Post production and Pre production for Italian Project. The Story of Tribulations.
Since it's been some time since I've added to my blog, I'd like to inform you that I will be catching up on lost time. It is now April 2017 but I will be going back in time to August 2016 and then traversing over the treacherous boulders of last September.
August was an eventful month and my creative partner and friend Kelly Lambert had my western short in the cutting room. At the same time, him and I were collaborating on a new project. One that would be the toughest one yet because it would require us to fly to Italy to make it. The idea came after the already planned journey to the European country that myself and friend Brock Johnson had planned for September. I have a friend we would stay with who lives there by the name of Dick McGee. Dick is an American actor and dabbles in filmmaking himself. He's pushing 60 years old and is married to an Italian woman, Daisy. The three of us and old Dick have become friendly after Brock and I had made an earlier excursion to Italy in 2015. And so, as it went, I okay'd it with Brock who was managing the travel expenses through his hookup with Delta. It was set ; Kelly, Brock and I would be traveling to Italy. Our plan: shoot a proof of concept for a feature film of which Kelly and I had come up with.
Rewind one month: So here we were. Busting our heads in August, trying to get an adequate draft to send to Dick and Daisy in Italy who offered to come on as producers after we pitched the idea. We knew the right locations were going to be everything for the projects look and feel. We also knew that Daisy, who was handling locations needed a draft ASAP so she could find us the right locations. Bless Dick and Daisy for their efforts, because our draft was a ferocious and fun romantic comedy thriller with many beautiful Italian locations within it. At last, we sent them the final version a week and a half before we flew out on September the 6th.
I was drained emotionally and spiritually and wanted to leave Los Angeles behind immediately. Originally it was to be just Brock and I. But since we decided to go ahead on the project, there were now three of us. Kelly, who I'd coaxed into thinking this was a good idea to begin with had packed his bag with wild abandon. He had luggage dangling from all parts of his body. He was a virgin traveler and would be taking his Sony A7S ll camera and Ronin steady cam. We would combine Dick's lighting equipment in Italy and same Sony camera for the project. We had everything we needed lined up. We were elated. Brock was so elated that he consumed enough alcohol the night before our departure that I needed to remind him what it was we were doing several times throughout that 2 day journey in order to get him to move with any kind of purpose. He displayed a lethargic, half-wasted, and incoherent behavior that began to eat at me before we boarded our first plane. Although I tip my hat to him because it was because of him that we were able to travel for cheap to begin with, still I began to have antennae for his shit, and if we were to be productive on this trip, he had realize that this project would be serving him too, and to not lay it to waste.
When we landed in Rome, we took a bus across Italy to the east coast against the Adriatic Sea. The sights and smells were again remarkable and familiar from the year before. Dick and Daisy were helpful in that they secured a two bedroom apartment just down the way from where they lived. We were were comfortably settled. The apartment had a view looking east over green rolling hills of olives and grapes at the sea. We were in heaven, and stimulated from the country side. I was eager to get started on the project, and so was Kelly.
Looking back, I would have taken in the sights a bit more. Here we were, in Italy and all I wanted to do was create this project. I was consumed. While I love doing this work I still needed to decompress from the LA hustle. I had been saving my money, working six and seven day weeks for months to afford this trip and not to mention the project. You might say I was in two places at once. My drive and force were in LA but my body was in Italy. Dick, Daisy and Brock were in Italy and when you're in Italy you drink vino and eat too much. You walk down to the local market in the afternoon after ciesta and you buy three cases of Peroni for cheap and you consume it while eating authentic family prepared Italian dishes and pastas and you drink espresso afterword. You become heavy in your body and you ask yourself to not do what you did to yourself today again tomorrow. But then, the next day, you do.
My wonderful friends and I were having a grand time not shooting anything for around four days. I remember in detail. I would escape the apartment, and read my lines while walking around the village we were in. Then, I would come back and have some wine and eat again. Brock thought of my behavior as uncool and would start in with the patronizing questions; "Where were you, dude?" "I have lines to memorize. So do you." Dick would catch on and look up from his phone; "You what?" "I have sixteen pages of dialogue to memorize." "Oh, well we're not shooting yet." "Exactly my point." Brock would return the conversation not with words, but a repetitive laugh that sounded like an old truck turning over mixed with a tone that to me suggested, please join me in laughter. I would try to if I were feeling charitable, in which case I would push out a grin. There was an air of a puppy who needed scratching in his behavior also. I acknowledged this and wondered why he didn't act his way back in LA. I knew that our current rate of productivity could derail our project, and my heart was invested. Not executing would mean my last several months were for nothing. I needed to be my best.
Eventually we began to sort out our cast. We needed to hire four Italian actors and one Italian actress. Where we would find them? Facebook more than likely. Dick has a nice group of Italians who are terrific actors and interesting people as well. After much decision making, and shooting emails, we confirmed our cast and sent out shoot dates and schedules. It took us four days at the speed we were moving. Kelly was in charge of most things of this nature, but much of his directions were being drowned out in the minds of Dick and Brock. We were on vacation as well. There was to be minimal requests of making things any easier. You got what you got was the general tone to our surprise. Kelly and I acknowledged this and instead of trying to rally everyone into one unit, we would drink vino, then we would try to rally everyone into one unit.
Our efforts were futile. It wasn't smart for the production to be as lavish as it were but it was the product of the company we were keeping. The only choice we had was to push on, dragging others if we had to. That is exactly what we did.
We were to begin shooting on a Saturday. We took Friday off to relax ourselves and to lay on the beach since it was the only warm day that week. While we were there something happened that would change the course of the entire trip. Something I would be smart to leave out of this little story as it pertains to maintaining friendships and such. But, that wouldn't be very fun.
Dick got a phone call. The person on the other end was upset. It was the screeching cries of his Italian wife and our main producer Daisy. I watched Dick try to steer himself out of a tumultuous vortex of conversation for a moment but he put his phone down and turned pale. I decided to take a dip in the cool sea and when I came back dripping wet Brock approached like a loyal Labrador. "Dude, Daisy hacked Dicks email and she just called and said she wants to divorce him," he said. "What?" "Yeah." He said. I couldn't believe it, but it seems normal to me somehow. I'd witnesses an incessant banter go on between them since we'd arrived. Not at all times but mainly just the times that Dick was drinking vino or beer too early in the day, which was factually most hours of most days. No judgment there, I didn't know what Dick was going through in his marriage and life, if anything. What could Daisy have found that would prompt her to end their marriage? All I new was that I was in a foreign land making a project with some of my best friends, and I spent much time and energy in the states preparing for it. Anyhow, the Italian women are emotional and spirited people. But they are amazing care takers and usually very family oriented types. I think they are wonderful. But, I did witness Dick get his balls busted on a regular basis(no pun intended) but now it seemed as though his ball busted days would soon be over.
We sat on the beach until the sun set behind us in the west. We drank beer and Dick's friend, another Italian actor with the smile of Marlon Brando arrived. His name was Michael. I had heard of Michael for years before he came, and it was good to finally meet him in spite of our current dilemma. He was an old chum of Dick's and I think the only one who could help Dick through this trying time. Brock, Kelly and myself had not seen the rigors of marriage. What could we possibly have to offer? Nothing as it turned out. What Dick needed was a story. A story that would somehow turn the tides with his wife and he. A story that her native emotional core would get snagged into. One that would make her in the wrong for the way she'd been treating him. Not the reality of the other way around. Our job was to nod our heads yes in agreement as Dick uncovered all of the ways in which his wife and our producer was inept in their relationship, and I'd imagine it was this crisis in his personal life that allowed him to draw into his great storehouse of creative manipulative techniques.
I got up at some point through all of that nonsense and took a walk. I needed to clear my thoughts and I was beginning to grow tired of the situation that was. It was clear to me that our project was now over and that soon we would need to email the actors and tell them not to show up the next day for shooting. I began to look at the big picture; we were sunk. And it was not our failure, but the failure of outside circumstances which were out of our control. That gave me both solace and pissed me off simultaneously. Alcohol would only make things worse for me from here on out. My distaste for the situation and its dysfunction touched my core and I tucked it away. I knew I would be walking back to face the music of Dick's life with Daisy. Somehow it would bleed on to me. I knew Daisy enough to know that she would inevitably involve myself and my two friends. It's sick to admit but I still saw a way to accomplish our project. Counsel with Daisy would warm her to our cause again. I quickly shook that thought away and deemed it as impossible.
When I returned I learned what Daisy had discovered in the email. A simple love note to a young actress Dick had met on a set only a week before. Dick read us the email. It was beautiful really, and seemed heart felt. He had a short but passionate psychological love affair with a woman who was not his wife. He had never been intimate with her but Daisy had crawled into her husbands inner thoughts about another younger, prettier woman when she read that email and it destroyed her. That is why she had reacted how she did. I couldn't blame her. Dick had come up with a good argument to counter his betrayal, and the story was how he would get her back.
We drove back to the house to face the consequences of Dick's actions. We were nervous. We knew from the endless texts we all were receiving from Daisy that we should expect the carabinieri (military police) to aid Dick with all of his belongings out of the house. When we arrived, Daisy was destroyed and irate. She told us all about how all of Dick's film equipment was now her's and that she would soon sell it all for money that she would need to get by without him. A little salt in the wound. Two carabinieri arrived holding automatic weapons and many things were said in Italian that I could not understand. The carabinieri eyed the Americans up and down. I did not know what Daisy was saying to them. I did my best to appear honest, but also empathetic for all that was happening. To be honest, I felt strongest for Daisy's situation even though it was her that was pulling the trigger to the missile that would destroy our project.
We walked most of Dick's items back to the our apartment, where he would be staying indefinitely or until she took him back. It was the only place that he could stay at this point. This was our new reality. It all seemed like a bad dream. We all piled in the apartment and talked. Lot's of heavy moments with long pauses. Dick seemed unable fess up to any wrong doing. Brock and he developed a tight bond around this time as he shadowed his every step, offering to buy him beer, cigarettes and the like. You might say they were like two fishin' buddies. They even shared the master bedroom. Disdain crept in. I could not stop it.
The next days were not so much different from the string of days after we arrived. We were in a small village called Miglianico where maybe 1,000 Italians lived. We were without any duty or hobbies now. All I had was this book; a biography of River Pheonix. I sat and read, and then would google random bits about River's work before he died. Every now and again Brock would approach and demand my attention. Usually he would want to know what I was reading, or to let me know that he had purchased more beer from the market. Time passed slow for a day.
Mean while, down the street, Daisy sat lonely and broken in her home with only her sixteen year old son who played video games none stop. I knew she wouldn't make it but a day or two before she was beating down our door trying to reestablish some kind of relationship with all of us. Although she just wanted to break Dick's balls, and remind him how terrible he was.
What she really wanted, was to make Dick's life worse if she could by turning us against him. This was confirmed when two days after that fateful day, she invited the three amigos over for breakfast. I liked that she still wanted to be a part of our lives for the duration of our stay, but it was heavy being in her presence. She would cry at random. We sat with her for the better part of the day and during that time we softened her up enough to get her to agree to let us get a few items of gear from the garage for our production. Or what was left of it. Kelly and I were keeping the dream alive. Especially Kelly. His whole plan was to convince her to let us have free rein over Dick's gear. Only Dick wasn't allowed to touch it. Just us.
Five days passed. During this time, everything turned around. While it was Daisy who shot our project into hell, it was her again who resurrected it. Dick would come on as DP. Kelly would direct. I would play our troubled protagonist. And Brock; the fun and silly supporting role. Somehow, we got most of the original actors back in to fill out the Italian roles. Dick was good about doing what he said he would do. Although he was cracking beers and drinking vino in the midsts of cameras rolling, there was no breaking of the balls by his soon to be ex-wife who would also periodically make an appearance. It was nice to not hear the arguing, and the fighting and much.
We were back in action, but there were new stresses in filmmaking to deal with. The lingering effects and random ballistic run in's with Dick and Daisy would leave a bad taste in the mouths of most, especially the locals we'd cast. Dick held true to his word in fulfilling his DP promises. Daisy would continue to find locations and even held the boom mic a few times for us. I was truly appreciative for this but I was worn thin. The dysfunction all around me was eating me alive. But no one would talk straight about it. Often the only person I could talk to was Kelly. Brock had found his friend in all of this and he and Dick began mingling amongst themselves, and drinking beer. It wasn't long before there was a kind of separation forming amongst us. Brock grew increasingly tormented by me and Kelly. As if wanting to pursue a career in filmmaking was evil. I had my opinions about he and Dick as well so it was no surprise that this was happening. How were we allowing this to happen? We were all sleeping in the same two bedroom apartment sharing a kitchen and bathroom. It was practically impossible to maintain any kind of work flow under these circumstances.
I wanted to get to the bottom of this. I finally asked Dick one morning. "Hey, whats going on Dick? Things aren't so good between everyone."
"Brock is upset with you and Kelly and the way you've been treating him, and especially you," He said simply. "You should apologize to him ASAP." I agreed, but I felt it was interesting how everything he was doing to throw the production away was just okay with everyone. Then it hit me; myself and Kelly were the only ones truly on board. The rest were just appeasing.
Before I talked with Brock I needed to have a real talk with me first. The situation around me was filed with secrets, lies, resentment and all around alcoholism that I was simply not accustomed to. Now, I was no angel. I had been increasingly impatient with lavish displays of vacation in and around my trying to concentrate and make the best film I could. That meant I was moody, opinionated and driven from my own ideals, which were completely different than those ideals around me. I had to make things right, or there would be no project.
The reality was Brock and Dick were spending time together sharing opinions, beer and even a bed together. And it was this that was separating the squad. I was not sitting and getting drunk all day and night with Dick and Brock and reaching a level as they were. They were on a level. The guy level. I pulled Brock aside later that morning and apologized for having walked around like the gestapo. I restored integrity within our circle so we could once more have a suitable day of filmmaking. We hugged it out and went about our day. But still, there was residue. Whenever I would have resolution in me, it would come out as too forward for Brock and even Kelly sometimes. Dick would just take note and laugh, pretending he didn't care. He actually did care, and wouldn't confront me about it. I would later learn this after I left Italy. As for myself, I still had only one thing on my mind; this film. I would not reach the
Still, I did my best to carry out the mission. I had no other reason to be in Italy at this point. I had no extra spending money to call it quits and go off to Rome and site see. Kelly was in a foreign country for the first time and he was taking on the challenges of this experience with authentic strides. When he would get upset, he would say something. I knew if Kelly was not having a good time. Everyone else was a mystery to me for the most part. Not mystery that they were upset but by what.
None of this mattered at this point because I knew I couldn't do anything to help the situation, besides apologize for my wrong doings, and pretend all of the hypocrisy, back stabbing was okay. We were about to finish. Then we could have our lives back.
One morning we were to shoot a highly physical scene in which my love interest and I flee mafia thugs through the streets. Kelly and I were gearing up, and were about to walk up the road to location. My feet felt heavy and I had an overwhelming sense of dread come over me. I was tired. Inside of me was hatred for the coming day. The forced collaboration ahead was impossible to comprehend. "Hey Kelly." I said. "Yeah?" He was sorting out technical stuff and paid no mind. "What if we just said fuck it man, and just leave all of this be.." "What are you talking about?" He couldn't comprehend what I was saying. "I don't want to do this anymore" I said. At this point it was as if someone punched him. I was in the middle of rejecting the job for the day. Acting was impossible. "What the fuck is wrong with you , man?" he asked. "Get yourself together we are almost finished." I sat against a brick building that was hundreds of years old and wondered why I came. Nothing made sense to me. I was at a low. All around me were relicts, marble sidewalks and Italian speaking people coming out of their housing. They all seemed happy and were in a normal state of being. I felt so horribly different from them, and I wanted to stop everything. While Kelly set up, I excepted that we would indeed shoot and we were rolling a short time later. My head was slow, and I was in a habit of second guessing myself. The work was compromised. Brock pouted and stormed around set mad like only a man who'd been babied into adulthood could do, which may have been my biggest satisfaction of the day. I was sick from everything.
The Italian climate had a way of changing rapidly during those weeks, and before long the skies opened up and the dry streets became streams and shallow rivers. Everyone gathered under the overhang of an adjacent structure while the rain ruled us. Shooting was done for the day, and I could again rest and be still. We went back to the apartment and drank wine and put together some food. We stayed up late and talked. I felt shame from earlier in the day when I tried to quit. Kelly had talked me back in quickly though. Still, my feelings hadn't changed about the project. I didn't want to have anything to do with it. I wanted it done though. What happened in between time would just be something I deal with. Not relish in. I missed my girlfriend, Emily. We talked everyday via FaceTime. I felt like something was missing with her not with me. She was having very hard time with me being gone. I hated where I was at so we had much to say to each other.
We finished everything except for one scene. We still had more than enough to make a strong extended trailer, which was our purpose to begin with. We got sixteen hard pages of film shot and in many ways it was the best experience of my life, considering. My friends didn't hold any grudges, at least from what they say. I hugged it out with Dick before I fled the house. "Hey, no hard feelings, right?" I agreed to that and I meant it. If any of them read this then they should know that I take filmmaking personal and I don't believe in half-fledged efforts for the sake of "enjoying oneself" or "just trying to have a good time." That to me is an insult. Most of the time filmmaking is hard, and why shouldn't it be? Life is hard, and shouldn't recreating life be also? Yes and no perhaps. Creating art, and art that is also permanent like a film should be carefully looked over. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement. I figured out the biggest truth in filmmaking of all; work with those who like to work as much as you do or more. Also, don't work when you're burnt out or you'll fade way. I worked for many days on this project while I was burnt out and it never worked well. Move with everyone in a single stride. THE END.