Jul 172014
 

bennett

[An ongoing collaboration with Lesley Young in which I choose one of her Instagram photos and imagine some part of a nonexistent film therein]

The actor is really big in Japan. In America, he’s merely tall.

The director saw him during a trip overseas. Alone in his hotel room, watching TV in a language he could neither speak nor make heads or tails of, he saw a commercial for Maxwell House.

Inexplicably, the actor was served fresh coffee at a stop light. A butler approached the car and handed it to him through the open window. They exchanged smiles and did what looked like a high five.

(Must have been a cultural thing?)

The problem of casting: the guy is tall. So very tall. Very few actors are this tall. He’s like a skyscraper and in the audition footage various teeniny people appear to be shouting up to his observation deck from the ground floor. The actor stooped to hear them, providing this unconscious courtesy as if apologizing for his height.

The director pulled him aside.

I chose you because you look like you. You are making yourself not look like you by this thing you’re doing. I’m sure the actors appreciate it but I can tell you the audience likes the Empire State building in large part because it is way up there and they are way down here and this discrepancy speaks to something in their soul or their gut or whatever.

Imagine the Empire State building as a four story walk-up.

The actor was like, Am I stooping??

He was most certainly stooping.

Yeah, see, you’re not a walk-up. You can hear God’s stomach grumbling up where you are.

So there was that, and once that was resolved, everything kicked into gear.

What they did was they changed the script. They changed the story. What the director realized was – who needs to see anyone else, when you’re looking at the Empire State building?

Investors needed to see someone else. Investors wanted tits, specifically. Who goes to see a movie about the Empire State building, they laughed (with their sharp shiny teeth showing).

(The director didn’t bring up Andy Warhol.)

The movie now involves voyeurism. So it is the director looking at the Empire State building, admiring its – what? – majesty? Beauty? Vertiginous solitude?

What’s vertiginous? said the investors, hiding their teeth.

The movie is about looking at the Empire State building and seeing everything it sees. The movie is about that architecture and the phenomena of distance.

The Empire State building is out on a boat for reasons which are never fully explained. A murder was committed on land, and the boat has been taken to as a hideout. It’s the boat and the Empire State building out in the middle of nowhere.

At first, the Empire State building is at peace on the boat. For once no one is clambering to get up to the observation deck.

But there are binoculars in a compartment under the steering wheel (does a boat have a glove compartment?) and when the Empire State building finds these he becomes obsessed with their telescopic potential.

The tag line of the poster: “It’s lonely at the top.”

So much going on over there on the coast. So many little dramas and intrigues. Sub plots ensue. A vacationing family of four are constantly arguing – it gets heated – and violence erupts.

What about the tits? the investors asked during pre-production. They needed assurance that tits would be viewed through the binoculars. Who plays the mother? How old is she? Is this a topless beach?

So it’s a topless beach. And all the arguing takes place au naturale. Concessions were made.

For the investor, it’s a movie about tits.

For the director, it’s a movie about beauty and heights which can’t and maybe shouldn’t be scaled.

[Image of Bennet Foster by Lesley Young, whose Instagram page inspired this ongoing collaboration. Follow her there: mississippihuckleberry or on Facebook. See also: Bennet Foster’s band Magic Kids, and his out of this world voice]

 Posted by on July 17, 2014
Jun 212014
 

production

 

An ongoing collaboration with Lesley Young in which I choose one of her photos and imagine some part of a nonexistent film shot there

 

The woman who owns the house put signs up all over the place before the production arrived. Do not throw paper towels in the toilet bowl Do not hold flushing mechanism down indefinitely FRAGILE Do not leave this door closed you will lock our cat inside the room and she will starve we love our cat as you love yours Do not eat or drink in the house Do not Please Thank you please do not.

She has an agent in New Orleans and a long list of credits as an extra on IMDB. Had anyone bothered to look – and really who felt the need to, as much as she talked about it? – the aggregate of her characters’ names might have served as a warning sign of their own: Grumpy woman in store, Prissy mother of the bride, Indignant lady at pie sale, Tantrum thrower #2, Hot mess at Sunday picnic.

The story of the film is typical hipster stuff – inarticulate boy meets slightly more articulate girl, falls in love(??), has an argument which is more like a pregnant pause, kind of makes up – or smirks more benignly. Whatever. Events presided over by mildly snarky best friend, who would make a much better girlfriend if he weren’t a guy, rendering all this a little more unnecessary.

Everyone on the crew was a critic, which is to say they were the first to tell you, unless you were the director, that they hadn’t made it through to the end of the script. The grip didn’t read it, he said, but that didn’t deter him from arguing for the fog machine.

The director said no to the fog machine and it’s a real testament to either the grip’s arrogance or his stupidity that he tried to use it anyway. The director was in the bathroom. Do not use the towels use the paper napkins PLEASE. The fire alarm went off and because the woman who owns the house was in the shower – Do not come in! – where she couldn’t hear it – Knock loudly PLEASE – the fire truck was dispatched. Cost to production: 100 dollars.

The day the production finished shooting at the house the woman emailed something like 150 photos showing damages to the property. Infinitesimal scratches to the wood floor, blink and miss it stain on the carpet No Food In The Bedrooms PLEASE, slight wallpaper rip on the switch plate.

Tear the whole house down, the director muttered. Clearly it’s ruined. Rebuild it from scratch. The insurance agent assigned to the production told the director he’d experienced quite a few Koo Koo Bananas in his time. This woman took the cake and ate it.

Six months after production wrapped the woman who owns the house was awarded an insurance settlement of 10 thousand dollars – over twice the amount paid to the highest profile member of the cast, three times the cost of catering – making this a most expensive use of a free location.

The actor playing the hipster lead fucked a production assistant in the front yard of the woman who owns the house. This behind a bush no bigger than a pretty revealing bathing suit. He might have given the wardrobe guy crabs by the pool three days later. Please DO NOT lean sit or stand on the deck chairs thank you.

The crabs might also have come from the line producer, who spent a lot of time talking about communicable diseases and more than a little time flirting with at least ten other people, extras cast in a party scene, all of whom seemed exceptionally conversant in the signs and symptoms of gonorrhea.

Extras Do Not please do not under any circumstances enter the living room or the dining room or the bedrooms to the left rear of the house thank you. Damage to right rear bedroom: path worn on carpet from door to vicinity of king size bed.

The director yelled at the DP over whether or not to use a Dana Dolly for what seemed to the director like every other shot. The language of the ubiquitous signs posted by the woman who owned the house took over the thoughts and speech of everyone involved with the production, eventually, each conversation filled with the punitive ring of Do Not.

Later an attempt was made to counteract this kind of thinking by adding the spirit of Please, muddling things further. The signs won. The woman of the house ultimately felt vindicated, the much maligned diarrhea of signs she generated proven not just annoying but prophetic. Under every kind thought, a Do Not, gussied up by a feeble please.

The director said later he was trying to make a film people would watch because so many films are so unwatched by so many people. There is a great widespread problem of not watching and the film it was hoped would serve as a corrective to this affliction. The director’s strategy veered between total (if inarticulate) candor in the script and scenes of people not having sex but being nude in places where the possibility of sex seemed imminent or recently exhausted.

It was decided, consciously or unconsciously, that a dearth of male nudity has done very little to contribute to the phenomenon of not watching. Thus the actress playing the lead remained generally unclothed.

Because she wanted to seem like one of the guys, drawing attention away from her vanity, she continued to decline the terry cloth robe offered to her between takes. The crew later concurred that she really did seem like one of the guys, with the addition of breasts and a vagina.

Walking naked down to the first floor (nude descending a staircase) she tripped over a half finished styrofoam cup of coffee and so she is dressed in more of the film than originally intended, not to preserve her modesty, because after all modesty is not watched misspelled, but to conceal the cast on her left leg and the burn mark on her abdomen.

A picture of the resulting stain was among those submitted by the woman who owns the house for insurance purposes. In the meantime, three more signs were posted. Do not loiter on or around the stairs PLEASE please please no food or drink in the house including coffee someone has been injured and burned people please.

Later the director told anyone who would listen (in addition to a problem of not watching there is inarguably a hand in hand problem of not listening) that the failure of the film to be watched had everything to do with that fall from the stairs, a fall still called a descent so as to minimize the incident for liability purposes.

The still photographer and the caterer were probably the most interesting people on set. Did anyone else see the suitability of the balcony for enacting scenes from Romeo and Juliet, substituting Shakespeare’s scenes with choice dialogue from the film? This the still photographer and the caterer did in pidgin Spanish with Russian accents. The video went viral.

(Image by Lesley Young, whose Instagram page inspired this ongoing collaboration. Follow her there:mississippihuckleberry or on Facebook)

 Posted by on June 21, 2014
Jun 132014
 

waiting

An ongoing collaboration with Lesley Young in which I choose one of her photos and imagine some part of a nonexistent film shot there

12  EXT. OFFICE BUILDING – MORNING

Billy was raised Bill but friends, and others who hear them, call him Billy. He’s never bothered to express his disdain for the nickname, mostly because he has so few friends, so few of whom actually truly know him, that the familiarity of Billy (the affection in it?) registers as some sort of balm, even as it seems like they’re all talking to someone else who isn’t him.

You don’t know how long he’s been living in Omaha, or whether he was even born here, but he seems like the kind of guy who wouldn’t waste too much time in a town where people knew what he was doing or looked like, say, ten years ago.

He’s smoking outside this building while a woman across the street pushes a shopping cart five feet this way, five feet that. She has a wig on. There’s a dog in the shopping cart and the dog wears a wig too. This woman is talking to this dog. Billy’s behind a column where he can’t be seen, so he watches the two pretty openly – the woman seems to think she’s in an argument – until a guy wearing the same white scrubs Billy has on approaches, asking him for a cigarette.

Billy lights it for him and looks at his own cigarette, wondering how much longer he could reasonably be expected to stand out here and talk. The guy settles into a stance that says You and I are hanging out here, This is a moment.

Guy: I’m so hungover.

Billy: Yeah…

Guy: I told this girl I didn’t want to see her again but she shows up at ten and I’m like… And she had this really good wine. I’m not gay or anything but it was fruity and I don’t normally like wine because it’s so…dry? Or whatever. This was like, not dry? Really fruity. I guess that sounds gay. It’s not like I have to have sweet drinks, with little straws in them. I’m basically a beer guy. I keep my pinky pretty firm on the glass.

Billy: She’s your girlfriend?

Guy: We fooled around.

Billy: Last night?

Guy: (nods) And a couple times before. I feel like she was out at Target after the first time, registering for our wedding. You can feel it when they’re like that, right? Like they go to Target for soap and stuff and they see a frying pan on the way over and they’re like, This is what we will cook our breakfast on, me and The Guy.

Billy: Yeah…

Guy: You’re usually afternoon, I thought. What are you doing here so early?

Billy: I traded shifts with Angela.

Guy: I’m so hungover, man. Like, can I even find a vein today? I don’t know.

Billy: Are you still drunk?

Guy: Possibly. Do I smell like it?

Billy: I can’t smell you.

Guy: You’re not very close, though.

Billy stares at the guy.

Guy: I’m not gay or anything, but I’ll be closer to the patients than I am to you, you know?

Billy: Yeah. I don’t smell anything. The wind’s blowing you over here and I’m not getting anything.

Guy: Do you drink?

Billy: Sometimes.

Guy: Cause I said I was hungover and you went, Yeah, like you are too.

Billy: I’m not hungover.

Guy: You’re really quiet. I didn’t realize you were so quiet. I heard you’re leaving.

Billy: Who told you that?

Guy: Moving to…Africa?

Billy: Alaska. I guess my cigarette’s done.

Billy and the guy stare at the butt.

Guy: You should light another one. It’s not even ten to seven yet.

Billy: I’m not finished with this one.

Guy: You just said you were done.

Billy: I mean, it’s still lit, though.

Guy: I’d smoke another one if I had a pack.

Billy: Are you… Do you mean you want one?

Guy: Oh. Sure. If you’re offering, man.

Billy removes the pack from his pocket and extends it to the guy, who takes another cigarette.

Guy: You’re not going to have one?

Billy stares at the pack. He goes to take one and has this little thing for a second where the unfinished cigarette is still in his other hand and it’s like he’s stupid and can’t figure out what to do without a third hand. The guy acts like this happens to him all the time. He reaches over, takes another cigarette, and waits for Billy to stub the butt out against the column. He hands Billy the other cigarette and Billy lights it.

Guy: She has tattoos and a piercing down there.

Billy: Angela?

Guy: The girl from last night. Are you high, or you’re just…quiet?

Billy: I’m not high.

Guy: It’s way too complicated down there. Not generally, you know? I know what I’m doing. I don’t need a road map. But it’s like, aargh, way too much going on.

Billy: The girl from last night…

Guy: (nods) What are you doing in Alaska? Do you know anybody there?

Billy: I got a job on a boat.

Guy: You’re leaving benefits for a job on a boat? Do they have benefits? How much does it pay?

Billy tries to think which question he will answer if it turns out he’ll have to pick one.

Guy: Just want to get away?

Billy: A friend died a few months ago.

Guy: In Alaska?

Billy: Here. A couple of blocks away.

Guy: Hit by a car, you mean, or…?

Billy: She was in her apartment.

Guy: Wow. That’s… Okay. I don’t know what to say. Were you guys close?

Billy: She was a friend of mine, yeah.

Guy: Wow…

The two stand there, smoking. Billy watches the woman across the street, who has switched wigs with the dog in the shopping cart and is retracing her steps over and over along the sidewalk. She doesn’t even turn around. She just walks backwards – and starts over again.

Guy: I guess it’s time to go in.

He puts out his cigarette.

Guy: See you inside?

Billy: Sure.

Guy: Don’t tell anybody I’m hungover. You can’t smell it on me?

Billy: You’ll probably just smell like smoke.

Guy: Good point, bud. You gonna finish your cigarette?

Billy: Yeah…

The guy smiles and turns to the door, enters and leaves Billy standing out with his second cigarette.

 

(Image by Lesley Young, whose Instagram page inspired this ongoing collaboration. Follow her there: mississippihuckleberry or on Facebook)

 Posted by on June 13, 2014