All productions are the same in many ways. You have to build your team, find your cast and crew, raise funding, scout locations, rent equipment, and take care of everything else that goes into pulling a production together.
At the same time, all shoots are unique in their details. Here are five ways in which shooting in Paris marked our web series “My Bitchy Witchy Paris Vacation”:
1. Our Cast & Crew Spanned the Globe As far as I know, “My Bitchy Witchy Paris Vacation” is the first web series to have a production team that circles the globe. The series is in English, which of course meant casting native English-speaking actors. Most of our crew was French. This made for an interesting set. The actors spoke their lines in English, but “Camera, rolling, action!” became “Moteur, ça tourne, action!” Our composer and two of our consulting producers are in Los Angeles, and our editor is in Melbourne! We worked via email and Internet file-sharing, and sending hard drives back and forth.
2. Locations: What’s the point of filming in Paris if you don’t get some great shots of the city? We had no budget, but scoring quintessentially French locations was a breeze. This has a lot to do with the French attitude toward creative projects. An indie production is seen as something to support. We had a couple of great contacts who helped us secure a French café, a church that doubles for Notre Dame Cathedral, the American Library, and a riverboat docked in the Seine. The riverboat shoot happened on a crisp December day. The cold was hardest on the cast, who wore their indoor clothing and shivered through their lines. They took everything in stride, however, and we got the shots we wanted. (You can see the results in Episode 3: Baby Pictures.)
3. Bathroom stalls: Sometimes the things you think are going to be hard are easy. And sometimes it’s the other way around. Location scouting for “Bitchy Witchy” is a case in point. Classic interiors? Iconic exteriors? Easy peasy. A ladies’ room for a crucial scene? “Desolé, Madame. C’est impossible!” If I had ever stopped to think about it, I would have probably realized that closing down a ladies’ room for six hours is not what most business owners would put on the top of their “fun games to play with customers” list. Yet we persevered in our search and we finally found the restroom that had eluded us for so long—again through a contact. We secured the location on a Wednesday for a Sunday shoot. Now the only problem was fitting the actress, the director of photography, and the director all into that tiny space!
4. Web Cast Premiere: Since our production team literally circled the globe, it made sense to ensure that our cast party and preview screening did, too. We found yet another quirky Parisian café and invited friends to a live party that we streamed over the Internet. Taking our cue from the lights on the Eiffel Tower, which sparkle once an hour after dark, episode one of Bitchy Witchy aired once an hour. Between episode showings, we checked in with cast and crew members in the US, Switzerland, and Australia. They shared anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories with our viewers. People in the café also had the opportunity to chat to viewers, and viewers responded via the chat function. We also showed other videos and interviews from the making of the web series. It was a bit chaotic, but in the French spirit of “ça va aller,” everyone enjoyed taking part in the novel event.
5. “It’s a Wrap” à la Française: Our last day of shooting found us at the Bassin de l’Arsenal, a boat basin in the 4th arrondissement. In the time-honored Parisian tradition of picnic-style apéritifs along the Seine, we wrapped “Bitchy Witchy” by popping open a champagne bottle along the canal. As the sun set and the sky changed colors, we raised our glasses to each other and to a job well done. Not too far away at the Place de la Bastille, traffic swirled around the Colonne de Juillet, the way it always does at rush hour. No need to stop and mark the end of yet another film shoot in this great city. Life goes on in Paris—and “My Bitchy Witchy Paris Vacation” captured part of it.