Sunday, January 13, 2008

THE OPPOSITE OF SOCKS

Snow, like a house guest, always seems so fresh and wonderful for the first three days.



But, again like a house guest, it eventually turns into a wet, sludgy annoyance and soon enough I tired of the novelty of trying to shoot a low budget movie in conditions so bleak that even the transportation vehicles, piloted by what we in the film business euphemistically refer to as “drivers”, were in continual need of rescuing from the ditch.



There was much rejoicing amongst the help when the inevitable Vancouver rains finally came and washed away the early harbinger of Christmas doom yet to come, and even more excitement when the clouds parted to reveal not one but TWO rainbows.



This seemed to lift spirits considerably around the set, especially amongst the more superstitious of the crewmembers, and much of the rest of the shoot at the farmhouse was interrupted by the constant clickety-click of people snapping photos of themselves beneath the multihued arches. While I understand it’s all terribly exciting to be exposed to the magic of Mother Nature and so forth, if one more person had interrupted my staging of a scene by holding out their digital cameras with a beaming smile, proclaiming “this is a good sign, hmm?” in regards to what is essentially a damp cloud with better lighting, they would have needed surgery to remove their Nikon from one of their more personal orifices.



As filming continued over the next few days, though, it seemed perhaps there was something to be said for these rainbows. There were no major catastrophes to speak of, no serious problems with scheduling and not a single disastrous wardrobe or prop malfunction. My marvelous First Assistant Director continued to astonish us all with his focus and unending good spirits, even though he had to check in hourly with his Lovely And Very Expectant Wife to see if her water had broken yet. (Knowing his scheduling skills and ruthless quest for efficiency, none of us would have been in the least surprised if he'd told her to "hold it in" until we wrapped the movie.)



In fact, things progressed with a surprising lack of drama until we reached the dreaded “Night Time At the Pond” scene, something which all of us had been worried about from the very start of shooting. Our gifted Scribe had created a scene wherein one of the Murder Suspects – the strapping and handsome young man whom we shall call, for reasons which will become apparent soon, The Sock – attempts to seduce our hero Don Strachey -



--while skinny dipping in Ye Olde Waterin’ Hole, behind the barn.



In theory, this is a wonderful idea, ripe with visual and – frankly – rather erotic possibilities. And while I’m sure our well-intentioned Writer imagined a warm summer night, a moonlit pond, the sheening glow of damp skin, etc etc, the reality of doing this scene in the middle of December, in British Columbia, is that the water is just slightly above freezing, the air even colder, and the only moonlight is going to be the result of my genius Director of Photography planting a massive crane on the muddy bank of an irrigation pond and praying that it doesn’t begin to snow again.



Oddly enough though, none of these elements turned out to be the problem with the scene. The problem was – and those of you who have been faithfully following along are probably already ahead of me – The Sock.

When one contracts an actor to do nudity in a film, one fills out a contract “rider”, specifically listing the exact things the actor will “show”. In this case, knowing I needed a very startling moment in the film to make our Hero’s rebuff of the attempted seduction seem all the more heroic, I told my Casting Director to find me an actor who would do “full frontal nudity” or, in the more common parlance of the day, The Full Monty.



She, being a thorough and professional young lady – and after the absurdity of the earlier nudity problems we’d experienced on this shoot (see previous Blog “The Mensa Nudes” for details) - sourced the various talent agencies in Vancouver and managed to put together a selection of handsome young men who were prepared to give their “all” in the name of Art. This, as you may have guessed, is a rather short list; there is a sense of shame so deeply ingrained in the sexual psyche of the North American male that not even the promise of a very fat check – scale PLUS an extra percentage – is enough to make him take off his clothes in front of strangers.

(I, of course, don’t seem to have this particular problem: see an earlier blog regarding my One Night Only adventure as a Montreal Stripper for details…)

However, after much diligence and several auditions, we finally found Our Man. Or at least I thought so.

After a long telephone conversation, a discussion of both the content and the style of shooting the scene, a written description of the camera angles AND my personal assurance that I would make The Sock feel comfortable on set and look good in the movie, it seemed as though everything was going to work out just fine. During dialogue rehearsals with Our Star, The Sock still seemed ready to do what had been asked of him, even voicing his understandable nervousness about the chilly night air and the distinct possibility that his “performance” might not be up to industry standards. But as bitter past experience has taught me, dear reader, what an Actor SAYS and what an Actor DOES are often two totally different things.

And so it was, on the evening of the Pond, when I began placing cameras – in the exact positions I had described for weeks – and setting the actors on their marks, The Sock balked.

“That’s your angle?” he asked, as incredulous as if I’d brought forth a Steadicam mounted on the end of an anal probe. “That’s not in my rider.”

Now let me just say this: the “rider” clearly said “full frontal nudity”, “naked”, “filmed from the front” and various other versions OF “you will show your penis on camera”. But it did NOT say “you will show your penis on camera”.

Therein, as they say, lies the rub.



At this point in the festivities, I had been shooting two movies back to back in an absurdly short time frame, was dealing with a production the budget of which continued to shrink as the Canadian dollar strengthened, and had my vision of an “urban” film noir movie compromised at every turn by being forced to shoot in a hick town somewhere out in the wilds of B.C. I was sleep deprived, cold, homesick and – finally – utterly frustrated by yet another tedious “nude” who wouldn’t be. I think it would have been completely understandable had I simply grabbed this idiot by the throat and tossed him headlong into the freezing pond.

Therefore, I hope you – dear reader – will appreciate the grace I demonstrated by simply smiling at The Sock and saying “oh, really? Well then, we’d better come up with an alternative I guess.” The fact that I immediately walked away from the situation is the only thing that saved our Producer from having to post bail for a homicide.



A series of phone calls ensued to various Agents, the Casting Director and, finally, our long suffering Line Producer but it all came down to the same thing: The Sock wasn’t going to show the goods. And in this era of politically correct behavior, where a misplaced smile can result in six months of Sexual Harassment Counseling, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it, contract or not. As a member of the Actors Union, if he suddenly felt “uncomfortable”, he simply didn’t have to do a thing.

Thus, The Sock. A ridiculous bit of cloth to wrap around the Male Bits, elastic at one end to hold it in place, which conceals nothing but forces the filmmaker’s camera to avert its gaze from anything below the waist. Which of course simply confirms in the mind of the viewing audience that which the Wearer of The Sock fears, whether true or not: He Has A Small Penis.

Although I was forced to shoot around this ridiculous situation, even after my loyal Camera Operator offered up his own endowment as a substitute “stunt member” -



-- (a possibility which I graciously refused; he has always been a Not-So-Secret Object of My Lust, and I would rather not have my fantasies ruined – or outdone for that matter - by the Reared Head of Reality), the evening ended on a surprisingly positive note. As The Sock left the set, sulking about the cold shoulder he was receiving from the rest of the cast and crew, it seemed the worst was behind us and the End of the Movie was in sight.

Thus, a celebration was in order, so I gathered together a dozen of my favorite "film gals" - as well as spiritual advisor Nelson Wong - for an elegant afternoon get together of "high tea and low gossip" at Vancouver's beautiful Wedgewood Hotel, an event hereinafter known as DADDY'S CHRISTMAS TEA.



I must admit it was a trifle disorienting to see all of these wonderful women - normally clad in bulky all weather gear as they suffer the indignities of on set survival - dressed to the nines in this elegant room like proper ladies but still exchanging ribald stories and hearty laughs over the various eccentricities of those strange and rare beasts we call "Actors".



And while all of the stories got more than a few giggles, nothing could possibly compete with Anastasia's revelation that a Major Male Movie Star spends over six hours in the makeup chair every morning having his hair painted on....



It makes the problem of an actor with a sock on his privates pale by comparison....

2 Comments:

Blogger bbkp said...

It will all be worth it in the end! No, really! There are so many of us waiting for these movies and they will be *great*!

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dahling, it was only a mere 2 1/2 hours on average we waited while his hair was glued on...

You *know* how I'm a stickler for details. HAAHAHAAA!!

:: smooches ::

-A-

12:45 AM  

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