Movie Shoot – day 8

We’re back to one-man band acting. Just me. I have to dig deeper, but it’s also a lot more easeful. And it gives me time to really feel the character in a different, more palpable way.

OK, here’s the scene where I wake up in the desert, lost. I have lost the mountain landmark that guides my journey. I played with this scene on my video camera while scouting locations for the movie. I filmed myself spinning as if some force or object was in the middle of the circle, watching me spin around it, and I was at its mercy. It made me look imprisoned in lostness. Physical, mental, emotional. I want that. I tell the crew what I want.

-It won’t work.
-Why not? I’ve tried it on my own camera. Here, let me hold the camera and do it to show you.
-No, you’re not holding my camera while you spin.
-OK, you hold the camera and try to follow me from the POV as if I was holding the camera.
-Can’t be done.
-Why not? Just stand in the middle of the circle and shoot from there, turning with me as I spin.
-Can’t be done.
-(Sigh) OK, then follow me from the outside of the circle as I spin.
-Don’t want to fall with the camera.
-Well, have someone hold you from the back to guide you.
-You don’t need that much spin.
-I do.
-You don’t.

The most I get is the camera following me for half a turn. I hate when people say things can’t be done. Especially when they can. I’m not asking them to fly to the moon. Just follow me in two full circles. Fine, just one full circle. But half a circle is all I get. Not the same effect.  I let is slide. I will have to edit this in twice in opposite directions so it looks like I’m spinning more. Next time I shoot my next feature film, this kind of stuff will not slide.

I am excited for the next scene. To do it, we have to dive under a tunnel of rocks to get to some broken canyons that are exquisite. I can hardly wait to show them this place that I love, born from the incredible upheavals of two warring shelves of continental rock pushing against each other on the San Andreas fault. The result to me is breath-taking.

But the crew doesn’t see any of it. All they see is hot horrible landscape and rocks that the gear must be passed under and pushed through. Just a lot of hard work. It’s not far, but by the time we get to the location, they are unable to see the beauty at all. “You got a permit for this place, do you?” “Yes, I do.”

After a while, they get into it a little. They even climb the rocks to get better vantage points. It turns into a fun shoot. At least, fun for me. Fun and grungy and gritty. For them, more gritty than fun. For me, more fun that gritty.

This is our first day out in full flat desert sun. And boy is it different from high desert mountain sun. Everyone is growing red as lobsters. Even though we spend half the day in the shadow of the broken canyon. But the March desert warmth is balm to my spirit after the frozen mountains.

I’ve done a bad thing today. It’s four o’clock and the crew hasn’t had lunch. What I thought would be a half day shoot turned into a full day shoot. Of course, there is no lunch wagon out in the canyons. Or caterers. And  I didn’t think ahead. I miss Mountain Lady, a hundred miles away.

We head to the town nearest to the desolate wilderness, find a taco shop, pretty much the only “restaurant” around. I could swear we’ve been dropped right in the middle of a Mexican village south of the border. It reminds me of my younger travelling days. Some of those beach towns where Gringos would spend the days snorkelling and eating tacos and the nights drinking tequila around a campfire on the beach. This place brings it all back. Except there’s no beach. Only desert.

As I walk towards the taco shop, daydreaming, the others stop me.

-We’re not eating here.
-Why not?
-Look at the shady characters all around. I wouldn’t trust our gear in the car for one minute.

I look around. There are some bereft sad-looking people and some working poor. Mostly working poor. Only difference from a poor “white” town is everyone is Mexican-looking and speaks Spanish.

-There is a window in the taco shop, you know. We can look out. The cars are only five feet away.
-I don’t feel comfortable.
-You don’t want lunch?
-I’d rather go without lunch than stop.
-I can go in and buy the tacos to go and we can eat them out here or in the cars.
-I’d rather go. I wouldn’t even trust the tacos here.
-Me either.
-Me either.
-Me either.
-Me either.

On down the line. All of them stare, red lobster faces set. Their utter digust and fear of the place is palpable. Why am I not seeing what they’re seeing?

-Well, OK. But it’s a long way back to “civilization”.

They shrug. We get back in our cars. I feel bad. They didn’t get lunch. Now they don’t even want lunch. Not even a to go bag of tacos. That’s a lot of disgust. The taco place looks fine to me. But then, I’ve eaten bean burritos off vendors at train stops in Mexico that gave me projectile diarhhea and vomiting. As long as they’re not serving dead fish eyes, I’m fine. I draw the line on that.

We end up having dinner – because forget lunch, that ship sailed long ago. Then they head back to the motel. Not I. It’s time to head to the Greyhound bus station to pick up Actor-Man again. Thankfully, this time the bus station is only a few miles away.

My eyes are blurry and red, as they get after a day in the sun and elements. It makes me feel so tired. But I have to handle the motel reservations. Get another room. Actor-Man rooms alone. Darn Coachella and Stagecoach. Who knew the motels here more than quadruple their rates when the festivals come to town. And they are still a month away. I’m seeing red when I see the pricetag on these motel rooms.

Tired and drained, I’m about to leave the lobby when my friend “Lou” gets up from the chair she was sitting in, waiting patiently with her rollaway bag and her camera bags neatly beside her. She is a photographer. I let out a yelp of surprise, come over, hug her.

-Hi Anna, you said you might need help for your movie, so here I am.
-But you said you were out of state.
-I came back early and I remembered the motel you’d be at, so I thought I’ll just head out to the desert and help.
-You just thought you’d head out to the desert and help?

I start to laugh and my tiredness goes away. How many people do you know who will just “head out to the desert and help”? She didn’t even call, just came out on a lark. It strikes me very funny. I can’t afford yet another over-priced motel room, so she rooms with the DP and me. Three of us. Lou and I will share one of the queen sized beds.

I’m overwhelmed. So much to do. I still have a couple of props to buy, my pants need sewing, and oh, I must get a caterer for this part of the shoot. I don’t want to revisit the taco shop incident. Then I really need to look over my script.

But I am so tired, I just want to crash….

“You want me to get you some camomile tea?” Lou says.
“We have camomile tea?”
“The motel does.”
She doesn’t wait for an answer, heads out, brings me back hot camomile tea with just the right amount of honey, just the right amount of camomile, and just the right amount of hot. I didn’t even know I needed camomile tea, but I did. I really really did. I needed a mother. I really really did. And here she is.

While I drink my tea and spend some much needed time with my sript, she takes my credit card and heads to a local 24-hour Walmart, bringing back the props I was missing. By then, she sees I’ve drunk my tea and brings me another. Did I say it already? I really really needed camomile tea.

“I’ve got to get a caterer. I can’t deal with meals.”
“I’ll call them for you.”
“There’s a list here somewhere. I don’t know where I put it.”
She finds it, dials a few numbers, finally gets someone on the phone. I talk to him, eyes half closed. “I need some catering for a small movie crew, three meals a day for the next several days…”

The price is right and he’s willing to go for it on such short notice. “I am heading out to the 24-hour desert Walmart to stock up as we speak,” he says.

My eyes are already closing when I hang up. It’s all set.

“Don’t worry. I will deal with setting up breakfast when he brings it tomorrow,” Lou says.

We three make a cozy trio, the DP, Lou, and me. We get along. Very mellow. The DP is deep into her watching of the dailies and the battery re-charging and video transfers and camera coddling. The camera sleeps by her on the big queen sized bed.

And… Lou is now threading the needle for me so I can sew my pants. I put my script away and sew really big stitches to get the sewing done quick. I finally hit the pillow. Who knew I needed camomile tea. Who knew I needed a mother. But I did…