DAY 15 - Friday  MARCH 23, 2001


Scene #5

Scene #3

Scene #4

Scene #82A

Scene #200

Cops, hos and hip-hop director

This was all fun stuff, and a relief after the stress of last night. The bulk of tonight's work was a series of vignettes for a montage that occurs early in the screenplay. Francis' voice-over kicks in after the first Carol scene and we see Francis and Morning dealing with various perpetrators of mundane mayhem. The idea behind the montage is to convey the numbing repetitiveness of police work. 

The montage was another one of those moments in the script where Mike Jones and I experimented with several different versions of the action. What I finally decided on was a sequence that didn't rely on dialogue to tell the story. It became a series of purely visual moments.

In truth, I don't know if the montage will even remain as a single sequence in the film. It may work better if it's divided up and turned into chapter headings placed at various points during the action. This is in part a response to an observation that many have made about EvenHand (most notably Billy D.) -- it's a very episodic story, especially in the first act. The scenes eventually weave together to tell a story, but there needs to be some kind of binding agent throughout to signal to the audience that this is not just a random series of events in the life of a couple of cops. But that's what's fun about editing. Our job tonight was to shoot the montage scenes.

The challenge was to finish before midnight. Tim was planning to fly to Los Angeles to attend the Independent Spirit Awards. He was nominated for an award for Best Cinematographer for his work on George Washington.

We started at the Better Burger on East Houston Street for a scene where a Latina woman has apparently knocked a black couple's food to the ground. Francis arrives (alone) and tries to mediate the problem. I started by telling the black couple to ad-lib some dialogue to the effect of "What the hell's wrong with you, you stupid bitch?" The man informed me that he was a Baptist minister and would it be OK if he didn't use any curse words? I was suitably chastened, and assured him that we would keep it clean. Props delivered some burgers, fries and a couple of cokes, which I promptly threw on the ground. Then the fun began.

While we rehearsed, I noticed three neighborhood girls watching from behind the camera. When we were ready to roll I asked them if they wanted to be in the movie. They allowed as how they did, so I told them to go to the Better Burger order window and act like they were waiting for their food. I have to say, this is one of the things that I love about low-budget right-to-work filmmaking. Anyone can be an extra! There are no stupid SAG rules about the minimum number of SAG extras you must hire before engaging non-union players. And there's nothing like the real thing. I got so sick of creepy career extras in New York hamming it up all the time.

The best Mexican food in San Antonio

The Better Burger under our belt, we moved on to the J & I Cafe for the arrest of the prostitutes. My choice for the hos were Karen, our Wardrobe person, and Lisa Russell, our NY import and Cypress Chick. The J & I provided an excellent backdrop and, incidentally, the best Mexican food I had in San Antonio. The Bills ad-libbed an amusing bit with a stuffed blue duck which Francis produces for Morning to give to a boy who watches them arrest the hos. Morning makes his opinion of the ducks eminently clear by the dismissive way he shoves it in the boy's hands.

Billy D. cuffs Karen...

...while Bill S. puts the moves on Lisa

Hos were appropriately dispatched and we made our way to the next location, a graffiti wall, for my personal favorite of the montage scenes: the big fat Buddha guy with no shirt and blood pouring all down his front from a cut in his head. Behind him Morning wrestles with the angry guy that presumably bashed him. This was a bizarre scene to shoot because the guy Candi (extras casting) found to play the basher was all too willing to get into his role. And Bill Sage was good to go when it came to subduing him. All in all, it made for a pretty realistic and strange scene.

Yvonne (Costume Designer) got pretty exasperated because she had a tacky shirt all picked out for the Buddha guy and I just made him take it off. If you are ever lucky enough to watch "Cops" on television you will see that the potential and actual perpetrators are always hanging around without shirts on. It's the American way and there's nothing Yvonne could say to convince me otherwise. Plus, the guy had great breasts.

The Graffiti Wall

The bloody Buddha

At some point during the night, Jamie, our hillbilly bug-eating PA was fired for showing up really late (or something like that; I was never all that clear on the details). His pal Hurley would be fired soon thereafter for offering pot to Io, our 15-year-old actress. Totally uncool. But before we knew of Hurley's tendency to deal drugs to minors, we did immortalize him on film as Fernando's drug-dealing cohort in another montage vignette. Art imitates life, or something like that.

Morning gets the producer to cough up the drug balloon

Tim's last scene of the night was the patrol car screeching past the mural, which is revealed to be 2/3 complete. We did a few takes and wrapped the Bills and Tim, wishing the latter the best of luck for his Independent Spirit nomination. A reduced crew rigged the patrol car for the Eyemo shots.

Matt lines up the Eyemo

The Eyemo is a super cool little camera that, by virtue of it's small size, is well suited for mounting on the outside of a car for moving shots. With Matt Petrosky flexing his DP muscles, we came up with several great shots, all very reminiscent of Taxi Driver. I stood in for Bill Sage's arm with a San Lovisa Police Dept. shirt and a wrist watch borrowed from Scott Hays, our SAPD motorcycle escort. We spent the rest of the night driving up and down Broadway zipping through the Eyemo's tiny 100' magazines. I got to drive the patrol car, which was lots of fun. After having piloted a patrol car in uniform, I can more clearly understand the odd transformation the Bills go through as soon as they get in wardrobe. All night long I kept trying to arrest and handcuff Kinya.

- Joseph Pierson


Copyright 2001 Cypress Films, Inc. All rights reserved.