On Set With "Uncle John" Part II: Chicago

Towards the end of August I started working on the production of Uncle John, an indie feature being shot in Wisconsin and in Chicago. I got brought on as 1st AC and the whole experience was really fantastic. Because we spent time shooting in two different states, I’m breaking the post into two parts. This second post will cover our Chicago portion! *I just want to preface this post by saying I didn’t have a chance to take many pictures, please stick with me though.

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We had a long day Friday so I checked out a little later from the hotel and made my way home. Monday was Labor Day so we had an extra day off, which meant I could spend some extra time with Loretta and Zero and STILL get my laundry done.

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Tuesday we launched full force into shooting again. It was a daunting day with 17 pages to shoot; plus we were short our helpers. All the Wisconsin kids stayed home, and we sure felt the difference. The bar was a great location, but took a while to get the lighting right (as any bar would). Mike brought in a dedicated gaffer for the day, and thank god he did; we wouldn’t have been able to get it all done without the extra hand. On the bright side though, we had AMAZING catering all through Chicago. Steve’s mom and sister are fantastic cooks and kept us fed well and often. Some of the best craft I’ve ever had.

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Day 2 in Chicago we met in the Fulton Market area and loaded up to shoot out the back of our cargo van. The setup was Mike sitting on the back of the van with me holding him in place and trying to pull focus while the actor rode a bike behind the van. We got a lot of unusable footage, but also some great shots that will work perfectly. After we wrapped the bike, we headed to the Logan Square area to shoot some apartment interiors. Thankfully we didn’t have a lot of shots here and had plenty of time to set up the lights. We wrapped inside the apartment, and moved out onto the street for a couple quick shots.

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We started day 3 at a fabrication warehouse in Roscoe Village, but wrapped that location within the first couple hours. Then we went back down to Logan Square for a different apartment. The setup for the interiors weren’t too complicated, but the scene was two improv actors, drunk, hooking up. Needless to say, hilarity ensued. The whole crew had trouble not laughing in the middle of a take. We had one more company move back down to the Fulton area. As far as I’m concerned, this was the most complex shot in Chicago; avoiding shadows, long walking track, moving into the back of the van, then leading the bike… it took a few takes but we got the shot!

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The crew for day 4 was even more stripped down: Erik and Steve, Mike, me, audio, and a DIT; plus two actors. The small crew drove down to Peotone, Il (about an hour out of the city). It was a simple enough shoot, getting coverage of the two actors driving “to Wisconsin.” The picture car was Mike, Steve, and our actors; audio set up their rig and stayed at base camp with our DIT; Erik and I followed in a separate car with lenses and AKS for the Alexa. We wrapped and made the drive back home.

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The final days of production we spent at Answers Media in downtown Chicago to shoot all of the workplace scenes. The location was phenomenal, and because they’re a production house, they ok’ed us using some of their equipment, which helped a lot. Day 5 had a long camera move, going through the whole office with both focus and exposure pulls, so it took a few tries to get it. The rest of the day was pretty standard.

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Day 6 in Chicago, day 16 overall, our final day of production. We had a pretty easy day. A lot of pages to shoot, but nothing super complicated. After nearly three weeks of working on Uncle John we were finally at a wrap. There were some really high points of production (great crew morale, amazing catering), and some low points (blowing fuses on the night exterior), but as whole, the production ran smoothly. The cast was fun to work with and none of them were diva’s; the crew was on the ball; and Erik and Steve made a low-budget look like a slightly less low-budget film. I would gladly work with any of these people again.

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Working on Uncle John was a really great experience. I learned a lot, met some awesome people, and got to be a part of the magic of movie making. We just had the wrap party in Chicago, and after having spent a few weeks away from everyone we came back together and the comradery was still there. I can’t wait to see the film once it’s done. And, I’ll be sure to update you all when we get closer to its release.

PS: sorry about the number and quality of the images.

On Set With “Uncle John” Part II: Chicago

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