Sunday, February 24, 2008

Behind the Scenes

The one sign that convinced me that Pink Piggy was full steam ahead was the production meeting where they talked about the police escort they’d have for the car scenes. There’s a good 10 pages of car scenes, they had gotten the permits, the tow rig, and a police escort to make sure nobody would bother them. And I’m thinking police escort?

Back in film school, my thesis film was a road movie (sure glad I got that out of my system before coming out to Los Angeles) and all we did was tow a blue Mustang convertible up and down Florida’s back highways. I think there may have been a courtesy call to the police department to tell them it was happening, but nobody came out to escort us anywhere. So I thought they’d do the same thing here, maybe drive out to San Dimas or someplace where nobody cares about filmmaking and steals the scenes that way.

Nope, they had arranged for a police escort, and they were gonna film smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles, too.

The other thing I wasn’t aware of that Pink Piggy’s production included was a behind the scenes camera crew that documented every bit of the production process. Since I have an aversion to still photographs, I was not a happy camper that they wanted to interview me ON camera. Twice. Because they didn’t get it the first time? Who knows.

It was the second day of shooting. The awesome producers had secured my neighborhood bar, the actual bar where I got the inspiration to write Pink Piggy in the first place back in 2002. I put the bar in the script never expecting we’d GET the actual location. I never though this movie would ever get made. (Striped Tiger has a few scenes set at the Santa Monica Pier, so saddle that one up for next year boys, heh heh.)
We had to wait until they closed at 1am, so we didn’t get the first shot off until 2:00am or so. And the behind the scenes camera crew is pointing their Camera O Death at me. “How does it feel to see your words being said by actors right in front of you?”

I know what they want me to say, “It’s magical, it’s joyous, it’s beyond my wildest dreams.” But I’m Amy The Writer, and I’m tragically honest, so I say, “Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal. I’ve written and produced plays here in Los Angeles, I’ve seen actors say my lines before. I wrote and directed a thesis film before, I’ve seen them say it on film before.” Don’t be a brat. Give them a sound bite. Give them something they can use, “But I had no idea when I was writing this script in 2002 at 2am in the morning that we would be here six years later, in the very bar where it all started, making a movie out of it.” There ya go, Insta-Sound Bite!

Is it really no big deal to see this stuff being filmed? See, I’m not one of those writers that writes autobiographically. Out of 105 pages of Pink Piggy only 1/2 of a page was taken from real life, and even then it had a completely different outcome. I knocked at a guy’s door, he opened it, we said a few words, and he let me in. That’s not a movie, there’s no conflict.
So watching my adorable actors in character discuss the Really Bad Idea that kicks off the movie, I don’t feel the zing of relation, I’m thinking that it feels way too dark in here, but I’m trusting the two DPs working with the big ass cameras and no tripods, and I’m trusting that no tripods is a good idea as well.

Trust. Trust. Trust.

My second time on set is at the coffeehouse location I secured. One of the stipulations from the owner was if there were going to be any actors behind the counter, she wanted it to be me, since she trusted me not to mess with any of the equipment. Figuring that I’d be far enough in the background to where nobody would recognize me, I stepped into the background role of Coffee Barista. This was my view. (I wanted to post the picture of how all the signs behind the counter were written in Korean, which made trying to figure out what the password was to the Wi Fi network hysterically impossible, but for all I know, the signs are probably saying “The combination to the safe is…” so I shall not post it.)

For six to seven hours, I stood behind that counter and pretended to work without turning on any of the equipment. Which meant I counted coffee sleeves. Over and over again. There were 108 sleeves from a local bank advertising 4% financing for something in Korean, and 83 sleeves advertising the second seasons of The Tudors on Showtime. Heh. I wrote in my journal, I caught up on my magazine reading. The still photographer has a picture of me sitting on the counter reading the Entertainment Weekly cover story on Juno, but since I wasn’t looking at the camera, I’m slightly okay with it. Except because I’m wearing my black heavy coat because it was cold in there, I look fat. Heh.

So I’m counting my coffee sleeves over and over again and I can’t really watch the scene without looking at the camera, so I’m listening to the words, yes, it sounds like they hit that beat, yes, they nailed that joke, it sounds funny, I hope it looks funny, funny in a good way.

And two characters are discussing how the main character is not feeling the proper response from a line she has asked another character to say (Yeah, I know it’s vague. Imagine if you told someone to tell you something you’ve always wanted to hear, like “Your movie’s getting made.” You’d expect to feel happy, right? And our main character is not. Sorta. Kinda. I think I’m actually confusing it more.)

So her best buddy says “Maybe it’s what you’re supposed to learn. You’re not getting the response because you’ve grown past the response.” And our main chickie says, “But what I’m learning can’t be told to me, it has to be something I feel myself.”

And it hits me, my hands full of Korean bank coffee sleeves. That’s my whole struggle with Christianity right there. Not that I don’t believe Jesus is the son of God, because obviously I do. But my main struggle is that I can’t feel God, any progress I make is from an academic standpoint, which seems to be…not right.

But what I’m learning can’t be told to me, it has to be something I feel myself.

My spiritual struggle was nowhere around when I wrote that line back in 2002. What those characters are discussing has nothing to do with God. And yet it fits perfectly just the same.

The last question the behind the scenes camera crew asked me was “Any advice for any would-be writers?” my first response was, “Like I know what I’m doing!?” give them something they can use, give them something they can use, give them something they can use, “Um….nobody ever got anywhere by giving up.”

That probably works for God too.


Midlife Virgin said...

Omigod! Your film got made! A million kudos. Can't wait to see it.

Carlen said...

This is freaking fantastic!!! And I love this post - what a poignant realization you made with that actor's comment. I love that (and I agree with it, 100%).

Allison said...

Way to not giving up! Glad you're reaping some fruits.

Stephaine - yes, that's spelled right said...

I'm so way behind! Congrats on your movie. Need an international sales agent??? We're always looking for good stuff and I know yours will be great!