a dwindling bank account meant I would take any gig I could get.
This gig paid fifty dollars, I think. It also involved filling a kiddie pool with Jello. Our set was located in an abandoned warehouse somewhere in Brooklyn during one of the coldest days in February.
I showed up, eager to be the best coffee fetching production assistant in Gotham. But something wasn’t right. Minutes into the gig, the production manager quit. The 1st Assistant director told me not to worry. She told me she had it handled. But she lied…
As a result, we quickly fell behind schedule. Actors showed up for their call times and waited hours. Many simply quit and walked off set. Meals were missed. People got irritable.
As the shoot spiraled out of control, we ran out of kerosene for the heater. As a result, the Jello-filled kiddie pool dropped to near-freezing temperatures. We know this because the actor presently submerged in the Jello complained his hands were numb.
Despite this Hell, I distinctly remember looking around the room and feeling elation to see so many dedicated professionals… That was the good part. But my momentary bliss was shattered when everybody started yelling at each other in frustration.
Did I mention there was an actor soaked in Jello?
I was too inexperienced to realize this shoot was not only unprofessional, but borderline criminal. I would love to tell you the movie sucked as a result, but the final cut actually got accepted to Sundance. The director went on to do good things.
The lesson here is simple. If your actor agrees to jump in a pool of freezing Jello, stop yelling.
What is your film production horror story?