Shoot That Rat Crew

My 2 Weeks as a PA on SHOOT THAT RAT!, a feature film by Mikael Kreuzriegler

Finding themselves on a junkyard – of all places! – for their first date, two lonely souls are forced to risk everything to find true intimacy and companionship.  A provocative critique of consumerism, and a crazy love story.

— Mikael Kreuzriegler

In June, I had privilege to work on Shoot That Rat! — a feature film directed by LMU professor Mikael Kreuzriegler.  It’s a SAG  (Screen Actors Guild) ultra-lowbudget film, starring Kris Park and Laura Long, and was shot entirely on RED.

Stylistically, according to Mikael, Shoot that Rat!  is filmed in the tradition of Wong Kar-Wai, Ingmar Bergman, and RW Fassbinder and a significant portion of the film was shot in long, single takes — practically all of which were created right here on the West Side on one of LMU’s soundstages, dressed to look like a junkyard!

I was a Production Assistant, aka “PA”, and contrary to popular misconception, the job only involved getting coffee for someone once.  As a PA, I was responsible for all kinds of tasks which were unpredictable, and often small, yet essential to production.

[more after the photo gallery…]

For example, one of my jobs was pressing a button on the wall of the soundstage which activated the revolving red lights outside the studio doors to let people outside know we were shooting.  During a scene in which the two characters park in the junkyard, my job was to squat behind the car and bounce it to make it look like the car had just stopped.  I also operated the fog machine, and I was often used as a stand-in.  There was another scene where Kris removes Laura’s jewelry and lackadaisically tosses it into the trash piles surrounding them.  I helped the Production Design people search for one of the earrings for a very long time, to no avail.  The earring was lost on the first take, so for the subsequent takes, the actress had to wear her hair in such a way as to cover that ear.

One day, when we were doing a complicated dolly shot I was asked to be a “wrangler.”  Upon hearing this I assumed they meant “animal wrangler” and the first thing I thought was:  “Are there going to be animals on set?”  As it turned out in this case, “wrangler” referred to someone who holds the cords coming from the camera as the dolly moves, making sure they don’t get caught on anything or make noise by dragging on the ground.  A much better job than wrangling rats!

Sometimes it’s necessary for the AD (Assistant Director) to call a “closed set.”  This means, only the crew that is absolutely necessary for the scene are allowed on set.  This is most commonly done to make actors more comfortable for scenes involving nudity or heavy emotion.  In our case, a closed set was called a few times due to nudity.

On the last day of principal photography, I helped PD (Production Design) set up a few mud puddles on the stage.  The mud was a mixture of clay and carob, which caused the set to smell like chocolate all day.  The actors, Kris and Laura, were very nice and we had a terrific time working with them.   But, I would be lying if I said working with PD to pour fake mud all over them was not one of my favorite jobs during the shoot.

Working on Shoot That Rat! was hard work, long hours, and a great experience.  It also looks like it’s going to be an incredible movie and I can’t wait until it’s available.   In the meantime, the trailer will be ready soon.

Everyone on the cast and crew did a fantastic job and were really committed to this film.  Working with all of them was not only fun but, once again, a chance to learn more and more about the seemingly endless number of mostly unseen jobs that are essential to the making of a feature film.

UPDATE (07/12/2012):

For more about what inspired Mikael to make Shoot That Rat! into a feature film — fully 20 years after first reading the play as a teenager in his native Austria — his unusual filmmaking process, and the unique challenge of  shooting the entire film on an LMU soundstage in only 10 days, read Joseph Wakelee-Lynch’s feature in this month’s (July) issue of LMU The Magazine.

UPDATE (11/15/2012):

Shoot That Rat! has been renamed The Gods of Garbage!  Here’s the new teaser- trailer from Mikael’s Vimeo page :


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