12.11.97     

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

Upstate: Actor's retreat

Principals:
Everybody more or less. Eddy out for 1/2 day.
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A Pain in the A

Lights... Action... People?

Although to all appearances I’ve spent more than enough time going on about the shotlisting already, I happen to happen into a meeting in which Joseph and Phil are going over their lists with Jon and the new 1st AD, Elizabeth Holder. The purpose is to raise any problems Jon and Elizabeth might have, and to refine the decisions Joseph and Phil had made earlier. As important as these lists are, it is time for everyone to get familiar with them. There are rehearsals next week.

The first scene they discuss, #32, is set in the street outside Leila’s apartment, after she’s run a rather provocative personal ad soliciting a male to father the child she suddenly finds she wants. Understandably, a fairly long line of prospective studs has formed.

The questions are many: Do we run the line the long way down the block, which would be funnier but require more extras? Would it be just as funny to run the line up the block to the corner, and around it, or would that look cheap? Can we get more extras? Can we feed more extras? Is the joke better served by a crane, or with the camera locked down?

The answers are many:

Yes, it will be funnier and more spectacular to make the line as long as possible.

Because the film is low budget, running the line up to the corner without some unknown but very funny and corresponding joke, would be looked at by the discerning viewer as a budget saving measure. I.e. Cheap. Better to fill the frame with bodies.

This day is to be a SAG waiver day, which exempts the production from certain obligations to the Screen Actors Guild and any hired extras. Which, in short, means that as many bodies as can be got can be used to fill the frame for considerably less money than if it weren't a waiver day.

If the shot is scheduled first in the day, the extras can be offered only coffee--okay, maybe donuts, too--and that will suffice, provided they are done by lunch. (If the scene isn’t done well before lunch, all agree, the day is wrecked.)

The idea of using Phil’s dolly to emulate a crane is discussed and rejected. And all agree that the joke should work just as well if the shot plays as a simple tableaux. If there are enough bodies. Elizabeth says she’ll speak with Extras Casting and make sure there are.

One word of caution, says Jon. "The more people you have the more problems. People are a pain in the ass."

The shotlisters move on to the next two scenes, which involve Leila and her sister, Evy, interviewing the prospective studs. While there are some interesting discussions about shooting film and video at the same time, and whether the interviewees should address Leila or the video camera or whether they should play to both or whether each should have his (or her!) own manner, the key question turns out to be whether or not Paxil, the dog, should be in the scene.

While all agree that the dog is in almost every other scene in Leila’s apartment, Jon perhaps summarizes the group’s feeling best: "Any scene with the dog slows everything down. Dogs are a pain in the ass."

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Heath and Peggy quaffing ale

Peggy and April, in the holiday spirit, put up what promise to be the first of many decorations. By the time the diarist got the camera out April was gone for the day. Pictured are Heath, who will soon be making regular appearances here in the left-hand column as the Making Cherry gossip columnist [it never happened -- too many death threats], and Peggy, in whose office's shadows we are sitting. Or standing. Depending.

The shotlisters had spent most of the day locked into what was once Jon’s office but now stands as the Above- the-Line Production Office and Smoking Room. Not that everyone who works in there smokes, but it is the one room at Cypress headquarters in which smoking is allowed. At least some of the time.

To get back to shotlisting, it is a long and fairly tedious process, though it requires total concentration and is, in fact, a most important part of the planning of a production. That said, there is general excitement when the four shotlisters burst out of the office.

"There’s going to be acting going on," Jon announces.

It seems there is a dispute about the blocking for the scene in which Leila meets the character known as Menu Man. Up to this point he has been an unseen presence, pushing reams of menus under Leila’s door, in spite of the sign she’s posted that says: "No Menus."

Now she catches him and tries to push the menus back out under the door. Phil is to play Shalom’s part, as Leila. Joseph plays Menu Man. They’ve taped a piece of cardboard on the bottom half of the glass office door. At issue is how much of Menu Man Leila (and the camera) will be able to see when she enters the scene from across the room.  Jon will watch with a critical eye; Phil and Joseph must convince him that their concept has merit.

Elizabeth doesn’t shout "Quiet, please," or "Rolling," but Jon does say "Action," quietly.

Joseph begins to shove menus (he’s made them by folding scrap paper into thirds, like a real Chinese menu,  because verisimilitude is, er, something) under the door. Phil energetically and frantically takes the ones that arrive and sends them back.

Phil as Leila with Menus

Phil rejects faux menus

Finally, Phil reaches for the knob, pushes open the door and it hit’s Joseph’s head.

Bonk!

"Ouch." Joseph stands.

The two launch into their lines and considering how absurd it all is, their argument and the scene that follows is kind of compelling. And it works. After some discussion about whether or not Joseph was on his knees (he wasn’t) Jon, who was unsure, agrees that the scene plays and the joke works.

Phil, Joe and Jon

Joseph makes a point

Elizabeth puts a call in to make sure the specs of the door at the location are similar enough to the one they’ve used for their simulation to validate the results. Within minutes they have confirmation they are, and the shotlisters disappear back into the office.

Everyone agrees that this was the most exciting moment of the day, except for those who saw the Christmas lights actually go on for the first time.

They think it’s a push.

Peter Kreutzer

yesterday 

  tomorrow

(c) 1997 Peter M. Kreutzer