12 05

DIY Wetdown: Filmmaking Solutions

This is part of a series for filmmakers interested in learning more about the craft, problem solving, finding creative solutions, tips and hacks.

This is part of a series for filmmakers interested in learning more about the craft, problem solving, finding creative solutions, tips and hacks.

Over the years I’ve worked on a lot of different kinds and sizes of projects. Small projects like interviews and music videos all the way to larger projects like documentaries and indie films. With each project we always end up finding some new challenge that we have to overcome. Most of these challenges we’re all familiar with: budget, time, scheduling and logistics to name a few. 

As filmmakers we have to be prepared to find solutions for all these different challenges, both the standard common ones and the new or unexpected ones. That’s why I believe that Pre-production is so important, it is the time we set aside so that we can not only discover all of the different challenges that we can foresee based on the script or treatment, but also make plans to address each of them and begin the process to find solutions.

Random Hartz Tips from Set "The DIY Wetdown"

Not everything always goes as planned

If you have ever worked on a set, then you know film production is unpredictable and there’s always some wildcard popping up at the last minute. Every department deals with this no matter how much they plan. Inevitably there is some gremlin that pops up or ole uncle Murphy shows up and sometimes he brings his buddy Finagle.

Murphy’s Law ““Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”


Finagles Law “Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment.”

Every project brings with them challenges we have to find solutions for and that’s why I believe that problem-solving is one of the most important skills that we have to develop as filmmakers, no matter what department you’re in.

Let me give you an example of a challenge that popped up right before we started filming from a recent project that I worked on. 

The wetdown conundrum

I was working on a CMT Ram truck promo for the artists of the year awards in Nashville. Our Pre-production was going pretty smoothly leaving us with only one last obstacle to overcome, the final location for the hero shot. The scene was simple enough, a shot where the truck sat in the foreground with the city of Nashville in the background as the talent went out of the truck and walked off screen. 

The final location had been a bit of a challenge for our location manager to find, but everything else we had lined up nicely. Going into our tech scout, on the Friday prior to our Monday shoot day, we still didn’t have that last location locked, but by the end of the tech scout our location manager was able to secure it just in the nick of time. After having scouted the other locations that morning, we just had just the newly locked final location remaining. 

The last location ended up being a parking lot next to the stadium, not exactly the most interesting spot, but it had a great view of the city making it a great find. After laying eyes on it our DP asked me if we could schedule a wetdown. He wanted something to make the foreground pop more, separate the truck from the bland charcoal colored asphalt, as he felt it looked kind of boring. He was right.

Finagle comes to visit

That meant we had a new challenge in front of us that we hadn’t anticipated in pre-production since we didn’t know what the final location was going to be. For all we knew it could have been grass, the top of a parking garage, dirt lot or whatever. It wasn’t helping us that this popped up at an inopportune moment, the end of Friday when everything closes for the weekend. Finagle had officially visited our project at an inconvenient time. 

I started working through the usual solutions; trying to schedule a water truck, or even try and see if we get access to a fire hydrant, but none of those options were panning out, we were too short on time. It was Friday afternoon and it was turning out to be too short notice for all of the usual solutions. I realized that we needed to find a little more creative solution to this problem.

Time to put on our thinking caps

Hmm, it was time to sit down and brainstorm this so my art director and I began work shopping a solution to this challenge. That’s when it came to me, I remembered I had these two empty 55-gallon rain barrels just sitting at my house (I had not gotten around to installing them yet) and thought what if we just put a submersible pump in one, filled them up and  threw them on the back of a truck? Create our own water truck! I mean it was sounding  plausible! 

Visions of what this might look like on set raced through my head and it wasn’t exactly pretty, but if it worked then perhaps we wouldn’t get ridiculed too much.  My art director and I talked it over some more and she said “lets do it”. After all it wasn’t a big ask of her, just grab the barrels, a pump and some hose. We could have gone on a crazy build with nozzles and high pressure, that would have been better but we didn’t have time for that, she still had to finish prep for the rest of the shoot and just the weekend to do it. 

At this point we figured if it didn’t work, it would be okay. My DP would be disappointed, but he understood the timing we were up against and could still make the shot work, albeit not as he had envisioned, although at this point anything we could offer would be appreciated.

Behind the scenes as the crew sets up for the final shot of the Ram CMT commercial

Did it work?

Alright so the question is did this work? Yes, it did ! Admittedly it looked pretty silly as the art team drove around in a Uhaul vigorously pumping water all over the parking lot. It only cost us about 30 minutes as well. DIY approaches often look pretty silly, but it worked out well enough and the client was happy. That’s a win in my book. Is it perfect? Would a water truck be better? Absolutely! 

The Takeaway

Projects come in all sizes and they bring their own unique challenges. Sometimes you don’t have the proper resources or options available, but as a filmmaker we have to be resourceful especially these days with smaller budgets or more constraints.  

In this case we had the budget but just not enough time to arrange for the most optimal solution. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation then by all means use this DIY hack to solve your wetdown problems, okay that  that sounded kind of weird, but most importantly be flexible and always ready to look for an out-of-the-box creative solution to whatever challenge that you face on or off set.

Check out the video below to see a behind the scenes clip from set, I’ve cued it up for just the wetdown…

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You can watch the finished commercial below.

What do you think? Were we successful? 

I’d love to know your thoughts on this and or any other creative solutions or DIY hacks that you’ve used on set in order to successfully get the shot.

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