Movie shoot – Day 2

Sworls of peachy-colored rocks, in sandy tones, oranges, browns, reds, pinks, blacks. Tall buttes. Squat monoliths. Grand cathedral spires. Another day of cavorting through the high desert feast of raw, elemental, savage, beauteous wonder.

The crew has been notified. Hup to it. Today we make up for the two and a half pages yesterday. But that was after they told ME that it is I who needs to speed up. Wait a minute. I am always waiting for you… Sure, sometimes I have to go get a prop I forgot. Or figure out where I left my script. Or clean up after lunch. But mostly I WAIT FOR YOU. As you smoke, and gossip, and talk about your equipment. Nope, the DP says, it’s you. Nope, I say, it’s you. All right, let’s just both speed up. Agreed.

I watch them unload the expensive movie-making gear. What a difference compared to my odds and ends and gallons of water and cardboard boxes and plastic bags full of props and things. And the Mountain Lady breakfasts. And the broom (what for?) and my own video camera (for candid “making of” shots) and my walking stick prop, and the toilet paper, the clothes, the boots, the parkas we’ll need tonight. And the carefully packaged prosthetics. All kinds of bulky and/or small things of various mismatched shapes and sizes that are darn hard to carry together in any combination.

I can’t help but notice my stuff looks like Goodwill junk compared to the uber sleek black lines of all that high-class camera techno gear. I think the crew draws the line at hauling Goodwill junk. They’re just not going to help with Goodwill hand-me-downs. After they’re done unloading the real gear, it’s time for a cigarette break.

Hello…? I’m the one paying your checks! I’m carrying the lunches and the 100-pound generator. The thing weighs almost as much as me. Look at me! I quickly drop the heavy generator thing (which probably doesn’t really a hundred pounds but just feels like it) and I make a really dramatic, swooning motion, complete with sound effects, loud enough for them to hear. Somehow, in this new movie making situation, I am rendered speechless, unable and unwilling to boss my subjects around. I can only HINT at things. Thankfully someone – one person – takes the dramatic swooning hint, reluctantly breaks away from the cigarette clique. No more generator-carrying for me. From now in, it will be their job.

…Aaaaand Action! I have the DP or first AC yell it so I can be in my zone. It takes a moment, after all the Goodwill hauling, and breakfast catering and cleaning up and trash collecting, the prosthetic fine-tuning and gluing of it on my thigh to make sure it won’t fall off (though it does, constantly), the prop arranging and fishing out of things from various boxes and bags, the worrying about cigarette breaks, and everyone calling my name for all kinds of issues, important and umimportant, foreseen and unforeseen.

After all that, it takes a very hard moment or two or three or more to breathe, let go, and get in the acting zone. But when I do, I feel like I’m in the very center of life. Like I am present to everything around me and inside of me. I must disentangle my left brain and “get-things-done” mode to get into this one.

It’s a new thing, finding it in the middle of directing a movie. Here, acting is the last and least of the issues I have to worry about, and yet, the most important one. The only way I find my way in, is breathe and let whatever that moment is be exactly the way it is. It’s the only way in. I can’t force it to be different. If I feel dragged down and dispirited, I accept it and let myself feel that. Funny thing. Once I accept and own where I really am at, instead of trying to pave over it, I really can go from there to wherever the script and story take me. It’s like the little kid in you was allowed to have her say, so now she’s willing to do whatever you want. But not before. I am doing a Zen moving meditating the whole day. In between the worry over crew cigarette breaks.

Or the fears of coyotes and rattlesnakes. I have nightmares about a den of coyotes circling us, or a rattlesnake lying in wait until one of us steps on it and it kills us with its fang poison. That would really mess up my movie schedule. Secretly, it’s the reason I’ve brought the broom. To use as a prodding stick against savage coyotes, or to imprison a snake’s fangs under its many straws. Quite a weapon.

…First scene of the morning is in the can. And it’s still morning! I feel accomplished. We’re making better progress today. And just as we’re about to wrap and move to the next location/scene/desert angle, someone looks at my feet. “You have the wrong shoes on!”

I look down incredulously at my whitish, dirty Nikes that have betrayed me, that should actually be the dark brown hiking boots whose soles are coming apart that I wear for the entire movie. Everyone lets out a visible groan. WHY DIDN’T I LOOK AT MY FEET? Where’s a continuity person when you need one? We are forced to reshoot the wide and medium shots, as my feet are pretty visible in this scene. OK, note to self: continuity people are really important crew members to have. Or else, make your mind like a steel trap. I promise myself, in spite of my acting zone, I will also make my mind like a steel trap.

Several scenes later, it is sunset. We are filming the scene where I do a makeshift little gravesite for my brother, as I just realized he is dead. It’s a hard scene to do after a day of bossing people around. This calls for finding calm, quiet open spaces inside yourself, unguarded vulnerability. And here I am feeling out of sorts in a Nazi matriarch kind of way. A few moments ago, I was short with one of the crew. Probably over a cigarette break. Now the Siberian wind is knifing into me. And it’s hard to find rest out here. I look at the crew, how they’re busting ass to get so many scenes done in the bitter cold. A wave of repentant sorrow hits me. I want to be kinder. I really do. Here. At this moment. And in life. I wish I was kind. And I fail often. Like now. And now we’re doing the gravesite scene. I flow from repentant sorrow into grief. As the evening sky washes from light pinks to purples and the cold wind dies down, the tears start to stream quietly down my dirty face…

Night-time now. We’re doing a couple of short night scenes. Boy, do I need the parkas I brought. The coldest winter ever must be a March night in the high desert. No rain or snow, dry as a bone. But the freezing temps, coupled with the wind factor, make it a place of Siberian harshness. I am secretly grateful no one complains. In spite of all their cigarette breaks, they sure are troopers. If this wasn’t my movie, I’d plop down and cry and refuse to do anything, while shivering uncontrollably and letting myself drown in hypothermia.

I hug a tree, the beauty of the moon behind me. It took the crew hours to light those giant monolithic rocks behind us. And they are beautifully lit, thanks to the heavy generator that’s such a pain to haul around. I sure hope it’s worth it.

Finally… finally… in spite of the frozen epileptic seizures quaking though my body under the hoodie, the jacket, and two parkas, we are done. The crew’s eyes, mouths, noses, hands are red and swollen with cold, but not one peep out of them.

Not bad – seven pages of script. Not caught up but not behind. The crew is headed back to the motel for a late catered dinner. Their day is done. Not mine. Dinnerless, I must drive a hundred miles to pick up one of the actors, who has no transportation. Desert Greyhound Bus Station, here I come. Oh yeah, and then, I must sew my pants back up when I get back. They ripped right up the ass today as I was climbing rocks and crawling in the sand…