DAY 11 - MONDAY  MARCH 19, 2001


Scene #19

Scene #18

Scene #27

Scene #105

Old Man with Brick

Today was our first day at the Food Mart, the location where Francis meets Jessica, the woman who works behind the counter. Francis sort of falls in love with her. Sort of because this isn't a love story, so we never make that much of the relationship. Francis meets her on his first day on the beat with Morning. He is having a very nice flirtatious conversation with her when a disturbance outside interrupts them. It is Morning, confronting the Old Man With Brick (played by Earley B. Teal).

Old Man With Brick is just what he sounds like -- a nutty old guy with a cinderblock on his shoulder. His dialogue consists mostly of stuff like: "Why the hell does everybody want my brick?" and "It's my brick and that's all you need to know!" Francis tries to find out why he has a brick on a rope tied to his ankle, but Morning completely overreacts and zaps him with a taser.

Of all the suporting actors I cast in the film, Earley probably matches my mental image of his character the best. I can't begin to describe how great it was to see and hear him bring this strange man of Mike Jones' invention to life. Perhaps Old Man With Brick says it best, after he is zapped with the taser: "God DAMN! God DAMN!"

So that Bill Sage could actually shoot Earley with the taser, we dressed him in a kevlar vest, which he wore under his shirt and overcoat. Paul Ross (props) tested the taser gun several times for accuracy and assured us that Bill Sage would have no trouble hitting him squarely in the back.

The taser was live. Apparently it wouldn't fire the darts without a full charge, which also meant that it could potentially zap someone with 600 volts if we weren't careful. We did have two loads of trainer darts, however, which were essentially fishing line and wouldn't carry the charge to the darts. Tim and I planned to shoot the scene in a handheld master, so this meant that we had two takes to get it right. Unless we used the charges with the live wires, which I refused to do.

After several blocking rehearsals, we shot the first master. It went pretty well, but the pacing was not great. Our second and final take was somewhat better, but still not exactly what I wanted. I knew, though, that if I strategically shot some cutaways at various points in the action I could speed the scene up to where it would play with a lot more energy. The first shot was Morning at the patrol car, fetching the taser. The second was Francis' reaction to Morning zapping the guy: "Jesus Christ, Morning!" And as I lay awake that night, I realized we needed a third shot: Jessica's reaction. The scene ends with her confronting Francis, compounding his humiliation, so it was essential that we cover her point of view. We shot her coverage the next day.

Lovisa's cigarettes

As we finished up our work with Earley, Lovisa was inside the Food Mart loading the cigarette display with her many invented brands. We discovered during pre-production that cigarette companies will not allow their brands to be shown on camera, unlike many other products. We could have avoided the issue entirely had we covered up the display case, but it stood directly behind the counter, just as it does in every minimart across the nation. I wanted this location to look as real as possible, so I asked Lovisa to create a couple of dozen fake brands of cigarettes. After hours of design, laser printing, folding and taping, we had a very convincing display.

Scene 18 begins with Morning shuffling around the back of the store trying to find the cranberry juice. When he finally locates it he returns to the counter to pay. This was the moment I choose for the first Earnhardt car moment (see Day 4). He asks Jessica if she has "any of them Earnhardt cars." As she shrugs, having not the slightest idea of what he's talking about, he throws a buck down on the counter and leaves. The fact that the juice costs $1.50 is Francis' opportunity to begin his flirtatious chat with Jessica.

Jessica behind the counter

Jessica is played by Ruth Osuna, a Latina actress we cast out of Dallas. In her audition, she showed just the right balance of self-reliance and sexiness. I'm also pleased that during her first scene with Bill Dawes, there was good chemistry between the two actors. It may not be a love story, but we still need to believe that these two people are attracted to one another.

The final scene of the day was Sc. 27, with Keith behind the counter. Francis returns to the Food Mart to see Jessica, but another employee, Keith, is there instead. Matt played the slacker minimart employee hilariously as Francis walks out with a pack of gum, pining for the absent Jessica.

Greg, Kinya and Darrin groovin' to the Muzak

We were supposed to end the day with a trip across the street for scene 105, a dusk shot of Francis pulling up to the restaurant in his patrol car. The art department somehow didn't manage to have the bars removed from the windows, though, so we wrapped and added the shot to tomorrow's schedule. I suppose heads should have rolled, but I didn't really see the point. Besides, it was time for a cocktail.

- Joseph Pierson


Copyright 2001 Cypress Films, Inc. All rights reserved.