Monday, January 08, 2007


This must be some kind of record. I hadn't even made it to set today before I’d managed to offend somebody.
It would seem that an offer I made earlier this morning to help pay – out of my own pocket – for an extra piece of camera equipment wasn’t perceived as an attempt to help out the production but rather as a vicious insult to the abilities of our Montreal producers. I try to explain that I was only trying to help -- insulting their abilities would be like beating up a street mime; good fun but hardly satisfying. However, as I’ve been learning over the past few weeks most of our problems have stemmed from a local obsession with protocol and hierarchy. Honestly, these people put more energy into saving face than Joan Rivers' plastic surgeon.

I’ve never been one for discussions of “pecking order”, especially on a low budget picture, but in the interests of keeping the peace I apologize for overstepping my boundaries and promise never to offer any help again. Fortunately, the sarcasm doesn’t seem to translate to these nitwits so my inadvertent mea culpa makes everybody happy and we get back to work.

The damage from yesterday’s freezing rainstorm is everywhere so after yet another half hour's discussion about what to do, steam cleaning trucks are called in, putting us about three hours behind schedule for the day. But since the plot of our movie, as mentioned before, revolves around a town that hasn’t had snow at Christmas for 30 years, there’s not much we can do until the skating rink currently occupying the front yard of the Wilson's house is removed.
Meanwhile, I get called over by the producers AGAIN. It would seem the reason my First AD has been AWOL all morning -- not unusual in that he's been late five out of eight days so far -- is that he's planning to quit. Today.

It’s my fault, they tell me. Apparently my constantly speaking the truth -- which evidently around these parts is considered rude -- has hurt his feelings to the point where he can't go on. Good grief.

Okay, look, I'm sorry if my Inner Joan Crawford has been a little rough on him but eight days solid of having my every instruction questioned, my every directive misinterpreted and my every request challenged by somebody who is supposed to be my ASSISTANT doesn't exactly make me feel like Little Miss F***ing SUNSHINE!!! And after all, it’s called “show BUSINESS”, not “show FRIENDS” (thanks to one of the best First AD’s out there, Arlene!!).

So what do I want to do now, the producers wonder?

Well, what I want to do is finish the damn movie, so time for yet ANOTHER freakin’ apology. I take my First AD aside and tell him I’m sorry, it’s nothing personal but I can’t concentrate on making the movie if there’s a disaster every five minutes that I have to deal with because he won't. I ask him to hang on to the end of the day and see how things go now that his friend, our recently departed Third AD, has been replaced.

He agrees to this, just as the steamers have cleaned off the last of the ice. We get ready for the next snow-free scene, line up the cameras, prepare the set, rehearse the actors --
And it starts to snow again.

Not just little, easily removed flakes either. Great big whacking globs of snow, clumping on the freshly cleaned grass and sticking to the actors like a bad review. RJ looks at me, deadpan, and says “You know, Ron, it hasn’t snowed here at Christmas in 30 years.”

My freshly-apologized-to First AD turns to me says “Ron, I have a plan to get us out of this mess”.

No wait. He said that in my FANTASY WORLD! Here in REALITY LAND he just looks at me blankly and says: “Well? What do you want to do?”

What I WANT to do is suggest a murder/suicide pact with him. But with my luck, Hell would turn out to be a movie set and we'd end up together making some Canadian lesbian wheat farmer movie starring Sarah Polley for all eternity.

So I call for the schedule to be flipped for the day and we send the actors back to change wardrobe, still a 15 minute car ride since we haven’t been able to park the trucks any closer to set thanks to the lunacy of our original location deals. New props are ordered up, the set is redressed, cameras are repositioned and we get ready for the final, climactic Christmas Day Snowstorm scene.

Surprisingly, things happen without a hitch. We get actors and wardrobe when we need them, people are communicating and all proceeds smoothly.
The snow keeps falling and falling, however, eventually getting so heavy that we can’t finish the whole scene. But a film crew is like a shark – keep moving forward or you die. So we keep moving. We move into the building where we eat lunch, and turn it into a mini studio to do some visual effects shots, putting RJ and Godfrey into scenes we’ve already shot by the magic of blue screen.

Somehow, it all works and we finish the day on time, and the week on a high note. Things are looking up.

Or so I think. I'm beginning to hear grumblings from certain crew members about the constant schedule changes. It's only a couple of rotten apples, but apparently they are upset about not being consulted on what days we are shooting and what days we have off, both of which are actually being dictated by the weather.

At first I think the constant bone-numbing cold is causing me to hallucinate - are the crews in this city so spoiled by sucking up to the government film finance trough that they actually think they can control when the snow falls?

I decide to write it off to a rather odd strain of cinematic socialism, and head for the door. On the way, I'm stopped by my First AD who reluctantly admits that maybe trying to cover for his Third AD friend for the past week and a half, while honorable, wasn’t in the best interests of our movie. Especially since the difference in efficiency between yesterday and today has been night and day. He agrees to stay on to the end of the film.

I hug him and wish him a good weekend. I’ll have to buy him a gift or something to make up for being such a bitch.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mister Oliver,

As a fan of your work and of Mister Richard M. Dumont's (aka - The Black Prince), I would like to know how you felt about working with this, dare-I-say-it, genius amongst dunder-heads? What's he REALLY like? And is it true that once he heard that Mister Wagner alllowed you to call him "RJ" that Mister Dumont allowed you to call him, "You! Pion!!"?

Well, gotta run... I hear Belvedere calling.

Your pal...


12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Dumont is a two-bit hack!

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just kidding, Richard! I sincerely hope we get to work together again soon.

You genius amongst dunder-heads, you.

The other "Me"

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh man, this is easily the best link I have been sent so far this year. Keep it up Ron.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Sammy Loccer said...

Hey Ron,

Saddly enough this blog, as a director, might be your best work yet. Great fun to read all this insanity...a fan

2:16 PM  
Blogger Susan Jones said...

and here I thought I was the only one who hosted a inner Joan Crawford!
sounds like you are in movie-hell...I know you are loving every second!

12:54 PM  

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