Archive for May 2006

Movie Diaries 15

May 10, 2006

Last year at this time…

…I was being introduced to a neat group of people, and getting ready to work on a movie. I haven’t written about that experience for a long time. There’s been a lot that’s happened, and now with some distance it’s probably time to note some of it down.

I still won’t use names, though. Can’t sue if you can’t prove libel.

I tend to avoid names, anyway. In this context, most of the people involved in this project make more sense in the narrative when referred to by their titles. Those who were there or those close to us know who they are, and that’s enough.

The project was one big hush-hush-whisper-whisper of a thing because – stretching all credibility – it was supposed to be a documentary. A Men in Black meets Blair Witch Project, but without the fancy suits of the former, and the staggeringly high production values of the latter.

Yeah, that was sarcasm. For a variety of reasons I shall detail within, I don’t believe the movie will ever see the light of day. Or even the flourescent lights over the Wal*Mart 5.99 DVD bin. Some of it is that it was a good idea executed badly, some of it is legal, and all of it falls squarely on the shoulders of Monsieur Le Directeur.

Might it have worked? Oh yeah, as a series of films, a lighthearted romp with guns, monsters, and very pretty girl in a tank top, it would have been fun, might have sold a bunch of copies and made us all at least some of a living. As a documentary, it was embarrasing.

Yeah, Bill, you say that now. You were pretty gung-ho at the time.

Okay, yeah, I was. Frankly, we all were. (Struggling for safety in numbers.) I am proud of the work we did.

When I say I’m proud of the work we did, let me be perfectly clear who I mean by “we.” That’d be me, Lezlie (the aforementioned tank topped pretty girl, referred to in previous entries as “Kate”), Murphy (about whom I have written extensively), and The Gunslinger. You may remember a fifth member of the core cast, The Scholar, but he turned out to be such an abysmally bad actor and on-set whiner that his character was killed off by The Writer before the climactic battle at the end of the movie, fully two films earlier than originally planned. (I am pleased to note that the writer had started expanding my character quite a lot.)

Our cameraman, who we shall call “Cecil”, was very good. Very good. He kept up with the action and held the camera steady, and in my opinion all of our good footage came from his camera. His eye for framing and what to focus on never missed. Our writer was also good, though she had precious little to do except expand upon – and sometimes around – the ideas oozing out of Msr. Le Directeur’s little T & A mind.

It was in the director’s conception that us actor-types would be given only the general scenario but no context besides what our characters should have already known, so that everything we did would be “spontaneous”. The scenario would be so clear that our path would be almost predetermined, and we’d follow the “script” without even knowing we were doing so.

There are two assumptions that are mind-bogglingly wrong with that.

  1. We’re actors, and damn good ones. Give us nothing to work with and we’ll get bored and destructive, and make our own movie without you.
  2. The scenario was too complex, requiring so much exposition to make it understandable to the audience that the actors eventually had to be given a script, which took the form of a plot outline. In other words: the scenario broke down until the director started…uh…directing.

Which, by the way, he sucked at.

Up next: How not to direct a movie.