We had a few cool, organic locations in and around Bovina, New York (way upstate), where the dauntless and masterfully innovative indie filmmaking pair, director J. Christian Ingvordsen and DP/screenwriter Matthew Howe (along with myself, the newbie producer), filmed our rural crime drama “Tar Pit.” There in the northern Catskills, we knew of a trailer-park-esque pig farm and slaughtering field that couldn’t have been art directed with more genius than by the blood-spattered pig farmer/butcher who owned the place. We also had access to a gorgeous, Adirondack camp-style mansion, which cost a wonderfully small fee to rent for the day. Its sumptuous interior served as the lavish home of our country drug king pin. In terms of aesthetics and versatility, one of our best locations was a crumbling, abandoned, colonial Georgian mansion built in 1912. That old stone mansion worked perfectly for a drug lab, a mechanic’s workshop and for one of our gunfights.
As a first time film producer, who was serving during the actual shoot as line producer, I learned that you don’t want to do unit moves—at all. When you do a unit move, you have to move absolutely everything and everyone from one location to another. The likelihood that you’re going to forget something is high. Speaking purely hypothetically, of course, you could end up at a location with the actor playing the sheriff in his full uniform…but wearing a pair of summer sandals on his feet because you forgot to pack his cop shoes for the move. (Okay, look. You can barely see those Crocs in the shot.)
Unit moves are to be avoided at all costs. The best location is one you don’t have to leave—and which has working and accessible bathrooms. At the pig farm, the porta-potties were, firstly, disgusting, and, secondly, situated next to rotting pig carcasses. When one of the actresses asked the director, Chris, where she might use the ladies’ room, Chris said to me, “Roz, would you show Juliana the ladies’ room?” And so the immensely talented Juliana Aiden followed me faithfully over a barbed wire fence, around the poison oak and on safely into the pigless, poison-leafless brush. She was an amazingly good sport about it. When she realized where the ladies’ room was, she whipped out her smart phone and started filming me walking ahead of her, pushing branches aside as I went. Laughing, she narrated: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is producer Roz Foster taking me to pee in the woods on the set of “Tar Pit!””
The brilliant Stefanie Bari was probably the best of the good sports. God, was she a trooper on that pig farm. We filmed there twice—once it was hotter than Hades, but on the morning we needed to shoot Stef wearing nothing a pair of thin, cotton leggings and a wee, little tank top, it was freezing. In the middle of June it was 40 degrees out there. Stefanie, however, never complained. She never stopped smiling and joking—and I don’t know how she did it, but I don’t think she peed once that day.
It’s worth repeating that unit moves are to be avoided at all costs, and the best location is one you don’t have to leave. On “Tar Pit,” we were lucky enough to have such a set. We had access to a large house with so many different interior and exterior looks to it, we ended up using it for 14 different locations in the film. It was an editing room, the lead’s living room, the lead’s kitchen, a lawyer’s office, a cop’s living room and bedroom. It was our deputy’s driveway and side door. It was the front door of our main villain’s house, the back door of another villain’s house, the side door of a drug dealer’s lair. It played as the kitchen of a heroin addict, interiors of a thug hideout, the exterior of a workshop, and finally, the fully stocked interior of an upstate gun shop. (Plus, there were bathrooms.)
Here’s a short video featuring filmmakers Chris Ingvordsen and Matthew Howe talking about the importance of maximizing cool, organic locations:
Roz Foster is a producer and publisher at Roots Digital Media, as well as a literary agent with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. “Tar Pit,”a rural crime drama, is available to watch now at: vimeo.com/ondemand/tarpit
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