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