Saturday, December 08, 2007

HOW TO MAKE A MILLION DOLLARS

As usual when working in British Columbia, Canada, we were promised considerable tax credits for shooting the third and fourth installments in our Donald Strachey mystery pictures “outside the zone” – ie: so far from the City of Vancouver itself that one practically needs a passport to get to the film set – but the reality has been that any extra money we’ve saved is being devoured by the outrageous fees the locals are charging for shooting in their neighborhoods.



Granted, having a movie star hanging around their establishments is clearly a massive inconvenience, but if the rates they are demanding from us in return for the lost revenue they feel they will incur during our shoot is any indication, the curio shops and sandwich joints littering the main street of Langley must normally have thousands of customers an hour.



Oddly, however, in the days since we’ve been here, the place has been a ghost town.

Given that it’s the start of the Christmas shopping season, this seems rather strange but perhaps the clientele have been frightened off by the price of parking. For example, in order to film on a single level of the parking structure of an all-but-abandoned local “casino”, we were charged almost four thousand dollars. For six hours.



Forget about investing in Google stock, dear reader. What you really want to do with that extra money in your mattress is buy land in Langley, British Columbia. Apparently even the asphalt is made of gold.



And yet, only a scant few minutes away, in “Fort” Langley, we were welcomed with open arms by the gracious owner of “Don and Tim’s House”; a delightfully renovated home featured in our previous Strachey movie “Shock to the System”.



The lady of the house had been rather disappointed in her most recent experience opening her abode to a film company – a common refrain in the area, which has seen more than its fair share of cheap movies being shot in the past couple of years by inexperienced and, frankly, impolite crews – and was no longer interested in having an army of strangers march through her front door carrying the cinematic equivalent of battering rams. But when she heard the film in question was one of mine she very kindly changed her mind and let us in. For this, I will be eternally grateful, especially given what happened next.



Scene 26. Breaking Into The House.

Take One. The taller of our bad guys, a very sweet but VERY huge Russian bodybuilder with a jump rope fetish was so invested in his character that he managed to actually rip the metal handle off the solid wood front door in the middle of the scene. Cut.

Take Two. With the door handle taped back in place, the aforementioned Russian now only “pretended” to open the door, but in his enthusiasm he shoved it so hard that it smashed a hole in the wall behind. Cut.

Take Three. The “break-in” sequence completed, we finished the night shooting outside the house, as Don and Tim escaped down a fire ladder. The fire ladder unfortunately didn’t fit into the window frame properly, so the actors had to pretend to climb down the wall, slowing things down considerably. But the action picked up when our Russian friend, this time chasing our heroes, had to fake getting hit in the face with a shovel. While the props department supplied a rubber spade for the gag, the Russian misjudged the distance and slammed full force into the wooden handle of the garden tool, cracking it in half, and knocking himself backwards with enough force to flatten a hedge. Cut. Print.



Even though we had the damages repaired the following day, I still felt obliged to make amends to the Lady in the House. After all, I am the director of the film. I racked my brain for a week trying to think of something to do, some gesture which would let her know I felt bad about what had happened and needed to apologize in some concrete, meaningful way.

But then I thought “hey, screw it, I'M not Russian!” So I sent over a box of candles and called it a day. It’s not as if somebody died.

In the meantime, we headed off to a local airport, to film the sequence where our hero Don negotiates with the Evil Kiddie Porn Producer to rescue the Girl in return for 3 million dollars worth of “euro bonds”, a bit of cinematic legerdemain for which I am sure we will eventually be cauterized by those nitpickers who troll the IMDB.



The temperature plummeted when we got there, and even though the crew had bundled up, the wind whistling down the tarmac was enough to chill even the hardiest of us to the bone.



Yet even though she was shivering in her skimpy Catholic schoolgirl skirt and blouse outfit, our brave little actress Britney didn’t complain once, not even when her fellow actor playing the EPP virtually ignored her between takes in order to stay in character by listening to Nine Inch Nails music on an endless loop on his iPod.



We wrapped the night by finishing with some shots of an absolutely gorgeous vintage 1948 fighter plane taking off piloted by – thanks to some celluloid trickery – the same young man whom, a few nights earlier, had balked at first about swinging his naked assets in our hot tub scene. One of our more salacious crew members took it upon himself to ask me a rather sleazy question:

“Ron, did you give that guy the pilot role because you truly believe in his talents or just because he took his clothes off for you in a movie?”



Being a gentleman, I did NOT dignify that question with a reply. Some people simply cannot fathom the intricacies of the artistic mind, and it is hardly my responsibility to educate them. Suffice it to say that the young man in question did a remarkable job with the role, especially given the fact that the uniform he had to wear was, inexplicably, several sizes too small for his muscular frame, especially around the thighs.



I’m not sure how it happened, but I must remember to chastise the wardrobe department. With a bottle of champagne.