Monday, June 28, 2010

48 Hour Film Blog part 2

So I thought I was ready but as evidenced by my harried start to the day –I was woefully unprepared to head out the door for my 8:30AM Call time. As the sun rose on the chilly Saturday morning, I noted my lack of preparation. My South Beach lunch was not packed and my costume selections for Maurice to choose were not finalized. Various pieces of black and white clothing were strewn in an already cluttered studio. To make matters worse, I was feeling gloomy because it was the first Saturday morning that I had woken up alone in months. The Lando Bear was up North doing a volunteer gig for disabled adults. It was a good thing I had the 48 hour film to distract me. To bring you up to speed on this we were shooting the film as a piece of graphic art-comic book style. The set was a Green Screen and the “scenes” were being drawn upstairs from the studio where we were shooting. The studio was a very cool set up in the Mission. Remember when I told you that producing one of these films can indeed be costly? Our fearless leader Maurice, appeared to be renting it for this ambitious project. I don’t even want to hazard a guess at how much that cost but I had hoped that he had gotten a special discount. There was a chance that filming could run over and then the cost for the studio zipped up considerably. This was my third 48 hour film with Maurice. Jim Shelton, who typically starred in these films, had reduced his screen time to one or two lines and took on the role of a producer-aka –the guy who gets stuff done. Jim is a sexy little het bear. He's got a Kevin Smith thing going. He played my Dad in the Bunny film and last year I played the villain to his hero. In this one, we wouldn’t even interact on screen. It felt odd but I felt he would make a good producer. He is also the film’s main writer. This meant that once he and Maurice got the three elements and the film’s genre they would hunker down back at Maurice’s and write our movie. Sometimes if they were lucky – they’d finish the script before we had to be at the set. Regardless – they would probably have a relatively sleepless night.

I sipped my morning tea reading the script they had labored on. Typically Maurice would e-mail everyone the script in the morning when they wake up. Our Genre was Dark Comedy, but the further I read the more it came off more like a Romantic Comedy, with the comedy part being kinda thin. There were no coffins, no specters of death, no jokes about cancer or incest or all the other taboo subjects. I was a bit bewildered because it didn’t fit my understanding of Dark Comedy -but hey what do I know? –I never paid attention in Dramaturgy class. I was gladdened to see that I was first in the story and then apprehensive that there were so many other characters. I was happy that I would be first, because that meant I would get the best shots. It's true! Usually Maurice filmed in order of the story. Since we had such a strict time limit and the day lingered on, the remaining takes would be done only once or sometimes even cut! If all my shots were being done in the morning than I could  look forward to the luxury of being asked if I wanted to re-do any takes. The fact that there were more characters in the story meant our shoot could run late into the night. I hoped that I could slip out by dinner time and go home and become one with my couch and TV later.

I arrived and greeted all my friends who I hadn’t mostly seen since last year. Rachel, the make up goddess –who made my skin look so flawless on the set of last year’s film-was on deck to do this creative black and white make up. She and ( her sister? cousin ? girl with the same last name) Heather had worked on last year’s film as an actress. Both of these women are the sort of girls I could spend a lot of time with. Both have excellent senses of humor and are just simply a delight. Rachel’s work on my make up was astounding. I think it took about an hour and 15 minutes- I can’t really recall. I sent photos to Orlando and Drew via cell phone and they both were astounded at how 2D I actually looked.

Rachel and I

Heather and I

As with any film making, “hurry up and wait” is what actors do the most. If you ever get cast in a film, be sure to have a good book with you and maybe bring your knitting project. Happily, I was correct in assuming I would be first in the shooting schedule. Heather was the lead and played a Bar owner with a penchant for fixing broken hearts and missed connections. I played a scoundrel who was on his way to a blind date and slipped on a plate (remember?) that was carelessly put on the stairs of the brownstone I lived in. I am not sure what my injury was, but it significantly delayed me from meeting my date and I was pouring my heart out to this bartender/owner over a shot of whiskey. It didn't go terribly smoothly for me.

I was NOT happy with my work. For years I have always had this problem where my hands have always shook a little on stage due to adrenaline but it was getting worse as I got older. I noticed that my hands shake a great deal when I perform now. When I am on stage it is so bad that I can barely hold a prop martini. In this scene it was only a shot glass -but damn if I could aim it steadily at my mouth. I found if I took herbal solutions to calm me –then the shaking would stop without sacrificing the high energy I would need to perform. Getting drugged threw my timing. Unfortunately I had neglected to take my little herbal remedy, called Calms Forte, and I was shaking like a leaf in the breeze under the hot camera lights. Heather kept reaching over to daub at the black paint that was beginning to drip out of my beard because the hot lights were melting my makeup. To compound matters, I kept flubbing THE line that was one of the elements in the script. The line was “You are not going to believe what happened” and I kept contracting it saying, “You’re not gonna believe what happened” My last bit of frustration was my acting. I kind of sucked. When I portray a heterosexual , (which aint often), I try for making all my mannerisms and voice inflections neutral. Sorry to say but it’s true. Straight men aren’t very good at expressing themselves, but we gay guys can say volumes with our eyes and when you punctuate it with the flick of the wrist then we REALLY make our point. So not only was I neutralizing, I was also doing a robotic style to accommodate the cartoon vision. It was slow going- strike a neutral pose, say the line, another pose, next line – hold still for the remaining three lines-AND you have to remember what you did for all close ups and far away shots so that they match when you edit them all together! If I jut my chin out for one line in the close up –I had better do it in the full body shot. I wailed out loud how difficult this was. –There was no way I could make any of it believable. I really had a problem with making my words sound natural and conversational. Some of the writing was not what I call “real talk” When I work with a script and a line feels clumsy coming out of my mouth, I say that it’s not “real talk”. The line may be grammatically correct but it isn’t natural to the way I speak. I had a couple of those that really were beginning to rankle me.

One of the big perks was the on set eye candy. I always found it interesting that Maurice was a Gay man living in San Francisco but his primary social network seems to comprise primarily of straight people.( Where on earth did he find them all?) They are all lovely straight people by the way, and I have become friends with a few. I have never been one of those Gay guys who fantasize about “turning” a straight man but that particular day it was hard not to stray to that dark place. All gentlemen working on this film were pretty damned cute. I have always thought our perfectionist camera man (named Eriq pronounced Ereek), with his irresponsibly sexy hair was adorable. There was also Erik, the big Viking looking bear who is terribly squeezable. ( I am sure if I bought him enough beer …well you know the old saying.) These boys were all smokin! There was the hot geeky, quietly intense lighting guy, and a couple of the Abercrombie and Fitch looking production assistants! Luckily for Heather she was just recently single and angling for some fresh rebound attention. I thought this would be a perfect pool for her to take a dip in, but unfortunately all of these guys were serious about completing this film. They may have been straight and they may have been focusing on the film but more than a few of these boys were  flirty…or was I just suffering from lack of Lando time and thinking that they were flirty…? Hmmm Now I was beginning to understand why Maurice hung around these guys.

I was unlucky in leaving early. Eriq and Maurice were beginning to squabble a bit. Nothing serious-just the typical Director vs the Camera man stuff. Art aint easy right? Ultimately it didn’t matter because they both want the shot to look perfect, but the newbies on the set who weren’t used to it began to look like scared rabbits. Maurice was thinking of me and respecting my time and was trying to get all my shots in, so I could go home. I bet if I wasn’t wearing this make up I could have opened my eyes big and blue and charmed Eriq into to letting me go, but he was logically looking at the amount of time we had left and how the lights would need to be changed to do the shot. If we consolidated all the shots that were used in one specific lighting, then they might finish filming  in time. Damn …I thought Eriq loved me. Guess he loves film making more. Maurice saw his point and I had to wait until the end to do a final shot of me slipping on the plate. The good news is that I could get out of this makeup that was beginning to really make my face itch. I felt bad for Heather though- she stayed in hair and makeup until the bitter end.

I spent some time reading and chatting with the artists Richard and Goran, as they sketched out the backgrounds in the now hot and airless studio. Richard quickly sketched out a sign saying SWEATSHOP and posted it on the table they were working at. My makeup was soaking into my skin but I had a couple more shots to do in makeup so I couldn't take it off quite then. I lay on the couch and dozed until they called me. Rachel touched me up before the remaining shots of me leaving the house. I ran to go wash my face immediately when we were done. In my zeal to have my skin breathe, I scrubbed with vigor and the black hair spray in my goatee spattered all over the beautiful faux white marble bathroom. Damn- I spent about 45 minutes cleaning up after cleaning up. Luckily there was a bottle of 409 under the sink. I came out of the bathroom and felt the relief of air on my face. If my nose tickled I could joyfully scratch it with abandon.

I waited and watched the rest of the actors shoot their scenes. Theresa was an actress who had a whisky soaked voice that she deftly changed to a squeaky Valley Girl soprano. Viking Erik was struggling with this ridiculously long line of techno babble, because he played some sort of software engineer. He was given the speech that morning. I knew there was no way in hell I would've been off book on those crazy words.  He got very frustrated  but Maurice felt that they could cobble together something on the parts of it that went fluidly for him. Erik and I had more than one telepathic moment. Earlier he had caught me checking out a production assistant’s ass and gave me a devilish smile. Now he glanced over at me agonized at his block on the lines. I shot him a “it’s okay” look but I knew he would beat himself up over it later. It didn’t help matters that we were nearing the end of the shoot. There weren’t really any options to reshoot anything. We were running into overtime and Eriq and Maurice were scrambling to finish. Eriq had this sort of resigned look as Maurice reviewed the last three shots.

As we soldiered on, the actress who played my paramour, (Sherrie) didn’t seem like she was weathering the long day easily. I fed her some Chicken I had in my lunch box and she seemed to recover.  Later on, when we were sitting on the couch watching the remaining the lights get changed,  she began to cough –as if she was choking. Sherrie was in the middle of texting someone on her Blackberry. Our production manager Becky asked her if she was alright and she continued to cough and splutter with this strangled bewildered expression on her face.  She kept right on texting with this look on her face wondering what was causing this choking fit. I couldn’t figure out if she was incapable of speaking or that the text she was sending was too urgent to stop writing. She never looked up from her Blackberry. I had to stifle the impulse to laugh. Finally she gasped that she was ok –still looking at the Blackberry mind you. Becky and I glanced at each other and hoped that Sherrie survived this film. I looked her square in the eye and asked, "Are you falling apart? She looked right back at me and said, "yes" with a grave tone. 

Finally we wrapped and I gathered all my bags and costumes. I was torn. I didn’t want to be alone tonight but I was watching the budget and didn’t want to drink away my grocery money. I am getting used to not drinking but that night I probably couldve sucked down a coupla Vodka Gibsons. I also hate long good byes, but I said good bye to a few folks.  I walked out and one of the super cute PAs (productions assistants-confusing eh?) said something to me. It was some innocuous comment and it took all my power to not reach over and give him a little peck on the cheek good bye..

The next step was for Maurice to start editing it and inserting the back grounds in the green screen. Unfortunately he had a computer glitch that prevented him from completing the film with in the 48 hours…Don’t feel bad. He’s a pretty resourceful guy. I am sure we will all see this masterpiece someday – just not at the 48 hour film festival. Here's a cool test pic of me at the bar with Heather.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

48 Hour Film fest part one -film cub

Last weekend I wrapped my last 48 Hour Film gig. I may never do another one again. Now before you start thinking this is going to be another gripe session like when I had to sell all those damn raffle tickets at International Bear Rendezvous, let me tell you that I may have no choice in the matter. I enjoy working on these films. It’s Maurice Molyneaux –the producer/director of our submission who is the one who may have had it with the whole 48 hour film festival madness.  I’m just the talent.
Let me explain to you what the 48 hour film festival is –with the assistance of Mr. Molyneaux’s blog  Naked from the Neck Up. On Friday evenings the producer/directors go to a selected location to get the necessary info. The folks at the Festival determine that all entrants must use the following three elements : And  for the 2010 film they were,
A Line of Dialogue: “You are not going to believe what happened.”
A Character: Gigi or Geoffrey Cook –who is a consultant
A Prop:  a dinner plate 
Then everyone is divided into four groups and they all select a genre out of a hat. For this bit of info I defer to Maurice from his blog about the 2008 entry, a Fable called, “ How the Bunny got the Bear.” This turned out to be a wonderful little political statement about Gay Marriage. Check it out on You Tube by searching the title. (Add my name if you have trouble finding it.)
From Maurice’s Blog
The way it works is like this:
  • Teams are assigned to one of four Groups (A, B , C or D)
  • Team leaders draw a genre out of a hat. Once each genre is drawn, it's out of the running for that Group. As such, each Group will have only one instance of a given genre (like Romance), but there could be four films in that genre, since there's one instance of the genre for each group.
  • After the genres are all drawn, all teams are told the required Elements (see above) that must be included to prove their films were made in the 48 hours.
That’s 48 little hours to conceive, shoot and edit a seven to ten minute film. It aint easy by any stretch of the imagination.  Not to mention expensive.  Depending how the film is put together, a producer could sink quite a chunk of change into this competition. Luckily most of the tech and talent will volunteer for the sheer madness of it all. It’s the equipment and space that’ll really run you. I suspect Mr. Molyneaux really, really wanted to win given the kind of film he wanted to shoot this time. That’s not to say that there isn’t levity on the set.  I have heard many different stories from other actors and producers who do the festival and while some films are disastrous and others are brilliant, all agree that a good time is had by all.  Maurice’s gang manages to have a good time but I guarantee this is actually quite serious film making. 
There are 14 genres to choose from. (Here’s what they were back in 2008. Maurice wound up with Horror at first pick. No director wants horror because of all the blood!  You  gotta get it right in one take and there’s not enough time to clean up and do a re-shoot. Maurice rejected Horror and pulled a Wild Card-Which was Fable –as in Aesops- and THAT’ “How the Bunny got the Bear” was born! )
    1. Comedy
    2. Detective/cop
    3. Drama
    4. Fantasy
    5. Film de Femme (strong female character)
    6. Historical Fiction/Period Piece
    7. Holiday Film
    8. Horror
    9. Musical or Western
    10. Road Movie
    11. Romance
    12. Sci Fi
    13. Spy
    14. Thriller/Suspense  
Not sure what all the categories were this year, but I can tell you we got “Dark Comedy” for our genre.  Cool – I had visions of telling Jokes at a Funeral , but Maurice had other ideas. Very Very elaborate OTHER ideas. He’s a planner that one! Last year -after exhaustive preparation on Maurice’s part recreating the 1930s on an honest-to-god  1930s Airplane of that era at the Oakland Air Museum-we got WESTERN as our genre! Grrrr !  But Maurice was prepared for every eventuality and you can also see that film on YOU Tube titled “Stagecoach in the Sky” We won Best Costume and it was shocking to hear that we didn’t win  Best Film. ( It was really quite brilliant-ESPESCIALLY SINCE THE WHOLE DAMN THING WAS PUT TOGETHER IN 48 HOURS! I actually had an Opening Night that night of filming. The play I was doing was at New Conservatory Theater Center and it was Terrence McNally’s “Some Men” )

This year the film was going to be shot in the graphic art style of a Frank Miller film. All Black and White costumes and make up with a graphic illustrated background. Ambitious –yes,but given the coterie of talent and tech experts that Maurice had assembled, it wasn’t going to be impossible –or was it?

Monday, June 7, 2010

I don't like Mondays

I Don’t Like Mondays

Well that’s not entirely true but it seems that lately I have been constantly fighting a general malaise and Monday seems to make it bloom a bit larger. I’ve been battling the financial blues which is fatiguing to say the least. My boss shows no signs in cheering up and the physical act of lifting her spirits has been hazardous to my mental health as well. The flagging job market is not exactly being kind to my boyfriend and the co-habitation thing seems like an insurmountable achievement. Everyday on TV I see oil drenched Pelicans and I am suffused with guilt that I can’t hop a plane and go scrub some Pelicans with Ivory Liquid.  What with all these.... annoyances, I still manage to have a little fun.

Recently for a little escapist mind play, I have indulged in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.  With apologies to Ms Gabaldon, who I know very little about, I will attempt to give you a synopsis of the adventures of Claire Randall. Years ago I was back on the East coast one muggy summer. (I even found some pictures of that particular week) My sister-in-law had an errand in downtown Amherst Massachusetts to run. I tagged along to escape boredom. I had reached the point with my family that I needed a little air. Given the humidity, I wasn’t going to find it outside. ( It upsets my Mother when I say things like I need time away from the family but hey - you know I love them and I am SURE you have been there.) I wandered around until I had come upon a little bookstore. There was a zaftig blonde who gave off a vibe that she knew very well how to enjoy life,  but you’d have to be the right person to hear how she does it. I suspect I was that kind of person. She greeted me and asked if I was surviving the heat. I told her it wasn’t the heat I was trying to survive-it was my family. She laughed this marvelous musical laughter that was tremendously appealing to me and we bonded on the spot as Fag and Hag. After a fun chat she did get down to business and asked if she could help me find something. I said adventure, love and magic. Her eyes sparkled and she said she had just the thing. I bet she was Wiccan.  She pulled down from the shelves Diana Gabaldon’s book -a thick tome too-called Outlander. The story is about Claire Randall is a WW2 Nurse who is on holiday with her gentle sweet husband. They are vacationing in Scotland and Claire goes to gather some herbs around some stones that resemble Stone Henge. She falls right through the stones into the same area of Scotland -200 years prior, 1742-I think. She meets this sexy Scottish Highlander and well....many books later we are still hearing about this amazing Scottish Highlander with 9 lives. The book is part bodice-ripping romance novel, historical fiction, and a little science fiction. Gabaldon is no holds barred with the sex and the gore ( she evolves into a Doctor through the series-think about it -Doctoring in the 1700s). There are also very intricate descriptions of Claire’s romantic interest-one Jamie Fraser. I don’t even like redheads and I’d fall in love with this guy!

The Outlander series has turned into an incredible source of comfort for me on long trips and Bart commutes. I can see Claire clear as day in my head and Jamie too. The author satisfies my fantasy role play as the plucky modern woman who is resourceful and embroiled in a hot bed of passion. I know I know - Oh PA WHY do you have to identify with the WOMAN!?  You are kidding me right? The smart sassy heroine who gets the hot guy and all the misadventure? It’s tough for you to envision this? Really?  Remember? I LOVE Kinsey Millhone and Stephanie Plum! Hey -it’s MY brain and Ms Gabaldon has no problem with me fantasizing that I am Claire, so I suggest you get over it too. It’s not like I personally KNOW the authoress, but I do know she will want me to keep buying books she writes. You see Ms Gabaldon MUST have a Gay following because she has written quite a few Gay characters into her books!  I am sure she got a lot of flack for the first book from Gay activists because the villain was Gay -and for a fun twist -he was also her husband’s Great Great Great grandfather! Cool huh? Anyway this villain was Brutalnastyevil and he ALSO had the hots for Highlander Jamie. So can you imagine what a British Military high ranking official DID to a desirable comely Red Headed Scottish Highlander Hunk...well you gotta read it. It turned my stomach but I also kept turning those pages!! So as I said, Ms Gabaldon later came up with a gentle, kind, honest and very pretty, high ranking British Military Official who was as GOOD as the other one was BAD. His name was Lord John. Unfortunately Lord John also had a thing for Jamie. Jamie was indeed a hopeless heterosexual and his bond with Claire was unbreakable!  Luckily Lord John has his own series of Mystery novels penned by Ms. Gabaldon and I am saving those for a special time. I Love these books and I am reading them slowly. Savoring a candy that I cannot have any longer. Oh and reading them has helped my vocabulary to some degree. I try to highlight the words that I want to use next so stay tuned for some polysyllabic fun! 

Yesterday Orlando and I went to see the movie Splice about two scientists who do a very bad thing. They make a monster. They brew a genetic experiment that is a digitally remastered weirdi-fied girl monster. Well ...she was kinda pretty actually. We were entertained by it. However if the religious right gets a hold of this movie they will be parading it all around saying, “see? See?” It does not show scientists as sensible moral types. Well one of them is, but he is annoying. Go see it and see what you think. The writing was a bit predictable and you can see Splice 2 and 3 in NEON with the ending. Remember Species with Natasha Henstridge - who is BRILLIANT -I think anyway. Splice has a lot of the same idea. (Species one and two are spectacularly campy and stretch the bounds of absurdity.) My Gal Pal Drew and I think that Species and Warlock make for a fantabulous evening of Kitsch Horror Cinema. In Species you can hear Ben Kingsley and Marg Helgenberger simply exuding “I-can’t-believe-I-am-in-this-fucking-movie” in every line they utter. I think Marg even can’t deliver a line without laughing at one point. Anyway fire up a batch of Nachos and check it out. You may regret it and love it at the same time.

I have included some pictures of Orlando’s and my hike up to COIT tower via the wooden stairs from Filbert St. We worked up a sweat climbing those stairs ! We wondered if the people that lived on the side of the hill ever walked down to Filbert via this method. We doubted it. I would be massively annoyed to have tourists traipsing up and down my back yard all the time. We got to the top of the hill but Orlando was too cheap to shell out the $5 bucks to go to the top of COIT tower....oh well.. at least we burned some calories... Here’s to a fabulous week to you all ! Much Love