Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Saturday, July 24, 2004
Something To Look At

The blog's looking a little blah lately... seems like a good time to post an image. I just couldn't think of what.

So, I went and found a couple of paintings by a local artist I really like, a guy named John Robinette. He used to have a website with his whole catalog, but that seems to have vanished... still, this should give you a pretty good idea what his work is like.

Red Sky, Vertical

I really love his paintings of the Mississippi River delta; this is how the place feels to me. He does lots of amazing pieces of the little churches that cover the landscape; if I had any money, this is one of the first artist's work I'd buy. Great stuff.

River, House, Full Moon

Is that an incredible moon, or what?
2:44 AM ::
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Non-Journal, Day Ten

Nothing so interesting to talk about tonight... really I'm just killing time until the morning shoot. Lee has arranged the schedule in such a way that night and early-morning shoots tend to alternate; I got home at ten tonight, but have to be back downtown at 7 AM tomorrow. Given that my internal clock is set on a noon-to-3AM schedule, the early morning stuff really goes against my nature. I'm just starting to wind down when it's time to get up and get ready to go to work. It really rather sucks, to be honest.

The last few nights I've had this problem, I've decided to try to get a few hours of sleep in the interim. It always fails: I toss and turn until 3 AM, finally fall asleep, and then have to painfully drag myself out of bed at 5, feeling worse than before. So tonight I'm going the alternate route -- no sleep at all. In my experience this is usually a preferrable arrangement, even though around this time, 2:30 to 3 AM or so, the urge to sleep becomes pretty intense. We've only got one scene to shoot tomorrow; I don't want to jinx it by saying it should be pretty _____, but it should be pretty _____.

Anyway, back to tonight...

We shot a news reporter scene at a fancy-schmancy house bordering Overton Park. The owner is a very nice lady (with a very nice husband and a very nice son) who, from what I can gather, is connected to the Shelby County Film Commission in some way. She also lives next door to the head of the Film Commission... apparently the job pays pretty well, 'cause these are some expensive houses. As we got the shoot underway, we started glimpsing some lightning; ten minutes later we heard the first of the thunder. As far as I was concerned, this was great news: it guaranteed a timely end to the shoot. (Lee's a good guy, but a little over-obsessed with coverage... I've literally seen him take five or six angles on one or two lines of dialogue, more coverage than he can possibly use. He also has a tendency to get so wrapped up in what he's doing that he becomes oblivious to the crew and any cast members with whom he isn't currently working; you can't say anything to him because he won't hear you, and he forgets to tell you what you need to know. It's frustrating.)

Just as we got a solid take of the scene, the wind started to kick up, and we scrambled to get all the kit in before the rain began. The nice lady with the nice husband and son and fancy-schmancy house ordered pizza for all of us -- see, I told you she was nice -- and we hid indoors while the worst of the rain passed. I always get nervous when I'm in midtown in a heavy rain; the streets don't drain very well, and it's all too easy to end up with knee-deep floodwaters across crucial bits of road; I've been stranded before. Fortunately I only had one or two small streams to drive through on the way home.
2:23 AM ::
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Friday, July 23, 2004
Non-Journal, Day Ten

We spent yesterday shooting at the medium-security prison out in Shelby Farms. It was... an experience. We had a whole empty cellblock to ourselves, one in the oldest part of the prison (c. 1920), and a couple of guards assigned to us to help out with anything we needed and escort us around as we moved around the prison. Ironically, while the restaurant that was being paid to help out seemed resentful at best to be involved, the prison was a full-service location. They helped us carry equipment (or got prisoners to help out -- that was simultaneously cool and sorta distasteful), supplied us with uniforms/mattresses/power sources etc. as needed, and worked as grips opening and closing the mechanical door on the cell in which we were shooting.

I'd never seen the inside of a prison before, and I gotta say, barring another film shoot someday, I'd be perfectly happy never to see another one. The guards took a special kind of delight in trying to scare the female members of the crew, recounting the prisoner's game of attempting to time ejaculations to hit female guards as they passed the cells. One of the guards also pointed out a line of bars along the top of the cells, which were littered with shreds of old, ripped bedsheets. These, he told me, were the remnants of attempts at suicide (or murder) by strangulation; when they found a body hanging from that row of bars, they just cut the sheet noose off at the top, but never bothered coming back remove the rest. So the tattered remains served as a kind of growing monument to each of those deaths. And we had to work in there.

It was, suffice to say, not the happiest place I've ever worked. It was also really hot (again), and walking from place to place among the prisoners was pretty intimidating. They always had guards watching over them, looking threatening if anyone attempted to do or say anything untoward to the mostly-female crew, but just being stared at was enough to put me on edge.

We ate in the gymnasium -- a gym that would have looked perfectly at-home in almost any of the high schools I attended -- and shared our lunch with the guards who were helping us. They were very nice, very cordial to us, but I could imagine them being extremely not-nice when called upon. And this was only a medium-security joint; I can't imagine what a maximum-security prison would feel like.

While we were shooting, I could look through the windows opposite the cell doors into the exercise yard. At one point the inmate from the women's prison were out, and I kept watching this one woman who sat off entirely by herself in a corner of the yard, wondering what her life was like. On the one hand, I can imagine that solitude is hard to come by in prison; that may have been the only reason she was alone. For some reason, I hope so.

Anyway, the day's shooting was frustrating, only because one of the two actors we were working with in the afternoon simply could not remember his lines. Every take was a torturous process of coaching him from off-screen, and eventually it became contagious; even DeVere, who usually nails his lines every time, starting getting confused and forgetting where he was in the dialogue. The heat didn't help matters any. Slowly, we dragged our way through the scene, and wrapped it up just as the guards began getting ready for the shift change.

Glad to be done with that one.
1:11 PM ::
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Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Non-Journal, Days Seven, Eight, and Nine

This is the problem in falling behind with this journal: when I finally get time to fill in the blanks, it's so over that I have to re-live the days in question to write about them, which is the last thing I want to do on my day off. So pardon me if this all seems a bit cursory; my heart's not in it.

Day Seven... what the hell did we do on day seven? Let's see... oh, right. We spent the day shooting at an office downtown; a long shoot, but pretty enjoyable. I made the mistake of going out for a quick drink with Diana afterwards; I had a great time with Diana, but ended up staying out far too late for my own good, considering I had to be up at 5 AM the next morning.

Day Eight: shooting at Cactus Jack's, out sorta near the airport; a long, long, long day. I woke up in a foul mood, having only gotten four hours of sleep, really not looking forward to fourteen hours of shooting. Once we got past mid-day, though, things picked up, my mood lifted a bit, and I started to enjoy it again. Once we were done we hung around briefly and chatted with the bartender and each other. My exhaustion was eased somewhat by the knowledge that we didn't have to start shooting until the evening the next day.

Day Nine: shooting at an all-purpose reception space in Midtown. It wasn't an easy shoot... there was a lot of annoying ambient noise in the location, and the guy supplying our prop-food (from the restaurant next-door) was kind of a dick in spite of the fact that we were paying. Everything took far longer than it should have(because of aforementioned ambient noise), so we ended up taking seven hours to shoot two fairly simple scenes. Lee got in kind of a tizzy, and the actors were complaining of the mild heat... they weren't in the apartment set, they don't even know what "hot" means. The actors who look down on the crew, even subtly, are the ones I dislike; at this level, we're all in it together. Still, you can't expect much more from 'em; it's not their job to sympathize, just to look pretty and say the lines.

We got our day off today because the day's location, a model apartment in a high-end building, wasn't actually booked for the day by the guy handling the locations. I welcomed the free day, even though I expect I'll regret it later when we lose a day off to re-schedule. Tomorrow's another early morning (I hate those the most), shooting at the correctional facility out in Shelby Farms. It's going to be hot again, but at least there's a clear end-time; we can't shoot past 6 PM.

It's almost 11:30 now; I have another very, very long post I'm working on, but I need to get a few hours of sleep before tomorrow's shoot... the blog's really suffering this week. With luck, next week the load will lighten a bit and I'll be able to catch up. Until then, maybe Mr. Smithers (ahem) will help me out with a post or two. You never know, right?
11:24 PM ::
Sister Novena :: permalink

Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Checking In

Sorry to the readership (both of you) for my silence over the last couple of days... I've been going flat-out on the shoot, and I've barely had time to shower and do laundry, much less write scintillating commentary on the state of the world. The good news is that I finally got some sleep last night (fourteen hours! woohoo!), and I have a fairly short shoot tonight, so with luck I'll be able to crank out two nice, long posts tonight, and get myself caught up. Check back.

Update: Well, no short shoot tonight... it's almost 3 AM as I write this, so I'm not going to post anything now. BUT, we got an unexpected day off tomorrow (a location fell through) so I'll have time to write those two posts, do some laundry, and take a shower. And email Denny the #$%@#!* Co-op schedule.
3:38 PM ::
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