Friday, November 02, 2007

Why Strike?

Because the cake is a lie.

The cake is a lie.

I am ridiculously sad that this is actually the perfect explanation of the situation, yet only nine of you will get it.

More tomorrow.


Jonathan Coulton, of course, wrote the damn thing. Lord I love his stuff.

LEVERAGE: "Weekend" and Production Day 7

Apologies for the delay. I came right back from the shoot and right into trying to solve a clusterfuck on my movie I'm going to direct AND closing down all other miscellaneous business before a possible strike. Which is now an actual strike. So there you go.

Weekend: We're shooting two six-day weeks. So the seventh day is the "weekend." Ordinarily this day involves sleeping in as much as possible. As I didn't want to pay $4.00 per sock to have my laundry done at the hotel, I instead load up my carry-on, Google "laundry" and set off down State St. in Chicago like a homeless person.

Later, we get together at Tavern on Rush and screen the new movie Saul Rubinek has directed -- it's pretty damn great, by the way, and I'll be discussing it more later. The Tavern takes damn fine care of us, and I cannot recommend it enough. I'm still exhausted at this point but there's food, and it's the first time since Gina hit that the cast has been able to get together and get to know each other without being spread all over the set. So we hang about for a few hours. I then beg off and go crash, leaving when the tequila hits the table. Or about an hour thereafter. It was very good tequila.

Day 7
Roll-in -- 5:45 am

Ah, the clock is reset -- thank you, "weekend", and we're back on the early calls. We're at the Hilton Hotel for a the whole day, doing four different scenes. The first where Saul Rubinek recruits our bleary-eyed drunken protagonist, Tim Hutton, see below --

-- shot on the dreaded circular track. There are also three flashback scenes -- Beth doing a bad pickup in a bar, Tim and Gina's "meet-cute" eight years ago involving guns, and then Aldis' flashback to the time he pretended to be the Rolling Stones -- the whole band -- and grifted the penthouse in a luxury hotel. Among other things. Once again, creative use of the entire hotel saves is the dreaded company move.

Tim and Saul are friends, which allows a certain level of trust in the scene. "Trust" meaning that they can feel free to fuck with each other enough to keep things interesting. Dean also has an interesting tool in his directing toolbox. Every now and then he'll ask an actor to give him a take where they play the subtext as text, and really try to surprise the other person in the scene. It is interesting that as writers we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to bury the emotional beats -- nobody in real life talks their subtext, etc. etc. --- but actors, when given full range to just say what the characters mean, often make that simple declaration far more interesting. It's like they can truly tee off on the moment. And since you should always shoot in singles (coverage is your friend, people) you can mix and match reactions.

At one point, Saul is nice enough to turn to me and say "Do you mind if I change this line?" Jesus. I know all writers are different, but as long as the actors land in the same zip code as the line, I'm perfectly happy if it brings out a genuine performance. This is a tricky transition for some writers. You spend hours parsing rhythms just so, and sometimes you really need the scene "as is" in order for it to get all the jobs done you need covered in that it of screen real estate. However, to be blunt, if your priority is your precious words, then become a novelist. The interpretive nature of scripted performance is a blessing and a curse. For me at least, an actor finding the one thing I never would have come up with in a million years greatly. outweighs the occasional "Never quite got that the way it is in my head" factor.

This is part of accepting that the script is not the movie. Hell, even the shot footage is not the movie. Only the final edited version is the movie. At some point during the week Saul tells me something Tom Hanks said. This is from memory, but the gist is: "You have to make a good movie three times. You need to write a good script. Then you need to shoot good performances. Then you need a good edit. You need all three. If any one of those three things fails, then the movie's not good."

Everything goes according to plan, including the day player getting his finger snapped, the squibs for the shootout, and the "party girls" dressed like Princess Leia. Not the most technically difficult day of shooting, but it did lead to the following exchange on the phone.

Tyrone: Princess Leia outfits? Sure, had to have a bunch of white girls --
John: Yes. Actually, we had one black girl who was very funny --
Tyrone: WHAT?
John: ... we, um, had a black Princess Leia.
Tyrone: Did you get a picture?
John: You know, one of the things they teach you at showrunner school is "Don't take pictures of the day players."
Tyrone: A gorgeous black woman in the Princess Leia outfit is the holy grail for black geeks.
John: Yes, that's the entire point of my television career. Introducing obscure fetishes to minority groups so that they, too, can become as emotionally stunted as the white geek population. Wait until my three episode arc on Hispanic furries.

Roll-in -- 11:00 pm

On Day 8, I confront my greatest fear and Chris Kane kicks four guys' asses.