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.


  1. Sounds pretty grueling. They usually are. It's the final cut that makes it all worthwhile, P.A. Sorry I couldn't be there with you guys this year. I'D smooch you on the cheek, makeup be damned. --Scott

  2. You blow my mind. I love to read your thoughts, so much more than words here. I just cherish you PA Cooooley!

  3. Film acting is soooo stressful but fun to read about. Cool text and visuals.