The Indestructibles Film Journal #9: Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law: This Time It’s Personal

The weekend in which we were to shoot seven of the film’s eight scenes was upon us. And then Murphy’s Law struck once, twice, three times, and kept on bombarding us.

The climax was four hours before the shoot. Tamara Pearlman, one of the two leading actresses, was to wear a certain top to the shoot. We chose it months ago, one of her personal shirts, and when we did I said clearly: “From this point on you’re not wearing this shirt until the shoot. You’ll keep it stored, no one will touch it. It can’t get any stains on it, it can’t get torn. It needs to stay in the closet, safe and cozy and safe.”  She said, “Sure.”

That was months ago. Four hours before the shoot, I get a text from her: “My husband tore the shirt in two.”

And the great battle of The Indestructibles crew versus Murphy’s Law began.

Coming to a website near you

Coming to a website near you

Arming Yourself against Murphy’s Law

I’m not going to talk about the things that went through my mind. I’m not going to mention the image I had of her husband, standing in a King Kong pose atop the Empire State, holding the shirt in his two hands, then tearing it in two, screaming, “You’re not going to participate in this stupid film! Ooga ooga!” Sure, it went through my mind. But I know him, and I know that didn’t happen.

We’re not going to talk about any of the scenarios that went through my mind, imagining how a shirt could be torn in two in the morning before a shoot. And we’ll get to what really happened. But in the meantime, what you need to know is that in my few years in film and my twenty years in theater, I’ve learned that Murphy’s Law strikes, and strikes hard. I came prepared.

Before we proceed to see the vile and violent attacks by Murphy’s Law, let’s recap: The Indestructibles is an attempt to create a massive, epic science fiction story that would ordinarily cost hundreds of millions of dollars, with absolutely no budget. With today’s technology, it’s much easier to shoot film. And the need for CGI goes out the window if you tell your story well. If you tell the story right, if you direct it right, and if you use good actors, I’ll be able to give the viewers almost the same experience. That’s the goal. To read more about how I think it can be done see the first Indestructibles blog entry.

Here are a few salvos from Murphy’s Law, representing only the bigger attacks, not the smaller ones:

  • A few days before the production, I discovered the soundman I wanted had decided to go to Paris. Solution: I did the sound as well as shot the film. It was a gamble, and anyone who comes from film would tell you you should never do the sound yourself. But now that it’s over, I can say that it worked. Problem solved!
  • When I came to collect the equipment I had ordered for the shoot (lighting equipment), they couldn’t find the order. We quickly found it under another name, but during that time I was completely prepared, since the location is an abandoned parking lot, to shoot the film with my car’s headlights. I had actually planned for that eventuality the night before. The equipment was found. Problem solved!
  • I had ordered two different lights, and before I put the equipment in the car, I checked that they worked. But when I got to the location, one of the lights no longer worked. The solution: The shoot only requires one strong light. I had ordered two just in case. Problem solved!
  • Natalie Klein Selle, the other lead actress, has quite a long part in which she lies down as a vegetable and needs to breathe through her nose quietly. This breathing through your nose part of her job sounds trivial, but it became unbelievably important when she showed up with a cold and a stuffed nose. Fortunately, knowing Murphy’s Law was lurking, I had taken that eventuality into account and had bought nose spray the day before. She took it, her nose cleared, and we could shoot the film Problem solved!
  • Finally, Tamara Pearlman’s husband tore her shirt in two. It was done innocently enough. There were knocks at the door while they were sleeping, and the husband jumped out of bed, not noticing that he moved the chair the shirt was on, dropping it to the floor next to the door. Then, still dazed, he tried to open the bedroom door. It resisted (because of the shirt on the floor). So he pushed. Hard. The door opened and the shirt became two smaller shirts. Solution: On her way to the shoot, Tamara went to the store in which she had originally bought the shirt and bought another one. Theoretically, we had another solution, because we had prepared two alternatives for her to wear. So, either way, problem solved!

In Conclusion

And now we’ve shot most of the film, and the dailies look so much better than I had imagined they could look. Murphy’s Law lost this time, though it will no doubt return again, having learned the lessons of this battle, and ready to try again. My guess is I’ll need the actors to wear body armor next time. Just to make sure they don’t break anything on the way to the shoot.

Are you listening, Murphy’s Law? We’re ready for you! Do your worst! Come on! Let’s see you try!


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