|Joseph and Phil arrive in the office after lunch, in mid afternoon.
Theyve spent the earlier part of the day shot listing at Phils house,
downtown, where it is quieter and more spacious than the production office. They bring
with them the dollhouse-like model of Leilas muffin shop, and a box full of small
plastic dolls, each with a name written in sharpie on its base.
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 doesnt seem like a problem, try to find Josephs
desk, which is buried beneath racks of clothes, or Jons,
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 Ive 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 storys 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 Leilas
wimpy accession to inertia or her bounteous beneficence. Im not spoiling anything to
say its 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 dont you read it, or rather just the beginning of it, too, keeping in mind
this is formatted for the web page. This isnt exactly what it looks like in real
17 INT. DINER
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
Apparently, no one
really gives a rats butt.
Dottie turns over a card. CU: Supine man with a slew of swords stuck in his back.
distracted): The Ten of Rods!
DARCY: Looks like
the bartender at "Vivisection." (Then, off Dotties 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.
Good morning, Boss.
DOTTIE AND DARCY
(rote, sing-song): Good morning, Boss.
Darcy tries the
cream pitcher. Its empty. She hands it to Leila.
LEILA: Remind me to
nominate you employee of the month.
Remind you? Isnt that whats its job?
Okay, lets quit there. Paxil is Leilas 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: Weve seen Cafe Latte already, as she comes up the
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
Phil: So we come in with Leila, shes 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, theres really no reason to have her stop at
the table on the way in at all.
Phil: Right, right.
Joseph and Phil gaze into the muffin shop
Joseph: (moving dolls 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 dont 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 wed 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! Its always something.
So, the process, broken down into steps is:
- Look at scene
- Short discussion of what happens in scene
- Description of shots w/ blocking.
- More discussion, if needed, with model
- Storyboard, if the scene is being storyboarded. Scene 17 isnt.
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
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 Leilas coat: Its 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.