#15 Day Three (Call in the National Guard)

Day Three was a monster. After two days, I felt like I was getting the hang of things. But I had no idea what I was in for.

18 scenes
18 scenes, so many, they didn’t fit on the page. So even though it adds up to 10 pages, it’s a lot more than we did on Days One and Two.

I will have to go back and check the footage, but I believe this was the morning when there was a beautiful spider web on the back patio and I asked Harry to shoot it before the day began.

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I was having a Terrence Malick moment.  MV5BMTUzNjQzNjYyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTU5MDYyNQ@@._V1_UX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_I waited on him while I was working at Hamburger Hamlet back in 2004. He could not have been nicer. He was eating with Wallace Shawn, which was a double thrill.


I have no idea who the third person in the group was, maybe a British billionaire.  Or this guy, Jim Piddock (From Best in Show, and others): MV5BNzk3MTA0ODIxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTIxNjM4OA@@-1._V1_UX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_

Terrence Malick said to me, “Alex, I’ve been coming here for thirty years. I’ve never gotten past #1 on the menu.” (That was the All-American Burger.) They drank Patron Silver Margaritas on the rocks and talked and laughed the whole time. Stephen Dorff was sitting at a table across from them with one of his reps. He asked me what Mr. Malick was drinking, and when I told him, promptly ordered one for himself. For a “bad boy” actor, he was pretty friendly, and it was sort of charming how nervous he was to be in the presence of a legendary filmmaker. He eventually went over to the table to say hello, and I was standing there as Mr. Malick greeted him warmly. His flustered reply to the director of Badlands was “Hamburger Hamlet.. It’s the best.” Adorable. I also thought he was great in Sofia Coppola’s SomewhereSomewhere-Coppola2

Regarding my own movie, I have a thousand regrets. One of my greatest is that I cut out the shot of the spider.  It was in a montage to begin the morning of the second day, and in my hope to make the movie as lean as possible without breaking it, I cut that and a few other things I liked.

I felt Day 1 and 2 didn’t belong to me, so when I saw that damn spider web, I wanted it. Hell, this was a movie about people trapped in a house. The spider web is symbolic!!! Also, part of the idea of the movie was that the characters needed to get more in touch with their natural selves, and stop being the Hollywood wimps they had become.  So nature.

At some point, I had an 86 minute cut of the movie. I showed it to people and they felt like it was too long. An editor who advised me in the process felt there was a really good 75 minute movie in there.  So that’s what I went for. I don’t know.  Maybe I could have split the difference. Or maybe people would have felt the extra five minutes was too much?

We’ll never know.

(Unless you want to watch that version and I’ll send you a vimeo link.)

So if you look at the schedule, the first three shots are Zach and Hoodie Man in the backyard.  It’s 1 5/8 pages.

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John tells Paul they called in the National Guard.

It took a long time to shoot. At least long by the standards of this movie. It was about two hours. 10 A.M. and we were already bleeped.

First thing was the sun. We kept getting shadows where they shouldn’t be. (We didn’t have one of those fancy balloons you might see that float above the actors and diffuse the sunlight or actually light the scene.)

Then there were planes. We were pretty close to Burbank Airport.

Then it was just doing the scene.

I’m looking at the schedule and despite the insanity of getting in all those shots, people pulled it together and we got some really good work.

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Like this. And John got a crazy workout smashing his fists into Paul’s face an aluminum pan filled with fake blood.

But it was the first day when I was told we were running behind and were going to have to cut things. I had to start thinking on my feet, instead of thinking on my ass. (Writing at my desk.) It was a butt-kicking.

I think it’s all about finding a rhythm and pace that is faster than you’re comfortable with, but using that lack of comfort to make you work harder and more efficiently. They say with running that your warm-up can be at conversational pace, but to actually get results, you’re not working until you can’t talk.

So Day Three was the day when we got bogged down in the proverbial mud. It wasn’t shooting Apocalypse Now, but it was running at an uncomfortable pace.

I’m also learning this lesson in the sitcom writing class I’m taking. How to fit the most good stuff into a very small space. It’s been a great exercise for me, because the format is so rigid that you need to make things as tight and efficient as possible. I think I had became a bit lazy with my writing. There’s a big difference between fun for me to write and fun for you to read. And this applies to the final product of the movie. Every second is important. As our teacher said last night, “10 seconds of screen time is an eternity.”  Especially for a comedy. FAST. FAST. FAST. It might be fun for me to watch. I wrote it. I made it. These moments are all my little darlings. But if you’re not me, you probably don’t find them all that cute. They might even be dull. So I gotta pick up the pace and go.



Author: Alex

A married waiter/filmmaker with two kids.