2.10.98

Call: 9 AM Happy Birthday April and Jeremy!

Making CherryHow_to_Make_One.jpg (6004 bytes)
a romantic comedy starring Shalom Harlow
"How is it that Heath is a producer and also a PA?"
--Tim Bohn
You've Got Questions? Cherry Has Answers
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Locations:
The Church

Weather: Sunny. Hi: 52

Principals:
Leila, Jake, Evy, Ernest, Mammy, Menu Man, Red, Jack, Donald, Dottie, Darcy, Customer, Groom's Father, Groom's Mother
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Energy Up!

Marathon Man is Going to the Chapel

When I was growing up running a marathon was considered the ultimate in endurance achievements. Tony commentators on the Wide World of Sports would spout knowingly about the wrenching effects running 26 miles and 385 yards had on the human body.

Under the stress of running the race the body would essentially shut itself down. Muscles would spasm or stop working altogether, joints would become wobbly or even fail, the brain would become confused. Although my hero was Marty Liquori, a miler, the man I admired above all the others was Frank Shorter. What he did seemed to be a miracle.

As we know, a lot has happened since then. The body's limits have been tested and pushed well past what was once thought possible. Women and men in their 80s run marathons, as do others with all kinds of physical conditions that would seem to make it impossible, but in fact just make it more difficult. The marathon isn't easy, I gather (since I've never even entertained the idea of running one), but it isn't the horribly destructive event we were once told it was.

Remember the expression "Hitting the Wall?" These days, maybe in Mile 80 of a 100 miler. Maybe.

On the morning of the pre-shoot production meeting, back in early January, I ran into Jon in the street outside the Producer's Club, where the meeting was to take place.

"Well, here we go," he said to me in a way that evinced optimism while acknowledging that this wasn't going to be easy.

"From here on out," I counseled, "it's a sprint. Just full tilt to the end."

Jon didn't react as if that gave solace.

Now, a month and a few days later, I'm realizing that I misspoke. What I intended to imply, then, was that from this point out the process would be like taking a test. No matter how things would go, their effects would be finite and kind of controllable. And at least, there was a set moment when it would be over, so you could go "full tilt to the end."

Because that was all that mattered. In such a way a sprint is like taking a test.

And in some way that's right, this is a race to a defined endpoint that, at least in the abstract, everyone can see. Anyone can point to the calendar and find March 10th, and say, "That's it. It's all over then."

But what I'd overlooked, just because like everyone else I was full of enthusiasm, was the fact that the endline is very far away. Making a movie is hard work, both mentally and physically. Always. And these days are long. The weather is tough even when, like today, it is too beautiful to be believed. At times it must feel like the day you get your midterm paper back and you've gotten a C- and it doesn't feel as if there is any way to recover.

Which explains, perhaps, why the first rehearsal of Scene 99 today was dreadfully flat.

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The scene takes place out front of a church, and while there are plot twists and nuances that we are better off not discussing here, the fact is that in general the people so gathered are happy. Or supposed to be. It won't hurt anything to say that this isn't a funeral. But the atmosphere on the set at this particular moment was far more funereal than festive, and the grinding workaday attitude was taking hold of the actors.

The shot involved a big ol' crane, which is the dickens to set up. And with all the principals and then some having to get made up and hair dressed and dressed in their formal wear, there was both a lot of sitting around and a great urgency to get the shot done, all at once.

Did I mention that even though it was 50 degrees out, a sinfully fabulous day, the actors were dressed as if it were spring. In the shot there could be no coats or sweaters for the ladies, just the lovely, diaphanous Yumi Katsura gowns that did little to hold in the heat.

PAs stood nearby with down coats and blankets, but the temptation, always,  was to step over to the big torpedo heaters inside the church door. But everyone had to stay on their marks, they were told. No time for moving about, except on one's spot.

Did I mention that the sun was fading fast?

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On the next rehearsal there was a noticed improvement, but the performances still felt tame and unenthusiastic. One of the actors said, "The sooner we get this done, the sooner we can go inside." There were murmurs of muted agreement.

Meanwhile, the crane needed to be reset, hair and wardrobe fixed, lights adjusted. The whole process was a race, against the sun, and very much a sprint rather than a marathon. But herein is where my "sprint" metaphor falls apart totally. It was here, on the step of the church in a dying light, with a hefty crane and twenty actors poised to do their jobs, that the concept of "kick" comes in.

Kick, Jim McKay or some other commentator would say, is that moment when you--and everyone else you are running against--feels dead. You doubt whether you'll be able to take another step, much less reach the finish line, but then, when you reach down for whatever special extra bit of reserve you have, you find something you doubted you had. And you sprint, he would say, as best you can to the finish.

Well, on this evening the kick came from Shalom. On the next rehearsal, as Jon called action, Shalom bellowed "Energy up, Everybody!" It was a clarion call, loud and ringing, a challenge that echoed down the block. Laurel and Caleb and a few others joined in on the shout, but all the actors were invigorated. They all perked up.

Going back to that metaphor. Another thing I forgot is that modern training and conditioning is such that world class marathoners no longer approach the race as a distance race. Or rather, they don't succumb to the thought that they are wearing down as the race goes on. The modern approach is to sprint, and if you get tired sprint some more.

Which is the way it is making a movie, too.

Energy up!

___

After yesterday's quotation of Terry's epitaph, as written and recited by Janna, our friend Dennis Kay, a noted scholar of Shakespeare, and a screenwriter, weighed in by email with a bit of lit history ephemera that happens, I think, to reflect something of the charms of Cherry.

And it made me laugh.

Dear Peter:

Do you know Sir John Suckling's little epigram from the 1630's?

It seems to me as profound today as when it was first penned -

Love is the fart
Of ev'ry heart.
It pains a man
When 'tis kept close,
And others doth offend
When 'tis let loose.

Doesn't work with the Latin word (flatulate).

Dennis

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(c) 1998 Peter M. Kreutzer