(The Last Blunder is a humorous weekly serial detailing the making of a true independent filmmaking catastrophe. I hope all of you who read along find it entertaining and can relate to it to some degree. The names of the participants have been changed. Any comments, suggestions, compliments, or criticisms can be sent to damianATkaverasfilmDOTcom. Enjoy!)
The Last Blunder: Chapter 12 by Damian K. Lahey
For the first week of production, we were shooting at the lead character’s house. This was good because we had no company moves and didn’t have to wrap the set every day. After weeks of fine tuning the schedule, Biff told me we were going to be shooting late every day regardless. Biff loved to reiterate that the crew needed to pay their dues. He had already paid his. He loved telling the story about him setting up a t-shirt company in some hick town in North Carolina and driving the old man that had been there for thirty years out of business. This was his way of telling people that he would beat the competition at any cost.
If there’s one rule to low budget filmmaking it’s that you feed your crew well. The way to a crew is to their stomachs. No matter how little you pay them, always feed them well. Biff and Spankenstein had found a greek lady that would cater the film for dirt cheap. In return, the food was dirt poor. Crews usually wait for lunch with anticipation. They dreaded it on The Last Blunder. I always tried to take lunch off set to avoid the bitching and ridicule of the crew.
On the first day of shooting, Balthazar showed up without his director’s notebook. He’d lost it the night before and couldn’t find it. That wasn’t good. Then, Morrison and his gang took half the day to set up the first shot. Beleaguered 1st AD John Gavin pulled me aside during lunch. He was only going to be with us for two weeks. He had some comic book convention to attend after that. He was almost as fat as Salami and wore the same Farscape hat every day. He busted out his copy of the schedule and asked me what shots could either be cut or rescheduled. We were woefully behind. I looked over the schedule and cut out a couple shots I thought wouldn’t affect the continuity of the story. But I wasn’t too worried about it. I had to go to Kinko’s to reprint all our sides and then go to the office and redo the schedule. You see, the day after my crew dinner party and the day before we started shooting, Spanky had decided to do a “polish” of the script. While it wasn’t much, it made all the sides and all the schedules off by a couple scene numbers.
One thing for sure, our set certainly did look professional. We had the trucks, the equipment, and certainly the man power to make it look that way. We couldn’t afford it, though. With an army of ADs milling about and everybody piling up on interns and assistants, we blew our craft service budget for three days in one. Biff didn’t mind us blowing our wad making it look big. He wanted to impress those investors. And on that first day, they showed up. Unfortunately, they were greeted by Shifto, Studs, and Billy Bold. Even though these guys had brought their children and wives to check out the movie they’d invested in, Bold thought it would be best to talk about picking up chicks and curse like a sailor, while slurring his words and guzzling from his 40 oz mixed drink. One of the wives shielded her children from Bold and walked away in disgust. He and Studs thought that was awesome.
Later in the evening, Suzy Midriff showed up wearing a bosomy dress and heavy makeup. She made her entrance like she was the grand dame of southern independent filmmaking, but nobody noticed. Spanky made it clear he had no time for her. He was making a movie. He had to stay focused on his vision. While I was typing up the next day’s call sheet, I saw her storm off set, bawling. Howie, the leprechaun looking art department lackey, came out and consoled her.
At that time, I liked having my own private wet bar on set. I set it up in the camera truck. I also had my own portable office of a lap top and printer that I would set up at each location. I preferred the wet bar. Our camera loader was a burnt out surfer dude named Armstrong. Armstrong liked Victoria Secret and decorated his truck with cut out pictures of the models. He smoked pot all day long when his hands weren’t in the tent. He had a good sense of humor and was the kind of guy you wanted on an independent film set. Having a drink with him while making production calls was always a good way to get away from it all.
While I waited on one of the runners to get back with the call sheets, I made the rounds. I liked to bond with the crew on set to boost morale. I liked dropping in and telling a well placed joke here and there. Basically, I felt really guilty they were being treated so badly. I tried to keep everybody laughing because I constantly had butterflies in my stomach. I nursed my drink and walked past the art department truck. I thought I saw Karen in the back. I was trying hard to get on her good side. She was miserable and making a big deal of it – telling everyone in town about how incompetent we were and what a degenerate sicko Spanky was. I walked up the ramp and opened my mouth to say something when I saw that it wasn’t Karen at all. It was Howie, standing in the back of the truck with Suzy on her knees, giving him a full-service-Johnny-blow-job. I watched for a second as Suzy bobbed up and down like her very soul was at stake. Howie noticed me watching and put a finger to his lips, ssshhh... I slowly backed down the ramp and hoped we’d be wrapping soon.
(I want to thank everybody for reading and hope you continue to read as the misadventures of The Last Blunder continue next week...)