Coffee Porn and Mote Pillo

Saturday.

What a fun day. Even though I’m deep into a cold. I’m at the point where my voice cracks from borderline laryngitis, and I try not to laugh because it will throw me into a coughing fit, resulting in bringing up great wads of stringy phlegm, and…. But perhaps no one really needs to know that. Anyway, I did manage to wake up from last night’s NyQuil-induced coma. Still, it’s freezing weather here in San Antonio. At least in the early hours. I knew it was supposed to warm up considerably by the afternoon, but it took me until about 10:30 to crawl out of the covers and make a big-ass cappuccino. It was quite attractive. The foamed milk was threatening to spill over, but it couldn’t. It sat there in the cup like a big hat, all dusted with cinnamon. I pulled out my beloved Canon 7D. Snapped in the 50mm 1.8 lens and took a photo. Pure coffee porn. I posted it on FaceBook. And then, in private, with the curtains drawn, I consumed it.

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Great. With coffee in me, I got down to figuring out my day. I looked over the script for my Neighborhood Film Project (and, dammit, I’m still stalled on finding a title). I had two scenes scheduled for the afternoon. I was to shoot in Jump-Start Performance Company’s space. My actors would be Lisa Suarez, Melissa Marlowe, and Dino Foxx. I decided on a fairly simple approach which didn’t really need a shot list or storyboards. My biggest concern was my lack of a crew. I threw out some emails and phone calls the night before as well as this morning. But no one seemed to be free or willing to get back to me. I knew I could crew it alone, but it would mean keeping the set-ups and camera work basic and static. Fine.

I had another cappuccino. Made some mote pillo (homey and eggs — a dish I thought I had invented because one day several weeks back all I had in the house were those ingredients. Later, when I Googled about it, I discovered I had been making an Ecuadorian staple. Over the weeks I have been perfecting it, and I gotta say it makes for a goddamn serious breakfast). I took a shower and schlepped my equipment (via my pick-up) the six blocks to Jump-Start.

Melissa showed up with her adorable daughter. Fine by me. Lisa sometimes shows up with her mom, for whom she’s the principle care-giver. The nice thing is that actors almost always have families who understand what it means to be on-stage or on-set (well, those family members they still speak with). And whether your daughter is in elementary school, or your mom is dealing with Alzheimer’s, there is this deeply engrained notion in these theater families that sometimes pretending can be serious business.

Dino showed up towards the end of the shoot, right when we needed him. And everything went smooth. The only problem was when I forgot to turn on my audio recorder for three camera setups. I had to suck it up and admit my stupidity. We reshot. My actors were sweet and forgiving.

Dino and Lisa gave me just what I thought they would. I’ve seen the both of them play a wide array of characters at many Jump-Start performances. I know their versatility. They can ham it up big, or bring it down small. And, man Melissa Marlowe is incredible. Sure, she’s great on stage. But what a joy to work with on camera. She’s wonderfully subtle and nuanced. Good old honest acting. You gotta love it. It takes my breath away when done right. Thanks so much Melissa!

I love doing film work with theater actors. They might not be so seasoned at replicating the same motion take after take. But they learn their lines well. And when they stumble, they catch themselves and continue in a way that you almost never notice that they’ve slightly and inadvertently changed a sentence around. But, because they are used to acting on stage, where there are no second takes, they are damn nimble. Some screen actors will just stop, a bit embarrassed, and let the crew know they’re ready to do it again. Because they’re being recorded, screen actors assume that the script is sacrosanct. Nope. The manner in which the actor delivers the lines is so much more important than the way the writer hammered them out.

Also, I love the theater culture and community. Actors and theater people rock!

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The scenes we were shooting at Jump-Start ended early. Melissa headed off. Dino had to make a meeting with his fellow Push Pens. And me and Lisa drove to S. Alamo to shoot some b-roll. Lisa walking here. Lisa walking there. Lisa walking in front of Tito’s. Lisa hungry. Erik hungry. We entered Tito’s for a late lunch…or early dinner.

I don’t really have a social life, but I guess I like people well enough. I’ve created this guise of a filmmaker, artist, cultural leader, etc., to give me opportunities to meet and hang out with interesting people. Lisa certainly fits the bill. And I had a great time getting to know her better over a meal at one of my favorite restaurants.

But because I needed to head way up to the north side to help out on a film being shot by PrimaDonna Productions, we rushed a bit on our meal.

As we left Tito’s we noticed a couple of guys roaming about with DSLR cameras.

I leaned over to Lisa. “Our competition,” I whispered.

“Filmmakers?” she asked.

I shrugged, not certain.

“You know them?” she asked, grabbing my arm.

I shook my head, no. And then I paused beside the guy whose camera was set atop a a monopod.

“Neighborhood Film Projected?” I asked in a whisper.

His head snapped around. He looked at me with a puzzled expression.

“Um, yeah,” he said.

“Good luck dude,” I said to him. And then I turned to Lisa: “This city is swarming with these fucking filmmakers.”

And the fact is, it is. It’s a cut-throat business, this Neighborhood Film Project. There are four prizes worth $3,000 each. And also four prizes for student filmmakers worth $1,000 each. Sure, there are a bunch of flakes and rubes out there making some shitty films, but there is also some heavy competition. We’ll see how it all shakes out.

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Up on the north side PrimaDonna was set up at Maxine Greco’s house. I was brought in to run audio. Chadd Green was directing, with Will Shipley as the DP. Pedro Castaneda and Maxine were the actors. Here are a couple of photos I snapped between set-ups.

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Sunday.

I was both looking forward to and dreading shooting today’s scene. Lisa Suarez puts on her old lady make-up and robs a bar. Gabe the Babe (AKA Gabriel Carmona) is the bartender. I really should have secured a proper bar as a location. But I’m so down with this cold that it’s impressive that I can even show up to my own production. I wussed out and decided to shoot tight and present C4 as a bar. I’m hoping that Lisa and Gabe are so interesting that the audience won’t even notice. We’ll see.

Earlier in the day I stopped by Home Depot to buy some props. I tried Guadalupe Lumber Company, but it seems they close on Sunday. I hate these hold-overs from the Blue Laws days. Anyway, when I stepped up to the cashier at Home Depot and laid down the crowbar and duct tape, I felt a bit self-conscious. But only had I added to my selection a bottle of ether would I truly have felt the need to explain myself.

Amanda Silva showed up to crew for me. She’s the best. A damn smart quick study. Amanda can work her way around just about any piece of equipment. She has a natural eye for composition. Perhaps a designer by training, but she’s clearly an artist at heart. Plus, if you have Amanda on crew and one of your actresses craps out, call on Amanda. She’s beautiful, and most likely a better performer than the one who left you high and dry.

It was a fun shoot. The performances were great. I only hope the location doesn’t weaken the scenes.

Here are two photos of Lisa Suarez in make-up and out. Guess which is which.

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The only downside of the night was that by the time Lisa and Gabe had left, and Amanda and I had finished returning C4 to it’s previous state, it was too late for me to make it to my grocery store before it closed. I’ve been so busy lately that I can’t seem to get to the store. This morning I fired up my espresso machine. I was out of milk. I did have some Half and Half. The expatiation date on the carton as a month old. I sniffed. But I have a cold. I sipped. But I had recently drunk a glass of grapefruit juice. So I made an espresso. Squeezed in some honey. And added some suspicious cream. I was potable, but not satisfying. And now, I guess, I can expect nothing better for tomorrow.

And, shit, who knows what I can scare up for my midnight dinner?

Maybe I’ll just down some NyQuil and check out for the night.

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