The Making of a Mole Hill
|September 12, 2012||Posted by jpnews under All the News That's Fit to Eat||
I don’t think your average person can imagine what it takes for a small company on an even smaller budget to create a mere one minute and fifty four seconds of broadcast quality video, so I’m here to share with you our Mole Hill story.
First you rent equipment: lights, cameras, various-sized lenses, apple boxes, and drag them into a SUV. That seems easy enough, but there are 11 articles– one set of hands.
On the way up to Napa you pick up your LA-based creative collaborator who contorts himself into the smallest spot left in the car, practically the trunk, since there really is nowhere for him to sit. You arrive at your 98 degree accommodations–oh, was someone supposed to put on the A/C??– and realize, 4 bodies, 3 beds, looks like the couch. Not really a concern as there isn’t much sleep planned for the next 4 days.
The crew spends the next day organizing for the shoot, making lists of necessary supplies and tasks: rolls of paper, paint and glue to make the mole hole; an animal paw; a generator to light the barn cum studio; a seamstress for the miniature tweed men’s suit sleeve; a puppet maker to craft the shadows; a set designer to light it all properly; antique wine barrels would be nice for the den.. do you know anywhere we can get some fabric to make a lampshade, or a mole scarf? Buttons are sent three times from the kind folks at FabricX in SF to secure the right size and the list goes on. You have already pilfered a house in San Francisco, smuggling old miniature grandfather clocks and silver frames, but you are warned by the creative powers that be: set design is critical.
You’re not long on production assistants: one kid with you, a fourteen year old boy, who is sort of willing to help, but after he has cut 62 strips of newspaper for the paper mache mole hill, you find the scissors and a pile. He’s done. Back to fantasy football.
The host cum producer feels a bit displaced from all of the chaos going on in the barn: the lights are being set up, dirt is being collected in fast-circling wheelbarrows, generators are busily borrowed, so she hides herself in the kitchen making pies. Blackberry pies, tarts and custard crostatas, because luckily blackberries are plentiful on the property; and feeding the crew is a full time job.
The boys head out to do their first scenery shot, on the vineyard. The weather in Napa is 103 degrees. As they leave a call comes in from the winery owner that the fires north of town have destroyed the view and we can’t shoot. We will have to reschedule, the haze is creating debilitating vista problems. Tempted to say: ”you must have the wrong number,” the boys unload their 11 pieces of equipment. They slither around the vineyard like legless lizards, capturing camera angles impossible to comprehend: I mean after all, how did you think that dirt flew up from the behind the mole hill anyway? Look closely and you can see a head!
The sweltering days yield hungry appetites, dripping sweat and muddy clothes. Add washing machine duties to the list. Watching in awe, I am reminded of kindergarten children after a long day at play, exhausted, filthy, ready to collapse yet feeding off adrenaline! The boys jump out of bed the next morning, too early for their Model Bakery English muffin, ready to start all over again. This time it’s 4 am, the perfect hour to create the time lapse shot: just sneak through the gate in the dark, hope the two large dogs on the property don’t eat you, set up only 6 pieces of equipment, click your GoPro cameras every 30 seconds for 90 minutes and there you have it. Followed by the down the hole shot, filmed at midnight behind a house with very little access: no worries the legless lizards were becoming well-versed at slithering.
Last was the studio shot. So exciting, so unbelievable to see rolls of kraft paper and dirt transformed into something so utterly believable. Tiny little silver frames all hand painted with Mole cameos. Oh, did I mention that in the middle of that shot the borrowed generator’s time expired? Yes, the kind gentleman who lent it to us needed to pick it up. But wait. This is our last scene. Our best scene. The one we’ve all been waiting for. The end of four days of heavy lifting. Good thing the guy liked Knob Creek on the rocks. A few hours of cocktailing and we convinced him to come back in a few more hours.
Now we can breathe easily, have a nice dinner, enjoy the pies, all was in the can.
Just in time to edit, tape the voiceover–from a very kind neighbor, the night before his shoulder surgery–write music, add sound effects, throw in supers, color correct and voila!
The making of our masterpiece, that I scribbled almost effortlessly on the back of a napkin.
It was hard work, hours of it, but when we came to view our mole on the very big screen at the Cameo Theatre in St. Helena, it really was a mountain, not just a tiny mole hill. Squeezing my colleague’s leg in anxiety-ridden anticipation, he turned to me after the audience’s first chuckle and said: you know, this is why we do this.
by Faith Wheeler