Movie Shoot – Day 10

It’s a big day. Lots to shoot. I’ve never tried this. Setting up base camp in two different geographical locations. Yes, it will be ambitious. A hike is involved in one of them. Straight up the mountain. It’s a lot.

Actor-Man and I are filming the top of the mountain scenes near the end of my film, when I finally reach the peak. It’s 45 minutes of hiking on reasonably easy uphill terrain. No sweat.  The crew isn’t too thrilled, especially after the hot springs hike a few days back. I keep saying, “this one isn’t so bad. Just a little longer, right up ahead”. But “right up ahead” keeps not coming up.

I pick the wrong conversation topic and realize it too late. “Did you know there’s feral wild dogs that run through these hills? Oh yeah. And feral cows and bulls. I’ve heard they charge people.” Yeah, not really what they needed to hear.  It doesn’t help that we see their big splatted dung patties everywhere. Shit threats. A kind of “this is my territory and you’re trespassing at your own risk” message. Every time I see one of the menacing piles, my heartbeat kicks up a notch and I sneak a look around.

We reach a nice area near the top. No sign of feral bulls. Except for the ever present dung patties. This will do. It’s not quite the place I wanted, which is a bit further and even more breathtaking. But judging from the looks of the crew, this had better be it. So I say, “we’re here.” We plop down for a break before setting up.

OK. Time to gather my energy, my commitment, my acting mojo. Quit worrying about feral bull dung patties and the nagging, cajoling, and encouragement that goes into getting reluctant people up a mountain.

I do my deep breathing while they eat or smoke or drink or whatever it is they’re doing. It’s OK… I can be in the mojo at any moment. Right now my eyes feel jumpy, my spirit feels jumpy, my body feels jumpy, and I need to calm down and energize myself in a relaxed way. Forget the bulls.

I wish I could do some screaming. Let the energy out. That would help. But it might attract the bulls. I go off by myself and scream and sing to myself. Silently.

Finally, I’m ready, sort of. And so is everyone else.

…The scene is going pretty well. Lou is snapping away. We’ll have lots of photos. Then suddenly….

“Bulls!” somebody hollers.

We watch fascinated, as three male bulls square off, or should I say, triangulate off, mooing and bellowing at each other. Each fiercely holding down their corner of the triangle. We can’t film while they’re making all that noise, so we watch. After a half hour of this, it sure looks like none of them will back off. Boy, are these feral bulls stubborn.

After a while, their bellows start sounding hoarse. Then they quit bellowing altogether and just stand there. No one has budged an inch. Them or us.

When all is quiet, we go back to filming. Actor-Man and I do the bang bang segment (no guns involved), the dropping the bag down the mountain thing, the heartfelt talk thing, the clothes blowing back up in the air thing.

The clothes blowing in the air thing brings up the naysayer voices.

-That thing with the clothes will just look silly. No one is going to believe that an updraft blew all the clothes up.
-Let’s just try it, shall we?
-How can it possibly look real?
-We’ll have the crew members throw clothes up in the air that fall on me.
-That’s silly.
-Just try it!

The crew members are all laughing as they pelt me with clothes.

-No! Throw them UP in the air. Not AT me! So they drift down. Yes, like that.

It works when we use the filmiest of the shirts.

-I think it’ll look good in editing.
-I think it’s not gonna look real. It’ll look silly no matter how you edit it.
-We’ll see. We’ll use a leafblower when we get down the mountain and do some more clothes blowing. I think it’ll look great.
-OK, if you say so…

Several hours later, I’m happy. That came off better than even I had imagined. We’re packing up when we look at the bulls. They have not moved in hours. We leave them there like that, frozen statues in spotted cow colors. I guess their motto is, if I can’t win, I won’t let you win, even if it makes me lose and I die here shitting cow dung patties. A good lesson on the dangers of stubbornness taken too far.

As we head down, Tony the Italian paisano has arrived with a late lunch way down the mountain. We can’t see him, but we sure can hear him. He leans on his car horn. “Come and get it!” His shrill voice and that car horn sure carry.

After lunch, a bit of travel and on to our second location of the day. We’re setting up for a nighttime shoot back at the gangbanger gunslinger location. We hope the lateness of the day will mean the gunslingers are gone.

The crew takes hours setting up the lights. Afternoon fades into night. We have set up in a beautiful narrow little canyon, devoid of gunslingers. The crew are being real picky about the lighting. The hues from the camera lights and the campfire they’ve started creates a beautiful interplay of soft blue and orange hues.

Tony is now back with dinner. The car horn, the screaming, and this time, also a bell of some sort, tell us he’s here. I head down to join Lou and Actor-Man, who have already gone down to meet him. Tony awaits with a shrimp scampi for his main entree. And there’s something else. It appears we have a visitor that Actor-Man has made friends with – Robert, a guy decked out like he’s going on safari.

His big Desert Storm Humvee is loaded to the nines with every kind of computerized gadget, tracking device, telescope, radar, scanner, viral map, night vision camera, satellite radio, and eletronic gizmo ever invented. The tires look like they belong on a tanker truck. I’m sure there’s a few guns in there too, maybe the same ones we encountered yesterday. A SWAT command mobile unit wouldn’t be as loaded. “Wow!” I say as he invites me to look inside.

-Hey, so Actor-Man here tells me you guys are shooting a movie, huh?
-Yeah. And you are…?
-Robert, nice to meet you. We’ve been watching you.
-We? Who’s we?
-All us neighbors. Through our telescopes. We live in that sub-division.
-You have telescopes at home too?
-Sure, we all have telescopes. At home, in our cars, on our guns, you name it.
-Yeah, we were wondering what you were filming. We watched you all day yesterday.
-All day? You can see that far?
-Sure, I can tell you what you had for lunch.
-Hopefully not what I shit for lunch.

He laughs. I’m not really kidding.

-So you guys ran from the target shooters yesterday, huh? I don’t blame you.

He’s a jovial guy, quite friendly, charismatic even. Dare I say, even quite attractive, in a desert rat, safari-man kind of way. I don’t think he bears any ill will and is nice to get to know, but it sure is unnerving to know a whole town has been spying on you at super magnitude.

-Well, nice meeting you. I’ve got to get back to my crew. They’re waiting for me to bring dinner.
-Oh, I can help carry it. Actor-Man has invited me to the set, see what’s going on.
-What??? Actor-Man? But… he’s not the boss. And we have a permit.
-I just wanted to see. If it’s a problem, I’ll leave.
-No, it’s not a problem. That’s Actor-Man who pipes up.

My blood starts to boil. Somehow I feel very protective of my crew and my film and what we’re doing.

-Well, I will have to see if it’s all right with everyone. I’ll come back and let you know.

I head back up the canyon with dinners for us and the crew. I think, maybe it’s OK. The guy is pretty nice. He’s just curious and wants to see what goes on.

I tell the crew. And all of them hit the roof (though there is no roof). All at the same time.

-What does Actor-Man think he’s doing? Why is he making decisions that affect all of us? This guy’s a stranger, we’ve got thousands and thousands of dollars in gear, and yesterday we almost got shot by some of these gangbangers!

-I know, I know.

I don’t want to say that Robert is so nice, he’s kind of co-opted me as a friend, and that he’s got more gear in his Humvee than all of our gear put together, so he really doesn’t need it, and he certainly doesn’t look like a gangbanger.

I am torn between the two sides. Just then Actor-Man brings Robert up, even though I had told them to wait. That sends my blood shooting through my head.

-I can’t handle this.

-I’ll handle it. That’s Mr. Alpha Military Guy.

I am quite willing to let him carry this one. He quietly takes Actor-Man and Robert a ways off and speaks in dulcet but manly tones. When he returns, both the other two are headed down the hill.

-He was a nice guy, I say. I feel a wistfulness. He might have been a nice man to know. Attractive, charming. Though full of guns and telescopes…

-Nice or not, we have to be careful who we bring on set.

On the bright side, the shrimp scampi is to die for. Some of the crew make fun of Tony the caterer and his walk and his weird greasy ways, but I think he’s come through really good for us at the last minute. Sure, his food sometimes tastes of discount store food. But all in all, pretty good. This shrimp scampi is good enough for three servings on my part. Never mind where he got shrimp in this desert; 24-hour desert Walmart, I suppose. Best to just enjoy it.

Soon even the angry crew is laughing when I tell them about Robert’s safari HumVee truck, and how the neighbors are eying us through their telescopes right now even as we eat our shrimp scampi.

-Do these people have nothing better to do?
-That’s what they do here – look through telescopes and shoot guns. And run dune buggies and HumVees through the sand at night. It’s the way of the desert.

Later, Actor-Man returns sans Robert. A new crisis hits when we realize the scene I have written just does not work. It – just – does – not – work. And it’s obvious to everyone. How did I write such a badly motivated scene? After a lot of rigamarole and squirming and arguing and hemming and hawing and re-dos, we manage to save it. We change everything, pretty much improvising our way through it. Somehow it comes out. I think.

But I sure was sweating there for a couple of hours. Wondering if I should give up filmmaking and screenwriting. And finally, the longest day of our entire film shoot is wrapped. Witnessed, I’m sure, by dozens of roving telescopes…