There are a million moments, each with its own
emotion and meaning, that comprise the making of a movie.
The emotions can range anywhere from elation, the moment the budget has
been made, or the star has signed (when the picture becomes a Go!), to despair, the first
day the weather turns bad or the lab ruins a days shooting.
The feelings can be profound, as when watching an actor find the core
component of her or his character, or trivial, seeing a wardrobe person use sticky tape to
remove lint from a costume.
And yet all add up together to be the endeavor, the mission if you will.
And if that seems grandiose, think about what it means that the wardrobe person has sticky
tape ready. And that the 2nd AD has a book of funny quotations to round out the
call sheets. And that craft services has gum and energy bars, bottled water and
vitamins. And cheese doodles.
And that it takes three days to check out the camera before the shoot
begins, and that each good take ends with the camera crew "checking the gate."
And that there is a teacher in a classroom working every day with the children in the
cast, supplementing their regular schooling, some of which they're missing in order to be
part of the endeavor.
The point is that it takes an incredible mobilization of all disparate
sorts, all of whom must do their parts, for a movie to be produced. Much less be any good.
And that inadequate description doesn't even scratch acting lessons, a
writer's umpteen developmental drafts, a director's late night dark moments and early
afternoon mania, or the arcane work rules of a hodge-podge of craft unions, state and city
regulations and a host of other local ordinances and customs.
Here are some favorite, to this point, overlooked moments, from the first
two weeks of shooting:
Matt Servito, the Customer, has a
thankless job. His role, for the most part, is to sit at the counter in Leila's Muffin
Shop and smoke. And when he isn't smoking he is supposed to eat a muffin.
The only problem is that the muffins on the set today are the same muffins
that were on the set on opening day, on January 12th, so that by this point they're
getting just a bit old.
Matt doesn't really mind, he's an actor after all. But he isn't actually
eating the muffins either. Rather he is reasonably spitting them out. It's just too
During a camera change on Wednesday, Jon
and Joe played catch with the muffin they found on
Matt's plate. He had been grousing, and they thought they'd have a little fun with him.
The game got raucous, and the muffin ended up on the floor more than few
times. But that's okay, because it was stale enough that it wasn't going to break up no
matter how roughly it was handled.
Matt, however, was attentive. He didn't want that particular muffin ending
up back on his plate for the next shot. He was drawing the line at putting a muffin that
had been on the floor in his mouth, even if he wasn't going to swallow.
After a bit more teasing and a little more tossing, the co-directors did
the only thing they could do under the circumstances. They split the muffin. Meaning they
actually ate it.
"It was a little sop to morale," Jon said."Eating the
muffin did some good."
Or, as Joe said (quoting Sinead O'Connor): "The difference between
like and love
is a spit and a swallow."
I spent some time the other day at the production office, which in spite
of having spit nearly everyone onto location, is still kind of crowded. On this particular
day Mary Ann was designing the costume for the newly
invented super-hero, The Defender. There was payroll of course, and the voluminous
paperwork that goes into making a movie.
Everyone was really busy, but I found a desk in the art department and did
some work. At some point I noticed Allyn, the set
decorator, looking through the yellow pages and shaking her head.
"Who would you call if you wanted to get your awning cleaned?"
she asked me, not really looking for an answer, but not know the answer either.
"Yumi Katsura's awning."
Yumi Katsura is the fancy designer who did the wedding dresses that will
be featured in the movie. Everybody considers her contribution a coup.
We ended up leafing through the "Awning" section of the book--
naturally, once you think about it, but who would? I wondered at working in the movies,
trying to find an awning cleaner, and speculating whether Yumi's awning was canvas or
vinyl. I'd always assumed I'd finish my life without asking such questions.
What seemed odder was discovering there was a section in the book for
"Awnings--Cleaning and Repairs."
Of course. Why not?
During the sperm donor auditions Leila and her sister are supposed to be
sitting at their table reacting to these sorry specimen's woeful auditions.When the scene
is shot, however, the two events take place at different times. In this case they shot the
donors in the morning and the sisters afterwards.
Which means that someone has to feed Laurel
and Shalom the sperm donors' lines, so that they can
react to them. In complex scenes the actual actor usually reads the lines, even though he
or she may be off camera, because it is felt that will make for the most authentic
reactions and timing.
In a scene like this, however, the director can give cues as well as
anyone. Which on this day Jon does.
"Picture this," he says ghoulishly: "Big running sores...
Puss filled, disgusting... Running yellow. Running green...Puss... Disgusting..."
Laurel and Shalom both recoil, their faces shmushed up as if in defense of
a foul odor.
"Good," he finishes cheerfully, and Laurel and Shalom burst into
Even with all the talk about a film shoot being like a military action, we
often forget about those that are left behind. A few weeks ago Julie, Joe's wife, invited
a few of us to dinner. At that point the Cherry shoots were scheduled to
run from 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM each day, and even allowing for an hour or two for dailies and
post-mortems, she assumed Joe would be home in time for dinner. Or at least dessert.
But as regular readers of Making Cherry know, the daily schedule
has been shifting ever-later. I left the location on Thursday at 6:00, just after
"lunch" break and there were many more hours of shooting to come. It promised to
be a long night.
And so when we sat down to eat we knew Joe wouldn't be home until
after midnight. As it was, dinner was delicious, their two little girls got to stay up a
little a later than usual, and we had a great time.
We also left a mess in the sink. Thanks, Julie.
Have a good weekend.