29 September 2014

The Best of Me Movie Set Visit: Part 1

Best of Me MovieAs many of you know, I was lucky enough to be invited to watch the filming of The Best of Me, a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel that will be in theaters on October 17. Thanks to Relativity Media, I flew down to New Orleans, met up with other bloggers, and was treated to a day of making silver screen magic.

I have a lot share about what I learned while on the set of The Best of Me. I loved the setting and learning about how movies are created, and I was fortunate enough to be part of a group interview for all four stars plus author Nicholas Sparks.

What's The Best of Me all about and who are those mysterious four stars? Here's a synopsis from the studio:

Based on the bestselling novel by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me tells the story of Dawson (Luke Bracey / James Marsden) and Amanda (Liana Liberato / Michelle Monaghan), two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they've never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart 20 years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today. Spanning decades, this epic love story captures the enduring power of our first true love and the wrenching choices we face when confronted with elusive second chances. [Directed by Michael Hoffman]
Today I'm going to talk about the movie production and the location. On Friday I will share the best moments of the interviews, including photos of the stars and stills from the movie itself. Let's get started with a look at the NOLA skyline from my hotel room and photo of the bloggers after a long morning on the set. (To see the photos full size, click on the image. Use the back button in your browser to return to the post)

The day started early when we all piled into two vans to drive west out of New Orleans to meet up with the cast and crew. Our first stop was to Base Camp, which was made up of trailers, each of which had a different function, including temporary refuge for the actors and others. After a quick look around, we got back into the vans and finally arrived at the beautiful The Best of Me set.

The majestic and historic Magnolia Plantation was used for Amanda's childhood home. You may recognize the house because it has appeared in several films, including 12 Years a Slave and Crazy in Alabama. The house was built in the early 1800s, was a working sugar plantation, was used as a hospital for Union soldiers during the Civil War, and has been in the hands of the same family since 1870s.

Because the crew was filming interior shots, we weren't allowed inside the house, but we'll all get to see it in October when the movie comes out. One of the family members told us the windows, shutters, trimwork, and floors are original and that upgrades have respected the historic nature of the plantation.

As I mentioned, the director was shooting indoors that day, but he also was working on a couple of exterior scenes. To keep us and everyone else out of the line of the cameras, we watched the filming on monitors.

Despite the number of people wandering around, the sound level was kept low. Just before turning on the cameras, the director would shout "Rolling, rolling, rolling! Very quiet please." And we would have to move carefully, not saying a word or only whispering, until we heard someone shout "Cut!" At one point, a visitor to the set  (fortunately it was not one of the bloggers) accidentally appeared on film; let me just say that the director was not a happy camper. I'm so glad I didn't make that mistake because the entire scene had to be refilmed.

I was fascinated to learn that scenes are shot multiple times even when the first take looks great. For each retake, a change would be made. I noticed differences in lighting, in subtle hand gestures, and in props. There were even slight costume and hair changes. Later, the director and editor would have choices for both continuity and visual interest.

Although it was important to maintain quiet, I was surprised by how much activity was going on around the house and property, even when the cameras were rolling. Some groups were setting up the next shot, the bloggers were conducting group interviews (at a distance), a company was there filming promos, people were checking equipment, and someone was taking official cast photos.

In addition, there were food carts and medical people. It was fun to watch the costumers, hairdressers, and makeup experts on The Best of Me team as they followed the actors around, making adjustments as necessary. We visitors may have spent a lot a time sitting still and observing, but the cast and crew seemed to be in constant motion.

The grounds of Magnolia Plantation are absolutely beautiful; it was almost like being in a dream--at least for this Yankee. During the afternoon, we even had a visit from a wild alligator! I didn't get close enough to get a photo and was thankful there were gator wranglers (not kidding) on the set.

At the very end of the day, we were able to witness one of the problems with filming on location. The crew was in a race with the sunset to film two scenes that presumably were taking place in two different time periods but needed to be shot at the exact same time of day in the exact same spot. Actors and crew had to work quickly and accurately before the sun got too low. I was so impressed with how calm everyone looked; I think I would have been frantic.

After an exhausting day, we looked forward to getting back in the vans to have a late dinner in the French Quarter. The day wasn't over for The Best of Me people, though. After a quick bite to eat, they were returning for a night shoot.

We had dinner at the Tableau Restaurant on St. Peter Street. I loved the wine selection and my dinner. I ate shrimp for four meals while I was in NOLA (I just couldn't help myself), and the BBQ shrimp and grits I had for this dinner was delicious. Here's the description from the menu:
Jumbo Gulf shrimp in a New Orleans style BBQ sauce spiked with local beer and served over stone ground chévre grits.
After dinner, it was time to return to the hotel, pack, and get a good night's sleep before heading back to the real world. Thanks so much to Relativity Media for this exciting opportunity. And thanks to Jawbone for the very cool wrist pedometer; what a great way to keep track of my fitness goals.

Don't forget to return on Friday, when I'll have photos of the stars, stills from The Best of Me movie, a special soundtrack movie trailer, and lots of fun things I learned from interviewing Nicholas Sparks, Luke Bracey, James Marsden, Liana Liberato, and Michelle Monaghan. I can't wait to see the movie on October 17.

In the meantime, you can follow all The Best of Me movie news by searching for hashtag #TheBestOfMe on Twitter or by liking and/or following the movie on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.


Melody 9/29/14, 8:15 AM  

The Magnolia Plantation is simply beautiful! I saw your pic at Instagram and just have to read the rest. :)

Daryl 9/29/14, 10:21 AM  

i am loving experiencing this with you

bermudaonion 9/29/14, 11:11 AM  

It sounds like it was a hive of activity. I figured everything stopped while they filmed.

Rita_h 9/29/14, 6:42 PM  

A great experience, lucky you! Can't wait to see and read more in your next post!

reederreads.com 9/29/14, 11:49 PM  

Great post - I already know I'll be thinking of this post and the ones to come when I go see the movie!

Melanie 9/30/14, 1:10 AM  

What a neat opportunity!

And oh my goodness, aren't shrimp and grits the best? Love 'em.

(Diane) bookchickdi 9/30/14, 7:46 AM  

What a great trip! I'm so thrilled that you got to do this (I love New Orleans), and your post and photos are fantastic.

Les 10/1/14, 3:17 PM  

How cool! The only time I ever got near a movie as it was being filmed was when I was running in San Diego after work and came upon the filming of Top Gun. Didn't get to see Tom Cruise or Meg Ryan. They were inside shooting the scene for the piano duet of Great Balls of Fire with Anthony Edwards.

thecuecard 10/5/14, 5:49 PM  

This is very cool. Wow!

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