DECEMBER 31, 2016
December of 2016 was one of the most stressful, most emotional, and most fulfilling months of my life.
This was our final round of shooting for Legacy, and there were a lot of wheels turning at once. Everything had to be scheduled to the hour to ensure that we would walk away from 2016 with a full film in hand.
The final prep leading up to our last five days was some of the most intense I-wish-I-could-clone-myself days I've spent in this industry. There were shot list meetings, final costume fittings, fight choreography sessions, etc, and then there was the struggle to lock down our grip truck for the week, which without it, we could not shoot. Long story short, our insurance had to be adjusted, and on the 14th (and several days leading up to it), I was phoning, emailing, and doing everything I could during day hours (while having not slept yet from getting home from my overnight job earlier that morning) to get that truck, and once my gaffer had those keys in his hands, I was so incredibly relieved.
Our shoot days were the 15th through the morning of the 20th. Straight through, and everyone was a volunteer worker. Our entire shoot was basically exteriors, mostly during night hours, and even the one scene shot indoors was freezing due to us filming in an uninsulated/ unfinished studio space. Just about every day we were wrapping actors or locations, and each time a wrap was called I was both elated and sad to say goodbye.
On the 15th, we shot in the studio space and then finished our day in Batavia with the wonderful Rich in his miraculous Kokiri Forest home-in-the-woods. We also tested ourselves this day with our only scene utilizing blue screen. Saying goodbye to the Kokiri Forest, where we spent so much time during the hottest week in August and where we began this journey, was a bittersweet moment indeed.
The next two days we moved to our final days at the Renaissance Fest grounds in Wilmington, OH. Friday was one of our most difficult days of the shoot. It had snowed overnight. We had already been trying to add layers to our actors' and backgrounds' costumes (whether hidden or built into the costume) and the snow made the chills that much worse for them. By a production standpoint, we had to make sure to go against nature and walk on the icy spots to preserve the snow for our set. And thank goodness for Stephanie Wells and Ramsey Stoneburner who ensured that our crew had a place of warmth, that our bellies remained full, and that we had a place for our ... "deposits."
The snow also actually helped to preserve lighting on an overcast day, so from a cinematographic view, I think the snow really helped. The daylight lasted a little longer with its presence, and the day was running long very quickly, for Friday was our remaining "horse day" with Chewbacca, our adult Epona. He had some galloping stunts and some close up scenes with our stunt rider and our Zelda and Link throughout the day. Meanwhile, we also had Kyle (Link) and Alex (G.Dorf) practicing their stunt work at another point on the property with our choreographer (and stunt man of the Ren Fest itself!) David Smith. After fight rehearsal, Kyle had to get into hair and make up and prepare for his scenes later that night, and Alex remained on site with us and threw his hands into helping as a grip.
After the sun left us, things weighed in heavier and heavier as each hour ticked on. As we were setting up for a scene with Aislin Odell, our young Zelda, my AD, Jeff Seemann, came up to me and told me that he had something to tell me. I did and didn't want to hear it based on the tone in his voice. That was when I got the news that not only was the clock running on our Friday with the sleet coming in at 10 or 11 that night, which would make our journey back home brutal and hazardous, but it was supposed to rain the entirety of Saturday.
As we marched on to complete our Friday, I spun solutions around in my head for the next few hours. Saturday was due for two exterior scenes and one interior, the latter of which was to be filmed inside one of the houses at the fest. The owners of that particular booth/house had been texting me all day about safety concerns, and I reached a point where I at last had an epiphany. I made my rounds, talking with Jeff and my two leads and my DP, Chris Carson, first. We could add a scene from Saturday to the end of Friday, push the other exterior to our last day, and shoot in a different Fest-owned building on Saturday. Long story short, the cast and crew were marvelous and agreed without any convincing whatsoever.
We finished our Friday rather late, and though the roads were hazardous by the time we wrapped, we all took our time and there were no accidents. I stayed up late waiting, and everyone reported in safe and sound.
Saturday then became a simple day. We got to sleep in a little, and we all met back at Ren Fest for our final scene of the location. It actually turned out to be a blessing in the guise of chaos that it had snowed the previous day and had been such terrible conditions. The snow really added to the production value, and had the threat of rain not forced us to move up a scene to be shot additionally, it would have been a huge continuity error, as the scene came directly after one shot in the snow, and the rained had washed away all the snow on Saturday.
It was one of the most spectacular days, some of our favourite lighting work, and my favourite scene to dress as the project's production designer. I had been slowly buying and selecting props and dressings for this scene for well over a year, and I am so happy with the way it turned out. I was very happy to have had all day to work the scene with the actors and let it have the breath it deserved to make it just right. Sure, it rained the whole time we were there, but we slipped in a line of dialogue referring to the storm, which was so appropriate for the scene, and recorded some wild storm audio, and boom! A wrap on Ren Fest and James Cooper! And the roads were so much better on the way home.
Then, it was upon us, our final location.
We spent two glorious days at the amazing Brian Manor in Lebanon, OH, with the most welcoming owners we could have ever dared to dream for. Chris Brian and Janet Berg are such treasures; the accommodations were marvelous, and their willingness and eagerness to help and see a movie come to life for the first time on their property was truly and undeniably a morale boost. These were two of our toughest days simply due to the number of shots, the subject matter (three/four fights + some truly emotional stuff), and the 4-degree weather. These were our overnight days, where we began our day around 3-5pm prepping, and 6pm-7am shooting every ounce of darkness we could squeeze out or until our bodies gave out. Let's just say that by the end of the shoot, we wrapped our night scenes a little into the morning (without really seeing too much sky) and our last scene (pushed from Saturday) directly after.
LEGACY WRAPPED AT 7.45AM on the morning of December 20th. The first character we shot on the project back in August was Saria and we ended it with our Princess Zelda, the one and only Arielle. Let's just say she and I both cried in each other's arms after I called a picture wrap over the walkie.... This had been a childhood dream for both of us for so long, and to have found each other into our mid-20s and to share this journey together ... a very special bond has formed between us because of this project, and the longtime friends and new friends I made making this make up the absolute closest family I will ever have. We have been bonded by true adversity and adventure. Making a film is never an easy task, making a good one is even harder, but creating something truly impactful and something that will live in our hearts for our entire careers is something altogether magical.
There is too much to express about how I feel toward every single individual who helped make this a success, from the donors to the crew and the cast, that I wouldn't know where to begin or end. Everyone knows how much I appreciate their contributions or collaboration. I couldn't have made it without any of them, so I say a very special thanks to everyone who had a hand in this journey.
2016 was the hardest, most stressful, most time-consuming year of my life ... and it has been the highlight of my life.
--Stephonika W. Kaye
Photos below by Melissa Hayes.