12.10.97

Making Cherry

it's all real

 A Real Life Ongoing Soap Opera and Instruction Manual About the Making of a Movie Called "Cherry"
Bug Alert: Please report unseemly or awkward visuals.


 

Locations:
Production Office: Shot Listing with Joe, Jon, Phil and AD
Principals:
Everybody more or less
cherryNAVmenu.gif (1546 bytes)

December

S
M
T
W
T
F
S
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
 
 
 

January

S
M
T
W
T
F
S
 
 
 
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31

February

S
M
T
W
T
F
S
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28

Hello Dolly

It's so nice to have you back...

Joseph and Phil arrive in the office after lunch, in mid afternoon. They’ve spent the earlier part of the day shot listing at Phil’s house, downtown, where it is quieter and more spacious than the production office. They bring with them the dollhouse-like model of Leila’s muffin shop, and a box full of small plastic dolls, each with a name written in sharpie on its base.

The Waiting Dolls

Little people and big knees

The Cypress office is a madhouse these days. The entire production is being run out of its ten rooms, and if that doesn’t seem like a problem, try to find Joseph’s desk, which is buried beneath racks of clothes, or Jon’s, at which Jon, Kim, Joseph and I have all been known to strew our papers, books, machines and cares.

We now gather around the conference table, which lines the office's far wall, and Meg brings us chocolate. Joseph takes a Twix and Phil gets a Crunch. I go for the peanut butter cup. Beneath the candy bars on the table are stacks of papers representing all the shotlisting to date. It is a lot of paper.

Joseph is in general a quiet man, given to understatement and a patient earnestness in the conduct of his affairs. Although I’ve just met Phil it is easy to see that his manner is low key as well. Their meeting resumes and barely anything in the room changes except that things get just a bit quieter.

I look on, patient myself. I want to see them move those dolls. Before long the chocolate is gone.

At this moment the two men are considering Scene 17, which begins on page 14 of the script, immediately after the story’s first beat, when Leila decides she wants to have a baby.

Leila goes into work, she owns a muffin shop, and, um, interacts with her two so-called employees, Dottie and Darcy. This is our introduction to these gals, who are not exactly firebrands, mind you, and their continued, um, employment testifies either to Leila’s wimpy accession to inertia or her bounteous beneficence. I’m not spoiling anything to say it’s probably a little of both.

So while Joseph and Phil read the scene and quietly think about it, I read it, too, and wait. Why don’t you read it, or rather just the beginning of it, too, keeping in mind this is formatted for the web page. This isn’t exactly what it looks like in real life:

17 INT. DINER – DAY

Two WAITRESSES (late teens) sit in a booth, slacking. DARCY, the punked-out smartass smokes a cigarette while DOTTIE, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, shuffles Tarot cards.

Leila plods in and looks back out the window towards the packed coffee bar on the corner.

LEILA: Cafe Latte is killing us.

Apparently, no one really gives a rat’s butt.

DARCY (distracted): Bummer.

With trepidation, Dottie turns over a card. CU: Supine man with a slew of swords stuck in his back.

DOTTIE (not distracted): The Ten of Rods!

DARCY: Looks like the bartender at "Vivisection." (Then, off Dottie’s shocked look) What?

Leila goes behind the counter and brings the girls the coffee pot from the industrial urn. She pours, careful not to disturb the Tarot.

LEILA (prompting): ‘Good morning, Boss.’

DOTTIE AND DARCY (rote, sing-song): Good morning, Boss.

Darcy tries the cream pitcher. It’s empty. She hands it to Leila.

LEILA: Remind me to nominate you employee of the month.

DARCY: ‘Remind’ you? Isn’t that what’s it’s job?

DOTTIE: Post-It’s.

DARCY: Prozac’s.

LEILA: Paxil’s.

Okay, let’s quit there. Paxil is Leila’s dog, by the way, and she rather cutely reminds herself of various things, like "buy milk" or "have baby" by sticking post-its on his forehead.

So after Joseph and Phil read the scene, they have a discussion about what the action is, broken down into bits. In the above we have the first two bits of action: 1) Leila enters the store and approaches her employees, and 2) She goes to the coffee urn and fetches the coffee pot, then returns to the table.

The challenge for our shotlisters is to get her in, past and back with a maximum of efficiency and style. The following is an approximation of the conversation that followed, condensed and focussed to make it a little easier to track, I hope.

Phil: Where do we start? At the door?

Joseph: We’ve seen Cafe Latte already, as she comes up the street.

Phil: I wondered about that. So we set it up before she comes in.

(There is a brief tangential discussion of product placement possibilities related to Cafe Latte and other very modern coffee businesses, and an ancillary discussion of the extras needed for the line outside Care Latte.)

Phil (pointing into the dollhouse): Are Darcy and Dottie on the same side, or different sides of the booth.

Joseph: I see Dottie with her feet up here, on the near side. (Nearer the door).

Phil: So we come in with Leila, she’s stalking in looking over her shoulder. And we come in with her and approach the table and she walks to the end of the table and we end up on Darcy and Dottie.

Joseph: That looks good.

Phil: You know, they could be drinking from Cafe Latte cups.

(we all laugh)

Phil: But you know, if you have one person facing two people, with Leila at the end of the table, then you have a problem when you get to the singles. It can get tricky. It could look like Dottie and Darcy are looking at different things because of their relative angles to Leila. But if we set Leila up at a more extreme angle, say, over here, (he moves the doll to the edge of the booth) then they can both be looking at her at more or less the same angle.

Joseph: You know, there’s really no reason to have her stop at the table on the way in at all.

Phil: Right, right.

Overhead of dollhouse

Joseph and Phil gaze into the muffin shop

Joseph: (moving doll’s around): If we come in with her and end on the girls, and then she goes off screen to the coffee urn...

Phil: We probably don’t even have to see that.

Joseph: Probably not. We end on the girls and the vivisection line and then she comes back in with the coffee. So she goes off camera right...

Phil: Actually, I think she goes behind the camera, off camera left as we come to rest on Dottie and Darcy and the tarot stuff, and then she reenters from camera right with the coffee pot and we go to a reverse.

Joseph: So we’d then move the bench out and shoot up at her from here (indicating where Dottie would otherwise be sitting).

Phil: Okay. Great. Now, where does she put her coat?

Yipes! It’s always something.

So, the process, broken down into steps is:

  1. Look at scene
  2. Short discussion of what happens in scene
  3. Description of shots w/ blocking.
  4. More discussion, if needed, with model
  5. Agreement
  6. Storyboard, if the scene is being storyboarded. Scene 17 isn’t.

Now, we only looked at the first page of a nearly three page scene. And even in a relatively simple action our shotlisters had to make at least two changes in the blocking as the scene progressed. And there is a lot more back and forth, getting here and there to come.

What I hope comes across (because the actual dialog between the two men was much more involved than the condensed version above and this scene is far simpler than many others), is just how complex the discussions can be.

As for Leila’s coat: It’s likely she takes it off as she walks to the coffee urn, throwing it over the back of the booth that could be there if it had to be. But the boys agree that another solution may present itself when the scene is blocked with the actual actors, rather than dolls. No doubt.

Peter Kreutzer

previous 

  next (c) 1997 Peter M. Kreutzer