2.4.98

Call: 11:30 AM

Making Cherry
a romantic comedy starring Shalom Harlow
"The crane itself was so impressive... balletic... magical. I feel sorry for people who will see the movie without seeing the crane operate."
--Rachel Talbot
You've Got Questions? Cherry Has Answers
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Locations:
Muffin Shop

Weather: Cloudy all day. 70% chance of rain/drizzle. Hi: 36. Lo: 31.

Principals:
Leila, Menu Man, Eddie, Man at Window
 


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The Neighbor

One Person Can Make a Difference

Imagine if you will, a man with a cigar in one hand and a cordless phone in the other, standing in a window much like the ones you see here.

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The windows of a small man

That was the scene on Monday night at about 10:30. Everyone agrees it was an unfortunate situation, one marked by extraordinary frustration, you have to   assume on both sides.

That's because the makers of Cherry are doing their best to make their movie without unduly inconveniencing their neighbors near Leila's Muffin Shop. But there is one neighbor who appears to be intractable.

A few weeks ago I wrote a "Making Cherry" story about the change of production schedule, about the extraordinary circumstance of a low budget production adding eight extra shooting days. In the story I discussed a few reasons for the changes, but the one that got the shortest shrift was perhaps the most materially important. A movie that had four all-nighters scheduled was suddenly told that all exterior production had to be shut down at 11 P.M., courtesy of a Hoboken ordinance that had until that point had been waived for the production.

Sevey and Eddy, along with all the others usual involved in matters such as this, scrambled. Meetings and phone calls flew. Favors were called, all the usual crisis control elements were put in place. There were arguments and negotiating and I was asked not to report on the details because nobody wanted to inflame the situation.

So I mentioned that there were location problems, but didn't specify what they were.

As it turns out, the problems had far less to do with the town of Hoboken than was at first thought. Because film productions spend money the town, in principle, welcomes them (earlier this week a Paramount production, Rounders, starring Matt Damon and the ill-starred Daniel Baldwin, was shooting down the street from Cherry's Hoboken location for a couple of days) and every effort is made to ensure that a production's time in the city is productive and happy.

But even the city's officials could not stifle the little man and little woman who live next door to Leila's Muffin Shop.

If something happened to provoke their wrath, no one knows what it was. Everyone on the crew was told, from the first location scouts, that these people were sensitive about the production being near their house. In nearly a month of production, I have not noticed crew members loitering on the sidewalk outside of their house.

In fact, just the opposite. There has been, it seems, a hypersensitivity and respect for the neighbor's rights. And at night the crew has been eerily quiet.

"You have never seen thirty working people be so still," Terry said to me about the crew's behavior Monday night. "It's as if they aren't there."

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Bloomfield Avenue, Hoboken

Which isn't to say that you could miss the fact that a movie was shooting on the street. There is big equipment, and big lights, and a couple of cops directing (and stopping) traffic. It is inconvenient and can be a disruptive process. Still, efforts can and have been made by the Cherry crew, above those made by the production, to satisfy the local citizenry.

Monday night Phil had a crane set up to shoot a scene in which Dottie and Darcy close up the muffin shop. As the girls walk down the street following a comic bit, the camera raises up into the air so that we can see Leila sitting in her living room (above the muffin shop) reading.

It's a pretty shot that begins with a big laugh (Aleksa and Heather are very funny), and while it isn't terribly complicated, anytime you have a crane and a full move like this, coupled with a couple of performances, you have to be better than good. You have to be lucky.

Of course, it took a few takes and that's when the confrontation came.

The neighbor didn't heed the PA's request that he stop because the camera was rolling. The little man strode past. Trailing a little ways behind him was another man. It seems the two had worked out a routine.

The other man said, "How ya doing ____?" the blank being a man's name.

"About as well as can be expected," _______ replied, "with these assholes here."

The take ruined, Jon called out, "Hey, watch your language." And the neighbor flew off the handle.

There are various accounts of what happened next. While they differ in some details, all are fundamentally the same when it comes down to the basic events.

1) The neighbor challenged Jon and called him an asshole.

2) Jon stepped forward angrily.

3) The neighbor threatened to punch Jon, even though he is much shorter and smaller than Jon.

4) Eddy got between the two men and tried to stop Jon from doing something stupid. He succeeded.

5) One of the cops on the location came over in response to the shouting.

6) The neighbor asked the cop to do something.

7) Jon retreated to let the cop do his job.

8) The neighbor claimed Jon threatened him.

9) The cop said if the neighbor didn't calm down and stop threatening Jon he was going to have to arrest him.

10) The neighbor went inside, appearing moments later in the window with a cigar and the phone, poised to call the precinct house to shut down the production at exactly 11 PM.

Everybody involved in the production says that this reaction came without provocation, that the couple just don't like film productions in their town.

In the negotiations that have been ongoing since the beginning of location scouting, the production has offered the neighbor couple a goodly sum of money and a room at the Plaza Hotel on any night they might be bothered by the production. In a perverse way, you have to admire them for declining.

"They don't have a personal problem with us, they say they have no problem with us," assistant locations manager Matt Schwartz said to me. "They just don't like film productions."

But they are having a pronounced effect on the making of Cherry. Still, Matt says he doesn't consider that to be much of a story: "He's just a footnote on this production," he said, "like a snowstorm or rain."

But for a production that has been fortunate to have seen one the driest and most temperate winters ever, the neighbor has been a pain.

"It's not like Jon called him an asshole," Terry said. "He called Jon an asshole."

"Write the story," Jon said to me. "It's not like we have anything to lose anymore. We've taken his best shot and we're going to finish our movie and move on. We just wish he'd move on, too."

Which is in keeping with Sevey's comment: "It isn't that this is unusual. You almost always have somebody upset with you when you're shooting on location. But usually it's for one night. This guy might be the worst I've seen because he's so unrelenting. He doesn't show any quit."

   Peter Kreutzer

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(c) 1998 Peter M. Kreutzer