Under Pressure

The set of our film noir
The set of our film noir

After Doug and Heather, I have a few hours before I have to drive down to Torrance for the Noir shoot. Definitely need a nap. Lay down, set an alarm, close my eyes. Not happening. Immediately get back up. I don’t even know why I tried.

Mike is out doing things for the shoot, then going straight there, so I won’t see him until I reach the set. This is one of many things giving me anxiety. This past week has been a blur with trying to get everything ready for this. It was Mike’s last week at Auction Hunters and he’s had very long days. We have not been able to sit down and talk through everything. His AH guys have never met my Writers Group guys. Alicia is Mike’s 1stAD (Assistant Director) and even they haven’t met yet. It’s just not the way I want to start the night. (Not to mention that I’ve had to remind him already that no, your last name is not Bay.)

I’m getting ready and have a lot to bring. I start taking things out to the car in waves. Do I have everything? I’m more spastic than usual because I am known to forget things. I see some keys by the door. No idea what they are. Text Mike. What are these keys? “They’re for the truck.” Do you need them? “No.” What are they for? “Nothing we’re using tonight.” So you don’t need them. “No.” Are you sure?

I almost decide to bring them, just in case. OK, I’m ready to go. Drive down to Torrance. Lys texts me on the way, asking if I have lithium batteries. I do not. But I can stop somewhere. First stop, Staples to print out copies of the script. Mike already printed out five, but you never know. I print out five more. Then I make my way to Torrance, figuring I can stop somewhere for batteries once I get down there.

Torrance is so dumb. There’s nothing around. Lots of storage building and boringness everywhere. Finally reach an area where there are a bunch of strip malls. Turn into one, figuring there will be a CVS or something like it. Nope. I don’t recognize most of these stores. A lot of the signs aren’t even in English. Where am I? Rob, Mike and I drove down earlier in the week to check out the location. I guess because it was dark and I didn’t really care about anything except our actual location, I didn’t pay attention to my surroundings. I mostly just pay attention to what Rob says. He starts talking about the possibility of him and Mike shooting something for nine months in Nashville, and how would I feel about that. Well, I would want him to go where the job is. “Do you trust him?” Yes. “You should….but he does pass out in hotel hallways.” Yea, I do get mad at that. “Yea. Don’t blame you. At some point you need to grow the fuck up…

Then again, I pissed the bed two weeks ago so who am I to talk.”

I finally find a freaking Walgreens. Unbelievable. Lithium batteries – check. Is there anything else we need? My head pounds. Yes, I’ll pick up some Advil, too. After what feels like forever, I’ve reached the location. It’s an office building parking lot. A guy from AH – Scott – also works here. He’s really hooking us up. We’ve got the parking lot, we’re using his car, and even his office…the actors can change inside. Let’s not forget about bathrooms for everyone to use. These are all big things.

A huge truck is parked with God knows what inside – all kinds of equipment for the shoot. Lighting, cameras, etc. I see Mike waving and pull in. I need to sit and breathe for a minute. OK, here we go. I see a friendly face in Rob and give him a hug. “You OK?” Yes. I’ll be fine. I’m glad you’re here. Mike has already walked away with Ian, the director of AH. He’s here just to check out the scene and be supportive. I feel like I should be doing something now, but I don’t know what. I text Mike. Can you please come talk to me? I have this bad feeling that everything is going to go to shit.

This is really happening!
This is really happening!

He walks over. “What’s up?” Can you just talk to me? What do I need to be doing right now? I don’t feel like we’re on the same page. Just in time, Ian walks up. Have I mentioned he’s Mike’s biggest fan? Great, yes. Annoying, yes. “What’s wrong?” Nothing. “Don’t worry, everything’s fine. Look at what your boyfriend did. Look at everything he brought.” He refers to the truck. I stare. “You don’t need to worry about anything. You need to be supportive of him.” (That does it.) I need support. I’m the producer. This isn’t his project, this is our project. (I really put emphasis on all those words.)

Now I’m breathing all heavy and shit. Ian mumbles something and walks away. Mike just stands there, probably embarrassed. I don’t care. I get it, you’re here to support Mike and make him feel good. By doing so, you make me feel like I’m here to stand around and look pretty and be a goddamned cheerleader. Well I’m not. Mike finishes talking to me, I think just trying to not piss me off, and walks away again. Rob is still here, unpacking things and getting ready. He looks over.”Do you want a shot?” He magically pulls out a bottle of Jameson from the back of his truck. I smile. No, that’s OK. “Fine, guess I’m taking one by myself.” Oh, OK, in that case, yes, hit me. “Just remember. I’m not here for your boyfriend. The only reason I’m here is for you.” Thanks Rob. I know he’s saying this to make me feel better. Because I just had myself a little tantrum. It’s fine.

The DP (director of photography) is this guy Will. Very good at his job, not very good with people. And just plain scary. He doesn’t even say hi when he starts asking me about what the main character will be wearing. Well, he’s bringing two suits. One silver, one black. I explain that one of them can’t get wet if that’s going to be an issue. “Well which one can get wet?” The black one. “Oh, then definitely the black one. I don’t want silver anyway. That will look horrible.” He makes this disgusted face. Um. Actually, it looked really good at the audition, which is why we told him to bring it. Like, seriously, don’t make up your mind about something before you even see it. Not that it’s your decision anyway, guy. It’s the director’s.

Writers group arrives. Thank God. Then our lead actor, Mike. He’s early. Once Mike is on set it’s like I don’t care about anything else. Where’s Mike? Is he OK? What does he need? Is he happy? Scott leads the way to his office upstairs where Mike can change and get ready. Now Bryan is here – our other actor. So much energy. So happy to be here. I just love having him. I bring him inside and I forget why we’re waiting, but we are. There’s this huge mounted deer head on the wall. Except it’s not a deer. It’s something scarier. But I don’t know what. Bryan insists on getting his picture with it. He does a few poses. The apple he’s eating turns into a prop as he strikes a pose, pretending to feed the animal. “Do you wanna get your picture with it?” It’s like I’m hanging out with Kelly. If I wasn’t trying to act like a professional in some way, I totally would have taken the picture. But I refrain.

Silver Fox and Bryan read their lines together – this is their first time meeting. Mike listens. I’m standing outside the door.I want to hear, but I don’t know if it’s my place. I don’t know what I’m allowed to do. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. But I know I want the script interpreted in the way that I want it. And I want the actors to look a certain way. But this is my first time producing. And this is Mike’s, not first, but biggest thing he’s ever directed. And he’s also my boyfriend. I don’t know how to do it. So I just have heart palpitations. Then tell him to stop asking his DP for answers and ask me. I know. I know nothing about lighting. I do not give a fuck. Great. You’re amazing, Will. Do what you do. But this is our script and I want it done the way I want it done.

The guys are basically ready to go, but the lighting isn’t ready yet. So we take Silver Fox upstairs and do his voice-over. He does it three times. We ask him to to try things a little differently, but for the most part, we like what we hear. We finally are ready to shoot. Like, way later. I’m still on edge. Dane finally tells me what I should be doing. “You know you’re done now. You can just watch. You’re job is over.” It is? Thank God. I spend the rest of the time talking to the actors whenever they’re not shooting.

None of us can hear the dialogue in the car, except Mike. He’s in the car, bent down in the passenger seat, listening to them so he can direct them. He can’t really see them that well though, and I notice something. I tell him and he agrees. Tells me to go ahead and give Silver Fox my notes. I do. I know what I want to tell him but as I start speaking, I realize I don’t know how to explain. When Miles turns the radio off, you need to, like, notice it more. Because right now, he turns it off, and you sort notice it, but just continue on with your dialogue. But you need to like, like he just turned off this music that you’ve been hearing during your voice-over and…

It was worse than that. Finally, he says, “Like my world just ended?” YES! Exactly. That. Good job. Do that.

The Silver Fox and Mike on set
The Silver Fox and Mike on set

Later, this guy walks onto set. Rob waves him over and says hi. I figure he’s with AH, but then I see him introducing him to the AH guys. So I guess he’s just Rob’s friend. Rob asks me for a script and I hand it to him. This guy sits on a wooden box, watching the scene take place in front of him through the camera lens. He follows along in the script, obviously trying to read their lips. At least a half hour goes by, when I stand close to him, also looking into the camera to watch. He leans over, whispering (because you have to be quiet on set). “Is this a music video?” I can’t even stay next to him. I silently crack up, loving everything about that question. I come back. Still giggling. No. “Oh, is it a car commercial?” Oh my God, this just keeps getting better. I’m dying. And I love this guy. He’s been sitting here for 30 minutes, watching and reading along, and has no idea what’s going on.

It’s 11:45pm. We have our actors until 1am. For a couple reasons. One, if we keep them later than 1, we have to feed them and take a half hour break. Two, Conversations in Cars is a no budget project. It’s sort of the point. We’re making these shorts with our own people, and with people who want to make things. And who don’t have money. That’s us.

Now, I have already spent a lot of money. A lot being around $100 – on props, crafty, and miscellaneous things. I am not going to spend more money when we don’t have to. I knew this from the start. Apparently, Mike didn’t think so. But I told him from the start that I wasn’t going to feed them, so if he wanted to, it would be out of his pocket and he would have to figure it out. He did not do that. So now, it’s almost 1, and everywhere is closed except fast food or something like that.

Yes, these actors are awesome and I’m sure if we asked them to stay longer, they would. Because they’re professionals. That doesn’t mean they’ll ever want to work with us again.

Finally, we wrap Miles, aka, let him leave. We’ve done all his scenes, so he’s good to go. Only the Silver Fox left. Oh, and yes, he’s in the silver suit. Because it’s awesome. So there. And now it’s time for him to get wet. He agreed to getting wet if we got it in one take. One take turns into four, five, six, seven. Every time they yell cut I’m patting him down with paper towels, apologizing. I mean, it looks like his suit is soaked at this point. I’m furious. Mike and Will assured him they wouldn’t but they did it anyway because they “needed” the shot.

I get that you want to get the shot. And it has to be good. It has to look good. But you don’t make promises and break them. Especially since I’m the one who assured him it wouldn’t be a problem. So really, this is on me. We get Silver Fox out of there at 1am on the dot. Mike and AH stay until 4am getting pickup shots and I don’t know what else. The rest of us clean up what we can and leave. Longest day ever.

Mike has since edited a rough cut. It looks awesome. I just wish he had gotten a few more cool shots.

Just kidding, Mike. 🙂


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