Most of my ideas about achievement are derived from watching sports. I always thought that at the end of a shoot, the producers should wheel out a case of champagne and everyone should douse each other with really cheap moet while Queen’s “We are the champions” plays in the background. Then someone in a really awful jacket interviews you. And if you’re shooting in Detroit, maybe you flip some cars over. But imagine the L&D.
The reality is much less euphoric. You call that’s a wrap and then begin packing everything up. You drive home in the early or late hours, and not a soul knows or cares about the film you’ve been making, which has been the center of your universe for the last few months. You go home to bed and wake up to the mess your life has become while you were shooting, and then you do returns. And then post-production starts. The finish line in filmmaking is always receding.
It’s been two weeks since we wrapped principal production. Last Tuesday, we had our wrap party. We had a good time, and my hangover the next day beat anything that piddling earthquake did to me out here in Southern California Sunday. Watching our dailies, though is probably the only moment where I want to get all Barton Fink and paint the town red (the part where he finishes his script and goes out dancing). I have to thank Adam Habib and all the camera and G&E crew for making the movie look as good as it does (click here for Adam’s site; he’s a boss).
This week we will be finally shooting our 16mm pickups and transferring our film from a physical negative to HD with a company called HTV. I can’t wait to get in the editing room. After that there’s sound and final color and a million other steps until we can put this movie out there, and make it the center of other people’s universe if only for the 15 minutes they’ll be watching it.
Anger is an energy
Since my awesome producers came on, my thesis has been blessed with a seemingly endless stream of good fortune. An award from fotokem, generous donations from Kodak, and the steady acquisition of talented people to our crew. Sunday morning is when Murphy finally caught up with us.
Sunday morning is when I rolled out of bed to see what was making the jeans I had laid out on the floor the previous night vibrate so loudly. Unlikely as this may seem, it was my phone. The caller ID showed that it was my lead actress. Against all my innate survival instincts, I decided to take the call. As I tried to get a word in edgewise, my actress informed me she was backing out of our project. I heard something about car trouble, and financial issues and I was genuinely moved by her anxieties as a 20-year-old out here in Hollywood trying to make it on her own. In my addled state, I offered to give her a bridge loan to fix her car. Probably not the soundest idea, but to my vulnerable person it seemed sensible. Our actress wouldn’t hear me out. It was as though I was speaking with a new person, a new person who had gone deaf overnight. At approximately 10:45 am, our production was dumped over the phone.
It all seemed unreal, and I quickly decided this was just some sort of case of temporary insanity. I spent the rest of the day believing we would repair the rift. Filmmaking is largely Nietzschean endeavor, defined by will. Already on this production I had journeyed to Boston and back to New York on the same day just to to meet with the author of the story I’ve adapted in hopes of obtaining rights. When I got to her office and discovered it was reading period and no one was around, I calmly pricked my finger and dashed off a note conveying my passion for the project. Then I shoved this note under the door. This strategy worked (more or less)! Like I said, our production has been blessed with a seemingly endless stream of good fortune.
Convincing a nervous actress to honor her commitment seemed like child’s play in comparison to voluntary bloodletting. But when my actress refused to even honor the meeting we had planned that evening, I began to ready myself for the possibility that she was abandoning our project. Confirmation came by way of an email to our terrific casting director Crystal Lujan from our actress’ manager. Word was our actress “was busy with other projects. We’re passing.” I should note for those of you who haven’t made films it’s not uncommon to get into scheduling conflicts, or even to lose an actor to another project, especially since we can’t offer compensation (just a chance to do great work). But I was irked by the whole way it was handled and hardy boys mystery of it all. But I feel weirdly energized by the whole thing. Now I’m not just trying to make a great movie, I’m sticking it to someone. As the song goes, anger is an energy. I’m going to ride out on vitriol for the next couple of days.
So I’ve received several funny emails concerning the derivation of my film’s title. I hope it says nothing of my friends that most of these emails have been highly juvenile in nature. Truth be told, the title is one of the things that drew me to the material and the writing of Amy Hempel in the first place. I believe she got the line “the most girl part of you” from an old commercial for tampons. In the story, “The Most Girl Part of You” is a sex education video that the heroine and her classmates are made to watch at school. I imagine that video is something like the video posted here entitled “Naturally a Girl,” one of the many interesting artifacts you can find at archive.org.
The evolution of sex education videos is quite fascinating. The most disturbing one I found on the internet has to be an animated video with Mario (the video game character) expounding on the concepts of safe sex and std’s. To anyone unfamiliar with the Nintendo video games of that era, it must have been an extremely confusing 10 minutes. He also narrates the video with the accent of a 19th century organ grinder. At any rate, the video “The Most Girl Part of You” is treated with just the right touch of ironic distance by the charming heroine of our story. And yet, while she may roll her eyes at the video, she betrays her own shy inexperience when she admits “it does something to me seeing [her friend and crush] in my bedroom.”
This tumblr concerns my thesis film, The Most Girl Part of you, which will be filming in six weeks.