Thursday, September 25, 2008

Two Days of Grueling Euphoria

‘the hell? This is the most interesting part of the process—the MAKING part—and where is the update?

Here it is:

I’ll make no excuses for the delay… Yes, producing is a draining, tiring process, and yes, I also work my forty hours a week, plus I belong to a volleyball league, and a book group. But, honestly, I’ve still had time enough to throw a little update to the people. Something else has been occupying my thoughts and time. I’m not proud. But it could be worse.

So. Last weekend. We started by putting our star in the bathtub. Throughout the weekend, Brandon had Jonathan do a whole slew of strange and extra things not in the script. He came up with one particular series of actions for the first Studio scene. All strung together, it was about a straight 5 minutes of action. These weren’t things in the script, Jonathan was told what to do once, ran through it with Brandon once, then we started rolling. And Jonathan nailed it. We did a series of these very long takes and he made them funny and interesting and sad and cool all at the same time.

One thing about these epic takes: someone has to hold the camera. We don’t have time for tripods so our living, breathing cameraman has to hold a not unheavy camera in an awkward position and not move for a very long time. Even though his nose may itch and his leg may ache and his hand muscles start to rebel. I was getting tired and antsy just being still enough to not make noise while rolling, then I looked at Jeffrey, doubled over, motionlessly holding the camera through the entire take and my fidgetiness felt petty. And standing next to him, Karrie held that boom aloft with the same degree of stoic immobility. To say it was impressive is to say the Meteor Crater is a divot in Arizona.

Also, we were lucky enough to get a real live photographer to take production stills on Saturday. I’ll share some with you as soon as Chris uploads them.

On Sunday, we descended upon the offices of CB&S, set up shop in the conference room and shot Jonathan and Ladawn’s scenes. Ladawn was priceless. She came up with little improvisations and tweaks on her delivery that just killed. We have so many good shots of their two brief interactions that we want to use them all…

Around one, pizza came and Jeffrey and I ate cheese, which later proved unpleasant to our internal processes… Corey arrived and didn’t bat an eye when Brandon told him his first scene would now take place in a bathroom. He added a specific something to one scene that I can’t tell you about because, if it makes the final cut, I want you to experience it with no forewarning.

Then Jeffrey contorted himself into new and unnatural positions to capture more of those long wonderful shots that Jonathan again pulled off flawlessly. In one particular shot, Brandon helmed the camera, while Jeffrey and I checked the monitor for focus. And yes. It was the one shot out of focus. Aside from that, we only had one other flaw. One scene of dialogue was too quiet from one end. We may have to do a little ADR. That's okay, it'll make us feel fancier.

By the end of the weekend, we were tired, we were spent, we were sore. And now, I want nothing more than to do it again. And again. And again until I expire.

I’m putting together the next script in my head. I’m thinking… more bathroom scenes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Here it is... the day of the first cast and crew meeting. I've taken a vacation day from work to prepare. Ariana is coming around noon with things to cook.

At 6:30 tonight, nine people will gather in this room to read the script, discuss the project, sign the contracts, and eat the food.

But first I must do the dishes and clean the cat box. Well then, shall we...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, we have been casted.

Please remain seated and make no sudden movements...

Danny Stoltz Casting Agency is cooler than the underside of a satin pillow. And Sally at Danny Stoltz casting is like a crazy wizard of spectacularity. She auditioned a bevy of fantastic talent for us and if ever I have felt in awe of what a person can do at their respective beloved day job, it is now. So we have a Rita. And our Laura. Mr. Eriksson is on board. And Sam. Our Sam is walking and talking.

I watched the audition videos in Kate’s cube at the beloved day job. I noted how different people said different lines, the way they paused here and sped up there, the size of their smile, the movement of their eyebrows, the narrowing of nostrils… Then something hit me.

No, not literally.

Ever see that episode of Quantum Leap where Sam Beckett leaps into the body of a concert pianist? In the middle of a concert? He looks out at the packed audience, the eager, open faces. He turns back to the piano. Sam Beckett is not a concert pianist. Oh boy. He pauses. It’s a long pause. Then he plays “Chopsticks” and walks off the stage. The audience goes wild at this fantastically wry ending to a wonderful performance.

That’s how I suddenly felt. People were taking me seriously. Reading the words I wrote. Giving these characters the same validity as a Charles Foster Kane, or even a Cosmo Castorini. It was like I, some hack off the street, had jumped into the body of a Film Producer, and no one knew! They’d fallen for my Chopstick script!

Then another thing hit me. The words they were saying…they were kinda good. Hearing the lines of dialogue spoken aloud by people who’d put some thought into them had made them come alive. And that’s the point of this whole endeavor. Breathe life into an idea. Make something where previously there was nothing. I took off my self-deprecating screenwriter pants and looked objectively at the words with a pants-less Producer gaze and I saw that they were good words.

And we haven’t even talked about the actors themselves. It was weird. Among the those who auditioned, there were four that just became the characters. A man named Corey delivered Mr. Eriksson’s lines with just the right amount of assurance and familiarity, his character toed the line between corporate suit and a likable human. He was our first definite.

Then there was Rita. Brandon knew just from the still shot who to pick. I had no idea until I saw the tape where this young lady named Ladawn brought humor and warmth and just the right amount of awkwardness to the role. Per-fucking-fection.

Laura came to us in the lovely form of Genevieve. Laura is a tough character to pull off. She really just has one scene with dialogue, wherein a complete stranger starts talking nonsense to her in front of her place of business. She’s halfway weirded out and halfway intrigued. She’s not meek, she’s not overly intense. She’s subtle. And Genevieve nailed it.

Finally there was Sam. This one is hard. This is our main character. With out Sam, we have nothing. Anyone wanting to watch this final project is gonna have to stare at this guy’s mug the entire duration of the film. He is our backbone. Our movie is an unformed puddle of flesh without him. He had to be right. The gentleman we picked has a face you can stare into. Just the right mix of handsome and interesting. His voice has that gravity you want in an aloof poet. Plus there was this… something. Sometimes you just know when a thing is a thing. And Jonathan is our thing.

Now begins the process of giving myself an ulcer trying to coordinate these people and our crew and the locations and the food and the equipment and all the other crap I haven’t thought of but will become desperately necessary at a moment's notice and, whoa, I’m getting light headed so tonight, I am going to drink and begin all that jazz tomorrow. And you better get ready, Mr. Tomorrow. I’ve got chopsticks.

Also too: Kate has offered to provide our desserts. She has a new Monster Machine Stand Mixer and I’ve had her baking before and let me tell you, if this thing all goes to hell, at least we will have something sweet and tasty to cram in our sobbing, slobbering mouths.