The Editing Page
The Last Shot
As editing was drawing to a close, Jon and I realized that we needed an additional shot to complete Cherry. The shot had only become necessary when we reedited one of the scenes of Dr. Kirk (Jake Weber) in the bar. There had previously been a natural transition, but in the new, improved scene order, a dreaded establishing shot was clearly necessary. We dread them because they are by definition cheesy little shots that remind us of TV sitcoms (you know, the high angle shot of the building in Friends that you see every time there is a time cut or scene change). They are used by snooty filmmakers like ourselves, too, just because they are so good at establishing a sense of place. Plus, they provide an opportunity to pre-lap dialogue, which is also a handy transitional tool.
Our only problem was that we didn't ever shoot an exterior shot of the bar. We filmed at Vazac's on 7th Street and Avenue B, right on the corner of Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. We went there because I remembered it from my days as the location manager on Five Corners (one of the odd penguin scenes was filmed there). Tony Bill had specifically wanted a horseshoe bar, and Vazac's was one of only two I was able to find in the city.
Anyway, I called Phil, our DP, and told him we needed to shoot the bar exterior. He was well aware of our budget problems (we're basically out of money), so he allowed as how he could probably get us a camera for free from Panavision NY. While he waited for them to give us a date when they'd have equipment available, he offered to go scout Vazac's and see how the exterior looked at night.
He reported back that we could have a camera on Thursday night (2/04/99), but that he had stopped by Vazac's and it didn't look great. Since we were not contemplating any lighting, we needed a bar that looked good without any help. We kicked around a few ideas (P&G Cafe - great neon sign, but ugly aluminum facade, Subway Inn - great facade & sign, but probably wouldn't go for our budget: $0, McHale's - great, but on busy stretch of 8th Avenue with no film permit, etc.) and finally settled on Peter McManus, one of the great old New York bars.
I drove my car down to the office that morning ('91 Toyota station wagon -- thanks, Mom-in-law) to use as the impromptu camera truck. Meanwhile, Panavision reported that they would need an insurance certificate before releasing the equipment. That seems pretty obvious, but did it occur to me? No. I guess I'm too used to an efficient staff, which I haven't had since production ended (it's not that they're not efficient -- they simply don't exist!). So, a last minute call to Tammy at Great Northern: can you give us a one-day policy to cover the value of the equipment? No problem. Finally, Phil and I were on the way out the door, when the phone rang: Panavision needed an expiration date on the insurance of the following day, since we were shooting too late to return the stuff that night. Arrgh! Last minute call to Tammy to revise the policy, then we're on our way.
First stop: Studio Film & Tape downstairs to get a roll of 5279 short ends. 300' is plenty, since the shot is not going to last more than 3 seconds in the film. Next, we pick up the car from the lot and head over to Panavision. There are not too many teamsters around, so we back the wagon up to the loading dock and proceed to lug an astonishing number of very large heavy cases into the back of the car. Even the most basic shot in a film requires massive amounts of stuff (this is the land of 35mm).
We cruise down 7th Avenue and miraculously find a parking spot right around the corner from the bar. As we begin to unload the cases and assemble the camera (I'm not much help here), Phil and I have a philisophical discussion about telling the folks in Peter McManus about what we intend to do. We agree that if they don't notice us, it makes sense to simply try and steal the shot. But if, on the other hand, they do notice us, we will be much better served to go in and get their permission beforehand. Reason prevails and I go in to talk to the bartender.
I tell him what we're up to and he asks how much we intend to pay. I tell him that while it's a feature film, it's a LOW BUDGET feature and while we don't have any money, we do have these nifty Cherry hats (I show him mine). He ruminates for a moment or two, with the help of his bar flies, and then says I should send him a hat and thank the bar in the credits. I am so overwhelmed and grateful that I take my hat off and hand it to him. But before I leave the bar to share the cheery news with Phil, the bartender has handed the hat to one of his admiring patrons. I then promise to send him another.
Back outside, the light is perfect and Phil has lined up a dandy shot. We roll 60' or so, being sure to catch some non-SAG extras as they scurry home from work. Phil moves the camera a few feet for an even better shot, and we expose some more film. Phil even reluctantly agrees to do a walk into the bar for variety. We discuss further variations (there is still more than 100' left in the camera), but none are needed, so we start packing up.
Phil looks at his watch and realizes that since it is only 5:40, we stand a chance of getting the equipment back to Panavision before 6:00, their closing time. This works for me; otherwise I would have to drive all this fabuloulsy expensive equipment home and lug it up 3 flights of stairs to my apartment, then lug it all back down again the next morning, reload it and drive it back to Panavision. We madly pack (I'm slightly more help this time) and hit the road by 5:48. I drive really fast, using my best cab driver technique, and get us back to Panavision by 5:56.
We were close enough to Cypress World Headquarters for me to run upstairs, grab a couple of hats and head back to Peter McManus for the wrap party!
The bartender got two more hats and Phil and I each had a pint of the best draught beer. Phil wryly pointed out that the filming of Cherry has spanned three years (the "Bingo" flashback scene was shot three months before the start of production in October 1997). Not exactly news to cause one to swell with pride, but we did have a frothy chuckle.
NEXT: "Rusty Blue Chevrolet" & "Dog Drop"