Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Born to Be Alive" - Part III

And a Fine Day to You, Kind Reader.

After that first scene with Grampa was in the can for Roller Town we were released back out into the parking lot to run around like a pack of overheated, rayon-clad chimps.

The head rush provided by the intake of fresh air was ample reward for our dancing diligence.  Understandably, the doors of the hall had been hermetically sealed to prevent outside noise from infiltrating the audio while the cameras were a-crankin'.  When you factor in that it was shaping up to be one of the hottest days of the late summer, the repeated takes of aerobic "get-downery" and the Human Torch/Nova Burst level of heat coming from the set lighting, we were all gettin' kinda...dewy.

During or brief down time I noticed that top-billed Mark Little was a constant presence on the set.  Here's a lovely leisure suit shot of him from the Picnicface website:

Man, don't any of these people shop at H&M?  Cripes, I thought my wardrobe was outdated...

Clad in a skin-tight era-appropriate red and white shirt, knee-high spartan-white gym socks and an abbreviated pair of shorts that left precious little to imagination, Mark was working the set like it was an industry party.  I thought it rather nice that he, like Andrew, frequently took the time to mingle around, thank us for showing up and chat amicably for a bit.

At around 3:30 we made our way back into the hall for our next scene, which was certainly in line with Roller Town's loopy sense of humor.   The previously-lensed and hitherto unseen lead up apparently had Bill Wood's Brick Assassin using his trademark projectiles to assault our heroes.  Undaunted, the plucky defenders use their collective powers (?) to change the mortar missiles into something considerably less threatening.

Integral to the scene was Scott Vrooman, seen here getting up in the grill of an innocent cameraman:

In the original Roller Town trailer, Scott played the main cocaine czar/video game corporate kingpin, but in the feature he's a character named Davis, who may or may not be the son of one of the film's big bads.

In this scene, Davis is the collateral damage zone of the Brick Assassin's transmogrified projectiles.  A few shots were filmed of us dancing up a storm with Scott in our midst, reacting to the incoming payload of fuzzy cuteness.  When this was captures, a call for quiet was requested and a hush fell amongst us as the real star of the film was escorted onto the set.

In a pet carrier.

'Cripes,' I thought to myself.  'I know they aren't exactly working with Avatar money here, but c'mon!  Can't a few of them at least share a trailer?'

The carrier was popped open and we all collectively leaned forward to get a glimpse of the stellar presence now on deck.  The assistant who'd first borne the star into our midst reached inside, fumbled for a bit and then  retrieved...

The cutest gray kitten ever assembled by feline genetics. 

It passively 'meowed', blinked and looked around, taking in all the lights, attention and disco glitz like a seasoned pro.

As soon as the cat was revealed a horrible thought occurred to me:

'Are they actually gonna throw this thing?  If so, how should I react?  Maybe it's some kinda stunt kitty and likes getting tossed around for a living.  Jesus, I hope they at least chuck him underhand.'

But my concerns were all for naught.  The cat probably had a real bear for an agent (literally!) and certainly wouldn't be subjected to unexpected hazards like my underrepresented ass was when Brian beat the shit out of me earlier.

Scott hyper-extended his arms, the handler passed him the kitty and he just brought it down to his chest as if he'd caught it mid-air.  We were asked to react to this precious scene in three different ways:
  • Completely oblivious.  Basically, "Big deal, a flying brick turned into a cat.  Who gives a f#@$%?  If I had a dime for every time I've seen that, I'd be able to buy one of Angelina Jolie's kids."
  • Awwwwwww!  In short: "OMG, that is the most precious thing I've ever seen in my life!  What villain's cold heart wouldn't be melted by such as a cute kitty like dat!  Ooooo, I could just eat your widdle face!"  
  • ME!  ME!  ME!  Essentially: "Hey, somebody's using one of the those t-shirt launching air guns you see at sporting events to give away free kittens!  Ooo!   OOOOOO!!!  I want one too!  Mr, Kotter, over hee'!!!" 
It was a really fun scene to shoot since it involved some really over-the top reactions on our part.  I don't know which of the three variations will make the final cut but it'll be interesting to see which one Andrew will go with to optimize the funny.

Also amusing was watching Scott cope with his increasingly acrobatic co-star.  Between takes it was almost as if someone spiked the fuzzy l'il celebrity's decaf latte with catnip.  All of a sudden the little bugger wasn't content to just rest in Scott's cradled arms.  Twice he decided to use his teeny claws like pitons to scale the sheer face of Scott's chest up to his shoulders, where he set base camp and then made a final push for the summit: I.E. his now-arched spine.  At one point the handler had to swap the hyperactive furball for a more tranquil understudy.

F#@$%^& diva.  

We continued to be involved in some really fun scenes.  Andrew and his production team had converted six classic stand-up arcade consoles into parody titles, which included such memorable names as Wheel Mouth, Swamp Ninja, and my own personal favorite, Stop the Wedding (a driving game!).  When the film is eventually released I'm confident these will join the ranks of other fraudulent video games of note such as Mattress Command and Robert Goulet Destroyer.   

To communicate the ravages of these evil arcade games on our innocent disco-beat addled brains, scenes were captures depicting the cabinets appearing one by one out of the ether.  Presumably this could then be spooled out using a reverse-dissolve to make the arcade space appear more and more populous as the shot wore on.

This was achieved by painstakingly placing the first console at the end of the hall, putting one of us in the driver's seat, shooting a couple of frames, wheeling in another console armed by an extra, shooting a couple of frames,  putting a third game and player in place and then repeating the process until the entire frame was filled up with arcade games and players.

I was the second person to be put in place.  From the camera's point of view, I was at the far end of the hall on the right, fiddling away at my ersatz basketball game Sweet Layup.  As this shot was slowly constructed, we were asked to interact with the console as if enthralled by its addictive, 8-bit glory.

That's right, I said 8-bit.  In an inspired move, Andrew had actually retained a programmer friend to design some ancient-looking demos for us to react to and to serve as throwaway details for background shots.  As primitive as the games were, they were completely evocative of a mercifully long-dead era when video games were still in their infancy.

To try and make it look like I was actually engrossed in this, I used the joystick to mime actions of the barely-distinguishable "players" on the barely recognizable "basketball court".  I must have been doing something right since Andrew came over at one point and said: 

"Dude, you're selling it," he enthused.  "It really looks like you're playing that thing."

"Yeah, well, sad to say, but the video games I was weaned on weren't much different than this," I lamented.

Then I got a chance to re-enact the closest I may come to playing a zombie in a movie!   To really drive home the danger of these electronic Svengalis, we were asked to shuffle around the "arcade," approach a game at random, mime pumping the machines with quarters, play it for a few seconds and then shuffle across the floor to the next available console.  With one simple scene the script manages to convey the unthinking "rats on cocaine" mentality that gripped an endorphin-drunk generation when video games appeared on the scene in the late Seventies and early Eighties.

We also got some sweet closeups to boot.  Later the camera was moved away from the end of the hall and positioned back behind each cabinet.  We were asked to act slack-jawed and wall-eyed as we went through the motions, bathed in a seizure-inducing orgy of colored lights.        

My own humble version of method acting got me into a bit of hot water for the next set up.  When all of us were stationed at a console, the cinematographer turned the camera around so that it was facing top down behind us to get a shot of us feverishly transfixed by the game.

I was still trying to turn the wheel of Stop the Wedding in tune with the "action" on the screen.  So, if the car on the road was barely turning, I only moved the wheel incrementally to make it look right.  It just made sense.  

"Go ahead, play the game!" he shouted at one point.

'But it says 'Game Over'!' I thought to myself.  'Oh well, maybe in our zombified state we don't even notice.'

So as I started turning the wheel in exaggerated motions, the shot was done and he moved on to the next machine.      
When we wrapped around 6:30 , Andrew and the A.D.'s thanked us profusely for coming out.  They also lobbied hard for our return three days hence.  Although Saturday was right out for me (my better half wanted me to time with her on her birthday; she's weird like that) I did commit to coming back on Sunday.

Although we were free to leave, rumors stated to swirl that there would be a special effects demolition shot for one of the arcade games.  I watched for awhile as technicians rigged the thing to explode and took all the screws out of the frame.  Knowing how long it normally takes to jury rig a practical effect I made to leave but Andrew walked by and verbally tacked me.

"No, dude, you can't leave yet!"  he said.  "We're gonna blow the f#$%^ out of this thing!  It's gonna be awesome!

To his credit I'm kinda glad I stuck around.  With the death blow delivered (appropriately) by a disco ball, the console began to shake, shudder and belch smoke.  Then, as if possessed by another 70's era bugaboo from The Exorcist, it started to ooze green slime onto the screen.   Buckets of the stuff seemed to pour out from under the marquee, running down the front of the cabinet and onto the floor.  Finally there was a loud *BANG!*, a flash of sparks and the console exploded in a neatly contained but modest blast.  To complete the illusion, a stagehand crawled out from behind the curtains and physically pulled the sides of the case off.  They fell to the floor as if they'd been blown off by the detonation.

Regardless of how long you've been in the film business, even the most jaded crew members seem to enjoy when shit gets blown up real good on set.  A huge ovation went up and the doors of the hall were finally thrown open to clear the smoke out and invite some cool air inside.

I went home that night 'round 8 pm and was barely able to sleep.  I'd had a tremendous amount of fun and the following Sunday was promising to be even better.

It was supposed to be the film's climax, the final big party scene.  The day would not disappoint.  In fact, it would prove to be the best time I've ever had on a film set for far.

This despite the constant threat of death by roller skate...

EPIC:  This in one of my favorite vids featuring Andy and Mark; a ripe parody of the persistently silly-looking movie The Box:

FAIL: Despite the prominent "FAIL" on display here, it still looks better than Sweet Layup

No comments: