Some years ago, I was involved in the production of a small independent film, Emma and Elvis. When the director asked if they could film a few scenes at my house, I was thrilled.
Should I redecorate? Paint the house? No, they tell me, that’s not necessary. They’ll find a few spots in my house and yard. I’ll hardly know they’re there.
I offer to perform the morning craft services (in movie lingo, craft services is breakfast and snacks….not lunch…..there’s a big difference.) I can certainly buy a few muffins and fire up the Mr. Coffee. Well, they say , there will be about 20 of them and I should seriously consider two large urns of strong coffee, many muffins and a variety of juices. Movie people need a jump start.
Okay…..I can do this graciously if not on a slightly larger scale than I’d originally planned.
8:45 is the appointed hour. I’m ready! The juice is chilled, the muffins are fresh, coffee’s hot (no Styrofoam cups, please….this group is ecologically correct.) But there’s no sign of anyone anywhere. Where are they? I know from my brief experience in this business that things can change in a minute. Did they change their minds? Are my colors wrong? I’m getting nervous.
Suddenly, I hear cars…no wait!…I hear vans, cargo vans, moving vans, passenger vans. They’re here! They come into my house with their wares: cameras, wires…..large, black snaking wires,….screens, batteries, sand boxes, sound booms. They are grateful for the coffee, etc. and say so, sipping and nibbling as they interdependently and individually go about their work.
I’m sitting graciously in my living room, waiting for their approval and decision on the scene. Suddenly, I realize they’re setting up in the garage. THE GARAGE??? For Heaven’s sake….no one ever suggested that. How will I ever explain this to my mother? But yes, it’s true….not one but two separate scenes in my garage. I don’t even ask why…..I don’t want to know.
But in due time, they move to the back yard. OK, it’s still not my living room but it’s a far cry from the garage. I’m more thrilled than ever when I realize that it’s MY back yard that has been chosen for THE poignant, final speech by the lead actress and that all is in readiness for Take 1.
Shooting a scene requires total silence…..no movement, no whispers, very little breathing. We’re ready.
Suddenly suburbia explodes. A large golden Labrador jumps into the yard ruining Take 1. She’s collarless and nameless and not at all deterred by more than one gentle pat on the rump to send her on her way. A walk with her though the neighborhood turns up nothing. The only solution: the local police who arrive with their staticky police radio. Scratch Take 2.
The mailman’s mufflerless jeep intrudes on Take 3.
Cicadas do in Take 4 and airplanes ruin Takes 5 and 6.
An innocent lawnmower drowns out Take 7 and two people trimming a tree blast Take 8. We track them down but they insist on seeing the set. Scratch Take 9.
Take 10 looks pretty good but they’re a little concerned about a neighbor’s air conditioning which came on in an untimely fashion.
The afternoon brings them inside. I watch them work, some in advance of a scene, some with follow-up work, listening to the cries of “Locking Up”, “Rolling,” and “Cut” reverberate through my house. It’s serious business and no one takes a minute to relax. They appear choreographed and in tune with one another. They are professionals and apprentices, working closely together.
Very little in my house is NOT moved. They shoot three separate scenes and seem pleased.
Suddenly, it’s 5:00 and they’re gone. My house looks as though they’d never been there….cleaner nearly now than before. I took no pictures and have only a memory of watching them work so passionately and with such dedication.
I am grateful that at 5:15 when the neighborhood church bells ring for a wedding that no takes are destroyed and we don’t have to send a runner to ask for “Quiet on the set.”