The Game officially started shooting on May 2 1993. This was after a false start in January of that same year. The film had started shooting for two days when major changes were made resulting from personality conflicts. Though this sounds minor, it was actually an extremely difficult situation on many levels -- emotional and financial being the two most severe. Casting went on and in April a new lead was found. Rehearsal with the new leads commenced as did the business of renting cameras, gathering locations and renting living space for the actors who would be staying on location for the duration of the shoots.
Three days before principal photography was to commence, the leading lady was forced to back out of the part. This was a nightmare that seemed to be without end... and the shooting hadn't even started! With three days before the "meters would be running" on cameras, building rentals, etc., we gave the part of Laney to our alternate choice of leads, Margaret Lamonica. The Game was finally beginning in earnest. The night before the first shoot, we had a meeting of as many people as possible that would be on the film. It was the D.P's (Jack Bromiley) birthday. We had a celebratory drink for him and another one for the film. The next morning we started our first shoot; the scene where Mitchell (Mark Gorman) and Laney (Margaret Lamonica) meet for the first time. I chose this scene as the first scene for a variety of reasons. It was an important scene with the two leads; the third costar (Stephen Wastell) was still in New York at the time and wasn't scheduled for another three days). Since it was the first scene in the film where the two meet, I felt that any clumsiness that would come across in the acting might be a bit more acceptable in this scene than others. (I have since come to regret that decision)
When you start shooting a film, you have a schedule with a huge amount of pages... scenes... shots... It feels like a mountain and you have a tiny spoon with which to pick at that mountain. Slowly we picked away... one word at a time, one shot at a time, one scene at a time... moving from location to location.
Though The Game was a very low budget movie, there were many locations, some of them at night. This was breaking two of a few core rules that are given a low budget film. But, it could be done... not in style, not in comfort, but it was possible.
One day at a time, one scene at a time... slowly the film was shot. One of the things we didn't have the
luxury of doing (people still call us crazy) was processing and printing the film as we shot; so we didn't have any idea whether or not we were shooting anything, let alone usable footage. I had full trust in the D.P., Jack Bromiley, as well as others on the crew. It was, after all, not the first film they were shooting, just the first feature length film -- and that was a responsibility for me, the director and the actors. Technique and expertise in film making had already been established by the many short film we (as a combined crew) had made in the past.
The last days of shooting were the most difficult... 18 days of shooting over 21 days doesn't leave any room for relaxation. To add to that, the typical day averaged 16 hours or so... Toward the end it got even more brutal. We were nearing what was going to be the only set that was built for the film. It consisted of a hallway in which a gun fight was eventually going to happen. I had experience in the effects required for such a scene and realized that to do it in a real location wasn't a good idea... holes had to be made in walls, small explosives (squibs) placed in them and then the holes covered and painted to match the walls, etc. The constructing of a set was imperative. Weeks earlier I had spoken to a long time friend and contractor/set designer who graciously was into the idea of building the set.
As the day of reckoning for the scene was approaching, I had talked to him more about it. After we finished at the location prior to the hallway scene, I left for the town in which he lived. I went to his shop looking for him, didn't find him, and then continued searching the town for him. When I found him, I discovered a man with the flu and (to me) much more seriously, realization that no set had been built -- because no location for the set had been found.
Desperately, we spoke to his landlord at the lumberyard where his business was located and made arrangements for a large storage area to be used as the area for construction. The two of us (Dale - the designer) and myself then moved the large window and door frames that were in this area into another spot and, with the promise of a built set the NEXT MORNING, I went home for a typical four hour night of sleep. The next morning, the crew, cast and myself made the trek to the yard where the set was hopefully going to be. When I arrived, I nervously went to the front gates and watched as the large garage door slowly opened. Inside was the set, walls still wet with paint, Dale's employees working away frantically. It was another few hours before it was ready, but yet... the set had been built.
We started unloading the equipment while actors and crew alike worked on finishing the set. We had the location for the weekend. Shooting on a weekday was not possible because of the business going on at the lumber yard. We started shooting dialogue scenes while the effects squibs, etc. were placed into walls between shots. In the end, we spent the entire weekend shooting the scene. The days which had typically been 12 to 16 hours now jumped to one continuous time period. We knew that Monday morning would mean the end of our shooting and so we went all out. Monday arrived and at about 6:00 AM we called it quits. We had not gotten everything we needed to get in the scene but, "What can you do?" It was the last day of shooting and equipment had to go back to the various rental houses, actors had to return to their lives and crew had to move on to paying jobs. We drank a couple beers, everybody hugged everyone, people took pictures... and then we left.
In three weeks of shooting, we shot about twelve thousand feet of film. Now, it was time to see if it had come out. I knew that if it hadn't, that was the end of the project; that there would be no feature film. It took
approximately two weeks before we could come up with the money to process the film, but finally I was able to take two large boxes of 400 foot cans to the lab. Then we waited for two eternally long days wishing we had had the money for
dailies. Two days later, I called the lab and they told me it was ready.
"You have a print?", I asked, knowing that if there was a print, it meant there had been an image.
"It looks okay?", I asked.
"I'll be right there."
Three hours later I was back in my house, threading the first of many roles of film. I practically started to cry when I saw the first images on the large screen. "My god... it's okay... it came out..."
Now it was time to edit and raise more money.