Friday, December 11, 2009


At long last, the first post-production MARTINI!

Loyal readers will recall the remarkable restraint I have shown these past few weeks, denying myself the pleasures of the well-made Belvedere martini (dry, up, with a twist from may-nov, olives from dec-april, in case any of you out there are buying...) and, though it seems impossible, we are now finished production on Disney’s "HARRIET THE SPY".

In fact, we’ve just this afternoon completed editing what is commonly referred to as “The Director’s Cut”, so named because it theoretically represents the truest incarnation of the director’s “vision” for the film. I say “theoretically” because one’s TRUE vision for any film usually exists only in one’s mind - (like the computer graphics effects which have turned our Hamilton, Ontario locations into New York City) -

- unencumbered by budget, schedule, actor availability and the odd plaster Lion which might just happen to get in the way of the director’s beautifully planned crane shot, as happened on our final day of shooting.

Yes, I said “plaster”.

Granted, I’ve worked with animals before; certainly one of the oddest bits of direction I’ve ever given was “please get that other giraffe out of camera range, I only want a SINGLE giraffe in this shot!”, but that was in Africa of course, where these sorts of problems are to be expected.

However I’ve never had to deal with a beast that, in spite of being inanimate, managed to – with the help two rather ill-advised background performers - throw itself into the path of the camera and shatter the “matte box”.

(This, for the uninitiated, is that square frame which rests at the far end of the camera’s lens and seems to take an eternity to remove or replace, a task usually done when time is running out and there are only seconds to complete an entire scene before the crew dashes off to lunch or, in the case of certain unnamed members of my most recent team -

- the nearest Gentlemen’s "theatrical" Club featuring the artistic dance stylings of ladies named Misty or Chanelle.)

But in spite of that accident, our last day of principal photography went off without a hitch, and even my Producer, the indefatigable Jonathan Hackett, managed to summon a smile –

- rarer than a good John Cusack movie – as he realized that our final special effect shot, involving a series of large plaster statues toppling over and smashing around our stars, worked perfectly on Take One.

Adding to the fun was a visit from my nephew Benmont and his friend, the near-mythical Tyler Crane, both of whom were thrilled to meet one of our stars, Danny Smith, whose appearance in the cult television series "Big Wolf On Campus" seems to have struck a chord with the adolescent male viewer for obvious reasons (lycanthropy is, after all, just puberty without the acne...).

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the many gifts placed upon the large table one of my minions had set in front of my Director's Chair, tokens of esteem from Cast and Crew bestowed upon me, their Director and, ergo, Father Figure. This of course serves a dual purpose - they get to symbolically make up for any difficulties in their relationship with their own, biological paterfamilias, and I get marvelous presents. Win-win, hm?

Cut. Print. And un-wrap!

And just in the nick of time, I might add, given that Christmas 2009 is mere weeks away.

Loyal readers will recall I have a long history of making movies during the holiday season and have barely managed to make it home by the skin of my teeth for the past half dozen years.

(And when one has a houseful of guests for Christmas week, not to mention a catered dinner party for 30 people planned for The Big Day, every moment counts!)

But this is the closest I’ve shaved it since the making of “A Dennis The Menace Christmas” – has it really been 3 years since I endured that ghastly winter’s shoot in Montreal, with everything from a mutinous First Assistant Director to a rampaging blizzard conspiring against me? –

- and although the Boyfriend is keeping a stiff upper lip, I’m very sensitive to his emotions and can sense a certain anxiety in his telephone voice, especially when he says things like “HURRY UP AND GET HOME! THE CHRISTMAS GIFTS YOU KEEP ORDERING ON EBAY WHEN YOU’RE DRUNK ARE STACKING UP IN THE GUEST ROOM AND SOMEBODY NEEDS TO SORT THEM OUT PRONTO AND THAT SOMEBODY IS YOU!”

Speaking of “A Dennis The Menace Christmas”, I received an email the other day from a dear friend of mine with a photograph attached showing that particular film of mine on sale at a discount department store specializing in overstocked items and end-of-runs.

Such is the fate of the Artiste in modern society, I’m afraid. One minute you’re at a big Hollywood premiere, celebrating your latest cinematic confection, the next, you find yourself marked down at Big Lots.

Yet one mustn’t be dissuaded from always trying to do one’s best; certainly we’ve hit a few high notes – figuratively AND literally – on “Harriet The Spy”, thanks to our star, the dazzlingly talented Jennifer Stone -

- and soon-to-be teen hearthrob Wesley Morgan (you heard it hear first!) -

- but still one never knows what kind of an impact a film is going to have on its audience.

For example, who could have predicted that an episode of television I wrote and directed back in the mid-nineties – "The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner" -

- part of a now legendary series called “Are You Afraid of the Dark” – would end up providing inspiration for a rock band in 2009?

Yes, the name of the "nerdy" heroine in that show has been taken as the moniker for a Boston based musical group.

I am thoroughly honored.

So even if the plane that I’m scheduled to board a week from now should happen to plunge into one of the nearby great lakes or suck a load of geese into its engines, I will be able to go to that great Movie Theater in the sky secure in the knowledge that I have given immortality to the name Hooper Picallero.

In the meantime, however, I’ve still got to make it through seven days of sub-zero temperatures here in Toronto; a few more meetings - including one with a remarkable young man who is planning to produce one of my own scripts as his first feature, a challenge so insurmountable in his home country of Canada (given that the movie features neither lesbians, wheat farmers nor WW1 War Heroes who say "oot") that he is either brilliantly ambitious or utterly insane -

- several cocktail and dinner obligations (it’s surprising how in demand one is when one’s name appears on the “Films In Production” list in the trades…) and an evening of music with Ms. Dianne Reeves performing a Christmas Concert should help pass the time -

- but in truth I am quite anxious myself to return to my desert paradise.

We’ve had some torrential rains recently, quite unusual for our part of the world, and I’m concerned by reports that my houseboy Panton has begun construction of a large wooden arc on the south lawn.

While I certainly admire his “Can Do!” spirit, I’m afraid that his last project, a homemade rocket ship the purpose of which was, as he told us with his usual picturesque mangling of the English language, to “Escape From Bitch Mountain” ended up causing a bit of damage.

I do hope I can stop him before he starts loading up the neighborhood, two by two.


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