By Alex Reese, ECG Intern
As an intern at ECG Productions, occasionally I am asked to work as a production assistant on set. Recently, I had the privilege of helping with the production of a sizzle reel for the potential reality TV series, “Bruce Needs His Money.” Basically, it was three days of our film crew following real estate agents Bruce and Chris around in the hot Atlanta sun. These long, humid days could not have been more exciting and hilarious as Bruce and Chris dealt with a wide range of unexpected issues.
We had a 7AM call time and our first location was Bruce’s home in Atlanta. The goal was to shoot Bruce in his natural environment so the viewer could get a glimpse of his personal life. From the outside, his home resembles a plantation house from the 1800’s. There Are two visible porches, four rocking chairs, and eight ceiling fans set on full blast. The house is two stories with an extremely large basement consisting of two common areas, home theater and spare bedroom. Most of the shots were taken on the first story, which has a screened-in-porch, dining room, kitchen, living room, and den.
Once the lights were struck, Brandon and Dale started to get footage of the kids as they played with their toys. Later on, Jay told Bruce to act angry at someone on the phone. As he paced back and forth, Brandon and Dale shot Bruce complaining about bricks that had mysteriously appeared on one of his lawns. I was unable to tell whether or not he was faking the calls. Bruce was under the impression that people were spitefully dumping bricks on his lawn, and it seemed like he was very upset at whoever he may or may not have been talking to. From my perspective, it was almost as if the camera wasn’t even there.
Afterward, the crew moved inside to shoot Bruce and his family. Once they were done with breakfast, it was time to move the toy setup downstairs to get shots of the kids with their mom as she talked to Bruce on the phone. The point was to provide an example of Bruce not being able to give Melanie enough help with the children. Luckily, Bruce’s son ended up getting a splinter right before the cameras began to roll. Brandon started recording, and Melanie comforted her child and told Bruce that it would be nice if he were around more often.
During Melanie’s interview, she mostly talked about struggling with the children and being concerned with Bruce’s safety on the job. The next shot captured their “departure” from Bruce’s home, even though they weren’t actually leaving. The children had no clue what was happening and resisted because they wanted to stay. Eventually, they realized it was all an act and calmed down after getting a few takes. The family finished strong, and we had the green light to wrap and get Bruce ready for his on-the-go GoPro footage.
While traveling to the next location, Jay monitored Bruce’s audio from the van and pointed out that he was receiving a large influx of calls from the Asian community. When he was in his truck, Bruce was either barking orders or voice texting. When we arrived, it was clear that the construction crew was struggling with some pretty tough deadlines. The place was completely trashed, and Reuben, head of operations, was asked if the work would be done by the end of the week and was not sure Bruce was going to be happy about the reality of the situation. During Reuben’s interview, Jay asks about Bruce’s attitude toward his employees in an attempt to shed the strict landlord perception and put Bruce in a more positive light. His words described Bruce as a tough, but understanding employer that legitimately cares about the well being of his employees. Other than the interviews, we needed a few slow motion shots of Bruce demolishing his property to make him look like a badass. These were comprised of him kicking down the door and using a sledgehammer to bust down his cabinets and concrete floors.
According to Bruce, he had been dealing with neighbors blocking his construction project at a few of his empty lots. Our next move was to head to one of Bruce’s properties where he was dealing with a series of neighbors that were trying to block his construction project. Other than his quick interview, we needed a few solid takes of Bruce acting displeased while spitefully placing his, “for rent” signs on each lawn.
When we arrived at the next location, two young girls asked us if we needed to see the “dawgs.” We respectfully declined and went about our business. The property was down a dead end road and surrounded by thick forest. The goal was to get epic intro/outro footage of Bruce walking into the sunset with his strap. Once the light was hitting Bruce at the perfect angle, we got our martini (final) shot and wrapped for the day.
We had a 4AM call time to give one of Bruce’s tenants a pleasant wake up call. By 4:30, we were picking up Jason, the door rattler, and getting a few quick shots around his apartment in Buckhead. After Bruce spoke about the day’s agenda, we recorded the team riding out of Jason’s driveway and left for the next location.
After pulling up, the crew followed Jason and Bruce to the front yard of the property. Jason knocked on the door as Bruce kept his distance from the road. Brandon and Dale were behind Jason in an attempt to capture the tenant’s exuberance as she was forced to open her door at 5AM. After realizing what was going on, she proceeded to videotape Bruce and the camera crew. It seemed as if the drama was finished and we had already gotten the best shots, but fortunately, the lady came out again with reinforcements. At this point, Brandon courageously approached the baby daddy with his camera until he threatened to release his rottweiler, which ended up being everyone’s cue to get back in the van.
I was told to prepare to see a dead body at the next location. Bruce had not heard from one of his tenants for three weeks, and believed he could be either dead, strung out, or missing. Upon arrival, he yelled at his tenant from the front yard and let the whole neighborhood know that he needed his money. As we all stood there, Bruce received a call from the tenant living at the previous location. Apparently, she had contacted the police in an attempt to exploit our morning escapade. We had not broken any laws and she was behind on rent. The police officer spent less than 10 minutes investigating our “highly intimidating” film crew. After making her aware of the circumstances, Bruce was able to get her to calm down and agree to come up with the next payment by the beginning of the following week.
After around five more solid minutes of waiting, Bruce told his tenant that he had run out of gas and will be forced to leave his truck in the driveway. At that point, the crew moved back to the van and began to monitor the situation from afar. After seeing no signs of life, we decided to let it be and head to the next location.
The next location was at an office suite where Bruce needed to sign paperwork to officially transfer a new property into his name. According to Bruce, there are a number of different problems that may potentially arise at this type of meeting. When walking into the building, I realized the entire crew was suddenly underdressed. However, the condescending looks didn’t stop us from nailing our shots. The crew was in and out within the hour.
After lunch, we followed Bruce to meet a new tenant at the last location of the day. The lady seemed more than satisfied with her new home. As Bruce handed over the new key, her excitement was not difficult to capture. It was clear that he was truly satisfied giving this lady a nice, safe, and affordable place to live.
Day Three – The Final Day of Shooting
The first location was one of the properties we had visited on day one. We were returning to get shots of the location after it was revitalized by Reuben and his crew. To Bruce’s dismay, the work had not been finished and it still looked like a shithole. During their interviews, Bruce and Chris expressed their frustration and outlined a few possible repercussions. In his facial expressions, Reuben was clearly telling Bruce, “I told you so.”
Once we were done, we hopped in the van to head to the next location, which was a cafe at a farmer’s market. Upon arrival, we were greeted with the welcoming smells of cornbread and fried chicken. You could have fit a basketball court inside the cafeteria, and the walls were covered with old school farm montages. The crew followed Bruce, Rueben, and Chris, who sat at a round table in the back. Brandon and Dale start rolling, and the camera didn’t affect their behavior whatsoever. They ended up recording throughout their entire lunch, and when they were finished, it was time for the rest of us to stop salivating and enjoy our own food.
Our martini shot of the day was necessary to legitimize Bruce’s scripted outburst on day one. We were in need of a talented actor to look confused after Bruce tells his theoretical tenant to look for boxes to put their shit in. Mary, our other PA for the day, was selected for the role, and we proceeded to film their interaction. After two solid takes of Mary looking confused and yelling at Bruce, Dale was unsatisfied with their insufficient level of anger. When it started to look like a serious domestic dispute, we had our golden takes, and it was time to wrap and call it a day.