Party O’Clock: A Story Through the Eyes of a Production Assistant
Written by: Danielle Ferebee
When it comes to behind the scenes of a film it’s not all movie magic. There’s a lot involved and many people working behind the camera. Sure, you have the main people: the director, the writer, and the producers—but there’s also hair and makeup artists, a sound coordinator, a light director, camera people, and of course, the actors.
I worked as a Production Assistant for the school because the school required one student to be on set at all times in case the cast or crew needed anything. As a production assistant, I mainly observed the filming process but I also helped set up snack tables, fetch coffee, and clean up after the scene wrapped. I originally signed on to be an extra in the film, but the filming for extras didn’t start until three in the morning. I could not complete that because I had an eight am midterm the next day. Despite not being able to participate in this way, being a production assistant opened my eyes to the hard work the crew puts into the film. The days I worked as a production assistant, the crew filmed in Clark and Rutter Hall.
There’s more to it than lights, camera, action. Before the director yells “Action”, the crew is working to make the scene perfect. The set director will fix small things on set like moving a prop that’s in the wrong spot. Off to the side, watching the monitor, there’s a guy who has a wireless device that focuses the camera. He has to manually turn the knob every couple of seconds to keep the camera in focus. Without him, the scene would be blurry and unusable. For sound, there’s a guy who holds a huge microphone or “boom” completely still for the entire take. He readjusts his position ever so often so the microphone catches the sound. Next is lighting. There’s a guy who has an iPad with an entire light board on it. He taps multiple buttons to create a perfect combination of colors to match the scene. For example, for a serious scene, the lighting will be darker and more focused so the audience understands that the scene is serious. While all of this is happening, the actors are getting into place. They filmed in one of the Clark dorms, which I got to see before the room was made up. I thought I had walked into an actual student’s dorm room. The room was amazing because it really looked lived in. The set director did a fantastic job. The makeup artist touched up the makeup on the actors and fixed the fly-away hairs.
The magic of the movie is the making of it. Southwestern has had many productions filmed on its campus, from movies to tv shows to commercials. This year, the film I assisted with titled Party O’Clock, was a local film filmed on our campus and at a few spots in Austin. Party O’Clock is about multiple college freshmen trying and failing to find a party off campus. Some students get lost, some end up in a bar full of elderly gentlemen, and others have an academic crisis. A few familiar faces end up in the film, including Matthew Daddario, who has starred in many feature shows and movies. I interviewed the director, Joey LePage, the writer, Lindsey Robertson, and the co-producer, Brenda Isaacs Booth. Booth is known for Hook (1991), How I Met Your Mother (2005), and Joe (2013).
Joey LePage worked in LA and then came to Austin to direct Party O’Clock with his wife, Lindsey Robertson, the writer for the film. This dynamic duo created something quite special in this film. As a director, LePage seeks to tell stories in a new way. They often ask themselves what they want to add to the conversation and go from there. From what I saw of the filming, this film is very different from other hang out type films such as Dazed and Confused directed by Richard Linklater, SuperBad directed by Greg Mottola, and Book Smart directed by Olivia Wilde which the director said inspired their film. This is also due to the writer, Lindsey Robertson, working endlessly to try and get into the mind of her characters. As Robertson said, “This film is structured like a series of shorts, all of these vignettes intersect over the course of one night but these stories are still distinct”.
Another essential member of the film team is Brenda Isaacs Booth who is a very famous actress with an eye for talent. She co-produced this movie and was the casting director. When speaking with Isaacs Booth, she talked about why she chose to co-produce this film. She said, “I really enjoyed the script, of course I read the script so I got a good idea of what the characters were and I said to the director and the writer, “so don’t take offense, but this is a lot better than I thought it would be. I guess part of it was, I was kind of expecting this formulaic, coming of age college film but I found that the characters had a lot more depth and it’s just very well written”.
After 20 days of filming, the acting is over and the filming process is done, but it will still take months before the movie is ready to air at South by Southwest Film Festival. After the filming process, the movie must be edited, sound checked, and sent off to a company to color correct the scenes. This takes many months to complete so the film turns out well. The film’s premiere won’t be until 2024 at the earliest, but I’m looking forward to seeing Party O’Clock at South by Southwest.