All the cups of coffee at Tito's Saturday afternoon (and they have excellent coffee at Tito's) must have backed-up in my bloodstream. I tossed and turned, and was lucky if I made it to sleep by three. I finally reached over and switched on my reading light because of the futility of it all. The short stack of books on the floor was a light-weight treatise on Buddhism from the '40s by Christmas Humphreys, one of Huysmans' lesser novels, and Montague Summers' “The History of Witchcraft.” The Summers book (1926) is a masterpiece of paranoia gullibility. He was an educated man who was convinced that witches (those historical as well as those contemporaneous to himself) were possessed of supernatural powers. It's a giddy screed to read, with just enough turgid pomposity (or so I hoped) to nudge me towards the arms of Morpheus. It apparently worked it's magic. So to speak. And I slipped under.
I had time this morning to cook up a couple of banana oat cakes and make a cappuccino before Russ stopped by. We loaded up my c-stands and field monitor, and took his truck to our restaurant location downtown for production Day 13 of Leftovers.
Some of the folks had gone to the Cameo last night Anne Gerber in Cabaret. I was still feeling pretty puny, so I stayed home. But it seemed that Anne's parents came to town from Toledo to cheer on their girl. In fact, Anne showed up on set with the folks. It was quite nice. Anne's mom reads my blog (well, probably just to see references to her daughter), but mom and dad were wonderful, gracious, and totally supportive of Anne. I tried to convey how integral Anne has become in the acting community in San Antonio. In the two or three years she's been here, she's been in over a dozen short films, at least two feature films, and has been in quite a few plays and musicals, always managing to land leading roles in the bigger, more important productions. I've never read anything but a glowing review of her work. If she needs to put together a reel, she now has so much great work to choose from that came from her work in this town.
When we arrived, there was some minor misunderstanding about the call time. We thought we had access to the restaurant at 8:30, but the people who would be letting us in weren't coming until nine. That gave Robin, Russ, and myself time to shoot a few exterior establishing shots of the restaurant entrance.
Inside, we set up for a scene where Anne and Andrea are having a conversation in the kitchen area. We staged it so that Anne moves around into the kitchen, and Andrea remains in the prep area. They continue their conversation through the order-up window. It proved to be a fun scene to light. But with this cold, I'm all stopped up. I probably only heard every third word anyone said to me. Every few minutes I would blow my nose into a bandana handkerchief or fall into a coughing fit. And because I certainly wasn't breathing much through my nose, I had little patience when Robin started complaining about smelling gas. Of course she smelled gas. The industrial stove had at least two dozen burners. Maybe a pilot light had blown out. Let's just shot this and move on. But Rudolfo was taking Robin's side. He claimed he heard gas hissing through his microphone. I just sighed. Rudolfo and his god damn meticulousness was going to keep us here forever. If he could just — But I watched him vindicate himself. He waved a lit match across the range top. One of the burners jumped to life. It seemed, um, that a burner was turned to high — blowing out gas, all night long, and all the time we were there.
Maybe that explained why it took so long to shoot that first scene. We were all doped up on toxic fumes.
We broke for lunch, and I was finally able to ask Erin why she had her arm in a sling. (Actually I still don't know the full story about her unrelated pickax incident of the other week.) Anyway, she's suffering a pulled tendon or muscle, but can't make it to the doctor because she's so busy prepping her students for the TAAS Test or the TAKS Test, or whatever standardized tests they're keel-hauling the poor kids (and teachers) with these days.
The next scene was in the kitchen prep area. Anne, Andrea, and Rick. It turned out to be one of the warmer, more playful interactions between Anne and Andrea. Russ set up a beautiful shot where we saw Rick walking through the background, pause, ask the girls a question, and, perplexed with their off-color remarks, moves on. It was a fairly tight shot of Rick, so that meant that the women were in extreme close-up, with just pieces of them hugging the left and right frames. What a wonderful composition.
As we moved around to the interior of the restaurant proper, we set up for a scene where Anne's character is lounging on a stool at the counter before the lunch rush begins. Matt, who players her manager, is trying in his awkward, neurotic way to get her to do something — clean some tables, fill up the mustard bottles, just do something, the lunch rush is minutes away.
Russ wanted to shoot a basic wide establishing shot. He pulled his camera into the middle of the restaurant, along the side where the booths run against the wall. He set the tripod low and shot across a table.
“I'm thinking you want to get someone wiping down the table,” I said to Russ as I moved my hand inches from the camera, as though I had a towel in my hand. “But, and I know this would have to me a different movie,” I began tentatively. “But with this composition, it'd be so wonderful to have a seedy guy with fingerless gloves seated at this table hunkered over a cup of coffee.” I illustrated by sitting down with my shoulder and chin and nose defining the right edge of the frame. I lifted an imaginary coffee cup and took a sip. A sad, dejected figure. Ephemeral. Nothing more than set dressing. Actually, I was just kidding around, while we were waiting on something.
But Russ took me seriously. And the next thing I knew, I was constricted into being an extra. And that's when it hit me. I do look quite seedy and pathetic. Well, the show must go on — so, I grabbed a coffee cup, filled it up, and found a spoon.
I have to admit, my dim, grizzled silhouette served well the scene.