PART IV: Principle Photography
The first day of Principle Photography was July 13th, 2005. Our first day was scheduled to be one of the busiest and toughest days of the entire shoot. We had three primary
locations we needed to shoot in: Central Park, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and Battery Park.
Frank and I arrived to Central Park at 9:00AM. The meeting spot was the 79th Street entrance at Fifth Avenue. Chris Diaz first showed up followed by Jack Moran. We immediately made our way into the park to film at the Bethesda Fountain. This was the only location we could get in the New York Metropolitan area WITH permission, the Central Park Conservancy even went as far as to shut off the fountain for us so that audio would not be an issue.
I filmed the scene with Jack and Chris discussing the political dangers of a “secession project”-it was very much like the scene in JFK when Costner is walking along the National Mall with Sutherland. That was the tone I wanted and got from the first take to the last. After the shooting of each scene I had the actors record the dialog straight into the microphone (in a quiet area.) This way I would also have a clean ADR track to work with. I did this for all of the exterior scenes in the film. Reggie Hines (our PA for the day) also hooked us up with some great ADR for a scene that I would be shooting in August.
We proceeded to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens–one of the last stops on the 7 Line. This is the location of the 1964 World’s Fair as well as many other mainstream film locations. It’s a beautiful park and although we had to wait about twenty minutes for it to stop raining, we proceeded towards the interior of the park to shoot a scene between
Jack Moran and Chris Diaz smacking golf balls. This was also Greg Vorob’s first day—his character of “Agent” was to deliver a subpoena to Chris’s character to appear before a
Senate Committee Hearing over the legitimacy of their secession movement. The only
thing about that particular shoot was the airplanes coming and going from nearby LaGuardia Airport! Aside from that we got what we needed and pretty much what
Because we were so tired by mid-afternoon we decided to move the Battery Park scene over to Carl-Shurz Park (because it was closer to my house.) We went to my “then” apartment on the Upper East Side and had lunch (Taco Bell), and then proceeded to do a scene with one of my “cameo appearances.” The scene was supposed to be me antagonizing Chris’s character for starting such an absurd secession movement, and it ended with him knocking me to the ground and walking away. It was funny and we filmed it pretty good. Only to find out later that the microphone had been disabled (because the headphones were plugged into the mic-jack and the operator wasn’t monitoring the audio.) So the footage was useless except for one last take of me yelling “The Long Island
Secession Council, what a bunch of fucking morons!” NOTE: This outtake/cut scene appears after the closing credits of the film.
When Frank and I returned to the apartment to set up the next day’s shoot, we received a message that our primary actress had dropped out… immediately I began deleting her
character from the story and re-arranging it so that they wouldn’t need her. The only remaining piece of evidence to clue anyone in on a missing character is the Flushing Meadows scene when Chris Diaz mentions a woman named “Lilly.” Aside from that, we managed to successfully delete “Lilly” from existence.
Day two was a bit more stressful at first because we were trying to re-fit the script that day to read well without the lead female character. We were shooting all of the interior scenes of Rasputin’s Apartment that day (location was Frank’s apartment in Woodside, Queens.) Kevin Gall and Chris Diaz who were playing the two male leads were given the extra duty to take what would normally be dialog between three characters and convert the scenes into two character dialog.
This would be done through-out the entire shoot with all characters that ran into the lead female at any point in the script. Our idea was that if we could blow through the material that day without any qualms, then we’d be set for the shoot. It would be a cinch. No problem. The character of Lilly would be nothing but history. At first it wasn’t easy, but as
the day progressed it did get easier… and then easier. By the end of the day we realized that we didn’t need this character to begin with, so it was at this point that we
began to foresee how the film would come out. NOTE: In retrospect I was wrong, this film would have been much stronger with a female character working the story.
We filmed “The Long Island Project from July 2005 through September 2005. We filmed it on Tuesdays and Weds every week. The most important days were scheduled around my bi-weekly pay periods at my day job, which was still the Virgin Megastore in Times Square.
Many locations we intended to get, we ended up not getting and had to replace them with more accessible locals. That has proven to be the true nature of filming in New York City (or any city). Sacrifice. The rooftop scene we ended up shooting on a beautiful balcony at
Hunter College West–on the Upper East Side. This was for the scene where “Conrad Moynihan” (played by Jack Moran) is hitting golf balls off the roof of his skyscraper. The
scene was shot using him and Kevin Gall (who plays Johnnie Tramain), because actor Chris Diaz was late for the shoot that day.
A major argument between the two actors ensued and Kevin cursed Chris out pretty bad. I understood where Kevin was coming from–I was just as angry, but because I needed
both actors I decided to just try and calm them both down (instead of joining in, which is what I wanted to do.) That same day we also shot the cameo with Ollie (from the DVD
Department at Virgin) and some additional scenes with Dawn Simmonds in the lobby.
Our first shoot day with John Tully (plays Senator Deakins) was at Hunter College West as well. We couldn’t get permission to film inside one of the classrooms, so we snuck into one and set it up as fast as we could. This was the scene for the Senate Caucus Hearing, towards the latter half of the picture. By the time we got to filming, security peeked in and
thought that there was a class going on. It went rather smoothly, considering how nervous I was of getting caught!
August was a long month–especially for the production. Endless summer days and nights with nothing but scorching city heat. The sticky kind that made you want to vomit. If any of the readers of this blog has never experienced the amount of heat one is subjected to by spending a summer in New York–well let’s just say, it’s like walking around in the center of the sun but a million times worse. There is no escape from the heat–at least no immidiate escape that doesn’t require a bucket load of cash.
The day we ventured out to Long Island for our “Long Island shoot day”, it was in the high eighties and low nineties. From what I remember. There was a long moment I was waiting to roll camera at the Stony Brook LIRR platform that I couldn’t even take a breath because the air was so thick. I felt sick–so we filmed the scene as fast as possible and got back into the air-conditioned car and sped back east to film in Syosset and Plainview (near Ana’s residence at the time–a place where we could cool down for a while.)
Addtionally we filmed with Robert Youngren for the first time. He played a character named Monticello Palermo, a gangster that the secession movement needed to secure
“blue collar votes” – more of a joke than a plot point. For this, Robert, John Tully, Greg Vorob and I walked across the George Washington Bridge to Fort Lee, New Jersey – on
the hottest day of the summer and filmed all of Robert’s scenes in a little park that overlooked the Hudson. We even managed to capture some blooper reel gags.
Our last official day of filming was in Washington, DC. Frank, JT (Senator Deakins) and I all ventured down to Washington, DC for a day of nothing but improvisational filming. We
took establishing shots of the city, the nation’s monuments, our actor walking around the most famous parts of town and entering and exiting government buildings. As well we
landed ourselves an improvisational cameo from Illinois Congressman Henry J. Hyde. Mr. Hyde was kind enough to run a little “secession” related sketch between himself and JT. It was the highlight of our day-and probably the most memorable aspect of our shoot since Hyde is most famous for going after Clinton for the Lewinsky thing. It’s cool to have your arch enemy on the political front, interacting with the villain in your film. I will never forget this day. Not to mention filming on the Exorcist Steps, in George Town, for a scene that was destined for the blooper reel!
After resting up at Tully Compound we hit the road again, this time I crashed in the
backseat – and when I woke up the Midtown Skyline was sprawling in front of me-we were on the Jersey Turnpike and just about to head into the Lincoln Tunnel. This is how the shoot of “The Long Island Project” ended. With smiles and the glorious feeling of success. The skyline of New York City laid out before me and all and all good feelings.