Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Trailer Food, Writing Nuances and Raw Oysters

Warning: If you find yourself here via a google search for such things as TV shows or films, recipes or cities, this blog has some facts. However, this blog is one author’s very twisted musing on many weird things. It is sometimes graphic in content. If you read on, don’t write to yell at me.

I’m functioning on coffee this morning. Despite widely held opinions, I don’t actually drink wine in the morning. Unless it’s football season and the Eagles game is on here. There’s a lot to cover. It’s disparate, thus the convenient headers. Some prefer my stories about LA oddness to my rants or yearnings. Fair enough, but if one doesn’t read the whole blog, there will be no answer to that question: ‘What in blue blazes is wrong that that broad?’

The Gunslinger Trailer – Shopping lists and Growl-ly Voices

The report on the trailer shoot is running longer than I expected. The peeps who didn’t go on this one want details (a shout out to Randy and Phil). And for non-peeps, lack of details has prompted a lot of questions (a shout out to my mother-in-law). I may have to break this up into more parts.

Feb. 10th
I think the fog was thicker on the second day. The vehicles on the road seemed to be traveling more closely. The day began early, but not early by usual film standards. Our call was 9am. Typical call times are 6 or 7am. And that means, you have to be at the location ready to work. I’m glad we didn’t do that. The early calls are the one thing I’ve never gotten used to in film shoots.

The challenge of the morning was to dress a small corner of a modern saloon (there was a bull riding machine and a DJ stand at the other end of the room) like it was a frontier cabin. That meant removing a whole lot of very important photos and mementos from the walls, covering the windows against the light, dressing the windows, etc. Our amazing and lovely hostess, Cindy Jacques, had provided the oil lamps and curtains. In fact, every time I looked up on Saturday and Sunday, she was coming at me with handy items. Lamps, curtains, rifle. It was incredible.

While the set alterations were underway, there had to be a run for lamp oil, bottled water, trash bags, paper towels and sandwiches. That’s not the oddest film shopping list I’ve ever filled. There was one during Demon Under Glass that involved clothes hangers, guacamole, a half sheet cake, bananas, toothpaste, duct tape, magic markers and some feminine products. The clerk was really puzzled. And lest it be assumed that such near desperate grocery runs are a product of low budget filming, not so. I live in an area where a lot of TV and big film shoots crop up. If I see an overloaded cart in my market that includes bananas and bottled water, there is usually some tired person holding a walkie talkie pushing it. Incidentals like those are stables on any set, and most P.A.s are required to have a car, because emergency runs for stuff are regulation.

A note about the chicken dinners. I really wanted to make them myself, so I could style them according to Jon’s specs. I even did a successful and delicious test run the week before. But since we weren’t sure whether or not we’d have kitchen access at the location, I erred on the side of caution and sanity. We were going to buy the dinners already made. In an area full of farm and ranch folk, I figured that some restaurant had to have a good-looking plate of chicken. This assumption was correct. We met Cindy at a restaurant in Exeter called Carole’s The breakfast there was very good. In fact, Jon went out of his way to praise the hash browns. They had a very nice fried chicken dinner. We had to pick up one for each actor and a spare for styling the food to match being half and then mostly eaten.

Once we returned, I set up the food on the plates. I had to take a photo for continuity in case they had to be reset. Here are the photos of full plates and one of the eaten meals. We had to dress the windows each time the camera angle changed. I found Travis to be very handy in that task. He didn’t need a step stool or tip toes, and he could really get those pins into the wooden walls. After all of that, Jon and the cast began the rehearsals for blocking (figuring out how the actors would move in the scene). The script is essentially two people talking through a meal until the kissing starts. But talking heads can be dull. There has to be some movement about the room (aside from the kissing). That had to be practiced so that the movement started and ended at a certain line of dialogue every time the scene was shot, so it would cut together properly. On top of remembering where they were in the frame and how they move, the actors are each traveling a character arc through the dinner scene. For Matt/Shadow, there is balancing the opportunity for stability and safety living and working on KD’s ranch with his growing feelings for her. Throughout the meal, he is weighing his options while assessing her situation. He is also hiding Shadow from her. The lines are deceptively simple. There is a lot of weight behind how he responds to her questions and comments. We were fortunate to have an actor that can do a lot with his voice. Travis as Matt is endearing and playful. As Shadow, there is a dangerous, predatory quality. It’s all done with that voice and his eyes. I am particularly fond of the low, growl in Shadow’s voice when he responds to something he didn’t like hearing. Meanwhile, KD is wrestling with intense curiosity, wariness and a growing attraction to a man who is an absolute stranger. Jennifer has a marvelously expressive face that reflects her growing feelings beautifully. What’s most impressive is that they kept up the level of the performance and their energy through the nine hours of shooting various angles and close-ups.

Next week - Our Groovy Crew, snoring dogs, and maybe, the love scene.

A Soldier’s Fate – Getting the Nuances

I’ve said ad nauseum that I generally write in longhand on notepads then input. During inputting, I actually do a new draft. Sometimes, I finish the whole novel in longhand before I start inputting. Sometimes, I’m still writing the first draft when I begin inputting. That all depends on my access to the PC. I took the opportunity to input before the last chapters were finished, because I knew that Jon would be editing The Gunslinger trailer for the next couple of weeks. I also needed to make some changes to the beginning of the book that reflected what was going on in the back half. Somewhere along the way, I started layering in stories from Rik and Vincent’s past that are influencing them in the present. I don’t use flashbacks. I have the characters reveal something about their past while they are reacting to events in the present. For example, in the excerpt I posted last month, Vincent reveals that he had been watching Rik often while they were on the same squad. Nitro Raden had been aware of this and tried to take advantage of Vincent physically but couldn’t. These revelations come in response to Bobby’s hair brained plan to visit a brothel to get experience he can use with his older love interest, Eloise Kramer. Later, Rik reveals just how many older men had chased Vincent during his time as a soldier. He had protected him then. The discussion brings them closer emotionally. I hadn’t planned on such a device when I wrote the outline, but it became clear that my protagonists were the products of their experiences as soldiers. That has to affect everything they do and feel. I realized that the readers had to see that. Jon would not begin writing until he had planned out all this in an outline. I need my characters to develop to the point where they tell me what they need in the story. That development happens has I work through the draft. I keep my notebooks and my early drafts to show the transition of my novels and scripts. Who knows, I may teach someday. A Soldier’s Fate is moving along well. I enjoy hanging out with the guys at the end of each day. I’ll miss them when this is all over.

France, Anthony Bourdain and a Shameful Admission

Yes, I have found a way to combine the two. I happened to catch a repeat of his Food Network show, A Cook’s Tour this past week, and met with a surprise. Mr. Bourdain is French by way of New Jersey. His father grew up in Arcachon, and the family had a house there until he passed away. That explains the food obsession and the name. Bourdain traveled to Arcachon with his brother in an attempt to recapture some family memories. He called the seaside town, the Jersey shore of France. That’s a compliment from a Jersey boy, for the Jersey shore was the place of magical summers to one who lives in the region. It was our summer destination for my entire childhood. The memories are fond ones. I think Arcachon is more like the central Jersey towns like Sea Girt (just south of Asbury Park) more than Atlantic City or Wildwood. The beaches in Sea Girt have the same beautiful sand dunes. The town was lovely, and so were Bourdain’s memories. I found myself stung by guilt when he talked about the first time he had an oyster. I, the foodie and sybarite, have never had a raw oyster. I’ve had raw red meat (Carpaccio) and enjoyed it. I’ve had smoked eel in sushi and enjoyed it (very surprised at that). But I’ve not had this staple of a raw bar. It’s especially shameful as a quote about eating oysters has been a favorite of mine. He was a bold man that first ate an oyster (Jonathan Swift). My author friend Sarah Freligh first told me that while we were in a writers’ group during grad school. I believe she gave me the quote while I was lamenting not being part of the curve at school. Incidentally, she has a new book out. Sort of Gone is available now. Treat yourself to some very fine work and buy it. Anyway, It’s time I rectified this shameful lapse. At first opportunity, I’m having some raw oysters. I’ll keep you informed.

Next week – Inspired lunacy and more on the trailer shoot.

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