Movie Shoot – Day 7

It’s really day seven of our movie shoot; but we took a day off on the real day seven.. The DP assured me the crew must rest on the seventh day. Just like God making Creation. Oh, and unlike God, who needs no food or lodging, the crew does, and I must pay for it on the days off as well. Why? I ask the DP. Do you want them to scatter and go home and not come back for the second week? she asks. No! Heck no. So I pay.

And on this last day of Mountain Lady crew-catered gourmet, I bid farewell to Mountain Lady and her cuisine. We kiss and make up and give each other gifts, forgiving all past transgressions. I ask her to keep the crew well fed and happy for their last day of her A-list cooking. But that’s like asking the rain to be wet. Of course she’ll go overboard in her cooking, as always.

But there is no rest or Mountain Lady munchies for me on this seventh day of Creation. I go back to LA to return the blasted lumpy snake. So I don’t have to pay another $300 for something so useless. And, in the process I find out it rained forty days and forty nights for four days in L.A. ‘Didn’t you guys get drowned out in your desert shoot?’ people say. ‘It rained?’ I ask blankly.

…Now, back in the desert on this eighth day, which is really the 7th day of the shoot, we car caravan to a deep hot springs creek – to shoot Baby S Girl’s floating underwater scene. It’s going to be more hiking than shooting today, and I just hope the crew doesn’t throw me off one of the rock cliffs when they see the hike.

The drive gives me time to look back. I’ve just finished my first week of shooting, and almost half of my film is shot! I offer my thanks to the roving tumbleweeds and stark desert vistas.

Oh, look there! I love that. Both sunshine and rain clouds fill the sky. From zenith to horizon. The rays of light and shadowed cloud burst through each other, over and under, playing on the mountains and coloring them in the most unearthly hues – layer upon layer. I dream of this vista in my movie. The way the sun rays strike through the foggy depths, making everything incandescent. But we’re always on the way to somewhere, or having to shoot something else, or my DP is nowhere around when it happens. Sigh.

Later, adrift without Mountain Lady meals, we rush all over town to find a sandwich shop open early so we can load up on lunch. Finally we find it. But the tuna sandwihes especially, soon appear to be melting and reeking in my sun drenched car. A situation only worsened by the long drive and the fact that we get lost several times in the rutted byways and canyon-like roadways to the creek (made even worse by a couple of crew guys saying they know a better way). One steep route attempt has several cars sliding backwards on the packed sandy silt. We give up that route quick.

“You think we could go the way I said the first time?” I ask. They finally all agree, only because we’ve run out of routes. Eventually, after another wrong turn, and the discovery of a camp of formerly homeless people who have staked their claim in the wilderness, we arrive at the creek.

Time to load up for the long hike. I carry the lunches, a gallon of water for refills, and the giant glass fish tank I got for free from the curb outside my house. The DP has already practiced operating her Blackmagic camera inside it, while we submerge half of the tank underwater. Voila – the poor man’s underwater filming container.

Just as we reach the first steep part of the trail, the lunch bags and gallon of water I carry compete with the fish glass bowl for more of my hands. I re-arrange things. But it’s too much. Like butterfingers, my grip loosens its hold on the fishbowl and it shatters on the sandy packed earth in a million pieces. Our underwater filming vehicle is gone – just like that. I stare at it, wanting to cry. Someone helps me pick up and carry the pieces to a trashcan at the top of the trail. I walk like a zombie.

“Not to worry,” Baby S Girl says. “My mother and I just bought a Go-Pro camera and it’s got an underwater case!” Sure, a Go-Pro is no Blackmagic, but I thank them, grateful they’ve saved the day.

The hike is a killer. It kills me the most. Perhaps I’m still traumatized by the fish bowl. Perhaps it’s the lugging of a gallon of water and lunches and assorted props. Perhaps it’s my aching knee. By the time we get down, no one seems much in the mood for filming.

“Let’s eat,” they say. “But, we just got here,” I say. “And the sun sets early in this canyon.” But it’s eat or bust apparently. They’ve already started ripping into the lunch bags. While they eat and crunch their chips loudly, I check around and find a nice couple of little hot pools. Perfect. Baby S Girl won’t even have to get cold.

Excitedly, I head back and tell them about the hot pools. I finally get the DP, Baby S Girl, her mother, and one crew member moving.

They balk. “You didn’t tell us we’d have to wade across a wide freezing cold river with a slippery bottom.” “It’s not a river, it’s a stream.” I finally get them to cross. They balk again.

“You didn’t tell us there’d be NAKED PEOPLE at the hot pools.” Yes, there are. A few. Baby S Girl and her mother seem the least offended by it. “Oh, come on, I’ll just tell them to move to the other pool while we film in this one.” And so I do. And so they move. And we shoot. The nudists are a mellow bunch.

They watch the proceedings with curious friendliness. I see Baby S Girl’s face when one guy with a particularly long in-your-face dong rises out of the pool. Her face kind of blanches. I feel bad. I hope it doesn’t scar her for life.

It’s a lot of nudists to make everyone suffer through – and a long way to make everyone hike – to shoot such a small scene. There’s a few terror tales to get through too. One naked elderly nudist scares Baby S Girl with stories of water worms that crawl in your ears and eat your brains out if you go underwater. The scene requires her to swim like a fetus underwater. I look at her mother, wondering if she’ll believe this terror tale and squash the underwater idea. But she seems unconcerned as she dangles her feet in the water, making friends with some of the nudists. And we start shooting. Fish bowl or not, nudists or not, and worms or (hopefully) not, we get the underwater shots.

The way up is ten times harder. Wow, does the trail go straight up almost ninety degrees at one point? It feels like it. For part of the way it is a jagged path on a cornice with a steep cliff dropoff on both sides. We stop to huff and puff a million times. As we get going again on one of our rest breaks, one of the nudist skinny dippers – a Bohemian woman – comes jogging up the trail, friendly and free, her two giant Pitt bull-Great Danes in tow. She overtakes and passes us easily.

“Hi!” she smiles widely, jogging as body parts jostle up and down. The two dogs jog in tandem, as if they’re all one. I watch, baffled. I can’t imagine jogging up this lonely trail as a naked cheery woman. I’d be one paranoid woman. What if somebody attacks? I look at the two super friendly Pit bull-Great Danes. Or should I say – trained killing machines. That’s how she does it.

Once she disappears up the trail, we break into guffaws. What randomness to see a naked cheery woman jog up a trail with her two ferocious friendly beasts.

At the top, we download the Go-Pro footage and say good bye to Baby S Girl and her mother. For real this time. She is wrapped for the film. “Bye, it was fun. So much fun.”

And the rest of us head out for a long drive to our next destination – the flat hot desert. The real desert. No more Siberian cold.

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