Production


Production

The filming of Muffin Man took place over the course of 25 days in February, 2003. The majority of the dramatic portion of the film was shot over 10 days on a Seattle-area soundstage. The reminder took a skeleton cast and crew to the outlying suburban parks and the Cascade mountains.

The unique ... girth of the cast, however, created an unusual situation for the director.

"As a director, I felt confident," Eisner explained (even though it was her first feature length film), "but as a physician, I was nervous."

The health of the cast was of constant concern to Eisner.

"Itís no myth that obesity is associated with heart problems and stroke," she explained, "and I just hoped I wasnít pushing our luck. Itís ironic to think that the defibrillator on set was non-functional - 'for safety' ".

The film schedule had been pushed out 3 weeks to accommodate Mike Shortís (T-Bone) surgery. Heíd had a large, necrotic, non-healing wound on his leg which required a skin graft only weeks before shooting. Fortunately he limped into the studio as planned, and, with some TLC, completed the shoot.  

         
The Crew takes a break during filming           Ben looks for gum under a park bench      

As might be imagined food, created several issue with the shoot. It was, however, made clear on the first day that all food on set was off limits. Food props alone amounted to several thousands of dollars of the productions budget. There were concerns about expired food and problems with continuity.

"It wasnít easy," she said. "But we got lucky with the castsí attitude, the health of the cast and the weather," said Eisner, "There were several back-up plans for shooting the love montage if it rained, but the beautiful light we captured during those 3 sunny days in February was amazing. It gave such an ethereal feel to the touching moments in the love story."

The weather for the tug of war scene was not as nice. The short, frigid days, of a Pacific Northwest winter created a compact shooting schedule and cold, stiff actors. Temperatures for the 3 day scene ranged from 28 to 50 F and the costumes did not included heavy coats.

The days began with a hot breakfast in the hostsí garage at 5:45 a.m. and set-up for the scene. Shooting began at the first suggestion of daylight.

       
Shooting the "Tug of War" scene on a cold February Morning

"It was cold ... freezing, really," said Eisner, "but it didnít rain and, again, the light was perfect. We got that filtered, gray, misty light so unique to the region and, more importantly, it didnít change during the shoot. I think it lent a certain tension and foreboding to the scene that couldnít have been achieved in bright sunlight."

The actors rehearsed in a heated trailer and darted to the set for each set-up. Once there, they waited in parkas ... near heat lamps. Anyone not actively working was assigned to hold a heat lamp on an actor. The average temperature was barely above freezing.

"It was so miserable," recalled Porras, "and yet I feel like a total wimp since we actors got to go inside periodically and everyone else was in the frigid cold the whole day. It was bone-chilling. When I was out there I would stand behind the cart of pastries and sneak bites of the muffins and bear claws. I wonder if anyone ever noticed."

"The actors were stoic and wonderful," said Eisner. "Even under those intense conditions, they geared up for the scene and gave it their all. It helped inspire me to make a great film for everyone."

The light changed and it began raining during the wrap party. 

The sex fantasy pudding scene was, predictably, one of the stranger scenes to produce. The scene was shot in the Master Bathroom of Eisner's home. After the grip blacked out the skylight, Eisner banished everyone but Michelle Porras (Hope) and Randy Peck (the DP) from the room. Then Eisner proceeded to cover the actress in vanilla pudding.

"It felt so wrong," said Porras, "and even though the pudding was room temperature, it felt cold."

"Michelle was a bit anxious about the scene so I wanted to put her at ease," Eisner explained. "However, I was also pouring pudding on her at the same time, so she could only relax in spurts. When the cold pudding hit her skin she would let out an ear-piercing shriek and then giggle." 


Michelle Porras (Hope) wears the latest in pudding fashion 

The effect this had on Ben and the crew outside the room was to send them immediately pacing ... part worried, part titillated - about the adjoining room.

"The inherent nature of the entire shoot could have made for some awkward situations," said DP, Peck. "Of course the actors knew the subject matter going in, but that didn't guarantee that once the camera started rolling they wouldn't be apprehensive about what they were doing. They proved to be true professionals and did a great job. And I think they had a good time."

The documentary portion of the film was less dependent on acting and weather and more dependent on creativity and scheduling.

The studio work was crammed into 3 days of shooting. Eisner had created an intricate schedule of alternating still and action shots that kept the small crew busy.

"I think I worked harder in there than anywhere." said DP, Randy Peck.

"It came down to time and money ... both of which were running out." Eisner explained. "We had to be very efficient."

In addition to the studio work, there was selection of stock footage and creation of the custom animations. Over a 9 month period, Eisner drew story broads for all of the animations and coordinated the work of four animators in four different states. In addition, she acquired or created almost every prop. The notable exception was the life-size 'stone Muffin Man' statue created by Seattleís Art Horse studio. The statue still sits in a loft in Eisnerís home.

"My favorite prop is the baby bottle made out of a grenade." said Eisner. "Itís such a shocking reminder of where our society is headed and why I made this film."

 


Muffin Man - Copyright © 2003 to 2015 Pickle Tub Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

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