The first time I worked nights was in 2001 on Kate and Leopold. We spent quite a few nights on top of and under the Brooklyn Bridge. It was March and April and it was cold. Having worked at Imageworks for years before, I had not been on set much at all. Most of the jobs I worked on were post production only. Even Contact, which I started in pre-production, was so heavily digital that we had to start shots as we started shooting so I never really left the building as I had to manage the FX crew in-house. When they shot parts across the street at the Culver Studios, I would pop over to look from time to time, but otherwise, chained to my desk.
So when I broke free from corporate life, I was not so prepared for life on set, clothing wise. (Let's recall the lesson about layers.) Especially night life on set. The first night we worked was only a partial night, thank the gods. Robert and I both were underdressed and the next morning we RAN to an outdoor store and bought supplies. I got my Patagonia shell and a fleece vest and I think a capeline undershirt. We did better the next few nights. Oh and did I mention it was raining? Didn't have my rustly pants then.
When we started work on Geisha and I knew I would be working in Northern California in January, standing at the ocean, I did some research and got the layers I have now and was quite comfortable when we did shoot nights on that one.
Nights throw you off in all the obvious ways -- I end up sleeping less just because I can't get a comfortable rest when you go to sleep at 6 or 7am. Then you get up all groggy and get ready and go right back to work. When you work days, even if it's been a long long day (as they tend to be) you can still come back, have a bite to eat, check email or watch a bit of tv, then sleep. But when you come back at 6 or 7, you just fall into bed. (I do anyway, some people would eat breakfast then sleep.)
When you get to set and start work, it's not so bad as you are busy. The fact that you are working all night doesn't really hit you until about 5 or 6. And the next night, same thing. I've been lucky to only work on shows that had only a few nights of shooting. I remember watching the movie Collateral with Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise and about 20 minutes in thinking -- holy crap this whole move was NIGHT SHOOTS! Horrifying to me. When I read the script for Vantage Point, I was so pleased to realize there were no nights as the whole thing took place during the day.
The funny film crew thing about working nights is that when you arrive on set at 5 or 6 or 7 pm everyone still says "Good morning!" And often the caterers will be serving breakfast, then lunch then dinner type snacks or food as you get close to wrap.
And when you work in a place like Morocco where the temperature gets very cool at night, you have to bring layers. But unlike Belfast, you don't start out wearing them all. When we started here at our call time, I would have maybe my icebreaker shirt on, then put on the black fleece after an hour or so. Then add a scarf, then my down jacket and rustly rain pants (which stop the wind and keep you warmer) then finally my outer shell jacket. But you have to carry all this with you and since we have nowhere to leave stuff (Unlike the camera and grip/rigging depts. who have trucks) it ends up in piles around you. Luckily, we do tend to perch near video village and since we make friends with the awesome video assist person (her name is Grace and she ROCKS) we could pile our bags and jackets around her equipment. Carrying them home after wrap is not an issue as now you are wearing it all.
Coming back to my room was just a comedy of "get all this off so I can go so sleep!" and I would stumble around trying to get my rustly pants off without taking my shoes off and almost fall over. Then I would have the pants halfway off and wrestle with my laces and pull the dusty dusty boots off then get the pants off. Jackets, scarfs, fleece layers would all be scattered around and when I woke up it was a pretty funny sight.
The best part about working nights in Morocco were the stars. Not the movie stars, the actual stars. You could stand a bit away from set and lights and stare up at all the gorgeous constellations. I haven't seen the stars like that since the last time I was home on Maui.
But now the nights are over and we are packing up. The lobby is full of bleary eyed crew, piling up suitcases and checking out. All of us are happy to be heading home, in whatever that direction that might take us.