12.29.97

Making Cherry

QUOTE
"Everybody in Hollywood wants to be something he is not. Albert (Band) is not satisfied to be your assistant. He wants to be an actor. The writers want to be directors. The producers want to be writers. The actors want to be producers. The wives want to be painters. Nobody is satisfied. Everybody is frustrated. Nobody is happy. I am a man who likes to see people happy." --Gottfried Reinhardt (producer/director)


 
Locations:
Holiday Hiatus
Principals:
Becky is in the house
cherryNAVmenu.gif (1546 bytes)

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Tech Notes

Making Cherry plays catch up on the dance floor

I spent the holiday weekend traveling. First, to my step-sister’s in Bronxville, where my dad and his wife were staying. Then on up to Schroon Lake, in the Adirondacks, where my aunt and uncle live and where my mom and another aunt and a couple of cousins and others were visiting. We ate a lot and worked some of it off snowshoeing in the mountains.

Amazingly (I say facetiously), I didn’t spend much time over the long weekend thinking about the Tech Scout, those glorious days the week before last when all the production keys visited all the locations and conferred with one another about what would be needed to execute all the listed shots. But now it’s Monday again, two weeks before shooting starts on Cherry, and I’m looking through my notes and I can’t help but think of the Tech Scout. Here are some of the other items that were discussed:

Leila’s Muffin Shop is a long and skinny room. There is a counter down one side, in front of the shelves that line the wall. The counter top has just been painted in a marble pattern, trompe l’oeil style, though the swirling greys in a creamy field, which really do trick the eye, haven’t been sealed yet. During the scout a number of people, fooled, set pieces of paper down on the still delicate counter to write, and are chased by the prop master, Lee, who protects the Scenic’s fine work.

"We need to get this sealed," Lee says to Sherri, who says she will make sure the Scenic gets at it that afternoon.

On the other side of the room there are a series of booths. Between the counter and the booths is a space of little more than three feet. Phil calls over Aaron, the Key Grip, whose job it is to provide the means to make dolly shots, among other things. Phil tells Aaron that a number of dolly shots running the length of the room are called for. Aaron walks the floor, sensitively, as if he were a dancer testing his footing before launching on a particularly athletic stunt.

"There’s quite a bit of roll here," Aaron says. "What I’d do is lay sand out here on the floor and then put plywood down on top. The sand will smooth our the rolling."

"But all the scenes here have dialog. Won’t the sand make noise?" Phil asks.

"Sure, sure. Some, but…"

"I don’t think that’s an option."

"Well, we can lay a dance floor without the sand," Aaron says. "It will take more jiggering, but we can get it kind of smooth."

A dance floor is a specially smooth path made, usually of plywood or some other smooth surface, for a dolly to "dance" across during tracking shots. The object is to remove any extraneous motion during the dolly.

Phil and Aaron debate the merits of various dollies ("It isn’t bad, but its low isn’t low enough and its high isn’t high enough," is typical), and agree to order pneumatic wheels for the dolly, which will help take some of the roll of the floor out of the camera moves.

They also agree to use masonite for the dance floor, and have a scenic paint it the same color and pattern as the muffin shop’s wood floor, so that they don’t have to worry about framing the floor out of the various shots.

"Done," says Sherri and Lee. And it’s on to the next question.

There is a protracted discussion between Eddy, David, the Gaffer, Joe Sevey and Liz about whether or not the building can be rewired. There isn’t enough electricity coming into the building to power all the lights, and the prospect of putting a big generator out in the street, belching smoke and hammering away all night, seems like an invitation to provoke community dissent.

"We’d really rather not get everybody mad at us, would we?" David asks.

This is his first visit to the location. Sevey and Eddy have worked on the electricity problem for months and it has been deemed simply too costly to rewire the building. But David has another idea, and in the next hour, before we move on, a plan is hatched to get the local utility to replace the old inadequate wire coming into the building with as big a wire as can be had. Most of the cost will be absorbed because the wire had to be move anyway, to make way for the film’s closing crane shot.

"It’s just another type of tie-in," David says, meaning that it isn’t necessary to power every outlet in the building, so long as the production has enough juice to power its lights by running its own lines through the hallways. Eliminating the need for a generator promises to save money, and reduces the production’s impact on the neighborhood.

"If it works, I’m pleased," Eddy says. "Very pleased."

But back in the muffin shop, there are still questions.

"Is there room for the dolly shots?" Phil asks.

Between the booths and the counter there is perhaps three feet. Behind the counter there is only two feet.

"We dolly both in front of the counter and behind it," Joseph Pierson points out.

"No problem," says Sherri. "We have these stools, out here in the aisle, but they can be moved." She picks a trio of stools, fixed to a single board, up easily. "Everything can be moved. When we dolly in here we can move the counter up against the wall. And when we’re behind the counter, it moves as far away from the wall as we need it to go."

"The booths are completely moveable, too," Sevey says, pushing on a banquette, which slides across the floor.

"It doesn’t look like we’ll have a problem," Phil says.

"Can I drill holes in the ceiling?" Aaron asks, pointing to the old, beautifully finished (by the production) tin ceiling. "You know, to hang the lights?"

Phil and Sevey look up.

"There are holes in there now," Aaron points out. There are, though they’re not really noticeable unless you’re looking for them.

"I’ll have to find out," says Sevey, "but I don’t anticipate there will be a problem. Unless you want to rip holes up there."

"Not at all. Good. Then we can fly lights from up there. That’ll be much more flexible."

Joseph Pierson takes me aside: "The beauty of these locations is we get the look of an actual space, and the flexibility of a studio. It’s the best of both worlds."

The two locations in this building, the muffin shop and Leila’s apartment, upstairs, have been designed solely for the movie. The building is for sale, and has been vacant for some time. The owner has been happy to get monthly rent from the film company, and still be able to show the building to prospective buyers. The film company has been happy to have more flexibility than usual for it’s most important locations.

When Joseph joins back up with Phil, Aaron and David, I sidle over to Sherri, who is standing behind the counter.

"It’s funny," she says. "Joe has great taste, but he brings to all this the sense of somebody who has done real renovations. He wants everything to be permanent."

She takes me through the room, pointing out that which is real and those items built for the shoot. The tables were bought, the banquettes were built and upholstered in a favorite fabric of Sherri’s. The elegant, dark wood display cases in the back of the room, which I would swear are 60 years old and the work of a fine French woodworker, are a knockoff of a display case Sherri saw in a photo of a bistro in travel magazine. The surface is solid, elegant, but behind it is the bare minimum of structure to keep it standing up during the shoot.

The tin walls, which were in terrible disrepair, have been repainted, with a pattern, to accentuate their texture and minimize their flaws. The effect is beautiful. In fact, in spite of the disarray in the room, and the masking tape demarcating the edge of the marbleized finish on the counter and the sawdust everywhere, the entire room is beautiful.

It makes you wonder how a muffin shop with so much character could have so few customers?

It must be the muffins. Oh, and the service. Maybe.

Peter Kreutzer


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(c) 1997 Peter M. Kreutzer