Movie Shoot – Day 5

Baby S Girl, my second actor, her mother, and their huge energetic puppy are up bright and early with the crew… all waiting for me. “Hi! Hi!” Hugs and kisses. Her child-like eagerness and trust are a balm on the spirit.

We head to a new location on Earth Desert Man’s land. He’s got a lot of it. This time our auto caravan goes miles and miles up a bumpy rocky car-destroying dirt road. Then another dirt road, more bumpy and forsaken than the last. Beautiful rock formations and Joshua trees and desert washes long drained of water line the way.

Then, onto Earth Desert Man’s property, where hippie buses, tents, wigwams, and assorted hobbit homes pop up here and there. This is the more populated part of his property. A fork into another dirt road now. This one is more of a gutted ravine. Oops! My car suspension might now be gone.

Finally, two giant rocks on each side open up to reveal a path up a hill full of rocky mountains and Fred Flintstone looking formations. Our Baby S location.

If our first set was Siberia at night, this place is Siberia morning, noon, AND night. I’m sure it must be the highest point of mountain desert on the planet. We shiver all day in the bright dazzling bone-dry sun, as lonely whistling winds gust through the steppes and rock hills in all directions, fighting each other, creating little cyclones and whirling vortexes. No amount of parkas seems warm enough, especially as we must strip them off between action and cut anyway.

In our first two scenes, Baby S Girl has rescued me from a near drowning. She’s waving smoking sage over me and is supposed to jab my impalement injury (to heal the wound was my thinking). She is holding the sage near my leg, hasn’t even jabbed me yet, and I suddenly feel a sharp burning pain. I look down and the sage is ON FIRE…! As is my blanket. And my thigh! Aaaahh! I scream, slapping the flames out. Baby S Girl looks down at her hand, also on fire. We both watch dumbfounded. What is this? The brutal winds have whipped and turned the tiny innocuous sage bundle into a raging mushrooming bouquet of flames. Even as we watch, it grows and metastasizes. Fire sparks, picked up and made to dance by the wind, zoom around us like a myriad tiny fireflies. THE SKY IS ON FIRE! If one of them catches, the entire hill could go up in flames. The crew runs over, pours half the gallons of water we brought for drinking on the flaming little firestorm. Thankfully, nothing catches among the dry stunted twig trees and bushes near us. The sparks fall harmlessly on surrounding rocks, killed by hard cold stone.

We sit there, heavy breathing for a moment. We came close to turning Earth Desert Man’s oasis paradise into a raging inferno. Who knew a few sprigs of sage fanned by wild winds could do that? Note to self: winds are fire-breathing monsters. Don’t mess with them.

We do a couple more scenes for the day. I wonder at Baby S Girl’s mother’s ability to adapt. I was expecting some school-marm-like stage mother. Not this girl scout who makes her way around the desert roads thst have no name and always unerringly finds her way back. She makes herself scarce, taking the rambunctious dog and letting him run in fields and rock hills away from us. Then she locks the dog in the car and comes to take pictures of our set, helping out when she can, unobtrusive when not needed. She’s already made friends with one of the desert dwellers, some guy who lives in a round-looking shiny geo-dome of some sort.

I do get the feeling, even when she doesn’t appear to be watching, that she is. With a sharp eye. Probably wondering why things are done so wayward and ticky-tacky. Welcome to my first-time director-filmmaker micro-budget set. A car costs more than the entire budget of this movie. So ticky tacky happens. A lot.

…And then Baby S Girl begins to feel sick. All that high desert cold, being out in the elements, the raging mushrooming sage fire, it is too much for her, this tiny child-like seventeen year old girl. And she didn’t really eat much today.

“Oh, but, can we do one more scene-?” I cajole.

The mother looks at me hard. “She’s sick.”

I take a closer look. Yes, she really doesn’t look so well. There’s a bit of that drowning look you get when you’re awash with nauseous feelings. The kind of look where you might go down hard for a whole week. Oh no, please don’t let it be.

“OK,” I say, seeing my movie with its dysfunctional schedule, further blown to smithereens. “See you tomorrow, I hope?”

“We’ll see how she feels.”

I take a deep breath. “OK. Feel better.” The drowning look on her face me does not give me a lot of confidence. She’s unable to speak at this point.

An earlier out than usual for the crew – and me. But not before Mountain Lady tells me she can’t go on, she positively can’t go on with this catering gig. It’s too much, this movie catering on top of her bakery business. Today she burned her corn and jalapeno muffins for her bakery. HER MUFFINS! It’s too much. And she’s, well, overwhelmed. I really wish I could tell her, “Just relax. You take everything too hard. We’re not even picky eaters. You don’t even have to do as much as you’re doing. Dial it back a notch.” But she would murder me with such a comment. She must ALWAYS do too much because that’s who she is. So instead I try the practical approach. “Well, I paid you $1500. So you still owe me two more days of meals. Unless you want to give it back?” No, she does not want to give the money back. I finally convince her to hang on. Whimpering, crying, she agrees. Breakfast will be on, same time, same place tomorrow morning. Another fire put out.

Back to the motel. I’ll use the time to look over scripts, plan ahead for once, sew my pants, glue my boots, and oh yeah, I need a book of matches for a prop. I head into “town”. No matchbooks of any sort at the two bars and two convenience stores. Are matchbooks too old school anymore?

“I got lighters,” a friendly, gravel-voiced, cigarette-hardened lady tells me, “But you know what? I’ll bet you the Indian casino at the end of town has ‘em matchbooks.”

A casino! Of course. Deserts. Indian casinos. I head over, trot around the place, wondering at the stares. Whole bowlfuls of books of matches greet me, by the slot machines, the roulette tables, the bar. I grab a bunch.

One lady positively gasps. What is up with these people? I look down. Oh. My bloody torn pants, with the blood dripping down my thigh, calves, and decrepit boots with the soles coming off. “Oh, that’s all fake. I swear. I’m shooting a movie!”

I scoot out of there fast, remembering too late, my backside is even worse. For the fourth day, my pants are torn from end to end down the back of my ass. Lots of sewing to do tonight. I guess I should have planned for a backup set of pants. But I didn’t.

I just hope there’s no fish eyes for dinner.

Nope. No fish eyes. Just the DP, resting from dinner and a hot shower, deep in the middle of her daily post-shoot routine. Charging up the twenty or so camera batteries she’s got lined up on her battery chargers, downloading the day’s footage onto hard drives, big Red camera lovingly cradled in all kinds of doodads, as she looks over what she shot. Our motel room is a hive of high-tech hardware.

“We got great stuff. Wanna see?”

“No, it’ll put me in my head. And my eyes are too bloodshot from the sun to look at anything.”. Note to self: no matter how bloodshot your eyes are, you need to get some idea of what is being shot and how it’s being shot. It can’t all be done “Zen”. But at this moment I don’t know that.

I settle for the mindless task of sewing my pants. Blindly, of course, as I can’t really focus my sun-burnt bloodshot eyes. The ends of the pants flaps can no longer be sewn together. I need extra cloth to sew underneath. I surreptitiously eye the neutral beige blanket on the motel bed. Who will know? I reach under the mattress, snip a good chunk off with scissors. It matches the beige pants, as far as my bloodshot eyes can tell. Close enough.

And as I sew blindly, I pray and meditate that the movie gods work their magic on Baby S Girl tonight so she feels better… and well, so my movie shoot can go on.