Thursday, March 22, 2007

DAY THIRTEEN!

Although I’m not particularly superstitious, I will admit to some trepidation this morning when I looked at the call sheet. However I doubt that even the unluckiest of numbers can hold a candle to whatever black cat has been crossing the path of this movie since Day One!

Yesterday’s massive snowstorm has once again left our location neighborhood covered in a blanket of the white stuff, but of course it hasn’t occurred to anybody to have the steam trucks called in early enough to clear the street in time for us to start on schedule. So as the usual discussion/negotiation/finger-pointing breaks out between departments, my loyal camera crew and I start filming our Props man trying to get a large plastic Snowman to fly up onto the roof of the “Wilson’s” house and perch amongst a messy pile of colored lights. This is neither as easy nor as entertaining as it sounds and it takes about a dozen tries before the damned thing hits its mark, and even then it lands in a rather unflattering position, exposing the terribly suggestive and more than slightly vulgar “plug hole” located in its nether regions for all the world to enjoy.
Just then, the steam trucks arrive and production comes to a grinding halt for several hours as our “well to do neighborhood” is turned from a winter wonderland into a block long mud pit. This is hardly the slice of Americana I’m looking for, but we have no other option so I’m forced to stage the next scene almost entirely in close-ups, not only to hide the remnants of snow in the distance but also to conceal the fact that my young actors, supposedly frolicking on the front lawn, are actually in danger of being swallowed up by quicksand.
But finally, after losing almost four hours to the weather – and the nonsense of it all – we are ready to roll cameras on the first real scene of the day. Everybody lines up, cameras and sound ready, I’m about to yell “action” – and my First AD whispers that we can’t shoot yet.

The wee thespians need to pee.

Apparently nobody bothered to send the children on a bathroom break while we boiled the local flora. And as frequent readers of this blog know, we have no toilet facilities anywhere close to set. Even the wretched porta potty down the street is off limits now, as it seems nobody from the construction site has returned to clean the thing, so what was once only a horrible experience is now actually a potential death trap.

When we finally get around to shooting the scene, I suddenly remember that this is our little Joey’s BIG speech - a full paragraph about how the school bully might have severe emotional problems and really only needs love and understanding.

This is a moment I’ve been dreading since his first on-camera appearance – he’s turned out to be a delight, but let’s just say there’s no danger of us needing to perform an Exorcism to remove the Ghost of Olivier from the child. However, just as I begin entertaining the notion of using Computer Graphics to make his mouth move properly, he actually delivers the speech flawlessly. In three different takes!

Granted, instead of looking at his fellow actors during his speech, he stares at the sky, the ground and various crew members, which can be a trifle disconcerting to say the least, so on the final take I stand next to the camera and wave a shiny piece of tinsel to keep his attention focused. Even then he still manages to gaze at a passing bird from time to time but I get enough to be able to edit a decent scene.

With the light rapidly fading, we rush down the street to do a scene where the Wilson’s afternoon stroll is interrupted by the arrival of a school bus. Between the miscues, the language barriers and the cloudy day, the scene is hardly what I’d hoped it would be, but RJ and Louise, and certainly Max, are all on their game – except for the part where Max reminds RJ of a forgotten line, which causes a brief embarrassment. I take Max aside and gently suggest that perhaps one shouldn’t remind one’s elder co-stars of their missed cues, at which point he looks at me point blank and says “I’m six and I know ALL my lines”.

Well, you can’t argue with that kind of logic.

Lunch passes without incident, although I will admit that in spite of the excellent catering on this picture, I am beginning to tire of having every dish served swimming in “sauce”. It reminds me somewhat of the food we were served the year I spent working for Club Med, wearing nothing but a thong and a key around my neck; the difference being we were in the Caribbean where one can very easily burn off the creamy residue coursing through one’s arteries, not freezing our poutines in the cold.

Lon, Robert Wagner’s hair/makeup/right-hand man comes to me in confidence and tells me that RJ is worried about the final scene of the night - the one in which he has finally found the Spirit of Christmas within himself, and must dance down the street at night in a vaguely Alistair Sim-like fashion.

Concerned he’s going to look foolish, RJ wonders if I would mind perhaps demonstrating it for him, just to give him a sense of how it should look. Throwing pride to the wind, I gather myself up and – with the entire crew looking on – run down the sidewalk like an escaped mental patient, leaping in the air, kicking my heels and shouting “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas everyone!!”

It’s not until I reach the end of the camera track that I realize they are filming this and RJ has a huge grin on his face.

I’ve been had.

The perfect end to the Thirteenth Day.