3.3.98

Call: 11 AM

Making CherryHow_to_Make_One.jpg (6004 bytes)
a romantic comedy starring Shalom Harlow
"Light above everything else is the question at issue... a director must realize that light has meaning."
--Louis Delluc
You've Got Questions? Cherry Has Answers
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Locations:
Central Park Ballfield/Alice in Wonderland Statue

Elevated Train Track/Harlem

Weather: Light rain until 9AM. 90% chance of heavy continuous showers later. Hi: 45. Lo: 39

Sunrise 6:30
Sunset: 5:48

Principals:
Leila, Evy, Donald, Red, Jack
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Get a Grip

We're on the level: Wonderland Rocks

Tuesday was overcast, but at least it didn't rain.You can see the forecast over on the left. Suffice it to say, nary a drop fell all day.

Which meant everyone was drier than they might otherwise have been. The scene was actually written to take place in the rain, but the production team decided early on to take whatever weather the day would bring. Things are hard enough without scheduling a day of rain, and as it turned out this shooting day brought dry clouds.

They are heavy clouds, however, and cut the sunlight. As the crew rushes to set up Scene 89 their opponent is the fading light. Actually, it isn't a do-or-die situation. Scene 89, a philosophical conversation between Jack and Leila, could take place in the dark, too, if it has to. But the more natural light there is the more detail there will be in the pictures of the statue.

The wonderful statue, a tableaux of all the main characters from the tea party in Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." Such as, the Mad Hatter.

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When the trucks arrive on location a battalion goes to work. Around the periphery Noah and Matt lay sound cables for Video Village. Mike and the Matts, along with Stephanie and David, haul a big switch box and even bigger cables. Aaron and Nick bring up light stands and heads. And Damon and Wesley go to work on the tracks.

Each length of track is 8 feet long, and is comprised of two round aluminum rails, upon which the dolly rides, and a number of cross pieces that hold the unit together. One end is shaped so that the end of another piece of track can be inserted, and the two fastened tightly together by a hook assembly. As you might expect, the other end of each piece inserts.

Fastening the track together is the simple part, like model trains or Hot Wheels racecars. The challenge is to make the track lay perfectly flat, so that the dolly doesn't roll or pitch as it rides the rails. The slightest disequilibrium is magnified many times when processed through a camera lens and then projected onto a big screen. Stability is everything.

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To set up the tracks at the Alice in Wonderland statue, which is surrounded by a sloping and stepped stone apron, Wesley and Damon use apple boxes, so called because they look like the boxes that apples are shipped in. Apple boxes are common on film sets, and have a variety of uses. Often they're the only things to sit on, besides the floor, on a set.

But when laying the track the apple boxes, which come in a variety of sizes: full, half, quarter and pancake, the last of which is about half of a quarter-sized apple box, are used as rail bed.

Wesley and Damon work quickly. Their dialogue is minimal, but Damon does offer suggestions, usually in concert with his own actions.

"Try a half," he'll say, as he takes a half apple box.

Wesley takes a half and slides it under the track on his side. Damon does the same on his side. The track bows up just a bit.

"I think a quarter," Wesley says, and they swap the halves for quarters.

"Okay, and a pancake."

Meanwhile, Damon is inspecting the carpenter's level he has laying in the middle of the track and adds his own boxes at the next joint. This process goes on for ten minutes with not a cross word or any discussion,  the two through trial and error leveling the twenty five or so feet of track. The process is a minuet of communication and collaboration.

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Meanwhile, Elizabeth is directing all the departments, attempting to coordinate their efforts for maximum efficiency. Team One, the actors Shalom, Kelly and Caleb, have been in their dressing room on the west side of the park. She hears over the walkies that they've left principal holding.

"Team One is on its way," she says. "Five minutes 'til Team One. Where's Magdalena?"

Magdelena, the stand in, steps up to the statue and gives Jeffrey, the new DP, and the lighting guys something to shoot at. The turmoil is impressive, especially because it is being measured against the encroaching darkness. Even if it isn't a matter of life-or-death (what is?), the coming of nightfall is dramatic. What was visible becomes invisible, unless, of course you're running your own lights.

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When the track is level, the last step being the insertion of small wedges, Damon puts the tracking-wheels on. These are made of two tin gutters with a series of red rubber rolling balls fastened beneath them, designed to hold the wheels of the dolly itself with stability and to absorb additional shock and roll.

Then comes the dolly, the heavy piece of cast iron on which the camera and DP and focus puller sit. It takes the whole camera department and David, key electric, as well as Damon and Wes to hoist and load the dolly onto the tracks. When they finish and step away Damon says:

"Thanks. You rock Dave Ford." That is an expression of interdepartmental appreciation.

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The actors have arrived and take their places on the statue. There is work still to be done on the camera.

"Do you need the sideboard," Josh asks. The focus puller, Tim, often sits on the sideboard, a tiny seat on the dolly, to carry him along while the camera moves.

"No, I'm going to try to walk it."

"Okay," Josh says, quickly walking the sideboard as far away from the dolly rig as he can.

Jeff has been directing the setting of lights and screens, gels and scrims around the statue. He returns and announces, "We're ready."

Elizabeth announces: "We're waiting on a plane. As soon as it clears we shoot. Give us a wave, Noah."

Another plane can be heard now. Everybody, after their feverish half-hour of work, waits, as planes pass overhead and then a siren passes on the park transverse and children nearby kick a soccer ball exuberantly. Just as their voices fade a helicopter can be heard approaching. You can feel more than hear the crew's collective sigh.

Early in this century an American composer named Charles Ives wrote a symphonic work called "Central Park After Dark." It is a piece of aural wonder, a blending of the urban and the pastoral, a mixing of tumult and quiet. As we sit by the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park, waiting for all the glory that is New York City around us to quiet down, I think of Ives and his wonder.

They'll have to loop it, I think.


Ps. It takes seven tries, a few of them "not bad," Jon says, before there is a perfect take.

"I don't know where she finds it," Jon says of Shalom, "but she does."

"She's remarkable,"Joe agrees, "and Caleb got it, too."

"He did," Jon says excitedly. "I only worry about the light. It's so dark. We can live with the second one, but they all hit it on the last one."

"We printed them all," Joe concludes. "We've got it."

"It will be nice if we can use that last one," Jon says as we walk across the park, as much to himself and the night as to either Joe or me. The codirectors are tired, exhausted, and yet once again are excited by the possibilities. Now it's off to lunch, a short break, and then to head on uptown. There is more to be shot before they're through..

Mail the Cherry Web Man       
Peter Kreutzer  

 

Wednesday

(c) 1998 Peter M. Kreutzer