3.9.98

Call: 6:30 AM

Making CherryHow_to_Make_One.jpg (6004 bytes)
a romantic comedy starring Shalom Harlow
"Could we get B12 shots for the crew, please. With separate needles?"
--Elizabeth Holder
You've Got Questions? Cherry Has Answers
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Locations:
Leila's Loft: Living Room

Weather: Rain in the AM, sprinkles later. Hi: 56.

Sunrise 6:20
Sunset: 5:55

Principals:
Leila, Donovan, Red, Jack, Marilyn
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They Love Us! They Love Us!

Okay, they like us. But they really like us!

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Actually, they like us just fine. This week there is a review of Making Cherry in Entertainment Weekly magazine. We get a grade of B, which is just fine, although I read the review and think: "That's a B+." And two weeks ago we were written up in Newsweek, on the Cyberscope page. They liked us, too.

The EW writer, Ty Burr, does a nice job I think of succinctly describing Making Cherry's strengths and weakness. He likes all the story telling about the movie, and thinks the homemade feel we've created here is just right. He complains that there isn't a copy of the script (we all thought it would diminish the movie to post the script before the film was done), and that there isn't enough on-set gossip.

I'm not sure he's right about the script, we talked a lot about posting it and decided not to, but I agree with him whole-heartedly about the gossip.

Movie crews are more than just finely-oiled machines or well-drilled armies working for commerce and art. Movie sets are bubbling cauldrons of emotion and libido, stewing over a stove of long days in close quarters. All day long on the set there is the babble of people just trying to stay involved, active, awake, and all day long that babble sounds like nothing so much as flirting.

From what I understand there is a quantitative difference, however, between being on location in some faraway spot and being at a location where you get to go home every evening. Or morning, depending on the schedule.

Cherry is of the latter sort. And while there has been a ton of flirting, some of which I hope you've heard in these pages, I think the general tenor of things has been pretty darned celibate. 

As a source close to the production speaking not for attribution has said: "Everybody talks about it, but nobody does it. If you did everybody would know right away, and you wouldn't be able to work. And anyway, after working for sixteen hours, who wants to?"

Which isn't to say that there hasn't been gossip. Our friend Heath was recruited early on to keep Making Cherry up on all the latest cheese. It was hoped he'd write a gossip column, but we found out something pretty quickly about keeping an online diary: People read it.

And, to no one's surprise, people don't like to be the subject of unfounded rumors that make them look foolish or silly. Or especially sluttish. At least most people don't. And part of working together in a bubbling cauldron of emotion and libido, stewing on a stove of long days in close quarters, is developing levels of personal trust.

It's one thing for a group of folks to sit around in a room and speculate about whether she would sleep with him if he asked even though she has been in a longstanding relationship with someone else. It can even be okay when she or he   is sitting right there, if it happens to be the right group. That is trust.

But nobody wants that sort of stuff written down. There isn't that much trust to go around.

One night, one of the rare early nights during the shooting of Cherry, seven crew members gathered for cocktails. A game was played, wherein players described personality traits of the other six players with single adjectives. The descriptions started out safe, polite, unchallenging, but after a few pitchers of beer the game became a bit freer. And then a lot freer.

It could have been an encounter group, a night at Esalen (there might have been a moment of massage, even), and when it was ending and the players were going home they were ecstatic about their adventurous fun. Part of the intensity of this experience is the necessity of opening up. It is necessary and risky, and can be deeply satisfying.

One Player's List
decisive
enigmatic
affirmative
impatient
straightforward
patient
crazy
Another Player's List
focused
faceted
dramatic
daunted
vengeful
careful
insightful
Yet Another's
zealous
complicated
trivial
softie
controlling
predictable
smiley

It was suggested by someone that the final sheets be posted on Making Cherry, and a contest be held to match the lists of adjectives to the individual players. There were even prizes discussed, though they weren't really substantial or interesting enough to attract much attention.The game was figuring out who said what about whom.

It turned out, of course, that all of this was a late night idea. In the morning cooler heads prevailed, and it became again obvious that Making Cherry wasn't just our private playground, but rather a public space. We were presenting details about the making of a movie on the website, we wanted the outside world to watch us walk a tightwire while making this movie. We hoped that the audience would enjoy the tension, and we wouldn't mind if they rooted for the whole endeavor to fail, because it would be such a messy spectacle if we crashed and burned.

And it would be so satisfying if the movie succeeded.

But it also became clear that there was a line that we could not cross. We had no right to invade the privacy of people who were gradually, inexorably becoming our friends, and we had no desire to, either..

The conflict was too much for Heath. His gossip column never got off the ground. And we've decided, because it feels right, that while we're writing about our lives and the process of making the movie, in real time, and we're not white washing the truth, we're also going to be a bit gentle.

Much as we like gossip, it seems more harmless when it's about celebrities, disembodied bodies and faces no matter how pretty, like those of Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone, on a magazine cover or Entertainment Tonight. It may not be fair, but they're paid to absorb all the crap and move on. The rest of us just work here.

The thing Making Cherry has done pretty well with have been the stories of people working on the movie. That's what I think, anyway. At the start I had this idea that we could delve deeply into the processes of each of the craftspersons, and explain how they did their job and how it effected the finished film.

But again, the diary format took us by surprise. Words pile up quickly, and early on these pages promised overload. As a result Making Cherry became a bit more episodic, there were days with only pictures, or just a few short, funny bits. I never expected anyone to come back every day, but I hoped that if they checked in once a week they'd stay interested enough to read a whole week's worth of stories.

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Because those stories are about the making of the film, and how all the departments work together to get it done. And how that can be creative. One of those stories is Tim Norman's. He's the First Assistant Camera, and you'll notice him on some days, after most everyone else is done, quietly taking apart the camera.

Tim learned his craft from his father, who is still working as a DP and camera operator.

"Instead of going on fishing trips, I'd spend my vacation with him at work. I'd work on the video assist or something like that," Tim said.

I asked Tim why the video feed from the camera was in black and white, a question that had come up early on and been forgotten. The answer, of course, is money. The B&W video taps are found on the older cameras, and they may cost as much as $500 less per week to rent.

"These are fine machines," he said, lovingly, holding the delicate gate in his hand. "They'll run forever if they're taken care of. The newer ones have more electronics, and color video taps."

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Each day, after the shooting is done, Tim takes the gate out of the camera body and cleans and oils it. As he blows free any dust or fabric or film emulsion that might have collected on the metal framework, he shows me the pulldown claw, which engages the film sprockets and pulls the film down roughly into place, so that it can be caught by the registration pins.

They hold the film firmly in place while the shutter opens, allowing the light and projected image to spill forward onto the screen. It stays open for just 1/24th of a second, and then the whole process repeats, advancing to the next frame, the film feeding from the feed reel to the take-up reel.

I remember an Ingmar Bergman quote I'd read when I was younger. Cinema is a lie, he said, or something similar (I paraphrase), because the screen is dark more than half the time.

Persistence of vision, the effect is called. It enables us to see motion out of a series of successively projected still frames. The incredible mechanism of the camera is what enables those still frames to be captured from life.

After he has reseated the gate in the camera body he goes to work on the lens housing, a series of rings and mounts that hold the lenses fast a precise and exact distance from the focal plane (where the film runs through the gate).

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While a movie camera viewfinder does look through the lens, the lens is focussed precisely by making exact measurements with a tape measure, and then adjusting the focusing ring. For this to work the lens must be properly seated. Tim uses a gauge that is accurate to 1/10,000th of an inch.

Yipes.

Before I go home I ask him about checking the gate. I don't recall ever hearing that the gate was bad.

"We've had a couple of bad gates on this film, unfortunately. Try as we might, the muffin shop is not a dust free environment."

That's not gossip.

Mail the Cherry Web Man       
Peter Kreutzer  

 

Tuesday

(c) 1998 Peter M. Kreutzer