1.13.98

Call: 6:30 AM

Making Cherry
a romantic comedy starring Shalom Harlow
"I heard there are some real cadavers in body bags at the Kurtz Compound set. I asked the propman about it; he said, "The script says 'a pile of burning bodies'; it doesn't say a pile of burning dummies."
--Eleanor Coppola
You've Got Questions? Cherry Has Answers
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Locations:
Muffin Shop

Sunrise: 7:20 AM
Sunset: 4:46 PM

Weather: 70% chance of showers. HI:45 LO: 35

Principals:
Leila, Dottie, Darcy, Customer

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Call Me

If there were no Call Sheet, would anyone show up?

Making a movie is like prosecuting a war. Or, perhaps more appropriately, launching a space ship.

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There are a million details that must be kept track of and communicated and acted upon at their own proper times, all in the proper sequence. And while some slippage is inevitable, if events don’t generally proceed according to the plan everyone knows that there will soon be hell to play.

That’s the message should you read Notes, Eleanor Coppola’s book about the making of Apocalypse Now, or see Heart of Darkness, the documentary that was released a few years ago about the same subject. Apocalypse Now standing as one of the most egregious examples of a runaway production.

And that’s the message if you listen through the clenched teeth or penetrate behind the cheerful eyes of Elizabeth, Eddy, Joe or Jon. Or if you listen to any of the production folks on location or back at the office, all of whom are in some way responsible for making sure the picture is shot in its allotted 33 days.

With this in mind it becomes easy to understand how it is that a group has been assembled in which everyone speaks clearly and directly to one another. Speaking precisely is an important part of their job descriptions, and so there is, somehow, in their collective rhetoric an incredible grasp of an incredible range of details, and a remarkable ability to present facts and contingencies in a clear and straightforward way.

You couldn’t otherwise make a movie on time and on budget .

This would perhaps be less remarkable if the crew consisted of seasoned hands who had each been doing their particular jobs for ten or fifteen years. But that isn’t really the case here. As Jon has put it, many of the Keys on Cherry are "stepping up." These are talented people who have in many cases taken on bigger jobs than those they’ve done before. That is part of the attraction of independent filmmaking. It gives people a chance to stretch and advance and move up in ways that would be much more difficult to do in regimented and hierarchical Hollywood.

And it gives producers a way to make a film more cheaply, by swapping opportunity for a lower wage scale.

And perhaps that’s why everyone is so clear on being clear. As aware as they are about the opportunities the picture presents, they are as aware of what can happen when a production gets away, and they are making sure to do everything they can so that doesn’t happen--on their collective watch.

All of which serves as an introduction to The Call Sheet, the daily newspaper of a film production. I’d reprint the Call Sheet here, but I’ve been asked not to. There is too much personal information on it, and even with all the personal information that can’t be released whited out there is the possibility that sensitive info might slip through.

And it might. And actually, apart from the amazing detail of the information, and its compact presentation on both sides of an 8 x 14 piece of paper, there isn’t much to see. Especially with white outs. The point isn't that the call sheet is pretty.

What it is, however, is the essential communications organ on a film, and it very efficiently contains all the information everyone working on the film needs to know each day.

What sort of information is that?

How about:

Pertinent phone numbers and addresses, from the set beeper to the production office to the 2nd AD to the nearest hospital, heaven forbid.

The call time, which is when most everyone is expected to start work. There is also the "shooting call," which is the expected time the first shot of the day will commence.

There is the weather report, and the time of sunrise and sunset, so that everyone has a consistent source of information. The production will also contract with a weather service to get highly specific localized reports. This service can tell where rain is, down to the block, and in what direction it’s heading. Rain matters, even when you’re shooting indoors, because of the lights and crew arrayed in the street.

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There are one-line descriptions of each of the scenes scheduled to be shot on this particular day, and in a separate listing of actors necessary for those scenes, what parts they play, when they should report to Hair and Makeup and what time they are expected on set. There is also the time they are to be picked up at their home or hotel. On the first day of shooting Cherry Shalom was picked up at 5:30 AM. So much for the glamour of film.

There is also a listing of stand ins and extras scheduled for the day, along with information necessary for ensuring they arrive in the right place at the right time.

There is a section devoted to special needs for the day: a list of props, special wardrobe items, makeup and hair notes, and special shooting notes. While all of these details have been discussed at production meetings, and each department has a list of them in its own records and planning notebooks, the call sheet is a final reminder to everyone of all that must be done. It is the final rejoinder to the argument: "I didn’t know."

The front of the Call Sheet concludes with the one-line scene listings for the next two days, which detail the scenes that are to be shot and when, making it an easy reference to what's coming up.

And at the bottom of the page, just above the initials of Eddy, Liz and Elizabeth, indicating they’ve read and approved the call sheet, there is a worthwhile "thought for the day." Which for Opening Day was: You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Certainly a worthwhile thought, particularly if you’ve never read a Chinese fortune cookie.

On the back of the call sheet is a list of all the picture departments, and all the people in each department, and details the time they are expected on set. This can vary, and some people, especially in wardrobe, hair and makeup, may have to get to work before the official call to work on the actors.

And finally, there is a listing of transportation, which is a listing of when passenger vans are leaving particular locations in the city, and who is expected to be on each. There is also a listing of the times those who are being picked up by drivers at their homes can expect that driver to arrive.

Making a movie is an incredible enterprise and relies on the efforts of a great many people, all of whom I hope get their due in these pages before we’re through, at which point Cherry will have progressed from an idea to an enterprise to a series of lights flashed on the wall in succession. Which is what is ultimately amazing: All this work for a bit of magic. Really.

And just so you don’t get the idea that this mobilization is totally regimented and military in its precision, there is a final note on the final line of the second page of the call sheet, which perhaps indicates some small difference:

"Breakfast will be ready @ 6A. Come early if you want to eat."

   Mail the Cherry Web ManPeter Kreutzer  

 

Wednesday

 

(c) 1998 Peter M. Kreutzer