1.8.98

Making Cherry

"You see, in this world, there is one awful thing, and that is that everyone has his reasons."
--Jean Renoir
Mail the Cherry Web Man
Locations:
Production Office: Administration, Wardrobe, walkies delivered

Panavision: Camera checkout day 3

Grip Electric prelight muffin shop

Muffin Shop: Set dressing, prerig

Church:  rehearsals

Church: Set heaters

Principals:
Everybody and their mothers mothers
You've Got Questions? Cherry Has Answers

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The Rehearsal

Or, having the luxury to "do it" one more time

(If you click here you'll go to the script pages of the scene they're rehearsing, reformatted for online.)

In real life the actors playing the characters of Leila, Menu Man, Customer, Evy and Dottie are standing in the middle of the muffin shop. The actors who are playing Gary and Darcy are still down the street getting their hair done. In a few minutes a rehearsal of scene 75 is about to begin.

Actually, Gary comes into the room a few moments later, his once long and flowing hair now neatly bobbed.

"She cut it off," he announces to no one in particular and everyone at once.

The actors take their marks: Menu Man behind the griddle, handing a plate to Darcy, who is being played by 1st AD Elizabeth until Aleksa gets back from her hair appointment. Dottie stands at the counter and Leila, Evy and Donald are grouped at the front door.

I stand with Joe and Phil at the end of the room near Menu Man. This is about where the camera will end up in the master shot, which begins with a dolly shot through the store. Joe pores over his notes, while Phil looks intently over the room, checking out all the possible angles.

"Action" Jon calls and the scene begins.

Elizabeth is excellent, kicking it off energetically, but after that there is a torpor about the scene. A somnambulant rhythm guides Leila, Gary and Evy through the shop, as they hang their coats on the coatrack and then gather at the counter near Menu Man and his griddle.

They play the scene up to Gary’s entrance, to Menu Man’s line about not knowing how to price Superman’s meal, and when they are done Jon springs up from his booth and faces Laurel, who is playing Evy: "Do you want to dawdle at the front door? It seemed you were strung out back here, waiting."

"No, I’m fine," Laurel replies. "I’m hanging up my coat and scarf and coming over to the display, where she (meaning Evy) gets a muffin and then she goes over to sit by Gary."

"She would get a muffin, wouldn’t she…"

"Because she’s Leila’s sister? Right, she would."

Joe suggests that when Evy sits at the counter Isaach, who as Menu Man has the bulk of the lines in the scene, should give her a plate.

They play the scene again, and the plate business is excellent, but this time Jon notices that Aleksa, who has arrived and is now playing Darcy, is just hanging out in the middle of the counter.

"I’m fixing things up," Aleksa says, patting a napkin dispenser, but clearly she’s just trying to look busy, which isn’t even in character.

With vague instructions to do more, and to add "pace… pace… this scene is all repartee…" the actors play the scene again. This time there is a definite improvement in the energy, especially from Isaach and Shalom. Suddenly their characters are alive and the lines seem to bubble out of an organic place. They are believable. But Darcy still doesn’t have anything to do.

Jon suggests that rather than having Menu Man serve the egg to her, Darcy should fetch it from the griddle. This, it is hoped, will give her reason to come down to that end of the counter to deliver her line, "Say yes, boss."

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While Jon, Joe and Phil work on the camera angles, Shalom and Donovan work on their dance moves. Shalom has mastered the 360 degree spin with a King of Pop-type energy and grace. Donovan’s lanky frame is similarly suited to the move, though he hasn’t yet quite mastered the balance. Still, it is easy to imagine these two friends out on the dance floor yukking it up playfully, like frisky young thoroughbreds in a green Kentucky field.

When Jon, Joe and Phil are done, the actors perform the scene yet again, with more improvement. Now Heather, playing Dottie, is asked to step back and forth from counter to booth and then back again, twice. With each run through the blocking becomes more complex, the interactions of the characters more energetic and feeling. It is as if the emotion of the scene is contained in the way the characters move more than in the words. As their movements begin to include multiple planes of action their words take on greater import. I guess this means they’ve become believable.

Joe and Phil are hard at work, too. Their extensive shotlists are a fine guide to the scene, but with each change in the blocking the camera angle has to adapt. Evy’s little walk down to the display case, seemingly inconsequential, means that the camera is going to have to move up to the other side of the room to cover it. It means extra time shooting, for sure, but all agree it is necessary. And now is the time, everyone tells me, to figure that out.

"I can’t imagine doing this the morning of the shoot," Joe says.

"We’ve spent almost an hour now on just this one scene," Elizabeth adds. "It just wouldn’t work, what with setting the lights and everything else."

Aleksa suggests that perhaps Darcy should be smoking a cigarette while serving. Wouldn’t it be funny if the ashes were raining down on the customer’s food?

Laurel has a better idea: Darcy is smoking, all right, but Menu Man should take the butt from her mouth and stubb it out. "He’s in charge now, isn’t he?"

Jon and Joe go for it and everyone gives the scene another go.

When Darcy arrives she has the cigarette in her hand rather than her mouth. Isaach grabs it anyway, fumbling it away from her and stubbing it out sternly. Aleksa plays the scene as if it’s her own cigarette that Isaach has stubbed. She looks pissed, which plays very funny. Some bystanders laugh out loud. The transformation is complete and impressive.

The scene plays, in every sense of the word.

When it is over Aleksa takes Isaach aside. Smiling, she says: "You can just play it, you don’t have to stubb it out." Isaach looks at her curiously. "That’s my cigarette," she says, emphasis on my. He nods, smiling too now, understanding.

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Jon announces that the blocking was good, but now is the time to put pace on the playing of the scene. The last few takes have had increased energy, but he is looking for more: He wants the lines to play like patter.

"A lot of that is going to be up to you, Isaach," he says.

The actors take their places and launch into the scene. They step faster, undress faster, move through their lines faster. This is patter, but it doesn’t quite connect. The scene takes on a sort of abstractness, the corners don’t quite square. The energy is up, the coherence is down.

During his speeches, Isaach blows a line, and then another. Each time he crinkles up his heavy, handsome features, somehow remarkably making his face seem like a video in fast motion, and emits a high-pitched "eep." He then picks up right were he would have been if he hadn’t made the mistake, skipping ahead. It’s as if he has fast-forwarded past his faux pas.

Apart from the blown lines the scene is done. The oddity of the faster pace will be worked out on the set, during the time that the actors are waiting for the camera and lights to be set up, just before the scene is shot. And anyway, Donovan, who is playing Gary, is scheduled to leave in 20 minutes and they haven’t yet got to his part of the scene.

Which they proceed to do.

The problem, Jon and Joe realize, is that if Dottie isn’t standing right by Leila and Gary, her lines aren’t going to play. To solve this they move the Old Man extra, who has been sitting up in the front of the shop, to a table in the back. Now, when Dottie serves him his eggs, she’s right beside Leila and Gary.

They read through the scene. The first time Heather doesn’t have her script and doesn’t know her lines and the whole thing falls sullenly apart. But then she collects it and they have another go and it seems to work just right, which means it’s time to move onto the next scene. Outside.

"Is it raining," Jon asks.

"Let me use the old-fashioned method,"Elizabeth says, hopping up from her chair by the door. She opens it and steps outside, then extends her arm out with palm upraised. She holds this pose for a beat, then comes back in.

"Nope," she says. "No rain."

 Peter Kreutzer  

 

Friday

 

(c) 1997 Peter M. Kreutzer