[Editor’s Note: Welcome to Diary of a Web Series, the column that offers you an entertaining look into the machinations of a zero-budget web series made possible by an idea, fortitude, and democratized tools of production. For all the background on why we started publishing Diary of a Web Series – and why we think it’s great – check out the first installment right here. You can watch the web series the diary is about, too. It’s called STRAY and it’s good. Click here to watch it. And you can catch all the installments of Diary of a Web Series right here.]
Rule number one: Don’t kill the actors.
We were planning to shoot at a friend’s apartment at the end of July. Days before the shoot, he informed me that he had no air conditioning. Up to that point, the summer had been relatively mild, only to skyrocket into the high 90s that weekend.
As I later found out, the lights we used on set raised the room temperature by at least 10 degrees, and, in order to reduce ambient noise, we had to shut the windows and close the door, stemming airflow. I’m pretty sure that constitutes a human rights violation.
“Don’t kill the actors,” Alison, the director, implored. “That’s rule number one.”
“Technically, rule number one should be, ‘Make sure the actors show up,’” I quipped. “You can’t kill them if they don’t show up.”
“And I’m going to be selfish and add, ‘Don’t kill the crew,’” she replied, ignoring my attempt at humor.
That weekend, I ran around Astoria trying to find small window or portable AC units, but, alas, inventory was depleted that deep into the summer, leaving only hulking pieces of semi-modern machinery that weren’t feasible last-minute solutions.
I canvassed my friends on Facebook for any spare air conditioners, but the only thing my Facebook post yielded was a “like” from my aunt from Argentina who speaks no English. She “likes” every single thing I post.
Alison had warned me how much hotter those lights could make a room, but having shot mostly in the winter and spring, I didn’t fully appreciate how much a summer day could compound the heat emanating from the set lights.
Failing to secure an AC, we brought a window fan and did some reconnaissance. The room we were shooting in wasn’t oppressively hot, especially since there was an AC in the adjacent living space. Still, the room could become unbearable once the door and windows were shut and the lights were on.
With the lives of my actors hanging in the balance, I decided to Macgyver air conditioning by placing a tray of ice in front of a fan. We turned the lights off and turned the fans on in between as many takes as possible, keeping the temperature at a manageable, albeit not quite comfortable, level.
It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t perfect. But we managed not to kill the actors.
Pablo Andreu is not a creator or a scriptwriter. He’s certainly not a filmmaker. He’s just a guy who decided to make a web series called STRAY. It’s a bromantic comedy in which a brash gay dude and a nerdy straight guy talk sex and relationships while reconnecting in New York City years after college. He hopes it’s funny. By some inscrutable alchemy, his scribblings have wormed their way into The New York Times, McSweeney’s and some others. Usually, you can find him babbling here: https://medium.com/@pdandreu
Photos by Alison Bourdon.