Tuesday  February 5, 2002


                                                  Joseph Pierson
Helen toots in 2002 with gusto

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I'm pleased to report that I'm still alive, which you wouldn't know from the number of journal entries I've made in the last month and a half. Much has happened since November. I'll cover the major events:

We did some reshoots. Well, reshoots are what most everyone in the film world calls them. I like to call what we did "Additional Filming." The difference is more than just semantic; we didn't actually reshoot anything. I liked everything we shot the first time just fine. What we did was film some additional transitional material.

Gearing up for production a second time is a huge pain in the ass, so you only do it when you really need to. I felt the need because after months of editing and refining and periodically screening the film for a few civilians, a consensus developed that the film was missing a few beats.

I roughed out some ideas for several new scenes and began to tweak the structure of the film to accommodate them. As the content became clearer in my head, I actually put the ideas into script form. Both the Bills liked the direction the new scenes represented and had a few good ideas on how to improve them. A plan was beginning to take shape.

The first challenge was to find a time when we were all available to return to San Antonio. After much wrangling (and hand wringing) we settled on the weekend of December 21st. The weekend before Christmas was hardly ideal, especially from a travel standpoint, but it was the only possibility. After the new year the Bills were both on other projects. As if that wasn't challenging enough, I also needed Io Tillet Wright (Toby), Hector Garcia (Victor) and Lee Stringer, who plays Mather. Miraculously, they were all three available, too. 

The next challenge was to get all the props and wardrobe back together. Fernando still had Toby and Mather's wardrobe and I kept the San Lovisa Police uniforms, but gave the badges away as wrap gifts. New badges and nameplates had to be ordered. Fernando took care of that and began the process of assembling a skeleton crew and putting in a request for two new patrol cars from the SAPD. As before, we would use one car for a tow rig and the other for filming exterior shots.

Things were coming together pretty well, but I knew it wouldn't last. This is EvenHand, after all. But what could possibly go wrong in three days of filming? Let's see...

For starters, the company that made the badges and nameplates had a history of screwing things up. I asked Fernando to order the new badges and nameplates well in advance so we would have a chance to send them back if they were not made to specs. But, as of the Wednesday before filming was to commence, they had not yet arrived. Fernando called them a half dozen times, Kinya even went over in person, all to no avail. They would be ready on Thursday, the day before filming. This had disaster written all over it, so I called Lovisa and had her FedEx my display case of badges and nameplates from New York to San Antonio, just in case there was a problem. When the ones we ordered finally arrived, there was only one nameplate that was useable. Both the badges were completely different from what we had used for principal photography and Morning's nameplate was the wrong size. Unbelievable! But at least I was prepared for that one.

Disaster number two.  Fernando approached me on Thursday afternoon to inform me that the camera package, which we had again ordered from New York, had missed it's connecting flight in Atlanta and would not be in San Antonio until noon on Friday at the earliest. We had expected to start filming at 8 AM on Friday -- and had a full day scheduled. Fernando did everything in his power to reroute the camera to get it to us earlier, but it was not destined to happen. Call time on Friday was pushed to 1 PM. Fuck!

Io had to leave on Sunday, so we scheduled her scenes for Friday and Saturday. The one we started with, once the camera finally arrived, was a scene in which Francis and Morning are on their way to the lunch club and Morning spots Toby ambling down the street. He jumps out of the patrol car and chases Toby down an alley. We shot some handheld stuff while the grips rigged the car mounts.  We were finally ready for the driving shots at about 3:30 PM. Time for disaster #3.

As we're rehearsing the scene, which consists of the two cops driving Toby home, we hear sirens. The we see billowing gray smoke. A house two blocks away was engulfed in flames. Soon, there were three helicopters overhead, seven or eight fire engines and several police cars. Our chosen route was blocked and we had to contend with the smoke and sirens and the incessant thwocking of helicopters. Fortunately no one was hurt in the fire, but the house was ruined. In all the mayhem we were able to get three takes of our scene before it was too dark to proceed. Oddly, this was about a block and a half from our original burnt house location.

After a nutritious lunch at the Pig Stand on Broadway we moved to our final location, the East Side Substation, where we filmed a scene of Francis and Morning driving from the precinct after they drop off the Old Man with Brick. After no fewer than seven false starts, we got that one in the can.

There was some time for fun, too

*    *    *    *    *    *

Saturday actually went pretty well, all things considered. We filmed several hours next to a huge fire ant hill, but I was the only one to get stung. I had a bag of fake drugs for Toby, but the color was wrong, so I thought I'd add a pinch of dirt from a pile in the grass. The pile was an anthill. Viscous little monsters.

Robert rigs the car -- again

The first glitch of the day was a camera mag problem. The 1st AC had to leave for his wife's graduation. His replacement reloaded the camera just fine, but it refused to work. He tried a new mag and still nothing. Everyone stood around scratching their heads until Tim Orr finally found a little safety switch that needed to be tripped. Meanwhile, I had visions of another aborted day of filming. The next problem (not, in retrospect, severe enough to warrant the term "disaster") was with the car mount. Every time we hit a bump it jostled the camera horribly. Straps were tightened, speed rail was added, Ron drove more slowly, but it still looked awful on the monitor. We did about twelve takes, searching for a stretch of road that wouldn't cause us problems, but our little East side neighborhood hadn't been paved in a while, I guess. When I finally saw the dailies, there wasn't a single take that didn't look fine. Go figure. Lunch today at the J & I cafe. Yum.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Sunday was a comparative breeze. We were next to the fire ant hill again, but even I was clever enough to avoid getting stung. It was also colder, so they were pretty sedate (for fire ants). Lunch today was at Bill Miller's BarBQ. Yuck, that place really sucked.

Our final scene was possibly the most important addition to the EvenHand canon, a post Carol scene chat between Francis and Morning in a bar. Tim created a ton of atmosphere from three or four dinky little lights, with the help of about 200 metric tons of cigarette smoke from the Bills. It's a nice scene and one that will add immeasurably to the film. We also managed to knock off a few add-lib scenes of the boys sitting in the patrol car chatting about superheros and peeping at naked women. It was all funny stuff, but I'm not sure it will find a home in the film. DVD easter eggs? A man can dream.

*    *    *    *    *    *

In other news, I have hired an editor. Until now, I have been editing the film myself, with the help of Lovisa, who has evolved into a crack assistant editor. We worked well together and, I think, were doing a pretty good job. I had, however, reached a point in the process when the film became a big blur. I no longer knew what was good, or why. It was clearly time for a fresh pair of eyes. Alex Albanese is the newest member of the team. He came recommended by Joel Goodman, our composer, who had worked with him on two projects.

Alex is now recutting the film, including the new material. I am pleased to report that I haven't seen a frame of footage since viewing the reshoot dailies. In the next week or so I'll get to see my movie for the first time since early December, with my own fresh pair of eyes. I can't wait.

A Merry Christmas at the Cadillac Bar

- Joseph Pierson


Copyright 2002 Cypress Films, Inc. All rights reserved.