Tuesday, December 27, 2005

after the christmas calm...

This isn't exactly what my eyes took in on Christmas eve but it's pretty damn similar to what a Tucson Charlie Brown Desert Christmas looks like. The mountains around Christine's parent's house (double possession?) make me miss the mountains even more. It was a frigid 80 degrees on Christmas day. The vacation was just a little short. However, we needed the break like a junkie needs smack. I hope that everyone was refreshed over the holiday because this Saturday brings us right back to work on the last days of production. That's right... were' almost finished with the shoots on this film and I'm growing even closer to having to bleach my hair. Christine insists on going to a "professional" to get the bleach job "done right"... so apparently I have no choice in the matter and the "pro" doing the job has to have a mouth full of "chaw" and a mullet to make sure that it's "dun raight." I much prefer the Ralph Macchio approach taken in the film The Outiders. Just find a sink, some peroxide, a switch blade, and try to make it look like you're not playing for the "other team."
I think that the moustache I decided to sport for the past week did enough of that for my reputation. See, there's a man with his arm around me. I told him that I didn't want to play Brokeback Mountain but he just wouldn't listen to reason.
Burt Reynolds, you should watch your back and keep on the look out or Joe Smith and I are going to do a remake of Smokey and the Bandit so fast that you won't have time to shovel down a Diablo sandwich and a Dr. Pepper. It could be done. All we need now is Keira Knightley to play the Sally Field role (because I have to have her deliver the line: "I think I'm in love with your belt buckle." )... and (apparently) we'll need a shit-load of blow. I'm not judging, but you know that movie (much like the Cannonball Run) was fueled on cocaine. I just wonder how they managed to keep it out of the moustache on all of that film.
So, welcome back from the Christmas hustle and flow... Let's keep truckin' on production and manage to make this film the best Gol'damn Indie film this side of the Pacos. 2006 will be the year of Rusted Sun Films, guaranteed... and very soon everyone will be talking about the break-out film Divine Manipulation of the Threads.

And remember:
Nobody, and I mean NOBODY makes Sheriff Buford T. Justice look like a possum's pecker.

Monday, December 19, 2005

troubleshooting the unpredictable

For those of you that have taken notice (or actually give a rat's ass about the forward progression of our little project), we've been knocking out scenes and production shoots at a steady clip for some time now. The weekends have been full of talented and dedicated people working on "our" movie for free. I keep mentioning this tidbit of information so that no one will forget or take the sacrifice that our troupe of actors and production crew gives every single weekend lightly. Without this "love of the game" that everyone brings to the table we simply could not do this. With that said, the dedication and sheer child-like enjoyment that people are taking away from this project (as well as putting into the project) is really starting to show on screen. I've been having a lot of fun editing and troubleshooting through other "challenging shoots."
This weekend was the first "vacation" weekend we've taken in a long, long time. I had a feeling that some of us were getting close to the point of burnout. I love making this film. I have a blast working on Indie projects in general. It's an adventure, a step closer to living the dream, and an opportunity to share your talents and desires with those that wish to view the final product. Yet, I will be quite glad to get this puppy finished. There is a lot of life put into this film... a lot of my life, specifically. I'm a little drained... but I'll be reborn when this film is DONE. Until then, we keep working the long and winding road. It would be similar to being in a band, traveling from city to city on the Great American Highway, pressing the flesh before the Friday Night Show, and selling a couple copies of your "album" after the show. You put it out there to share with people... I want people to see the film finished.
...And when people see the film... I want it to roll them. I want people to see this film and be blown away with the quality and professionalism that we put into it. I don't want people to look at this and say, "That was a nice Indie film." So far I've gotten, "This looks like a real movie." It is a real movie... we just don't get paid very well doing it. I kind of like the George Clooney approach to filmmaking. Don't take out $20 million dollars before hand because you'll probably never see it on the screen. But if you make the film, sell it, and make some money on the back end you'll be a hell of a lot more satisfied... or if you don't make any money, you still made a film that you wanted to make... or won't be embarrassed by... or be able to take the cop-out, "Well, the movie kind of sucks but I'm getting paid $20 million dollars to do it." That's a big problem I have with the Hollywood offerings lately. They're not throwing money at a problem. They're just not fixing the problem... the money is part of the problem. People with no integrity or spine would be another. I could go on forever... but what's the point of bitching? Instead, we fight the good fight with no money, credit card debit, thrift store wardrobes, cheap disguises, and laughs. I don't know about you but someone getting kicked in the balls is always funny.
Being rich would be great (don't get me wrong)... but I could be quite happy with being able to pay the bills on time... maybe a three bedroom house.
Enough rambling. We needed some time off to recharge the batteries, do some Christmas shopping, take a step back in reflection, and allow people to actually spend some time with their families. I didn't hear anyone complain about not filming this weekend, that's certain. Next weekend is Christmas... and we'll be prepared to start back on New Year's Eve-day. Hopefully the weather will be all-copasetic-an-shit.
I edited a few scenes on Saturday, got really really really trashed at M. David Lee III's "going away party" (dropped a shit load of money on the tab and physically paid for it all of Sunday - - I remember now why I quit drinking so much), cleaned house, and hid from the sun all day. The down time wasn't too bad. However, it all kind of started with the possibility of re-shoots. We haven't re-shot anything so far. I was editing a scene earlier in the week and Anthony and I decided that we were going to have to re-shoot a small scene... because there was a hum in the audio and it just wasn't going to work. There was the possibility of having to re-shoot a few other scenes from that Saturday because of wind noise... but I think I've edited around most of the problems.
It is a little frustrating to deal with those elements after the fact but I think that we're all in agreement that the quality of this project has to be top notch. We won't sacrifice quality just to make a date or to keep a schedule. We're not over budget... just a little behind... and there is nothing wrong with that. The only person I'm burning is myself... because we got a late start... and that's my fault.
I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Enjoy the downtime. We'll see everyone on the other side of a Tucson Christmas. The Charlie Brown Desert Christmas isn't too bad. They do actually decorate cacti... and the sand kind of looks like snow after a few too many margaritas. Tequila and I don't speak the same language (and Christine's father is well aware of that).

Monday, December 12, 2005

weekend sixteen: freezing wind and neoprene

Yes, it clearly seems that we're insane. Who would wear clothing like that on such a blustery winter day? Probably the same type of misguided individual that would take on a full-length feature film with over thirty featured characters, several different external and internal locations scattered about the Memphis and Shelby county area, continue to work a full time job (that occasionally asks for severe changes in schedule with little notice before such changes in cahoots with long overtime hours and exposure to the elements), and attempt to tackle this Indie Film project with no budget what-so-ever. I'm actually surprised that I still have friends after spanning the film schedule from summer to the blistering beginnings of winter. We've gone from hot to cold within the flash of a kicked over light stand... And now we're paying the price with fingers that refuse to bend, clothing that is inefficient in blocking the full-bodied brunt of winter, and winds that rip off of the Mississippi river like the rancid blows of Death. It's f-ing cold outside... and we're trying to finish up the last "large" scenes we have left to put on tape.
You see, when we started filming this project I wanted to get the easy stuff in the can first. It made perfect sense at the time. We had taken quite a bit of time off from our last Rusted Sun Films project and I felt that we were a bit... um... rusty to take a full bite into some of the scenes that would require a great deal of time and preparation. So those bigger scenes kept getting pushed deeper into the unknown future, marinating in a slop of hopes and dreams that these obstacles would become easier as the project moved further along the stages of completion. Yeah... I had completely forgotten about Winter, apparently. I don't mind cool weather. Cool weather actually makes exterior shots comfortable... even pleasant at times. Cool weather is an enjoyable slow breeze that pours over you like a breath of fresh air at a pool-side bar. Cold weather, on the other hand is a bit of a problem for "no budget" film crews. You can't wear Winter clothing if most of the film takes place in the Summer. The storm fronts that bring in Jack Frost for a seasonal visit also bring wind, rain, and blistering cold that makes logistic troubleshooting damn near impossible. It gets so cold that I simply cannot think. I freeze. People stare at me expecting to hear some great way to solve a logistic problem and I slip into some form of dimentia, thus becoming completely useless. Cold weather is apparently my kryptonite. Because we have to "act" like it's Summer, we have to strip down the clothing (no jackets-- with an exception of our 'crazy homeless guy', Brady Bell -- it was really funny watching him chase pigeons around the downtown mall), we have to pretend that our collective testicles are not ascending to our respective abdomens, avoid capturing the "steam" that pours out of our mouths when we talk (learned a nice little trick on how to avoid that by the way), and somehow get all of the wonderful audio and video that we've got scripted out, before the sun decides to crawl behind a downtown building and place our nicely lit shot into the enveloping shade. Saturday's shoot was a little difficult. However, our cast and crew muscled through the weather and the complex positioning of the scenes. Saturday could have been a little easier on the constitution. By mid afternoon I had to change into my "cute in a retarded kind of way" outfit ala Hunter S. Thompson, do a little more camera set up and acting, breakdown and change locations to Cafe' Francisco, take a fall after being hit in the head by a cane, change wardrobe again, fight some more downtown wind, make sure everyone was fed-warm-and-happy, and manage to stay awake on top of it all. By the end of Saturday I was beat... physically and mentally. I caught a nap, took Christine out for dinner (I have to find ways to keep her happy), caught a showing of Syriana, and passed out. I have to thank Anthony, Christine, Joe, Ralph, Anita, Arnold, Dayna, Jen, Brady, Bob, The Shelby Co. Police Dept (yes, they guard the county buildings downtown), and Julie Ray. Without you guys and gals I couldn't get any of this done and this certainly wouldn't be as funny or as great of a film. Sunday was another day... but at least we would be filming inside... sort of.
Sunday brought the crew back out to Bartlett, TN. We decided that there was no way in hell that we could take another day in the raw elements. Sure Sunday would be warmer but not that much warmer. Five degrees of warmth doesn't mean shit when it's 40 and windy. So, we opted to push back the shoot two hours (I really needed rest), and shoot the scenes that take place in the garage. It's a little easier... no wind, a bit warmer, there is power, a bathroom, food and drinks, and a place to rest your bones. That was a dream compared to the previous day. We had a little help from Lisa Kiesel and finished up the shoots before it ran too late into the evening. I probably smoked too many cigarettes... hence the throbbing headache. Everyone had fun and really made it come together. We've only got a few more scenes to shoot before we're able to wrap this thing up... well, and dye my hair. It promises to be interesting.
On another note, I got to see some great friends Friday night at Jamey Tucker's Christmas/going-away party. Jamey is a very good friend and I'm glad that he's going to do so well for himself. Keep writing your script Jamey. It was good to see Joe Larkins and his lovely wife as well. I always have fun with you guys. Believe me... when I write that script about television news, you'll have a role. Back to the grind...


JOE: Geez, anyone have a popsicle?
RALPH: Actually yes, I do.
--referring to a cold pee-pee.

RALPH: It's pink hours.
--apparently phone companies charge by the color.

RALPH: These chips are really f-ing hot.
JOE: You can use the pigeon shit as dip.
--because it's good

BEVAN: I think I actually lost a testicle. Yeah, it froze off and died.
--grapes anyone?


Monday, December 05, 2005

weekend fifteen: 3 tapes and cold nipples

Apparently in between filming, working the day job, walking the dog, loading tapes, drinking with friends, making lunches, buying and decorating a Christmas tree, Thanksgiving, dealing with the family, paying rent, buying presents, flying in a helicopter, doing laundry, and anything else that gets slopped across my over-filled plate of responsibilities I have missed a severe change in weather (or completely lost track of time). I admit that we could have started this "film" thing a little earlier in the year. I know that it's going to take some time working mainly on weekends when our actors and actresses are available. I'm rough-cutting scenes as we go along to save some precious time. I'm breaking down the logistics of shoots on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays so that we can shoot on those following weekends. I've been busy. I am a little concerned to find that when we started shooting Divine Manipulation of the Threads we had waded through quite a dripping-warm Summer. The suit coats, button-up shirts, and ties seemed a little foolish for such over-heated sweatbox environments. There were some days that boasted a temperature of 103 degrees. However, now that Summer has passed, we've skipped Fall and shot into Winter like a bullet train from Osaka... I might be one of the only characters that doesn't freeze to death on set due to the orignal layers of "man clothes" (and it is motherf-ing cold lately).
On Friday we shot at The Peanut Shoppe downtown. They close at 5pm and were gracious enough to stick around to allow us to shoot at that location after I escaped from work. Now, we did kind of run over our allotted time for the shoot. We got out of there fairly early for an evening but I think that we might have inadvertently stayed a little too long. Don't get me wrong, the location is great... smack in the middle of Main St. Memphis... neons, signs, mirrors, textures, colors galore... They've got all varieties of nuts, candies, popcorn, etc. I would like to invite all of you to stop by and purchase some warm nuts (start the jokes now... because our shoot at the Peanut Shoppe was one big "nut joke"). We simply kept the owners there a little longer than anticipated. So, I would like to personally thank the owners of the shop. We really had fun, we captured some great material and couldn't have done it without you. I'll be stopping back by soon for some Walnuts... spiced walnuts if you've got 'em.
Jen froze a little bit during the exterior shoot. When we started shooting the "date night" scene months earlier, she was wearing a low-cut violet tank top, blue jeans, and open toed shoes. If you were out on Friday night, you might imagine how the free flowing wind would have felt against the stark-white contrast of skin. I could have cut glass with my nipples, so I'm pretty sure she could have killed a rhino. We pressed on through the blustery evening, catching a few more exterior shots before I had to troubleshoot the one decision that I had been avoiding all night. We could no longer shoot outside in the wind (for audio purposes) or the cold (for skin discoloration) that evening. So, with the wind picking up too much, it was too cold for the cast and crew to use their fingers, and I had to figure out a method of improv script rewriting to move the next shoot inside. We figured something out and managed to stay warm for the remainder of the evening. Until we went out drinking.
Thank you to Arnold, Dayna, Brad, Anthony, Christine, Joe, The folks at The Peanut Shoppe, the lobby of 99 Towers, and especially Jen Weatherford. You held it together, made it happen, and rocked the house that rocks the house. You're all helping make dreams come true.... in really cold f-ing circumstances.
Sunday evening brought me back to Anthony's house to load tapes. The holidays helped me get behind on loading material "into the machine." I had three full tapes to go through, load, and prepare to edit. Some of it will be a blast, some of it will be challenging (as we still manage to make tiny mistakes along the way --- that's what the "no budget" thing is all about, troubleshooting). I'm starting to realize why some people say that you can't do certain things without money. You can do them, it's just easier with money... and warmer...
I'm reminded of a thread that I forgot to add a few weeks back that spilled out of Anthony's mouth: "I will never make a f#cking movie with no money again." With all good luck, I hope he's right. This will be a hillarious film, done on no budget, and it's going to turn people's heads. Hopefully the coming weekend will be warm. Mother Nature could really stick me in the ass. Maybe Fall will make a pugalistic comeback.