‘Check Out’ Shooting Over Too Soon

Posted: January 4, 2013

Rural Pen

As I turned onto Grace Street in the still-dark hours of a cold December morning, the police barricade made it clear something was happening. I wondered what — and how — I would manage to get to my job site.
I made a right onto Chesapeake and accessed the parking lot from there. That’s when I realized, “Oh, the police are here for us.”
“Us” was the cast and crew of “Check Out,” a film we were shooting in and around Harrisonburg during the week before Christmas. My task: script supervision.
“Check Out” is about a young man, Sam (played by Nathan Granofsky of Broadway) who is suicidal. He goes to a grocery store to buy rat poison. The clerk, January (played by Spike Leffke of Virginia Beach), recognizes him from high school. When she realizes his intention, she attempts to intervene.
At 6:30 a.m. that first day, a lot was happening. While we were filming a scene in which Sam rides the bus, a Harrisonburg city bus idled in the parking lot.
On the set were people I knew and many I did not. Several young men were unloading equipment from a truck and setting it up. There was Tim Estep, coffee cup glued to his hand, who got me involved with this project. I worked with him on a three-year video project at JMU. He wrote the original version of the “Check Out” script, and was the film’s producer and creative consultant.
Another friend from the JMU project, Brent Finnegan, was readying the audio equipment. He was the film’s sound engineer. There was Alex Kent, assisting Brent, and Wade Vanover, providing general oversight. April Sedeen Estep was gathering Sam’s clothing. She was managing the movie’s visual aspects: set design and wardrobe.
Within a few minutes, I met Ty Strickler and Sing Howe Yam, the director and cinematographer, respectively: two local guys now living and working in Los Angeles who’d returned home to make this film. And then there was Mary Strickler, Ty’s mom. She provided a table full of breakfast foods in the parking lot.
In all, there were about 25 people. Too many, I thought at first. On the JMU project, we had a small crew and most of us filled several roles. However, over the next few days, I watched people stay busy and focused on their task.
We worked four 12-hour days. The first was during the day, but the second was 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. and the last two were 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
As it happened, I didn’t get much sleep, but I stayed awake and alert through the nights. I loved being part of the filmmaking process and so enjoyed the work that I did not feel tired at all.
I’d done script supervision on the JMU project, but this was my first real movie and my duties were more involved. With a stopwatch, I timed each take. I marked the script itself to indicate the length of the shot and the good takes.
And so it went for 28 scenes.
We wrapped five days later at 6:10 a.m. in Red Front Supermarket. Though I’d worked hard for 48 hours, I felt exhilarated.
And, driving home, I was a bit sad that it was over.

Luanne Austin lives in Mount Sidney. Contact her at RuralPen@aol.com, www.facebook.com/rural pen or care of the DN-R.

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