4 - THURSDAY MARCH 8, 2001
SWAT & TEARS
Joseph and the SWAT cops
MATHER'S HOUSE -- DAY
INT. LISA MATHER'S HOUSE -- DAY
EXT. LISA MATHER'S HOUSE -- DAY
INT. HOLDING CELL -- DAY
INT. HOLDING CELL - NIGHT
a great deal of fun and a lot of work. The performers ranged from
seasoned actors to San Antonio Police Department SWAT officers whose
closest connection to the performing arts is probably watching TV.
The featured location was Lisa Mather's house. Lisa is the estranged
wife of David Mather, the bad guy.
Alsada Richardson as Lisa's mom
featured thespians of the day were Bena
Kratochvil and Alsada Richardson,
who played Lisa and her mom, respectively. Their primary scene is
one in which Francis and Morning come to their door looking for
Mather, who has failed to show up for his court hearing. Lisa's mom
answers the door and eventually summons Lisa to come talk to the
cops about David.
Morning and Francis looking for Mather
thing about the scene, beside how good both Bena and Alsada were,
was that the Bills came up with a great ad-lib, which eventually
became one of those minor strands that help to tie the story
together. After the cops ask for Lisa, her mom tells them to wait
and then proceeds to argue with Lisa behind the closed door. In the
script, Francis and Morning just stand there, which works fine on
the page. But, when it came time to shoot the scene, there was too
much dead air, and nothing to cut to but a closed door. The Bills
drew on their experience riding around with the real SAPD officers
and suggested an ad-lib about a Dale Earnhardt model car.
Apparently, after Earnhardt died, many of the SAPD officers tried to
find the die cast models of his race car, which became quite scarce.
When they'd see each other on duty, conversation would often turn to
the car and their progress in finding it.
was clear the ad-lib was working, the Bills and I discussed adding a
couple of other Earnhardt moments to the script, making it a minor
theme with a beginning, middle and end. That became a weekend
project for me which eventually resulted in two other Earnhardt
exchanges between Francis and Morning in the screenplay. They are
natural and incidental and, as a bonus, I think they work nicely to
flesh out the relationship between the two cops.
The SWAT Team raids Mather's house
finished the scene with Bena and Alsada, it came time for the SWAT
guys to break down the door, looking for David Mather. By this point
in the story, Mather has robbed Jessica's convenience store (using
the gun he stole from Francis) and run away after Francis shoots
enlisted the real SAPD SWAT Team and these guys were serious. They
came with a solid steel battering ram, full body armor, helmets,
assault rifles, etc. They also said that when they do the real
thing, they throw a flash-bang grenade into the house after breaking
down the door and did I want them to do it on camera? Hell, yeah!
another lesson about non-actors today: don't assume that they know
anything. The first take was kind of a mess. James said "Roll
sound!" and the SWAT guys immediately smashed down the door and
threw the grenade. It all looked great, but the camera never rolled.
While the smoke cleared and the prop dept. installed our only other
door, I patiently explained that after "roll sound" the
1st AD calls "camera," and then the director calls
"action," and that's when the actors commence
acting. Things went swimmingly after that, except for me never
figuring out their names -- they all looked the same with their
helmets and goggles on. I just called them all Frank and they looked
at me as if I was a complete idiot.
director works his magic
inside, the SWAT team discovers the bodies of Lisa and her mom and,
eventually, Mather himself dead in the bathtub. It was a regular
bloodfest. It's a bit disturbing how much fun I had arranging
corpses and sprinkling them with stage blood.
scenes of the day were of Mather in the holding cell after he has
been arrested for the first time. We searched all of San Antonio for
a traditional-looking cell with bars, etc. and found none. Larry
Sanchez, our crack locations manager, did eventually find just such
a cell in the neighboring hamlet of Alamo Heights. Before we could
use it, however, Larry, Tim and I had to go visit the chief of the
AHPD. He didn't look especially imposing, but he was very stern. He
informed us that, since Alamo Heights is a small municipality (2
square miles), they have only one holding cell and if a prisoner
arrived while we were filming in the cell, we would have to vacate
the premises immediately. He also reminded us that "We may
doze, but we never close." We nodded respectfully and assured
him that we would gather our equipment and make a mad dash for the
door if a prisoner was on the way. Like that would ever happen.
the Mather cell scene was a relatively easy scene to shoot, we
didn't require the full crew, which was fine, because those that did
join us were well into overtime. We set up quickly, took a short
break for fajitas (the so-called "second meal"), then
began shooting. The scene called for one off-camera line, which I
was going to read, but there was a sergeant sitting there, so I
asked him if he wanted the honor of saying "Lights out!"
He seemed amused and agreed to holler the line on cue. I wasn't sure
how he would react to Mather's reply, which is "Motherfucker!"
but he behaved as if he had heard it before.
on the last shot of the night, when a call came in over the police
radio that a prisoner was on the way. The timing couldn't have been
more excellent. We finished the shot and were just carrying the last
light out the door when the poor guy arrived. He was in his
mid-twenties and his hands were cuffed behind his back, as is the
custom in this country. Tears streamed down his face. Apparently he
had been arrested for public urination. Back where I come from we
give those guys tickets and let them retain some shred of dignity. I
guess things get kind of slow up there in Alamo Heights.
Tim Orr (top), Henry & Matt
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