DAY 22 - Monday, APRIL 2, 2001


Scene #47

Scene #48

Scene #50

Scene #51 

Io and Lisa share an introspective moment by the prop truck

After our day off (singular), this was great material to start the week with. I dimly recall there being some issue with coffee being ready at call time and maybe even a small doughnut controversy, but no matter. Today was a Toby day and that spelled fun for all.

Toby's mom's house is one of the wonderful and strange Christmas houses we found so frequently on the East and West sides of San Antonio. No matter what the season, the holiday spirit prevails. We never asked the owners of any of the houses why they still had their holiday decorations up, but the occupants of Toby's Mom's house volunteered that they just never got around to taking them down. This seemed like too simple an answer to a puzzling phenomenon, but the results were pleasing to me, so I let it be.

The plan was to shoot the extensive scene of Toby in handcuffs arguing with his mom in a single master. Io, Melinda Renna (who played Toby's Mom) and I rehearsed the scene repeatedly while Tim installed and tweaked his lights. When Tim was ready, we banged off eight takes of the master, all hand-held. The Arri BL5 is not an ideal camera to use for hand-held shots, by the way. It's heavy as a son of a bitch and poorly balanced. Tim worked mighty hard today. Satisfied with the material in the masters we shot, we did a small number of cutaways and singles and moved outside for the scene in which Francis and Morning come to the door looking for Toby.

Melinda Renna (Toby's mom) and Io Tillett Wright (Toby)

But first a word about Melinda Renna. As mentioned in an earlier journal entry, Susan Jasso, my casting director, often greeted by me with the question, "Toby, where?" which was soon modified to "Toby's Mom, where?" after I hired Io. It was only last week when I finally sat down after wrap one day all bleary-eyed and reviewed some tapes of Toby's Mom candidates. As tired as I was, Melinda was the obvious choice. Watching third generation VHS video tapes is hardly an ideal way to make a casting decision, but it was the best we could do. And Melinda, like all of the local actors, turned out to be perfect in the role. She is Latina, which was not in Mike Jones' original character description for her or Toby, but fit with my adaptation of the material to San Antonio (65% Latino). The only real clue that Toby is Hispanic is that he understands and responds to his mom's Spanish, not uncharacteristic for a teenaged son of a presumed immigrant. The fact that he is played by a white girl is neither here nor there.

James stands in with attitude

The Bills were their usual excellent selves, making Scene 50/51 one of my new favorites. But, the late-breaking news that seven out of the eight takes we shot of Toby and his mom inside the house were no good ruined my mood. Apparently the camera department made one of their extremely rare mistakes and mislabeled the film stock we used for the first seven takes of the master for scene 47. Ouch. I only had one useable take, then, of a 2 1/2 page scene. It was the last one, though, and among the best, so I resisted the temptation to ask Tim to relight the house and shoot some more takes for insurance. That turned out to be the right instinct, as a review of the dailies revealed. Everything we needed was there in that final take.

The next disaster of the day, like so many of our heartbreaks, was only revealed several days later. We once again had a film magazine with the dreaded gate weave (a problem that causes the film to stutter as it is exposed, rendering it fuzzy and useless). Like last time, though, we were spared from complete ruination by the fact that it was a 400' mag (as opposed to a 1000') which we had used sporadically throughout the day. The only ruined shots were ones for which we had other circled takes.

While these recurring technical snafus seemed to always fall just short of total horror, they were frequent enough, and bad enough, to keep me and Tim on edge for the last couple of weeks of the job. An oft repeated mantra as we drove home to Logsville Lodge* every night was "Never again..."

Kinya, Io and Kay share some love

- Joseph Pierson

*See the Logsville Lodge journal entry for an explanation of what this is (to be written soon).


Copyright 2001 Cypress Films, Inc. All rights reserved.