Movie Shoot – Day 12

I’m nervous.. More nervous than I’ve ever been the entire film shoot – even the first day. The reasons are many. The entire cast is here (minus Baby S Girl). We have more crew. This is more people than I’ve ever dealt with. It’s indoors, which means LOTS of lighting and a lot slower pace. Two different rooms and a hallway to light. Wirh a hard out at 6pm and we are already behind.

And the vacant animal shelter is not only a shambles we must turn into a hospital, but I just discovered a new problem. The previous movie production that was here stole the crates and mattresses and things I had left in storage to make our hospital beds. Now what? And to top it off, the all-night drizzly rain has left my hair frizzy and unmaageable and I definitely never have time for hair. Frizzy it stays.

First order of the day – hospital beds. Anyone not doing lighting must scatter throughout the sprawling animal shelter to look for raw materials. Boy is this place spooky. It would be a great setting for a horror film.

Amongst all of us we find – some kind of weird railing for a bed backboard, two moldy mattresses I wouldn’t be caught dead in, but will have to snuggle into, an uneven coffee table and a smaller table on which the mattresses will rest. And some kind of bedside table.

When we’re done assembling it, we end up with a lop-sided bed that slopes and whose mattresses cave in on themselves unless you lie straight and horizontal at all times. The bed is in danger of spilling me out of it with every move I make. I bring out the blankets and hospital-white sheets and pillowcases I bought at a discount store.

Pillows! I forgot the pillows! First prop in the entire movie I have completely forgotten. While I chew out the insides of my mouth out wondering what kind of a hospital bed has no pillows, one of the crew members says, ‘hey, I just bought some pillows and forget to take them out of my car.’ Well, lucky me! Brand new too. Now we’ve got – hospital beds!

And just as I fix the hospital bed, another problem stares me straight in the face. Blood dripping on the walls! Yeah, must have been a horror film in here before us. Everywhere I look, the spray of blood spatter assaults my eyeballs. Luckily, I saw some kind of detergent in one of the bathrooms. I start scrubbing.

Next, the medical machines. The IV drip is easy. The vital signs monitor… not so much. I stare at it, trying to remember what the rental guy told me. I plug it in, see a bunch of flashing numbers that mean nothing. As I stare blankly (I’ve got way too many things in my head to focus on numerical technology) our good friend Mr. Alpha Guy comes and hooks it all up – without directions. All right. It is sometimes good to have a guy with an Army and technological pedigree.

Wrist bands, nose tubes, IV needles taped to my arm. Hospital gown. Whew! We finally have a real-looking hospital setting. I plop on the bed, whose mattresses immediately cave in on me. I will have to learn the fine art of getting in and staying on.

Now – as more problems with the lighting are dealt with, it’s time to focus on my scene and my fellow actor, E., who plays the great and formidable Mother Lala. I breathe in a few times to get into that baseline zero acting mojo, and breathe out every other useless thing. E. and I haven’t rehearsed together at all. Still I trust we are both ready and will meld together nicely. She is a pro.

Let’s do it! I normally like to start with anything but lines when we are this close to doing the scene. The lines better already be there. I like us to take each other in, do some energy exercises, do improv or motivation paraphrasing. Anything but the lines. But we have time for very little. And most actors want to get to the lines. She’s no different. So we do lines.

Good thing we do.

A few lines in, we realize there’s a problem. She’s doing a whole different scene than I am. What?

-Oh, you’re doing the script from a couple of versions back.
-Am I?
-Yes, two and a half weeks ago, I sent you the latest version and I said this scene has completely changed. I totally changed the scene. Didn’t you get it?
-Well yes, I got it, but I didn’t think it would be that different.
-You didn’t print it?
-I didn’t have time. I was on set on another project.
-What? …Well, we don’t have extra copies. The last pages of all the scripts we had have been torn away by desert winds, stepped on and ripped off, or bitten off by Baby S Girl’s dog, who loved to chew paper. Those hospital scenes on the final pages got the brunt of it.
-That’s OK, I’ll write in the new stuff on the margins.
-But it’s ALL new. And this is a long scene.
-It’s OK. I can do it.

She starts scribbling – on the margins, upside down, sideways, on the back, wherever her handwriting will fit. It’s slow going. We go on like this for the better part of an hour. And I am wondering when she’s done writing it all, how she’ll be able to read it without needing neck traction, much less assimilating it and making it hers. The crew are now done with lighting and are staring at us. I’m fuming a bit. But quietly. On the inside. I breathe, swallow, and go over the lines with her a few times – just to make sure she knows the trajectory of the scene and we’re both on the same page.

I don’t know what fiasco this will turn into, but when the lights, camera, and action are on, and we go, E. is spectacular and formidable. And we go up, energy to energy, mano a mano. She learns by osmosis. Whenever we have to stop and redo things, it’s because of me. Or rather, usually the mattresses caving in on me.

I have an “I deserve” monologue that I never really fully wrote out. So I wing it. Several times we have to wing it, as we forget what’s next in all those scribbles. But it still goes off pretty darn great on her part. And, to a lesser extent, maybe even mine.

A short scene with just me, waking up in the hospital and finding my heart intact – and we’re done with this room. On to the next one.

Actor-Man is now waiting around, circling like a shark for his turn and his scene. While I work with the crew, moving our “bed” and the machines, re-arranging the new room, making sure the lighting and all props are in place, making sure Lou goes to get lunch somewhere, E., always a pro, asks if she can help.

-Matter of fact, yeah. Actor-Man needs to be bandaged up in some creative, I’ve-been-hurt-real-bad kind of way, and I’m all thumbs with that.

-I’ll do it!

She gets to work on him. And does the job of a master ER technician – with a few creative movie touches thrown in. I stare. I couldn’t have done that. E. is magical.

We break for lunch. The bill Lou brings back is sky high. Nope, she’s not much of a Scrooge as I had hoped. A sky high bill for soggy sandwiches on overly thick bread and weird tuna salad stuff. But – it’s lunch.

After the late lunch, one more scene with E. and me, while Actor-Man lies “dead” in the background. The bloody heart scene. I have a big tureen of fake blood right by me to dip my heart and hands into every two seconds. There’s going to be a lot of cleanup.

I am proud of the heart prosthetic I made. It is gooey and heartlike and bloody. AND IT LOOKS REAL! If only it could beat. I tried to rig something up with balloons and turkey basters and plastic tubing. But it didn’t work out as good as the guy on Youtube made it look. Still, my heart will have its moment. I’m less inspired by the rest of the scene. E. is doing too much on this one, and I am doing too little. Perhaps due to exhaustion and who knows what. It’s like we’re each doing a different scene. Oh well, I will just cut the scene shorter. But leave all the heart shots in.

E. is now wrapped, an incredible actress to go up against and a treasure on set. She hugs and kisses everyone goodbye. I give her a check. And she’s gone.

On to the scene with me and Actor-Man. He surprises me, bringing things I hadn’t thought of, like the sweating and fast shallow breathing throughout the scene before the heart attack. I hadn’t thought of that. He has obviously thought of his character. We are about halfway done with the scene when the shelter lady arrives.

-Time to lock up.
-But we’re not done! Can we have a couple more hours?
-Six o’clock, that was the deal.
-Welllll….you will have to pay $200 dollars. I’m going to have to hire a guy to come out and lock up.
-Eight o’clock sharp.
-Yup. Eight o’clock sharp.

We finally finish at 8:30, while the poor guy waits around. Well, we had no time for real closeups on me on this one. But we did it!

The cast and crew wrap and haul everything out. And wait. They want their last paychecks now. I go into my car to regroup. I honestly at this moment, cannot figure out how to add numbers and figure out crew hours. It’s beyond me. I wait five minutes. Still nothing. Five more minutes. Ten more. I can’t focus. My mind is not working. How does one even write out a check in a checkbook? Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know I know these things…

-You all right in there?
-Yeah, give me a minute.

They give me quite a few more minutes. I really can’t compute. At some point, I start anyway, hoping I don’t make some huge blunders. When I hand out checks, no one complains. I guess I did it right.

After the goodbyes and ‘we’ll see you again’, they all scatter. (yes, it seems we have a few more mini scenes left to do next weekend). Actor-Man wants a ride back to LA. Oh please no! I can’t take another moment of – anyone! I ask Lou to give him a ride.

Once they’re all gone, I sit outside in the dark by myself for a long time, the props and medical gear and accoutrements of moviemaking spread around me. It seems I am unable to figure out how you fit IV drips and medical machines, props and blankets and hospital sheets and trash and leftover bad lunches no one ate, back into a car.

But, after two weeks of shooting, thousands of miles logged, 90 pages of scenes shot, and many adventures and ups and downs, I – have – made – my – movie!