Support Our #creatives® is On-Set for “Combinations” Principal Photography (and Alan is an Actor) (Updated)

Combinations (photo from Austin Johnson Facebook)


Support Our #creatives® is Behind-the-Scenes for “Combinations”, writtten, directed, and produced by Austin Johnson. This post encompasses the first few weeks of principal photography.

“Combinations” is an episodic series …

A retired boxer and former hitman turned boxing trainer (Carlo the Broad Street Bully Battaglia) puts forth his best effort to shake the ghost from his past and help guide the careers of two young boxers who happen to be brothers (Odessa Black Rain Sable and Jimmy Hard 10 Sable). After the death of the boys’ parents Carlo takes on the task of raising the two young men in the harsh streets of Charm Harbor. There will be gangsters, crooked cops and a Reverend who doesn’t wait for the Lord to take Vengeance … What a deadly Combination. – from Austin Johnson, writer, director, producer of  “Combinations”

Alan the Actor – First Scripted Speaking Role

I had my first scripted speaking role and I had to interact with other actors in the scene. This was a first; on another project I improvised my lines and did not really interact with other actors. I took guidance from the director and the actors regarding delivery of the words with the proper loudness and timing as well as which words should be spoken with greater emphasis. I recall in one take my eyes were following the camera – OOPS. As usual there were multiple takes, camera angles, camera positions, wide shots, and close-ups. Every character in the scene was subject to a close-up, and we all would recite our lines for the entire scene even though we would not all be on camera. One of the challenges during the close-up was to look in the proper direction as the various characters spoke (based upon where they were in the wide shots), because the actors may not have been in the same physical location when they were not on camera.

Other Observations

Alan’s Crew Role:

On this project, my crew role was script supervisor. Although I was doing my usual thing hanging with the actors while they were running lines and I would feed lines as necessary, it was up to the director to ensure the lines were being delivered with the appropriate timing and emotion.

I would run lines with the actors while lighting/sound/camera positions were being set up, for greater efficiency.

Here is a difference from other projects: While filming was in progress, I (as script supervisor) was encouraged to speak up immediately if a line was missed or the action paused due to an actor not remembering the next line. I had to get used to that. On other projects, I was instructed to not speak up while actual filming was going on, unless the director asked me to provide a line. I would make a mental note and save my comment until “cut”.

Continuity photos were taken as required (although not by me).


All cast and crew were required to sign a Talent Release form and Accident Waiver and Release of Liability form. In addition, a Location Release form was signed by an individual responsible for a location.


Slating was used on this project. A mechanical slate and an electronic slate were used. As usual, all projects are different. At each location, the Take number started at 1 and advanced sequentially for each take, not impacted by change in camera position, pick up, or type of shot (over the shoulder, one shot, etc.) Descriptive words were used for the Scene field on the mechanical slate.

Sometimes the slate not used for what were called fill-in shots. There was also MOS (Without Sound) shots.


Often, a laptop was running a program keeping track of timestamps and takes being recorded – recording the sound from a Boom mic. In addition, smaller mics with transmitters were placed and hidden as needed – under items or clipped to the ceiling. Cameras also had sound recording.


Separate lighting fixtures were moved around for best lighting conditions, as needed. Yellow transparencies were used to cover fluorescent lights for a “warmer” effect.


Two cameras were used simultaneously on occasion. Single slating was used even when two cameras were used. On some other projects I have worked on, multiple slating was done, one for each camera.

Post-shoot Meeting:

This meeting, when held, was strictly for Austin and the crew. The purpose of these meetings was to assess and evaluate the day’s shoot, recommend improvements, and discuss schedule.

Spontaneous changes:

We have a great team! When it appeared a scene would not come out well visually in a particular room, the team figured out an alternative and the scene turned out great!

Behind the Scenes Photography – Combinations

All photos in this post are from the author’s collection unless otherwise indicated.

Karl Alf Staaf, Austin Johnson, Joshua Fluck
Charles Turner, Shyesha Smith
Slate (mechanical)
David Sugabear Edmondson Jr.
Rahman Abishai, Lenny Le, Andrew Poe
Johnique Smith, Andrew Poe, Ashlynn Biassou, Karl Alf Staaf
Shawn Bayne
Tashaun Stanfill-Perry
Anthony Carter
Joshua Young
Juls Ocompo
Alan Greenstein, Johnique Smith, Tashaun Stanfill-Perry, Austin Johnson, Demetria Stewart, Anthony Carter (photo from Juls Ocompo)
Austin Johnson, Joshua Halatyn, Karl Alf Staaf, Johnique Smith
Joshua Young, Anthony Carter, Alan Greenstein, Demetria Stewart, Juls Ocompo (photo from Karl Alf Staaf)
Alan Greenstein (screen capture from video from Karl Alf Staaf)
Scott Swope, Kay Tedesia Thompson, Joshua Halatyn
Jossan Robinson
Johnique Smith, Rahman Abishai
Austin Johnson, Karl Alf Staaf, Johnique Smith, Jossan Robinson
Demario DJ Bowers, Kinosha Soden
Freddie Mixson
Slate (electronic)
Karl Alf Staaf, Joshua Fluck, Austin Johnson
Freddie Mixson, Shyesha Smith
Charles Turner, Kay Tedesia Thompson
Jossan Robinson, Johnique Smith
Joshua Fluck, Demetria Stewart
Shawnna Seaman, Freckles The Writer
Shawnna Seaman, Freckles The Writer, Charles Turner
Standing: Freddie Mixson, Jossan Robinson, Karl Alf Staaf, Alan Greenstein, Austin Johnson, Shawnna Seaman, Charles Turner, Freckles The Writer Crouching: Johnique Smith, Demetria Stewart (photo from Austin Johnson)


So I was an script-speaking actor today! What a great learning experience!

I will continue to document the “Combinations” experience.

Please provide your thoughts and questions in the comments. I would really enjoy hearing from you. If you have a topic in mind you would like me to cover, please let me know.

Additional Photos

See more photos, in addition to the ones seen in the post, at the links below (from the author’s Facebook timeline):


Originally published January 4, 2019.  Updated October 15, 2020 to adjust category assignments.

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