PRODUCTION JOURNAL


DAY 23 - Tuesday  APRIL 3, 2001

CAKE AND DUCKS


The Restaurant


INT. RESTAURANT -- DAY
Scene #74

INT. RESTAURANT -- DAY
Scene #76

EXT. RESTAURANT -- DAY
Scene #77

INT. RESTAURANT -- DAY
Scene #106 pt.



The Bills are ready

Remember that dreadful rainy day when we were supposed to film at the restaurant? Well, I certainly do. Today was the day for which we rescheduled the work. I had been not-so-secretly dreading this day for most of the shoot because of the massive page count spanning four distinct scenes, plus the remaining two shots of scene 106. It was a lot of work for one day, which led me to wonder why the Bills were not on set at 8:30 AM when they had been called for 8 sharp.

An inquiry with the AD department revealed that Cosmo (who had recently become engaged to marry my assistant, Lovisa) had overslept (again) and failed to pick up the Bills. A production assistant had just being dispatched from the set to get them. I guess Cosmo was still preening.

Well, I was pretty steamed. Cosmo was eventually given the ax, but not before I broke the news to Lovisa that this would likely be the result of his egregious transgression. She replied that he was prepared to take it like a man. And I must say, our relationship has improved greatly since he has ceased to be in my employ.

*    *    *    *    *    *


Il Directore checks out the shot

First up today was a scene that opens with a cop in the restaurant telling a joke to his gathered coworkers. The role of comedian cop was originally intended for Vic Henley, a stand-up comic that Jon and I met at a comedy show at Siberia Bar in New York. He was a southern guy with a particularly funny, edgy shtick. He was easy to picture as a redneck cop riffing on the bad guys he'd encountered that day. I ultimately didn't call him for the job, but not because I had any reservations about him in the role. On the contrary, he would have been outstanding. Vic wasn't the problem; during the last days of pre-production I had seen a hint of the difficulties we would encounter trying to film EvenHand within our budget. I knew that even with the best rates imaginable, bringing in talent from out of town would inevitably lead to hidden expenses that we couldn't afford, or say no to -- once we'd made the choice to bring an actor in. So, sadly, Vic didn't get the call.

The local guy we cast in the role wasn't particularly funny, but in the end it didn't really matter. The scene isn't about the joke, it's about Francis feeling out of sorts and escaping to a table where Morning soon joins him.


Alan Green, king of sound

The most remarkable thing about this day was that even with the actors arriving late, we had absolutely no trouble getting through all the material. Maybe my dread put us all in some sort of hyperdrive that made it all possible. Or perhaps it wasn't such a hard day after all. I've found that over these weeks it can be terribly hard to judge how difficult or easy a day's work will be. Sometimes the really easy stuff on the page turns out to be a bear and other times, like today, we just kind of sail through.


A big ol' can a' wupass!

News of the day: Bill Sage celebrated his birthday today (thirtysomething). I got him a big creamy cake which we all ate with our fingers. There we were, filming in a restaurant and we couldn't seem to drum up any plates or forks. Big yummy mess.


Some damn fine cake

Most amusing moment of the day: There was this guy, whom I'll call Samuel (the name of choice for folks that are about to be whupped on the internet), who worked in the art department. Samuel got his job when he auditioned for a role as a biker and failed to make the grade. He then offered to work for us in some capacity as an unpaid intern. We cheerfully accepted his offer and assigned him to Gary Ledyard, our crack Production Designer.

Samuel seemed to work hard and keep his nose clean, so I didn't pay him much mind. Those actor guys, however, noticed that Samuel seemed to be sporting a rather, uh, enormous package. Curiously, the estimable endowment was particularly evident today, when Samuel was appearing as an extra in scene 106. The Bills consulted amongst themselves about the veracity of the clearly delineated thing and concluded that nature was not that cruel; it couldn't be real. Bill Sage, never content to guess at what can be so easily confirmed, marched up to Samuel and asked if he was stuffing. Samuel, with no tells in his expression or voice, said no he wasn't. Bill S. then offered to pop his little guy out for an impromptu comparison. Samuel shyly demurred and saved us all from certain mortification.

The Bills, who were by now pretty giddy with their discovery, retreated and regrouped. Their chosen strategy was to stuff blue ducks down their police-issue trousers and casually lounge about the set, hoping to pique the interest of Samuel or unsuspecting female crew members. No go on either count, apparently.

The epilogue to this duck tale is that I got the following e-mail some weeks after production had ended:

From: J___ D___ 
To: info(at)cypressfilms.com 
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2001 10:54 PM
Subject: deadbeat dad

I noticed you have a [Samuel] working in some capacity with your film company. He is approximately $39,000 behind in child support. He has two teenage daughters who have been financially neglected long enough. He has a masters degree from S_____ Seminary in W___, North Carolina. His daughters and my daughter live in North Carolina also. If he is still working there, and he is on your payroll, please contact us so the wages can be garnished. I am assuming I have the right [Samuel] as he indicated from the last post card the girls received that he was "making movies", and we thought he must be working for "cash". 
I found this website while looking for a name.
Thank you in advance for your co-operation.

Apparently Samuel was a deadbeat dad. I sadly had to inform the writer that Samuel hadn't been paid any wages by us. And if I had known he was a deadbeat dad, I would have never let him on my film set in the first place.


Wen gets grilled by Morning

The second funniest thing that happened today was a little joke I played on Bill Sage. In the scene with Wen, Morning asks to see the kid's license. He scrutinizes it for a few seconds, then eats it -- revenge for the kid pestering him in the restaurant. The license was a little paper learner's permit, modeled on the Texas original. Some weeks beforehand, I had Lovisa prepare a huge 12 page 8 1/2" X 11" license for Wen to pull from his wallet in one of the takes. In a rare waste of film stock, I rolled the camera and preserved Bill's reaction for posterity. I think his exact words were "What the fuck is this?" as he contemplated eating the huge wad of paper. Perhaps you had to be there...

In the seemingly unending Daily Disaster category, some of the footage of scene 106 was shot on the same bad mag we used at Toby's Mom's house yesterday. It was only one shot, but all the takes were affected and, according to the lab, ruined. What really made this suck big time was that this was the shot of hundreds of ducks hanging from the ceiling of the restaurant. It's a weird moment in the script, but one that has always spoken to me. It also took hours to hang and adjust all the ducks to camera.

When we got the news that the shot was unusable, I consulted with Fernando about what it would take to return to the restaurant on our final Saturday and reshoot the scene. The answer was many thousands of dollars -- for one shot which no one (except Mike Jones and I) would ever miss. The scene was covered without the shot, so I didn't even have the excuse of a continuity glitch. DAMN!

Tim and I eventually looked at the dailies tapes and determined that one of the takes was probably good enough to use. Another happy ending on the EvenHand roller coaster ride.

- Joseph Pierson
 


              


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