Wednesday, November 29, 2006

DAY ONE



I’m not sure exactly when we “lost” the day.

It might’ve been right off the bat this morning, when I arrived at our first location – a lovely home in a well-heeled part of Montreal – and saw the entire crew standing around looking at the ground. The clean, dry ground.

The problem was, there was supposed to be snow on that ground. And on the shrubs and the trees. And the house. And in the air, falling down around my actors – dressed as if it were 1947 – as they show us how a young Georgie Wilson “became” crabby old Mr. Wilson.

Unfortunately, the people who live in the neighborhood where we’ve chosen to shoot our Dennis the Menace Christmas picture aren’t exactly delighted by our presence. We aren’t even allowed to bring our trucks onto the streets – public streets mind you! – until after 7 a.m. My cinematographer Kim and I have a running joke that the production manager – basically the “foreman” of the shoot – is trying to make this movie without anybody in the city of Montreal knowing about it.

So instead of “dressing” the house with artificial snow and ice the night before as planned, my design and effects crew have been forced to do a rush job which, even though it looks great on camera, has resulted in an entire film crew doing nothing for two hours and ends up costing us about $20,000.00 more than it should have in lost time and wages.

Once we got going, however, the extraordinarily fast and skilled technical team made sure things proceeded with remarkable efficiency. All went surprisingly well for the first day -- EXCEPT:

--the ridiculous agreement we’ve been forced into with the local municipality means all of our dressing rooms and makeup and hair trailers are parked two miles from the set, so just getting an actor from his trailer to in front of the camera is a major military maneuver.;

--and my first assistant director refuses to communicate with my second assistant director who tries hard to communicate with my third assistant director who, judging by the “deer in the headlights” look permanently etched on his face, has never even SEEN a movie let alone worked on one;

-- oh, and as we all know, actors LIE. It’s what they do for a living. When they’re adults, this usually takes the form of harmless exaggerations of their skills, such as “of COURSE I can ride a horse/drive a car/chew gum and walk at the same time”. It is a truism that the more complicated the requirement – fly fishing, for example, or teeth flossing – the more enthusiastically the thesp in question will boast about his or her abilities.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when our child actors, all of whom swore on a stack of Playstations that they could ride a bike, spent the better part of the morning crashing into trees, curbs and each other as they attempted to navigate their way through the big race scene.

Eventually we ended up rigging a fake bike to a wagon and pushing the little darlings up and down the street – or more to the point, Yanka our hot-as-a-pistol dolly grip did.

When it’s all cut together, it’ll be magic I’m sure.

Not so magical, however, was the “stunt” whereby our little Dennis, the adorable Maxwell as seen in the picture above of himself and me, crashes his bike into a pile of leaves.

Since we didn’t want to risk his life and limb this early in the shoot, we had engaged a “little person” to dress in Dennis’ costume and take the fall. This seemed to be a good idea.

At the time.

I have never seen active combat. Nor have I witnessed a bullfight, open heart surgery or self-immolation by a bereft Indian. However, I doubt even these things could compare with the sense of alarm one feels watching an adult dwarf jammed into ill-fitting children’s clothing repeatedly ram a small bicycle into a pile of wet leaves.

Any of the preceeding events surely contributed to the fact that we didn’t finish all of our scheduled work today. This isn’t unusual of course, but it certainly doesn’t give our little movie a terribly auspicious start.

One can only imagine what horrors tomorrow will bring.

Monday, November 27, 2006

TAXICAB CONFESSIONS

It looks as though those fourth grade beatings were worth it after all.

Not long after Robert Wagner’s gracious phone call of the other night, we received word that he was going to be able to join us here in Montreal and play Mr. Wilson after all. Needless to say, there was much rejoicing around the offices of DENNIS THE MENACE 3, and I for one am very relieved that we won’t have to attempt any more reanimation experiments on the body of Don Knotts.

I of course am of the conviction that it was my sad tale of being cruelly taunted by elementary school heathens for wearing an ascot like my idol "RJ" when I was 8 years old which touched his heart and made him change his mind.

So now our cast is complete: Robert Wagner as Mr. Wilson
the fabulous Oscar winning LOUISE FLETCHER as Mrs. Wilson
GEORGE NEWBERN as Dennis' Dad HENRY -
my old pal KIM SCHRANER as Dennis' mom ALICE - and another old friend JACK NOSEWORTHY as David Bratcher, the father of the local bully


So finally, after three months of searching and with the ceaseless efforts of our very gifted casting director Larry "Luluabell" Lafond, we have our actors!!

To celebrate, I joined our producer STEVEN WOLFE at a terribly elegant cocktail soiree thrown by the organizers of IMAGE + NATION, Montreal’s Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, to welcome the attending filmmakers and other VIP types.

In keeping with my tradition of making an utter fool of myself in every possible situation, I completely insulted the head of the festival, the extraordinary Charlie Boudreau – whose warm and deep voice I had only ever heard on the phone – by asking the charming and charismatic lesbian who greeted me at the party where I might find him. As you may have surmised, Charlie wasn’t a “him” but was in fact the “her” standing in front of me.

Not since I asked a rather zaftig woman at Pat “Degrassi” Mastrianno’s summer bbq when she was “expecting” -- only to discover that she wasn’t and the pair of MASSIVE HAMBURGERS on her plate had nothing to do with “eating for two” – have I so firmly tasted my Prada loafers.

Charlie, bless her little Sapphic heart, took it all in good humored stride, so much so that she and the dynamic Katherine Setzer, the festival programmer, invited me out to a filmmaker’s dinner last night at a wonderful restaurant called CONTINENTAL.

Given the general disregard that the Montreal taxi drivers seem to have for direction, traffic laws and human life, it didn’t surprise me that the cabbie we hailed had no idea where the Continental resto was located, and his dispatcher took great pleasure in telling us over the radio that neither she nor anybody in the entire company had ever heard of the place. The delight with which she said this was almost palpable, as if to suggest that if she’d never been there it almost certainly wasn’t worth discussing.

This was only the latest surreal cab trip I’ve had since arriving in Montreal a month ago; so far I’ve been driven around town by a raging conspiracy theorist who firmly believed Canada was being secretly run by European Communists, a nattily dressed man who, when given our destination, stroked his dashboard and asked his cab to get us there safely, and a cheerful fellow who almost killed us half a dozen times because he was distracted by shaving his KNUCKLES with a ladies’ pink plastic disposable razor.

The following Monday evening, our movie SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM screened to an medium-sized but appreciative audience. In spite of the language difference, the drama and the comedy seemed to translate well and Chad Allen’s “go for the Oscar” moment, when he breaks down over the suicide of his long-dead lover, once again brought people to tears.

However, any ego inflation which may have occurred for yours truly was quickly dashed when we left the theater and saw a MASSIVE line up around the block for the next film, “ANOTHER GAY MOVIE”. Sigh. Note to self: next time I get the bright idea to make a film noir private eye movie for a gay audience, add dildo jokes and sex with baked goods.