DAY 26 - Friday, APRIL 6, 2001


Scene #78

Scene #79

Scene #80

Scene #81

Scene #33

The last day. Wow. The first thought that comes to mind as I reflect back on the last five weeks is that every day was so incredibly FULL. All the textures, sounds, people and places are as distinct as if I were still there. I only hope that in attempting to capture the essence of each day I have not entirely bored you.

The Ice Cream scene, like the filming of the burnt house, was planned to be shot at dusk and completed within a period of about one hour, total. The burnt house scene had no dialogue to speak of, just some relatively easy blocking and smoke effects. The Ice Cream scene involved seven separate shots, about a page and a half of dialogue and two pretty serious arrest sequences, one of which ends with Mather attacking Francis with a huge hunting knife, then stealing his gun. Pretty challenging, but by this point in the schedule, I knew we could pull it off.

Call time was 2 PM, but we weren't planning on shooting until 5 or so, which left plenty of time for the actor playing Mather, the Bills and I to rehearse the scene while Tim and I discussed the precise camera angles. Meanwhile, the Art Dept. began the laborious process of removing the giant logs surrounding the abandoned gas station that was our set. They were pinned to the ground with steel rod driven into the tarmac and proved to be next to impossible to remove. With some artistic use of the hydraulic lift-gate on the back of the Art Dept. swing truck they managed to remove the logs, one by one.

The first shot was a wide-angle establishing shot from across the street, requiring that all personnel and equipment be broomed from the Happy gas station. That one only took a few minutes to set up and shoot. Next was a shot from the rear of the patrol car as Francis and Morning wait for the dispatcher to report back on the status of the pick-up truck they have pulled over. After lining up the shot with his viewfinder, Tim pulled me aside. He said he could get a much better shot if the rear window were removed and what did I think of that? I immediately caught his drift: this was the last day and perhaps we could get away with a little, um, modification to one of the otherwise pristine patrol cars. If the window just popped out, as it should, a glazier would have no trouble putting it back. I immediately gave the go-ahead to the careful removal of the rear window of #733. I left to go meet with the Bills in the Billmobile as the grips started prying at the weather-stripping.

The glass all swept up

Imagine my surprise when I returned to find a huge pile of Chicklet-sized pieces of broken glass. Apparently, after a heroic effort to remove the window intact, someone gave it that extra tug in frustration and it shattered into a million pieces. Once Tim got the camera set up, however,  it was clear that the removal of the glass was worth it. Fernando would have to calculate the cost of replacement and fill me in later.

Rehearsal went really well. I bounced back and forth from Morning's (Bill Sage) side of the truck, where he grapples with Gary (Will Staten) to Francis' (Bill Dawes) side and his confrontation with Mather. Both pairs of actors worked together to choreograph an extremely real arrest sequence with some very physical grappling. SAPD Officer Richard Hodge showed up on set to watch and, as usual, proved an invaluable presence with tips on how a real cop would get the job done. His son also made it into the film as one of the kids buying ice cream from the truck in the background.

As the light gradually faded, we powered through four camera angles to cover the action sequence. We only had time for two takes of each shot, but the actors were pumped up and getting into the frantic pace. After each take I uncuffed Gary and sometimes Mather, made sure the knife Mather swings at Francis was back in the truck and that all participants were dusted off enough so that we could go again.

Probably the most absurd moment of the night was when the craft services lady wandered onto the set with a plate of chips and dip. A truly nice thought, but her timing was not great as we were frantically fighting the light.

The last few shots of the sequence were completed in near darkness, which made for a pretty great visual effect as a second patrol car approaches and all the flashing lights flare the camera. Tim didn't have time to gel the cherry lights or headlights, which ended up being one of those cool accidents. After five weeks of uncool accidents, I was pretty happy.

As the sun finally slipped below the horizon the crew packed up for the move to our final location. Alan Green, the sound guy, and I stayed behind to record some police radio effects. Hodge kindly lent us his radio and I sat in the patrol car listening as Alan recorded random calls. It was mostly pretty mundane stuff -- except for a carjacking in progress. Weird. Bits of almost all of it, including the carjacking, ended up in the film as random radio noise for that added verite texture.

The last shot of the film was on the intersection of Cherry Street and Commerce, a drive-by of Francis and Morning with Winston in the back seat. It all went smoothly -- until the car accident.

Frank, one of the SAPD cops was in the street holding traffic for us when we heard a screeching of tires. We all turned just in time to see a car careen into another car that Frank had stopped on Cherry. The second car slammed into the first, causing it to hurtle 30 feet into the intersection. Frank barely jumped out of the way in time.

It turns out the guy was completely wasted, freely admitting to drinking about a gallon of beer. He was hauled away in an ambulance and we sat around waiting while the SAPD and fire department cleaned up the mess. Fortunately, no one else was hurt.

At one point, our patrol car was in the intersection with the lights flashing along with the SAPD patrol car and an ambulance, both strobing away. The real cops were milling around and Billy D. and Bill Sage, in their San Lovisa uniforms, were checking out the scene as well. Finally, one of the real cops asked them to move their vehicle. It was one of those moments where you wonder what it all means.

Order was eventually restored and we commenced filming our final shot. After a few takes I turned to Tim and we agreed that we were done. I was all ready to call a wrap, when Matt, the 1st AC, called me over to the camera. He said there was a hair in the gate and asked me to take a look. As I peered at the camera he shined his minimag into the aperture and there was a little cartoon of a rabbit. I laughed and we were done.

- Joseph Pierson


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