Thursday, November 29, 2007


Donn Gobin came to the set the day we filmed the skirmish. We'd talked on the phone briefly. He knew a few of the people on set, crew he'd worked with elsewhere. They knew he was looking to put some money into a movie that was going, and, we were already going, with recognizable actors, and the crew kept telling him that we were nice, and respectful. As if this was novel. Maybe it is. I have worked on some sets where there was a lot of yelling and major melt downs and drama. I want all of the drama in front of the camera please, and we were pretty successful at keeping it that way, I think. Anyway, it was because we were 'nice' that Donn wanted to visit our set.

Maybe he just wanted to see how our production was running and if it looked llike we'd get it in the can. Whatever the reason, Donn came to visit our set the day of the skirmish. He hung around overnight. Sophia got him a room at a lovely b&b, the local businesses were astoundingly generous and Sophia very resourceful, and he stayed through the next day, and I guess Donn liked what he saw. We brokered a deal and he wrote us a check. It was a wonderful act of faith from someone who'd heard about us less than 48 hours before. He's been a great partner for us.

Then there was Shaun Harkins. Shaun is the inventor of the Cabletrak Jib. It's a camera crane arm that can maneuver in small spaces and can also run offroad with a forty foot arm. Shaun has used his jib for the winter Olympics in Utah and "Good Morning America" concerts on the street and MSG and ... The use of such equipment was way outside the scope of our budget.

Shaun's son, John, and my son Jackson have played baseball together for years. At a game Shaun asked me if I was gonna need crane work. I told him it would be a dream but that I couldn't afford him.

"How do you know if you don't ask?"

" much would 4 days of crane work cost me?"

"Two bucks."

"Two hundred? Two thousand? ..."

Here he holds up two fingers,

"One, two."

So I say, "That could work."

When Sophia tried to pay him those 2 dollars, he refused them, telling her in all seriousness that he'd drunk a couple of club sodas. That crane work, which he and Stephen choreographed so beautifully along with Randy Kovitz (fight coodinator) and Scott (A.D.), put about $50,000 we didn''t have right on the screen. Such a gift.

There were so many moments like this. We were working 12 hour days and trying to strictly honor that and make our day's work quota without sacrificing artistry. I'm generally not precious about my work. I'm a ruthless self editor as a writer, cutting out the fat, putting it in a drawer if it's worth saving, always trying to tell the story with the right blend of words ... to create tone, atmosphere, to support whatever themes are at play among the sentences...

I use to play that way with my kids when they were small. We'd build amazing structures out of blocks, try out daring concepts of engineering, daredevil inclines and floating precipices, and then we'd knock them down as part of the play. Why be precious about it, I mean, they're blocks right, toys...

I'd always admired the concept of the sand mandala, and I figure if you can live life that way, where none of the 'stuff' becomes so important that it impedes other areas of acquisition, then ... you get the idea. When Caitlin, my daughter, entered nursery school at age 3, we had been playing that way. Open House, as it was called, was a place that emphasized learning as "play" as opposed to the Montessori "work" method. I figured there was enough time in life to learn about work.

In her first week at Open House I got a phone call from the director of the school who asked if I could come to the school please, with an edge of urgency, though he assured me that nothing was wrong, he had something he wanted me to see. When I got there he brought me into her classroom and all but ta-da'd toward a large block structure supported by a block monolith. It looked like many others Cailtin had erected.

"Do you understand the math concepts inherent in this structure?!" I'm thinking to myself, 'dude, math? nah, I don't do math.' I'm a Convent girl with nuns and math-punishment stories after all.

When it was clear I wasn't gonna respond on the math level, he gets to what's really bothering him

"She wants to knock it down!" He's looking at me now with an 'is she crazy?' expression.

I say, 'Yeah, she does it all the time. I figure it 's better for her to learn not to hold on to the accomlishment cuz sometimes you get stuck on that being it, you know?"

He looked at me like I had three heads and each of them was speaking in tongues.

"She'll make another one..." I continue, "...and this way she won't be mad if someone else knocks it down, cuz she knows she can do it again ..."

He's incredulous at this line of thought, and her teacher, Sam, who looks like a lepruchan, is smiling and nodding, so I say to the director

"Maybe you want to take a picture of it?"

He does. One of the structure alone, and one with Caitlin standing next to it with an expression on her face that says, "What's the big deal?" We still have the photos.

Then she knocked it down. The next day she built another one with some other kids, and they knocked it down. The director stopped taking pictures and I learned about blocks and math concepts, making it less scary for me than numbers had been.

So I thought this approach would work the best on set. If something wasn't working maybe there was a simpler way to accomplish it. Knock it down and build it again. "Trust your gut." was my set mantra. It's usually right isn't it?

There are maybe two scenes where I wish I'd been able to get coverage, but they were days where the power on the mountain top went out and with one generator and ... we wanted to make our days and get everything we might need before David left, because there was no forseeable way of cranking this machine up again for reshoots.

There were days when we could feel the energy flagging. Bodies and minds were tired. One such day when the crew had schlepped a lot due to weather/country power ... Sophia and I could see that tempers were gonna flare ... That's when we went to my address book...Sophia called Sheila Demorest, a wonderful massage therapist, and asked if she could bring a table to the set the next day to give some needed adjustments and pampering to a tired cast/crew.

Sheila brought a friend, Kim, and between the 2 tables, everyone on set got to get away, even if only for a short while. It was reenergizing on so many levels. We build massage therapists into our next budget. You have to respect those moments, when a few minutes of change in the routine can provide so much renewed zest. Like the day we finally stopped paying the ice cream truck to go away and had the the cast/crew belly up to its windows for an ice cream break. Sounds silly when you read it like this, but it was a delightful change in the action that didn't cost us anything but the ice cream and improved moods. We made up the time in renewed focus.

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