The Editing Page
"Rusty Blue Chevrolet" & "Dog Drop"
From the very first day a script is "greenlighted," a unique language evolves that's a shorthand for referring to specific scenes or moments in a film. While some scenes are always called by their scene numbers (like the infamous Scene 80), most earn a title that's usually an ever-so-brief description of the content of the scene. In many cases this first occurs when the 1st AD prepares the one-liner, an abbreviated version of the shooting schedule. Some of the catchier titles endure through the post-production process. Cherry is distinguished by having some of the more unusual scene titles: "The Vagina Toss," "Super Soak," "I Got a Pancake," "Rusty Blue Chevrolet" and "Dog Drop" among them.
Since you're undoubtedly curious, I will explain "Vagina Toss:" Dr. Kirk (Jake Weber), Leila's gynecologist, has just endured an excruciating interview with her in which he asks her out and is summarily rejected. After Leila (Shalom Harlow) leaves, he walks into the waiting room and finds Timmy, the terminally mischievous waiting room kid, tossing a plastic model of a uterus to another boy. Kirk grabs the uterus and admonishes him: "This is not a toy! You could seriously hurt someone with one of these." It was supposed to be a vagina, but the medical supply catalog only had uteri.
"Rusty Blue Chevrolet" and "Dog Drop" are both scenes that concern the two orphan "twins" (played by Caleb Archer and Kelly Singer) that eventually insinuate themselves into Kirk and Leila's lives. The twins subplot was one of the elements that first attracted us to Terry Reed's script -- it was both whimsical and poignant. It also had the potential to unfold in a particularly visual fashion, which is always appealing from a director's standpoint.
The first challenge was to give the twins a memorable entrance into the story. Rachel Talbot actually wrote the version of this scene that ended up in the film: in a run-down part of town, a rusty blue Chevrolet pulls into frame and two kids tumble out. The car pulls away, then stops. It backs up, two Twinkies are tossed out and the car drives away. Thus begins the journey that eventually finds the twins (Jack and Red), cold and hungry, peering into Leila's muffin shop.
Terry had written another scene that was a purely visual moment. Kirk wanders the street one night, lovelorn, and passes a restaurant just as two ritzy New Yorkers jump out of a limo and run inside. The woman (Drenda Spohnholtz) spins back out and returns to the limo shouting "Not without the children!" She runs back to the restaurant with five stuffed dogs in her arms, but just before she enters she drops one (the "Dog Drop"). Kirk picks it up and carries it to the window, where we see the couple seated with the other four dogs arranged beside them at the table. He taps on the glass, but they ignore him, so he shrugs and walks away with the stuffed dog [see footnote below]. Terry told me that this was the very first Cherry scene she wrote, as an excecise in a screenwriting class several years ago.
What's the connection between these two scenes? Well, early in the preproduction process, Jon mentioned to the art department that he wanted Red to have something -- a blanket or stuffed animal -- that she always carried with her. We finally settled on a dog, which led us to the idea that Red might drop the dog at some point on her journey for the Dog Woman to find and for Kirk, in turn, to retrieve. Then, when the twins eventually get taken to Kirk's office by Leila, they might find the dog there, reuniting Red and "Flops" (Kelly's name for the dog).
By any standard, this would be a ridiculous coincidence, but Jon and I saw it as a visual way to link Kirk to the twins, to give their connection to Kirk and Leila's story a sense of inevitablitiy. Besides, before anyone questions the plausibility of the same dog finding its way back to the twins via Kirk, they're far more likely to question the veracity of two pre-teen kids getting dumped on a street corner and wandering around New York alone. In the end, it will all depend on our ability to get the audience to suspend their disbelief and view the story as an urban fairy tale.
So, as the twins trudge through the streets and Kirk pines for Leila, "Rusty Blue Chevrolet" and "Dog Drop" become part of the same sequence and a magical little story-within-a-story begins.
Footnote: As soon as I read Terry's first draft of the scene where Kirk watches the couple entering the restaurant, I knew that it had to be a restaurant with a revolving door and a large window next to it. For months, Sevey and Matt brought me pictures of various hotels and restaurants to approve, and I consistently rejected them (window not big enough, window too far away from the door, too many steps, no revolving door, etc.). Finding a restaurant or hotel interested in having a low budget film shot on their premises is hard enough; finding a willing one with a revolving door next to a plate glass window is an even greater challenge. Finally, one day in mid-December, Matt came into my office beaming. "I found it," he said, and sure enough, it was perfect (Vuli on East 48th Street).
NEXT: The Festival Dance