Zombie Karaoke: My Terminal Kryptonite, Times Two

I’ve not been keeping up with this blog very well. Here’s something I wrote over a week ago, I just hadn’t posted it.

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Yesterday [Sunday, Apri 27th] was something of an ordeal.

After four hours of sleep, I got up and hauled my uncaffeinated carcass over to URBAN-15. It was for a film shoot … that I wasn’t working on. The fact is, I somehow found myself as the liaison between URBAN-15 and Film Classics (AKA Bryan Ortiz and Michael Druck). I have the key and the alarm code. And I was to be on site while Bryan re-shot some of his flashback scenes from his feature, Doctor S Battles the Sex-Crazed Reefer Zombies.

I arrived ten minutes early, and actors and crew were already milling about, waiting for me to let them in. I tried to help as much as possible, but once they began to set up equipment and dress the set, I decided to make myself scarce. They had 24 scenes to shoot — all very short. But very ambitious seeing as both me and Bryan needed to be up on the far north side to shoot a wedding at 2 p.m.

They were shooting in the basement space and using the sanctuary space (above) for the green room. This is in the old church part of the complex. I had retreated to the dormitory building where the offices are. I switched on René’s computer and answered a few emails. And then Druck called me on my cell from the other building about an electricity question. I headed over and helped them deal with that issue. And then, realizing I still hadn’t had coffee, I headed upstairs to the craft services table and grabbed a coffee and a couple of breakfast tacos.

I managed a nap for about an hour and a half on a very uncomfortable floor. But, well for me at least, when it stops working, when a nap ends, there’s no forcing it to continue. I stumbled over to the other building and tiptoed down the back stairs to peek in on the shoot. Bryan had done a great job dressing two regions of the basement to look like a generic laboratory from a ’50s era monster movie. Producer Michael Druck was doubling as an extra — he was laying on a table with a sheet covering him. Perhaps a failed experiment of some sort of reefer zombie serum. And over on the other side of the room, we had a trio of scientists conferring at a chalkboard. They were all in white oxford shirts, ties, lab coats, short slicked-back hair, and horn-rimmed glasses. (When these actors — one being director Bryan — were lugging equipment back to their cars after the shoot, they’d removed just their lab coats, and I was thinking that the neighbors must have thought some sort of Mormon rally was going on in the building.)

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The day started out cool and overcast. Around noon it was clear and warm. But by the time me and Bryan headed off to the wedding, it was wildly windy and damn cold, maybe in the 50s.

We were a bit late breaking set, but the traffic was mild, and we weren’t too far behind for our next gig. The call time for the wedding was an hour before the service began, so, at 2:20, we didn’t disrupt much by being late, all we did was to shame ourselves.

The service was a lot of fun. It was a “Harley Wedding,” and the couple road up on motorcycles. We were set up in a park pavilion (it was still cold and insanely windy). In leu of a preacher, the service was officiated by an Elvis impersonator.

I was using a borrowed camera. A Canon XL-1. This used to be the camera I lusted after (that, or the more lust-worthy XL-2). But after the wedding, I’m really not much of a fan. One problem is that the XL is an aggressively right-handed camcorder. Left-handers can better manage the more blocky prosumer camcorders with the eyepiece on the axis of the lens. Also, the lack of a fold-out monitor paddle makes it a bad choice for a camera where you’re doing a lot of shooting on the fly (this camera sucks for weddings and documentaries — fine for, say, well-planned narrative work). And, dammit, the focus kept drifting on me when it was on the auto-focus setting (a setting I only use when shooting weddings and documentary type work).

After the weeding, I found it charming that the bride and groom were helping to remove the decorations from the park pavilion.

Next we all traveled to the reception which was at a bar a couple blocks away. I believe the place was called the Hills and Dale Ice House (rustic enough, but hardly what I’d call an ice house — the place had an impressive array of dozens of great beer on taps along the wall behind the bar). I was hoping we’d be inside. Because, you know, it was damn cold! But, nope, we were on the deck outside. And actually, it did warm up a bit.

I placed the XL-1 on a tripod aimed at the, um, Karaoke area. Yep. Karaoke. I’ve live to this ripe old age without ever being subject to this specific form of torture.

As we were waiting for the wedding guests to suck back enough beer to get them singing, I unpacked my little GL-2. Clamped to my monopod and with a little on-board lamp, it was a good camera to move around quickly during a wedding reception. And there are times when weddings can be fun. I’m too fat and clumsy to dance without looking like an astonishing fool, but I get a kick out of hitting a densely-packed wedding dance floor, video camera in hand, and dancing around with the crowd. But Sunday there was very little dancing. I got some. But mostly it was people at the Karaoke microphone. I got some of that. And it was okay … well, I hope. Some gifted singers (well, one), some decent folks, and a couple of guys so wonderfully awful that we were all happy when they returned for a second and even a third performance.

I do understand the appeal of Karaoke, but the sad thing is that it is so alcohol dependent.

Apparently I’m getting paid one of these days for this wedding gig (thank you so much PDP!), but it was hardly work. Remove that pesky XL-1 from the equation, it was a damn cool party. I only hope Bryan got home in one piece — he’d not slept the previous night because he was preparing for the Doctor Shoot.

I don’t want to know who’d be writing the obit of San Antonio’s most promising young filmmaker. Catch up on your sleep Bryan. And stop shooting weddings. And stop shooting damn zombie films. A kitschy and campy zombie film is still a fucking zombie film. Last I looked, this was the 21st century — “the post zombie century” (if you can believe http://www.ihatezombiemovies.net … and I tend to acknowledge their expertise on this matter). Zombies, ninjas, goddamned contract killers. These are the kinds of films we make here in San Antonio? What ever happened to “write what you know”?

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