The third day of shooting dawned
with me already running behind. I was supposed to be using a borrowed Range
Rover for the picture car. That had fallen through at the last moment. So at
the night before, I was calling around
to rental car agencies, trying to nail down a place that would rent me a
big-ass SUV. I managed to find Budget
was a real blast
from the past for me, since back in the tabloid days, I had
rented a Ferrari Mondiale from them and driven it to the Hotel del Coronado for
a stakeout of Donald Trump. It was a
blast going down, and then the weather changed â€“ to the point where, when the
photog and I were staking out the private airstrip that The Donald was using to
ferry hoochies in and out, it actually started sleeting. Not exactly the weather for cruising up the
PCH with the top down.
Anyway. I awoke scrambling, with acid already in the
pit of my stomach. I drove with Janineâ€™s cousin to the Budget to pick up the
car, and got my first nasty surprise of the day. Apparently, that Budget also rents the big
U-Haul like trucks and Saturday is the day that everybody chooses to do their
moving on. So the line was already out the door. It was a Â½ hour wait to get to the counter,
at which time the guy behind the counter had apparently had a car accident
recently and gone through the windshield. He was not motivated in any real,
seemed to have problems focusing on anything other than
the cleavage of the sweaty girl one station over.
Meanwhile, the lighting fixtures
in the ceiling were falling out unpredictably â€“ the electrician had just been
there and had â€œfixedâ€ the lights, whilst being staggering drunk.
It would not have been out of
place for me if at this point, Death Himself had shown up with a scythe and
skeleton-raven on his shoulder, laughing at me. I was drumming my fingers on the counter like Keith Moon at his most
deranged, when someone finally recognized that I was about 10 minutes from
decapitating everyone on the premises and taking off with whatever cars I could
get. They tried to pass off some shoddy
mini-Lexus SUV on me. I held out for the Escalade. I knew that I was going to
need as much space as I could. It cost
me about 4 times as much as I had budgeted for this prop, but at last I got in
the car and sped off.
A side note here. If you ever get
the chance to cruise through Beverly Hills on a Saturday morning behind the wheel
of a big black Escalade, pumping out heavy bass tunes â€“ do it. You will feel like the star of your very own
hip-hop video. I laughed because every
damn station on the radio was tuned in to badass hip-hop music. I think I saw the glitter of an expended 9mm
shell on the floor mats; or maybe that was a chip off some foolâ€™s grill after
one of Suge Knightâ€™s boys had dribbled his face against the dashboard like
Steve Francis pounding the ball on his crossover dribble.
I got back to my house, which
doubled as the set, and pulled the SUV into the alley. The crew was already there. Chris was late,
because he had been out until
with a bunch of Vivid Video girls. Or so he would have us believe.
Jon looked up at the bright
overcast sky and said, â€œAs far as Iâ€™m concerned, weâ€™re lit!â€ I guess the lighting conditions were actually
rather fortuitous. I had been afraid that it was too dim â€“ that I was going to
have a problem matching the footage because it was dim and then would clear
later â€“ but that turned out to be a problem that only materialized the next
Shooting outdoors proved to have
its own challenges. Not the least of
which was the sound â€“ throughout the morning, helicopters kept passing overhead
right when I was getting good performances out of Chris and Jay.
Now for the complimentary
stuff. I knew that I had made a right
move when I cast two good improve stand-up comedians for these roles. I knew that I would need them to go off script
a lot to make these roles come to life. And that turned out to be one of the better decisions Iâ€™ve made. They
improvâ€™d well, you could see that they actually liked each other and got along,
and they made my movie funnier than it would have otherwise been.
So we shot them clowning and
emoting in the alley next to my house, and by noon, my motherâ€™s words about
â€œgetting the worst sunburns on overcast daysâ€ turned out to be, like most of
the wisdom that my mom attempted to impart to me in my life, absolutely true
and necessary. I had spent most of my
time leaning over to
peer at the monitor stuffed into the back of the truck and
thus the sun had baked the shit out of the back of my neck. Yes, I was, as I
have been so many other times in my hick-goes-to-the-big-City-life, a genuine
walking redneck. Yee-haw!
When it came time for my actors to
start driving around in the SUV, I gulped and said a quick prayer. I had tried
and tried to get insurance through the Filmmakerâ€™s
program, only to find my calls and emails falling on deaf ears (eyes? Internal organs?). So I was flying naked. In the picture that you see of my running
away down the alley in front of the car, I half wanted to just lie down in front
of it and let it run me over. One wrong
turn, one little old lady with a shopping cart or the car being backed up too
far, too fast, and I turn into a guy with a bad moustache at the border
crossing at TJ, lining up to work as an English teacher at the college of the
Americas under the alias of Sven Nater.
It was hot and sweaty out,
although not as hot as it had been the previous weekend, when we had set
all-time records for heat in
. If Iâ€™d been trying to film in that heat, we
would all have been either dead, or very very dizzy. I had bought a giant
canvas carport from Pep Boys two days before, and I expected that we were going
to have to put it up and then use it as a sunshade and diffuserâ€¦ but like I
said, it was overcast and I got lucky.
at 50 mph
and have a gradual, tearful breakdown. We had to cut for the lights, weave around slowpokes and give money to
the withered crackhead stationed at the left-turn lane at La Brea and Venice
(Jay gave her money and asked for a joke. She had none.) But still, Jay managed to break down
repeatedly. He drove and just started
crying â€“ he changed the mood in the car. That was good stuff. We had six people
crammed in there â€“ my two actors, me, Jon the cameraman, Adam and the Brian laconic
sound dude. Thank God and Sunny Jesus I went for the big SUV. The mini-Lexus
would have been a disaster.
Oh yeah â€“ and all this took place
on my birthday.
So happy birthday to me. Itâ€™s the
most expensive present Iâ€™ve ever given myself. I still donâ€™t know whether it will ever turn into anything other than a
testament to my own vanity or hubris or silly nostalgia. But I freakinâ€™ shot
Next up: the most difficult day was saved for last.