Take a Little Time’s locations, like almost every other pre-production department, looked one way before COVID and another way
after during it. Had we shot it last spring, the biggest differences from film as it exists now would have been:
- A much smaller back kitchen. The last producer task Lilly Adams completed pre-shutdown was securing Café Lemont for both the kitchen, and…
- The climactic negotiation/temptation scene would’ve been in the front of the Café, or “INT. COFFEE SHOP – DAY,” as I had written it.
Let’s tackle those in order. When we were back in business for the fall, we knew it’d be a tall order to get any restaurant to allow a student film to shoot in the back kitchen. Fortunately, Lilly worked her producing powers and got us a tour of the downtown State College Mad Mex kitchen before class one morning in September 2020:
While this spot didn’t have the 3-sink station I wrote the intercutting scenes around, it did have a long clearing behind the sink where we could lay down dolly track and get the timelapse shot, so I was okay with tossing the 3-sink bit (they did have one there, but someone was prepping food on it earlier in the morning than if we stayed over here and could shoot from 6-9AM).
With the coffee shop scene…it was COVID. As the kitchen was miraculously falling into place, I was more than fine shifting that scene to Lilly’s apartment and calling it the Vincent character’s place. We were already using the living room in my apartment for Smitty’s apartment and Christian’s apartment in Lilly’s film Pulling Daisies the same month, and while we were using the bathroom and bedroom at Lilly’s for Daisies, her living room was up for grabs for my film. More on how we dressed it in the art design article.
There’s a million miles of alleyway in downtown State College, so the trick in scouting this location was finding the perfect blend of out-of-the-way-of-crowds, well-lit-while-looking-like-4AM, and logistically being able to work the truck crossing into the shot.
More on this under equipment/test shoots, but I really just had to go out one night and try shooting in a couple spots across several alleys until I found something I liked:
This spot was great because of the overhead light where Smitty would walk under, the parking garage in the distance that would Boca when out of focus, the trees/powerlines I could pan down over to enter the shot from apparent blackness, and once again the ability to have the truck shoot across the shot on Barnard Street (more here on how that went). Lilly cleared the shoot with the local police, and a couple days before the shoot I knocked on the nearest house with an outlet on the porch and got permission to plug our HMI in.
The antique store location was one that we hadn’t yet solved before COVID hit in the spring, so on August 15th 2020 I drove around to 3 shops between State College and nearby Bellefonte:
The Great Mish Mosh (that’s what it’s called!) was my favorite, primarily based off the quirky charm of the place. But it helped it had the floor space available to lay dolly track down, especially for the first shot in that sequence. I had hoped I could track Smitty/Charlie from the door up to the counter entirely in reflections off different surfaces. I was incredibly prepared to drop this very specific wish…until I saw the literal row of mirrors and glass cabinets at the back of Mish Mosh. Sure, they could walk in through the back door—who would know? It was somehow perfect for the shot I envisioned…and Carson Spence knew someone who worked there. Boom.
That just left the house exterior for the porch scene. I don’t have any scouting pics of this one, because it’s Lilly’s aunt/uncle’s place just a few miles out of town. I swung by and planned the shots out ahead of time, and it made for an incredibly peaceful day of shooting when we returned.
The way that location and story intertwine is something I’m sure I’ll run into again in preproduction, but the pandemic really brought it to the surface in a more immediate way than I would’ve expected. Sacrifices we made in the name of simply filling a location need circled their way around into art design, then into the script, and into the film, to the point that everything feels inevitable looking back. But writing this, it’s remarkable to me how slow each decision came and how methodical—not to mention fun—piecing this film together really has been from the start!