DAY 21 - Saturday  MARCH 31, 2001


Scene 30

Scene 29

Scene 32

Scene 82

Scene 200

The crew rigs the car

No photos from today (not true anymore), but this is a day that is photographically etched in my mind. It was a Saturday, which was not originally scheduled or planned but necessary nonetheless because of various screw-ups completely beyond our control (bad mags, mismarked film stock, recalcitrant generators, etc.). With finite out dates for the two principal actors, we had to find time within our existing schedule to catch up, which inevitably meant filming on a Saturday.

The day started out with an actor behaving badly. I won't name names because it's not relevant now. At issue was communication about the day's work. I and my AD staff did our job, and the actor eventually acknowledged that, but not before we had a bit of an awkward moment. And I'll also add that the actor made a full apology and from that point forward, the day went really well in all respects, both practical and creative.

Something I grew to understand more fully during the filming of EvenHand is that making a low budget independent film is a strain in many obvious ways (cheap deals = stuff that's more likely to break), but also in ways that only reveal themselves if you're around all day paying attention to a whole bunch of little moments. These moments consist of more subtle problems that eventually have a cumulative negative effect on the good humor of the creative team. There's no doubt that they can and will increase the likelyhood of an actor behaving badly. 

But, I have learned that you have to make the best of what you've got. Part of that means not standing around pointing fingers or dwelling on why things went wrong. Much better to spend the energy figuring out how to solve the problem and move forward. Later, over a beer, you can bitch about it to your friends to your heart's content. Or, if you're me, you can share it with as much of the world as shows interest in your web journal.

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After a first shot of the patrol car driving down the street in the late afternoon with the camera on sticks, everything from that point forward involved heavy grip activity. It was a night of car mounts; we had hood mounts, side mounts, camera-in-the-back-seat mounts.

The first of these scenes is what became known as the gum scene. Francis goes to the Food Mart to see Jessica, but she's not there. He finds Keith and covers his befuddlement by buying a stick of Juicy Fruit gum. In the scene we shot tonight the two cops drive away in the late afternoon light. Francis contemplatively chews his gum as Morning begins to sing a romantic country song. Francis is initially pissed, but soon smiles at Morning's ingenuous ribbing. By the end of the scene, the two are singing together. It's a sweet moment and something of a turning point in their relationship. Morning reveals a tiny bit of his human side and Francis creates a bond between them by acknowledging it.

Next up was part two of the Winston scene, in which Francis and Morning drive away from the fire with Winston, the ex-cop, in the back seat. This follows soon after the gum scene in the script and represents one of the mood shifts typical of the screenplay.

After covering the crap out of the Winston scene, we ended the night with a series of shots of Francis and Morning driving around and ad-libbing dialogue. I had told the Bills that I wanted to do this when we had a chance, so they were prepared to come up with some material. The result was quite good: original, spontaneous and true to the characters -- including a particularly fun riff on dating in San Lovisa. I have no idea where or even if I'll use what we shot, but I suspect it will come in handy for a transitional moment or two.

Scott and Steve, our motorcycle escorts

In closing, I'd like to acknowledge Scott Hays and his team of SAPD motorcycle officers. These guys drive ahead or behind the camera car (depending on which direction we're filming) and clear traffic for us. They also see to it that our complicated rigs get turned around safely when we reach the end of the road or need to reload the camera. Most importantly, they stick with us all day in excellent humor (and let us sit on their massive Gullwing choppers and take goofy pictures for the folks back home).

- Joseph Pierson


Copyright 2001 Cypress Films, Inc. All rights reserved.