Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Opposites Oppose - Part 2 - They Pull Me Back In

I know how Michael felt.

After I spoke to Z, I finished up some things I was working on, gave Matt the information he needed, shook hands, and agreed to follow up on some things at home. I expected I would visit the set at some point to say hello and see how things were going. After all, besides Z, there were people I knew or had helped bring on working on set, and I did want the project to do well.

There was a huge weight lifted from me. There are enough difficulties wo\rking on any project that personality and philosophical differences are not needed. I did not expect to be on set again until things were smoothly underway and I would not be a distraction.

Matt brought on a strong woman named P to AD. P - and she was actually known as that due to her long first and last name - was a perfect choice. She had been UPM and/or AD on some of the more important indies of the period. Soon, she had eclipsed Matt and was also a producer on the film.

She and Matt got along fine, as long as Matt did what she said. Not long into production, though, Matt's inclination to go for the cheapest option meant that P had little production support on set, and that was not going to work.

The call from "P" went something like this.

"JB, Z and I have been talking, and we think you could help us on set. Let me be clear about something; I don't need another producer. We have enough cooks. I need someone to basically location and unit manage, to make sure the day-to-day stuff gets done. If you don't mind getting your hands dirty, we could use you."

"Is Matt okay with it?" I asked.

There was a deep sigh, and then, "Matt has nothing to say about it."

It was clear who was in charge, and as we talked, Matt and I would have little to do with each other. I would be on set, and he would be in the office, which he preferred to set, anyway.

There are DPs who come up through the camera department, and DPs who come up through grip and electric. Similarly, there are line producers who come up through the office - office PA, APOC,  Coordinator, UPM, then line producer; and then there are those that come up through set - PA, 2nd AD, First AD. Matt was the former; P and I were the latter.

It worked for everyone. I had a lot of respect for P, and over the years, I've learned how to work with other ADs and UPMs, respecting them and letting them do to do their jobs and me to do mine. P and I would have no ego or overlap problems.

Two of the people I had recommended to the shoot were Joe and Jenny.

Now, Joe and Jenny were the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern* of many of my projects.  I had met them both on a previous nightmare project previously discussed, where Jenny was the perky new production assistant who drove me on a very, very bad day.

The two of them were cute, all-American kids, always chipper and smiling, the PAs who would always volunteer first when any task was at hand and then thank you for letting them do it.

Stacey had recommended Jenny in the first place, and Stacey and I often joked that we wished Joe and Jenny would just hook up already. They would smile and coo at each other, but we figured, to put it in teenage terms, that they had never gotten much past first base. They were actually stuck in an elevator once together for almost two hours, and emerged with not a smudge.

How they maintained their innocence working on film sets eluded Stacey and I. Then again, maybe we were wrong; maybe the two were insanely passionate lovers who hid it well on set.

Sometimes there is too much free time, and these are the things that come to mind.

I took a cab to set, and the first person I saw was Joe. He was standing tall on lock-up, alert as ever. He perked up as I got closer.

"JB, what are you doing here?"

That was the first time I used the line from Godfather III.

"Just when I thought I was out, Joe, they pull me back in."

"Cool, JB, Cool."

As soon as cut was called, I walked past, and I heard him announce enthusiastically on Channel 1, "JB is on set!"

I retained the associate producer title. but P and I were very clear on my duties. I immediately started getting crafty in order, seeing that trash was properly disposed of, sets were restored, and company moves went smoothly.

Yep, my hands were back in the dirt. I remember the first time I asked Jenny if she was ready to whisk first team to the next location on a company move, she replied, "Super copy that, JB!"

Ugh, still perky.

Then again, part of me hopes she has not grown into an old cynic like me.

There was something cathartic about getting back to my roots, handling the nit-picky little messy stuff, not worrying about big-picture issues like were we going to run out of money or make the day. P had those well under control.

Unlike Michael Corleone, there would be no pressure on my chest, no shortness of breath, no calling out to my brother. C'mon, I could never improve on Pacino's emoting, anyway.

In Part 3, some fun stories from the personalities of SOC (as I am referring to this film) now that I was back on set.

*While the reference to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern literally refers to the two messengers sent from the king to spy on Hamlet in Shakespeare's play of the same name, I have used this reference for years not as duplicitous fools but rather observers who watch without comment on the lunacy around them. I probably need to find a better literary reference, but it works for me, and I'm not ready to change yet. Suggestions welcome.

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