Dan's Guest Diary
san francisco, park avenue; Huckleberry Shelf; Ken & Amy's place- Amy is pregnant and looks like a million bucks- so vibrant, so monkey; these are my heroes:
Forrest is he sharpest kid ever- he loves tricks, he loves being the one doing, the one in it to the hilt. so I teach him the plate-and-dime-trick and now he wants to try it on everyone. what you do is you give someone a plate with a bit of water on it- just enough to cover a dime. hand them a glass, a book of matches and an olive. tell them they have to use everything they're given to get the dime off the plate without touching the dime, the water, the plate, or the table on which it all rests. stuck? talk to Forrest- it's his trick now
next day at Devera & Michael Witkin's place- total invasion, gorgeous views of east bay from their balcony. brave people, beautiful people the Witkins. sure can't ask for a better smoking lounge. there have got to be 30 people here- fingerprints on the walls- the craft services room is trashed QUIET ON THE SET
jesus he's loud. the whole thing is controlled chaos. smoking on the porch, learning about other people, trading stories, bullshitting. I play G'danski and have two lines, and I flub on the last take. I run the sound boom keeping it very still, standing silently, my ring off my finger, and the boom trying to arch over it all- the soreness that sets in between cigarettes with Dave
roll camera rolling
roll sound sound speed
shot 187, scene 45, take 7,042
mark it marker clack
cut, et cetera
everything gets recorded on the set in what sound to me like cryptic systems, the measurements, the switching of film backs, the practicing of the camera's motion, the endless speculations about what's going on- Alex uses a cloth tape measure "so you don't cut the faces of the actors."
all the minutia of filming a movie is no joke- there's the question of the camera angle, firstly (I think firstly- I would like to have been a fly on the wall of the conversations Ken, Scott, and Bill had at the beginning of each day, sussing out the possibilities), and then the lighting, which is rather temporary compared to theatrical lighting, but elaborate just the same. for the glare in the camera lens there are flags, undoubtedly expensive rectangular light-shades. attendant cables and what-not. there's the sound, too, the boom, the room-tone tests where I suppose we acquire background noise, or QUIET ON THE SET
Karen accidentally locks the music room, where I've spread out all my stuff, hinges come off the door, and we try to pry it off, and then against all odds Forrest finds the key
shooting the dinner (seder) scene is a mess- we can't quite get the flare off the credenza at the back of the room. we have this viennese stage manager who yells quiet on the set with such verve, authority, severity- with rising volume and intonation on quiet, and on the set abrupt kind of like he's already fed up, so don't make him use the megaphone. Alex scares me
familiarity, the din of voices, a million different conversations. Ken is kind of slumped in a corner with a glazed look in his eye, and he shakes it off and forges ahead, a smile, and direction, thank god direction- if only someone were driving (they all say) the passage of time and the chaos and ambiguity of it all become tolerable, even enjoyable when you can put the nasty ideas aside and forge ahead. the talent, mostly family and friends, and pros and amateurs and it's god-beautiful even though tempers flare and recede; so it's a rough dynamic- it's likewise amazing. with somewhat tenuous control, Ken clearly has what it takes for this terrible work
you just have to be willing to put your life on hold, that's for shitsure, but make no mistake, there are plenty of clowns- not everyone has this much invested in the images and words and emotions and sensations bouncing around in their heads night and day.
when I first arrived, you know, Ken showed me the dailies; I watch take after take, scene after scene and tape after tape, and QUIET ON THE SET
and Jesus, don't make a sound, man. don't move- I don't wanna get that guy pissed, or he'll have my head. so motionless we all stand, we can feel the guts gurgle and someone farts, the world nearly busts its seams, and I feel like I'm camping- it's the same thing, the sense of together, of doing things (it almost doesn't matter what- climbing trees, demolition derbies yatzee scrabble jousting) that's what's important, that's what casts the bond we all feel the moment we arrive on-set, the moment a light glares at us from across the room, the moment we hear quiet on the set
I worked on a film set once before. we woke up drunkandearly and headed out to arizona to get some shots for a play called yuba city. one scene had film projected behind these two actors that we'd hung, lynched, but of course, it's theatre, and you can't go around just wasting your actors. they need a little respect. plus, you'd have to replace them constantly. we've got horses and pistols and riders and thundering around, out in the desert miles from jack. on day three we wind up in some gorge, at the base of five-hundred feet walls of orange and yellow sandstone stretching upward toward this gigantic lone saguaro at the top of the ridge. ahead through the pass we see the superstition mountains sprawling out forever. a collective sigh, and then back to work- set up the camera and tripod, film, the constant discussion about what's next, looking around, climbing up the next ridge for a look- we have no map, no route or course or really any idea other than the fundamental images careening around in our heads. we stop on the way back out of the gorge to catch shots of cactus, tumbleweeds, and sun-bleached cattle skulls. we have no lunch, so we pass around the water bottles with abandon, and smoke cigarettes
QUIET ON THE SET
there's a nearly palpable feeling that we were riding on the pulsating, biting and bucking vein of the west. we are dusty and tired, sun-blind, with orange and red scenery etched onto our retinas. we pass around Walker's black cowboy hat for a moment's feeling of authenticity, and then stumble across a dried river-bed to get back to the tents and van and cook dinner on an open range, setting in the shadow of boot mountain
this is how it feels. I remember that walk back, in the dark, still having to watch my feet down the steep sandy slopes of granite and sandstone. that we pack Ken's truck standing on concrete makes no difference- it's brutal, long, it's completely beautiful- I am a monster on-set because this is what I love, even if what I love after all these years and all this abuse is really the theatre QUIET ON THE SET
that this happens on divisadero or mcallister or baker or park of anywhere usa, anystreet usa, anyone's gorgeous apartment, anyone's house on a hill, dirt on carpets and walls, in their sinks- movies roll and sets get set and torn down, people get happy and have wonderful moments on camera and off, people get raucous and mean as snakes, people chunk, people blunk (sometimes in turn, sometimes not), people come and people go- the show must go on, and by god it does even after the wrap, when everone's smoking, and old toothless jazz cats are singing the blues to us and to the passing bus and everyone else in earshot, just tryin to get a dime, and Alex is packing up the camera somewhere, and actors and grips and best boys and that hot little pa and so-and-so and everyone is out here relaxing, even some drunk guy who just came off a mountain who supplied me with the finest can of rainier ale I've ever put my lips to- and everyone's out here partying and I'm packing this bitch up, cause the beer tastes so good and I'm so tired, like the walking dead, can barely form a sentence, but can lift and lug and keep it rolling
forever out of cigarettes. there's always, still, a hell-bent desert hike, after that frantic beautiful on-set madness. there's always that epic voyage back to complete the journey, that stand on the summit and enjoy for a while, but remember you've gotta get back down; commonsense. that temporary putting aside of our lives to do this thing and always remembering (almost always accompanied by a laugh) that postproduction is right around the corner- that packing the truck every night, that cramped drive back to the house- by god they let you know you did something today
so we pack the truck with equipment that is still somewhat foreign to me, chrome and temporary, but solid and resonant of all the other load-ins and shoots, and the abuse. all the fucking sandbags- and we squeeze in, usually Karen, me, Holly, and Ken driving that beautiful east-coast style of actually having somewhere to be and actually going there in that innocuous little white pickup. I get know the back real well, empty and full
even on the way back from the airport with Ken at the helm of that quick, empty truck, I feel comfortable knowing that I'm riding with an east-coast pilot. on these incredibly steep san francisco hills, which take a while getting used to, I'm easy, much to my own surprise. I've come to believe that even more telltale than an accent, is how one drives.
the alchemy of film
dp Scott starts to smile and joke- an unaffected manner, the wry looks; there's a palpable camaraderie that evolves from 30 people stumbling all over each other for 14 hours a day- the intensity of the pros here and the amateurs forging a new experience for everyone, even for those who would otherwise not get along
I accidentally go to strike the wrong flag and get yelled at; turns out that ____ hates ____ so much that he quit. a shame, that's not what it's about. if there's anything this is not, it's not a job, for god sakes- this is Lewis & Clark, Mallory & Irvine, the fucking crusades with all the blood and all the gore, this is Robinson Crusoe and it's Alexander Selkirk, Greeley and Cook and Vespucci and Shackelton, and every one of those nutty bastards who decided to get out there and put their ass on the line- you think any of them could of quit? this is something that began as a child, treeclimbing or daredeviling somehow, a first ascent, an icebreaker in the frozen north, a space shuttle headed upstream, upwind, upcurrent, fast-moving the only way there is to get there
I still don't understand how for some this is only a job
later, during the last shot of the night from the balcony someone yells, the camera's getting wet and I proudly whip off my gore-tex. people are getting really cranky; Bill mutters just loud enough to hear, c'mon chipmunks, let's get this shot, wrap, and we can all go home. and, what the hell are we waiting on? I am QUIET ON THE SET
thoroughly unimpressed with him
been wearing someone else's clothes all day. freezing, completely drained, but having a wonderful time. Dave the sound guy is great. I'm nervous playing G'danski
Ken is fixed on the road, driving steadily; decompressing. getting us there
"hey, any chance of stopping so I could, uh, get a pack of smokes"
Ken looks over at me gravely, across Holly. feeling a bit guilty for asking, like I shouldn't need to smoke, and truth to tell, I don't really even want a smoke right now, but the prospect of being anywhere near a movie set, even knowing that I'd be going to the set tomorrow at the crack-of-ass; I admit it, it's frightening.
"Dan, there's a good chance we're gonna stop and I'm gonna buy you a pack a smokes" sweeter words were never spoken. my fear recedes and the night suddenly seems young
John asks me, "so you're cast and crew?" of course I am. miss my dinner date, am totally overtired. at the end of the night, smoking my last half cigarette, about which I have a great deal of concern, and QUIET ON THE SET
shit, my god he always scares me half to death with that. I can see the reflection of the shot in the plate glass of the church window across the street. above me, on the second floor, I watch for the end of the shot so I can slip back in
Asher wears orange "yo" t-shirt, should be "oy" for this seder scene that goes on forever
ever tear down a movie set? I think to myself as I stand on a ladder, tearing away from the wall pieces of black paper tape. the floor is littered with sound blankets which remind me of preschool strangely and everyone is in the other room- I can hear QUIET ON THE SET
all the action and I'm here all alone on this ladder, thinking that this what I'll tell whoever asks me the question
Bill comes in and says to me "you're doing all the rough stuff. it's such mindless work" -a compliment coming from him, the same guy who, yesterday I thought was, well- I've got nothing but respect for him now. he sat me down and without my even asking told me what he wanted to do with the lights and why, and how it was to work, and he said, as I took it all in easily "you know something about lighting?"
"fifteen years in the theatre"
"and I'm lovin' this movie-thing you guys got going here"
all the booms and lights and glitter off the glassware- actors in make-up- "hurry up and wait." we all stand completely still at quiet on the set from Andreas- we can all hear our stomachs rumble and our kishkes gurgle- things otherwise inaudible become magnified, the ruffle of a nylon jacket, a pen cap dropping, even the click of the leica is too loud
Ken, Amy, Denise, Ann, Stan, Leslee. friends Michael, David- everyone here is somehow naturally familiar, somehow right; a part necessary, but now-found. Holly is certainly someone long-lost and now-found. I don't even know exactly how that is, it just feels that way
the night I arrived, Holly and I cook dinner. we walk to the local shop, which has lots of real food- soy beverages, all natural this, non-gluten that, roots and veggies that I've never even heard of before in strange shapes and colors. bottle of spanish red, great walk, great conversation; found
we shoot today at the bookstore QUIET ON THE SET
holyshit that's loud, and we're outside (Dave and Dave and Mike agree). Bird & Beckett is the name of the store, and holyshit is it cramped. Ken's father Stan, plays Sheldon Hicks, and he's magnificent, a true maniac in front of the camera. I shoot stills all day for the first time here. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to take pictures. afterward we go to Ken's and shoot more- handheld camera shots, shots in the hall and at the door, and I'm in the kitchen where everyone's giddy. I examine a broken joint twice, because I'm so tired I've forgotten what it ought to look like- as though I could even enjoy it in this state QUIET ON THE SET
Scott has this leopard-fur hat with little ears- all winter-furry and totally working for him; a nissan covered in leopard-spots, leopard-print furry seat covers, absolutely wild bed-head kind of rich wild black hair. reminds me vaguely of my cousin (who lives in berkeley, whom I don't call while I'm here cause I'm just too busy). Scott is professional, knowledgeable, and a complete goof-off if he gets the chance. I immediately respect him greatly, primarily because he's quiet
Karen is one of the great pillars here on-set, Holly is simply amazing, Amy is sharp- warm and sweet, purple and green, a rock of chunk and vitality; Ken, of course, is monkey. Bonnie is another of the great pillars, Ben and Andreas are the other two, four pillars in all; Holgar, Cilia- guy lines- tension support systems nonpareil and the incredible proliferation on friends, relatives, volunteers, and interns that are here day after day, amazing
Alex explains about the camera when I ask, and she's warm and engaging right off the bat. had a few beers tonight with Dave and Mike and some of the other kids while they stuck around. Mike and I have a great conversation about books and printing and collecting; could talk to him forever.
woke in the middle of the night with a searing headache, but it's all right- tomorrow's another day that won't give it a chance to heal anyhow
shooting today in Café Proust- neat coffee shop and bar with comfortable furniture and high purple ceilings, textured ochre and light-rose walls (like the inside of an old book cover, odd non-symmetric paisley-kind-of patterns), decoupage tables, and stained glass at the top of the high, wide windows. the bar looks inviting- wide, oak, ready to serve me a fucking pint, which is all I ever want right now, today; and Cilia's wearing pigtails and is distracting me completely, and I want to look out the big windows, but there's too much happening right here, and we're all watching, spilling out over the edges, thrilled to be chunking so heavily, so seriously, and we're all trying to to QUIET ON THE SET
uh, try to finish whatever it is we're doing, and I make a sound, and everyone glares at me, and I feel terrible. I spend half the day going back and forth between Ken's place and the café. I get to Ken's the first time, and the keys on the ring won't open any of the doors. I'm furious with exhaustion and desire; call Ken, he says oh, you don't have those keys. so, back I go, and on my way I realize the reason that he so nonchalantly said that I don't have the right ones, is because how can you be concerned with someone else trying to key into your home, when you're trying to coordinate a million different things on a set. and you're supposed to still give a shit about keys that are in someone else's hands three miles away. trying to get into your home. anyhow, I get to know the area pretty well
virtually everyone here on-set chunks, or is chunky solely by virtue of their blunk in this monk. why don't we all speak like this, in chunk; Ken's right- it really is for everyone to use, but not everyone can- chunk can only be utilized within the parameters of a relationship. that is, through chunk we might transcend a relationship's boundaries, and redefine the relationship, and in a small way the interactions therein, but we cannot transcend the relationship through chunk per se. really it's not complicated- linguists call the commonality of chunking a kernel (of common, previously referenced, linguistic knowledge) that is used as a common point of reference.
for example, if I know that you were at the store earlier today, I might ask, "did you get soap?"
the question would be completely useless out of its context (that I know you were at the store today) and utterly strange. unless of course, as there almost always is, another more complicated and involved kernel at work within the conversation.
however, knowing that you were at the store, phrasing the question as above makes use of that kernel. hence, the ability to chunk.
"soap" is unlikely to be replaced by "chunk," but not "get" unless of course, part of the kernel was that you were going to buy soap at the store, in which case I might say, "did you get blunk?" or "did you chunk blunk?" or even, "did chunk monk blunk?" (note the inherent disposability of the copula chunk).
all variations are grammatically correct- the essential aspect of chunking is the chunk. a word that is part of a kernel is, as we say, chunkable. that's how to chunk, by god, and you don't need to be a linguist to do it. just chunk, and we all will blunk monk along runk monk. chunk me? I think I can chunk it to you, but not all tonight. call me next week and we'll blunk it all the way out, for-rilla. with monk and schlunk. no pressure, just chunk. blunk? monkey
Ken works with a girl who's not an actor and I can tell that if he had all day, he'd work her up into anything. but for now QUIET ON THE SET
she has a lot of trouble being loud and in character. watching him address her, you'd think that he's known her for years, when actually they met just yesterday. he's such a nice boy
the day starts out kind of lame. Bill yells at me for something silly and Dave the sound guy, bless his heart says, it's all good, man QUIET ON THE SET
all right, all right.
we shoot for 14 hours at Asher's. a meltdown seems imminent at around ten-thirty, but Ken dexterously wrapped it up. people start congregating in the kitchen (from whence the wrap was called- otherwise, we'd all be outside smoking). Ken says something about wishing reefer, something, and having bought yesterday I say well, can we do this now, here? and Ken's eyes light up and he's sort of amazed, and questions me about from where… a line of questioning he continues on the drive home (after he forgot the shot ((canned)) film, and we go all the way back to Asher's).
so people are darting around, in and out of rooms along the paths that were created by a day's worth of moving furniture, rearranging the whole place; breaking down c-stands, coiling cable, Alex is breaking down the camera in the other room and Ken and I and a few others are in the kitchen, and people are swarming all around us it seems, and then everyone slows down, like when the queen decides it's time to move, and all the bees see that mama's got something going on, and the kitchen becomes the center, as it always manages to do
so, just seconds after wrapping, with glass circulating, the movie set suddenly sounds and feels like a party. everyone's thankful, and unwinding at a breakneck pace- we're all clapping each other's backs, and saying kind things, when moments ago we were nearly at each other's throats
Alex calls me by G'danski only. I tell actor-Dave that I think he's wonderful, and that I want to cast him. I wish I had a movie too
Ken and I talk later in the night, and he lays down a brief history of chunk. "some people chunk right away, and other people you can chunk with for years and they just never… chunk." we talk about the movie, creativity (and, of course, how his is arranged in relation to this gigantic endeavor), and catch up a little
shoot at Asher's place again today and it's an easy one for me. I go back to the house with Holly to see about my plane ticket and can't change my flight for any amount of money. get back to the set at around 7, which was too much time for me to be away from the set- missed a million still shots
we shoot from the roof today- Asher's streaking scene. Ben and Karen are waiting for him with a big blanket, on the right side of the doorway. poor Asher runs out of the doorway, into the street- to the left- and this bus, this full bus, is pulling up. riders gawk, old ladies swoon and wail, little girls faint
I harness and rig up Scott in my climbing gear (never did make it to Sierras this time out). he's understandably a little bit afraid of falling three stories to an ignominious death as he leans over the edge of the roof to look in- QUIET ON THE SET
to the viewfinder
Asher does a great job, finally streaking after waffling with Ken over whether or not he felt like he could do the scene. like any pro, he buckles down (unbuckles) and gets the scene shot. there is a great, teary moment with Dave when Asher cries, seemingly on command. so real and so heartfelt, so well-acted
joking about Asher needing a fluffer, Ben has some part in that, I can tell the man's a crazed joker. wears this red and white knit hat, like an xmas design at the top in white. great guy, mad, tell you what
Max asks for things before he even looks, makes me crazy. seems to me his name should be Roman, why? just seems that way, but Max QUIET ON THE SET
is good too; fun. Ben reminds me of my brother
missing a day. got a pretty good idea of where it went, though
shoot at John's place, a gallery and carpentry workshop. the guy has everything: welding kits, compressors and generators, tools galore- shit I couldn't even imagine what it's for- a great big international harvester truck with padlocks on the doors and racing harnesses, a bunch of mountaineering gear; we met him a couple of nights before at this little mexican place that had picnic tables like out of a playground or something. Ken said, meet John, he's a mountain-man too, he does it all, and we shake hands. Amy recommends the ultra, meister burrito, al pastor; epic
so there is this crazy set of gauges in the gallery, that look authoritative and frightening. artwork by Doug, whose got these dog-ears like, of pink hair gently flopping around on the sides of his head above the temples, wears a leather jacket with fire at the cuffs and rings and stuff (style) and has this exhibition of this colorful, fiery sculpture and painting, a skull with accompanying canvas rendition, these pieces that protrude, the lady's hand dangling down with wiring extending from broken fingertips, the tongues, hips, and fantastic colors and the fire
Ken's cousin Harry is made up in blue eyeliner, looking like David Bowie, Scott says after the shot, with a great, slim smile
god knows how many hours and I've made it so far this is fun my head hurts yeah, sure- a c47? must get more duvateen, blacks, and flags, where's the flag kit? there, candle there in the hall monty! chunk chunk everyone has chunk chunk around you and around me chunk blunk monk there it is, my chunk hand on it now, and back in the hall- ever torn down a movie set before kid, I have today my fever stretches, is this the one? all right. there you go sure I've got a smoke, c'mon did they say quiet yet? -a muffled QUIET ON THE SET
shit you never get used to that do you… c'mon, that's the east bay, treasure island. really here of all places, yeah and that's oakland, and all, and berkely and all and, I'm looking at all this thinking my new home I feel like I've been here for years and just need to find a new place to live crouch and eat, and all I've gotta do first is make this movie and then I can get on with the rest of my- wanna see my movie, here it is yeah really watch it, c'mon, let's check it out, and go and see what all the hubbub is about
I am for real
so yesterday I spend the day QUIET ON THE SET
bopping around san fran with a delightful friend, trading remarks about how film sets are notorious, and about getting "sexed up," and everyone together, like an orgy- trapezes, stilt- and tightrope-walkers, clowns, fire-breathers, dancers and cigarette girls, naked people playing pinochle
so we're shooting in this gallery with a million spaces, this guy Peter looks just like Waters, what's his name, John Waters. mint, I can't believe the fucking characters in this thing, it's fantastic.
we all remember what we're doing here, why QUIET ON THE SET
it's all coming to such a head right before our eyes, evolving each day into a new thing, not just because we get further along each minute, we shoot more and more film and get more and more in the can, and get closer to where we want to be. it's thinking about what happens when we meet on the street in a year's time or more, and we are no longer chunking the same monk at the same time, and wholly engrossed not in the task at hand, but in our own individual monkmonk where we are blind to the other aspects of what we've done. Alex and Bill and Scott may not be part of postproduction, at least not to the same extent that they're here shooting each day; Dave's job is done, I'm all the way in fucking chicago, Michael and Forrest and Amy and Holly, well, our blunk chunks and is always chunking, but to be each day the chunk kings that we wake up as as we head to the set, we all chunk, but only for now, and set it all down forever, on celluloid, for the world to chunk along with us as blunk they can, but since they weren't there (here) how will they really monkmonk with us- can they? well, that depends on how human's be, pimp, how they be
a chunk sits on the floor, abject, sullen, waiting for the blunk of the monk, and we can wait all day for that to happen. meanwhile there's granola bars, soda, bottled water, cigarettes, talk. a chunk gets up and moves toward the door, inquisitive, looking around at the vibrant and the now-static. the chunk, abject, as a part of it- found. the chunk chunks up and funks over to the table, and chunks for a blunk. monk. c'mon with me, we'll find one. let's do this together, and chunk so that one day we can all say from our different corners of the world, the room, the sky, the car, whatever- we did this, we are this. we made this- what it is, and gave of ourselves so that others might see it, experience it. and welcome in here, brother, sister, and see, feel, hear, and get as close as you can, because I'll tell you more, and so will Bonnie and Scott and Ken and Karen and Ben and Cilia and Amy and Holly and everyone even Huck who will have something more than the average viewer just knowing that he was there too- a different aspect, another part of it, one of many facets- a chunk chunking
27 march 2001