DAY 18 - Wednesday
MARCH 28, 2001
A BOY WITH A GUN & A
FUNNY OLD GUY
PROJECTS -- DAY
INT. PROJECTS -- DAY
INT. RONALD'S APARTMENT -- DAY
EXT. STREET #3 - MONTAGE -- NIGHT
The overturned Dodge Daytona -- on location
another one of those days when I was just dying for a doughnut and
not a one was to be found. At the beginning of production, someone
sidled up to me with a pad and pencil and deferentially asked what I
would like to see on the craft services table every day. I thought
that was such a nice gesture, to ask the director what his preferred
snack items were. Not wanting to appear frivolous or extravagant, I
quickly eliminated the entire repertoire of Little Debbie snack
cakes (yum) and baked brie. I'm not sure Little Debbie has even been
invited to Texas. My answer, then, was "doughnuts in the
morning, M&Ms and carrot sticks." Both M&Ms and carrot
sticks are excellent walking around food. Both also come in small
sizes, a plus for those favoring the comfort of continuous eating
for long stretches when not much else is going on. The doughnuts are
simply an essential and nutritious breakfast food.
Throughout production there were usually M&Ms in a little
styrofoam bowl on the craft services table. Carrots were frequently
found lurking somewhere nearby. Doughnuts, on the other hand, were
always in short supply. Instead, there was usually a cooler full of
a horrible invention known as the "breakfast taco." I love
Tex-Mex food, but lukewarm, damp breakfast tacos suck.
I bothered to ask about the absence of doughnuts, the answer was
always something vaguely evasive like "Oh, the bakery wasn't
open yet." I thought they usually opened at 5 AM. None of this
is rocket science, but I guess that explains why NASA doesn't do
* * *
order of business today was the Interior Projects, scenes 52 &
53. This is a scene in which Francis, responding to a call, runs
frantically through a housing project corridor. He eventually finds
himself face-to-face with a boy holding a gun. Francis tries to talk
the boy into dropping the gun, even going so far as to holster his
own, but the boy, really agitated and backed into a corner, pulls
the trigger. His gun misfires, but Francis understandably finds this
to be a profoundly disturbing experience. This scene immediately
precedes the reprise of the Carol scene and helps us understand
Francis' apprehension during that scene.
who plays the gun-toting kid was a nice, sweet-faced lad, which was
just what I wanted. He was a bright kid, too, but had some
difficulty getting worked up to the state of agitation that I felt
was appropriate for his situation. I finally made him do jumping
jacks before each take to at least get his heart rate up and
stimulate some panting. The final result will be a triumph of
virtuoso editing and Joel Goodman's finely tuned accompanying score.
Doughnuts miraculously arrived before the scene was done,
boosting my energy, if not the boy's.
day must apparently have a completely absurd moment and today was no
exception. During part of the scene where Francis runs through the
hallway, he stops and asks a resident for directions. The extra that
showed up on set when we were ready was a very nice looking woman
with white hair, neatly coiffed, wearing a cardigan sweater and
gold-rimmed reading glasses on a chain around her neck. She didn't
exactly shout "projects" to me, so I dismissed her on some
pretense and cast about for other options. Almost immediately, a
fabulous old Latino man with a cane appeared. He was apparently
completely unaware that we were making a movie in his hallway, which
seemed perfect to me. He also spoke no English, which was fine, too.
He was agreeable to appearing in the film, so I positioned him in a
doorway and instructed him to point down the corridor when Billy D.
runs up and asks him "Donde?"
Francis asks directions
have imagined that such a simple task could prove to be so daunting.
In direct contrast to the joy I expressed the other day about using
non-guild extras, this is the flip side of the coin: you would be
amazed at how ridiculous an old guy with no acting experience can
look pointing down a corridor. We did seven takes, and I'm pretty
sure that at least one will be acceptable in the context of the
scene. When Tim and I watched the dailies, though, we were laughing
so hard we were rolling around on the floor. Pretty scary stuff,
when this is meant to be a scene with profound emotional resonance.
the day's agenda was Scene 46, in which Toby comes to Ronald's door
in handcuffs. Ronald is presumably some sort of drug dealer, so William
Luke, who plays Ronald, showed up on set after a visit with the
wardrobe department sporting a velour sweat suit and several massive
gold chains draped around his neck. It all seemed a bit too clichéd
to me, so we got rid of the chains. Better. After a brief visual
assessment, I asked William how he felt about playing the scene with
no shirt on at all. Ronald is comfortably at home, after all,
and I don't know about you, but shirts just seem to be too much of a
bother when you're not expecting company. The result was much more
convincing, even though I was rapidly becoming the wardrobe dept.'s
least favorite director due to my penchant for stripping the shirts
off of as many actors as possible. The male ones, anyway.
Matt measures in the purest environment available
Ronald dismissed Toby we shot the final piece of corridor running
for scene 52 and broke for a nutritious meal in the building lobby.
After lunch it was on to Scene 7, the final scene in the montage
sequence (see The Crush).
crushed Dodge Daytona arrived on the flatbed trailer and was flipped
over onto the sidewalk. Mark Sullivan, our resident McGuyver, got to
work hooking up the cars headlights. As always, he was anxious to go
the extra yard and have the wheels spinning as well, but I assured
him that we would never see such a lovely detail in the shot.
Mark fires up the headlights
was pretty involved for this setup, so I killed some time in the
Billmobile. When we were finally ready to rehearse, I got in the
back of Ron's camera truck and the Bills took their position in the
patrol car. The goal was for the camera truck and patrol car to
drive together at the precise same speed for a hundred yards or so,
then separate when the patrol car turns the corner to arrive on the
scene of the overturned car. The camera continues down the street
until we find a man with a sign: "I sold drugs near
clear in the rehearsals that this was a very ambitious shot that
might or might not work. At issue was the ability of the two
vehicles to drive together at the same speed with enough consistency
for Matt to retain focus on Bill Dawes. Tim eventually felt we had
rehearsed enough to have a reasonable chance of getting the shot, so
we started shooting.
The overturned car, ready for action
several takes, we had to stop; it was past 2 AM and even though we
had a late call, there was a limit to how much more I could push the
crew. For insurance, we shot a couple of takes with the camera
locked off at the end of the street and called it a night. On
reviewing the footage in dailies a few days later, I was pleased to
see that the shot turned out pretty much as I wanted: moody,
mysterious and evidently in focus.
- Joseph Pierson
© 2001 Cypress Films, Inc. All rights reserved.