"The web of our life is a mingled yarn, good and ill together; our virtues would be proud, if our faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair, if they were not cherished by our virtues."-William Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well
To paraphrase old friend and respected writer/director Ray DeFellita, things that start crazy end crazy. Our last day on Terjebak Nostalgia reflected the pattern from the day I came onto the job - turmoil throughout but ultimate success.
It started at the Carousel in Central Park (sorry, refuse to promote the man who stuck his name on it). It was the worst combination of Interior and Exterior - covered, so it needs to be lit, but not covered to the extent that it is protected from weather.
Aliki was a hero, putting together the permit for the the Carousel and Bow Bridge, made famous by numerous movies. This was maybe our best result at delivering iconic locations that all viewers in the Indonesian market would recognize, outside of Times Square. It is a permit that would normally have taken much longer to secure; Aliki secured it within days of shooting and it finally came in the day before we filmed.
We were not able to secure parking as close as we would have liked, and we had never tech scouted it, as it was not on original list of places to shoot. As such, G&E had to scramble to do the lighting, and they did a great job.
Once done with the park, we still had a company move, our first. It was a little bumpy, but we eventually arrived at the foot of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, where we had holding at a bar I had filmed a short in, Montero's Bar and Grill. It's a fascinating place, and I've known the owner for years, but unfortunately, it was just used for holding.
This area of Brooklyn provided the closest access to the 'Dumbo' that Rako really wanted, that sense of old New York. Our tiny but brilliant art department hastily put up a flea market on the street, but we still had more to film, including Scene 108 - the Magic Hour scene to end the film.
Before we ever got to this scene, one of our actors became sick with a balance disorder similar to vertigo. He was taken to the hospital but fortunately wound up being ok.
Complicating matters was the fact that two of our actors had a flight home that night. It was a Friday night, which meant traffic would be a mess, so I asked that the actors be allowed to leave be a certain time, that still would allow us to film at sunset. Word back from Rako, the director, was that yes, he would move the Magic Hour shot a little early.
What wasn't communicated was that he then still planned on another scene, and clearly did not feel bound to finish and get those actors out when I wanted them out, albeit for their own good. I feared actors stranded on a Friday night in New York without another flight out until the next day.
Now, the day grew late and, to be honest, I grew unnecessarily testy with Leigh, who I had asked to work with Rako to make sure he understood they needed to be out, and Rini, who was of course the liaison to the team. Both, to their credit, responded well. I ordered a car service, only to have it sit around for some time. Then, when I sent the car to where I thought they were, they were, in fact, somewhere else, and still had to come back to the bar for holding.
Meanwhile, some of the drama of the scene - for the Indonesian creative team and actors- was whether the actor in the scene would or would not wind up kissing Raisa. Rako gave him the opportunity to let it happen naturally. Did he kiss her or not? You'll have to wait for the movie!
Finally, we did get the actors into the car, and they did make the plane on time.
At 6:23 PM, we were officially camera wrapped.
For maybe the first and only time in the many years I have worked with Brian, I hugged him when he got back to holding. Along with Leigh and Rini at the site, and Aliki back at the office, they had helped pull off something that, if you had described it to me beforehand, I would have said could not be done.
We were fortunate that we ended the shoot at a bar, and it was the only time we were able to sit and celebrate and drink with the Reza and Rako, as they left late the next day. We bought each other drinks, and Peppy, the owner, was happy to oblige us (And make a couple of hundred more). Crew that wanted to could order drinks on us, and so an impromptu wrap party happened, at least for a little bit.
Many of you have noticed that it took some time for me to finish this series, and also that I have offered it in a fractured time line, starting by telling you it was a success and then going into detail.
Part of the time it took me to finish this series was being interrupted by a number of projects. However, it was also the case that I kept examining the experience and trying to make sense of, as a Zen master would say, 'looking the other side of it.'
The Shakespeare quote above is one of a few in All's Well That Ends Well that deals with the basic truth of life, that good and bad are relative, and we would not know one without the other.
In the middle of this project, I was constantly stressed, constantly trying to figure out how it was all going to turn out for the best, and often I could not see it. It was, however, exactly that difficulty that made our success all the more fulfilling.
Another expression of what Shakespeare wrote above can be found in the Buddhist liturgy, Identity of Relative and Absolute *:
"Within light there is darkness, but do not try to understand that darkness. Within darkness there is light, but do not look for that light.
Light and darkness are a pair, like the foot before and the foot behind in walking. Each thing has its own intrinsic value, and is related to everything else in function and position."Working in film, we all have our war stories. We love our war stories, and they are fun and entertaining and help us to maybe get a little laugh at what seems like the end of the world at the time.
One thing I always remind directors is that, at the screening, when they get to see their work projected, all the war stories don't matter. There is always difficulty. There will always be slights and bumps along the way.
I hope this series, if you follow it from the beginning, can inspire you at those moments on a shoot when it seems the whole world is falling down around you, and for producers, it can feel like that often.
To (again) share one of my favorite Hitchcock quotes, "A child has not died." Remember if things are difficult for you, they're difficult for the guy or gal next to you as well. Work not just with mindfulness but compassion, and don't be afraid to say "I'm sorry" if a moment overwhelms you and you are less than compassionate.
Surround yourself with good people, who are not only talented but who want to be that fox hole with you and who care about their work. I was blessed on this shoot with the best, not just my immediate production team, who I've praised endlessly, but the entire crew, and some great vendors (some of whom I've listed below).
One thing I've learned over the years is as a producer, especially on low budget project, don't be afraid to treat your crew, especially department heads, as partners. If you have chosen your people well, they care about the final project as well. No one person has all the answers, and while, as producer, you must make the final decision, input from others is essential.
While much of this blog is recounting productions from the past, this series, if you follow from the first post, The Inspirational Email, on September 4, 2015, is a good account of both being in the fire and observing the fire after it has been extinguished.
Now, we can move on.
* There are many translations.