Oren is doing another movie, ”Confessions of a Telecommuter”. Therefore, I have the honor, nay, the privilege of catering for his movie, yet again. I really spoil these folks. It’s a source of personal pride for me to have Oren’s films to be, at the very least, what is hopefully the best catering that the cast and crew have ever had in an indie film.
Apparently, I did a good job at this, because Bonnie, one of the actors, beat me to posting an account of the shooting on her webpage. And she was mostly just impressed by my skills at making coffee that puts hair on one’s chest and cookies.
Apparently, Oren and Ken were worried that, facing competition, I wouldn’t post anything.
For his latest big expensive equipment purchase, Oren acquired the starter lighting set that everybody who wants to do an indie film buys. Given that one of my fallen-out-of-touch-with college friends was a lighting guy and I’m at least a little familiar with the concept of lighting, I ended up being a ”Gaffer”. Now, if you’ve ever looked at the credit, you’ve probably wondered what a Gaffer does. In movies, a Gaffer is the electrician and lighting guy. If you are blowing glass, however, he’s the guy who helps the main glassblower do his thing.
I told Oren that I wasn’t going to be a Gaffer unless I had a roll of Gaffer’s tape.
Movie lighting is extra fun because you, in general, need an absurd amount of lighting power if you want everything to look right. It’s really the biggest difference between a professional production and an amateur production. So we’ve got a relatively small, simple setup and the lights range from 150 watts to 1000 watts. Because we’re talking about incredible wattages and lots of light, this also means that the light fixtures in question put out an incredible amount of heat, so I ended up wearing a set of leather gloves to protect my hands. I managed to brush my wrist against the light once and it HURT, although not nearly as much as when I accidentally grabbed hot glass while making neon. Despite this, I ended up hand-holding one of the lights for part of the shoot. And, we have to be careful about what we plug in because 2250 total watts means that it will easily trip a 15 amp and even a 20 amp circuit breaker if we have them all on.
The shoot was conducted at Elma’s apartment and it would be wrong to not mention her cockatiel. We never learned the cockatiel’s name or gender, but we did learn after we were finished that said cockatiel has absolutely no interest in escape. None whatsoever. So all of the time we spent trying to confine the bird to specific places and to never open the window if the bird was out (he was a little escape artist) was for naught. Then when Dino came back, we were all worried because the door was open and the bird was out and he told us that the bird had absolutely no interest in leaving the apartment. The bird and I had some level of understanding, which had them calling me Dr. Dolittle. I was the only person who could talk the bird into switching rooms. I think it’s at least partially because my brother had a cockatiel when we were growing up, so I can kinda understand their motivations.
Also, you know the movie staple where you have a character who either hates all animals or hates one particular type of animal, encounters an animal that he hates, animal won’t leave them alone, and then eventually the character decides that they like the animal after all? Well, cheezy as it is, it’s true to life. T.J. “Sitting around a Girl Scout wearing boxers and a robe” Metz started out really not liking the bird. The bird, of course, spent a lot of time diving and landing on T.J. And, true to the story staple, T.J. grew to like the little bird.
T.J. and John Stillons made a great duo. When they first met, as actors, John’s first remark was “Brothers don’t shake hands. Brothers hug,” and things went downhill from there. T.J. brought a wonderful straight-faced goofiness to the part and managed to tolerate walking around for almost the entire shoot in a pair of red boxers and a robe.
T.J. told us the story of a shoot where all they had for catering was OJ and doughnuts and how, after a while, he just ceased to care about the role. I told him about how I tend to make doughnuts from scratch.
Many of the usual crew members were present. Dara “Ms. Tastefully Rumpled Hair” Goldberg was back as the one-woman wrecki…err… makeup crew. She spent most of the time studying with one of her classmates, but still found time to make everybody look right. Christine “If you don’t make fun of my last name that’s…” Sweet was back. “Good” Ken Furer and, of course, Oren, were doing their usual writing and directing. And Dan “The Man” Shimer, and his famous Green bug, were there. Our favorite older actor, John Jamieson was there for the first day of shooting, which I wasn’t able to attend. Bikas Tomkoria, who previously was just doing transportation, helped out with the boom and story ideas, this time.
Melissa Ehlers was new to the crew this time, operating the clapper board and tracking shots. She got the hang of shooting astonishingly fast. It’s interesting how when we’re shooting like this, we all fall into the jargon, roles, and behavior of a real movie shoot. We aren’t doing it out of some notion of tradition; we’re mostly doing it that way because it’s the only way to get a movie done.
This script needed a Girl Scout, so Oren and Good Ken managed to dig up a cute little 6.5 year old Emily Black, who was accompanied by her mother the whole time. She and her mother were two troopers. Emily was a little timid around all of us at first, but she managed to get her lines and acting together without much need for prompting, even adding her own touches to the part. In a bit of ironic synchronicity, the neighbor’s daughter came by that night to sell us some girl scout goodies.
I had just finished moving the previous weekend so, while my kitchen was clean — mostly because I didn’t have a chance to use it yet — it was not at all organized. I didn’t find my spices until the last possible moment before I would have started to panic on Saturday. This time, I needed to cook everything at home, instead of on site. I about kissed each and every spice when I found it, because I missed them so. Does that make me a crazy chef? I, at least, think so. So I made pancakes and eggs for breakfast, chicken curry with the Indian equivalent of salsa for lunch, veggie lasagna for dinner, and finally Tiramisu for desert. At the same time, I had to make some more Trams for a friend’s surprise birthday (which is a story in itself) party. So I was cooking up a storm on Saturday, before shooting. I ended up cheating a little on the Tiramisu and using store-bought ladyfingers and using store-bought naan instead of making my own roti, but everything else, including pancakes and cookies, was made from scratch, although Dara was quite put off that I didn’t make my own lasagna noodles. And my cookies, while they don’t compare to Sandy’s work, still turned out pretty good. The thing is, given that my time is free, it’s far cheaper to just make everything from scratch, and provides an intermittent outlet for my love of cooking.
The production ran like, as Oren says, “a finely tuned and well greased xylophone”. We were actually done early. We were kinda worried because we had the entire place rearranged in a variety of interesting ways and were worried that if the folks who let us use their apartment walked in mid-shoot, they’d overreact. When we were done, everything was back in order. We put back all of the books we took out in exactly the same order as they were when we got in. We even made sure that we didn’t unplug the TiVo. Elma and Dino didn’t suspect a thing.