Outside Shot at an Oscar

by wjw on June 22, 2009

The other day I found myself on the set of a low-budget film.

In recent years I’ve become interested in video technology for the masses, and how nowadays you can not only make a YouTube video for the change you vacuum up from behind the sofa cushions, but an entire movie.

I think the production budget of this feature was rather less than the cost of the single camera that was filming it. This wasn’t a low-budget feature, it was a micro-budget feature. And it had a shooting schedule of something like sixteen days.

I was told to show up at 8:30am at a Central Avenue establishment called “Self Serve,” which I naively assumed was a convenience store. I was delighted on arrival to discover that the store sold sexual aids.

Bingo! I thought. Mileage of anecdote now vastly increased!

I should have known. Staples of this kind of micro-budget movie are (1) zombies, (2) breasts, and (3) buckets of blood.

This movie does not have zombies. Therefore shelves bursting with sexual appliances are practically required.

Writer Devin and director Billy were welcoming, and I tried to stay out of the way as they went about their business.

Making a movie turned out to be just about as boring as I’d heard. Multiple retakes were necessary even when the takes went right. The writing was sharp, but even good lines fail to sizzle after you’ve heard them a dozen times. The fact that there was only one camera stretched things out, rather. And Billy kept coming up with new bits of business for the actors to do, so more takes were required.

That’s when I was asked if I’d like to be an extra. Yes! I thought. Never turn down another shot at immortality!

I became a customer who wandered around in the background purchasing sex toys while the camera was actually focused on someone else. I was promptly equipped with a cheetah-spotted paddle and an environmentally-correct flogger, one made out of recycled auto tires. I received my direction, asked what I hoped were intelligent questions, and stood by waiting for my cue.

It’s been nearly thirty years since I was last onstage, but I immediately began thinking like an actor. Is my hair okay? I thought. Can they see my bald spot? This is my absolute worst angle! I wish I’d worn something more flattering!

I began to work on my character. A cheetah-skin paddle and an environmentally-correct flogger— isn’t that a contradiction? One was recycled latex, but the other was made with the skin of an endangered animal. Obviously I was a character in conflict with myself! Possibly in psychological torment! Were the B&D appliances to be used to discipline my own unruly psyche, or to strike out at the world that so obviously baffled me? Maybe both! Maybe neither! O, the agony!

Breasts! I thought. Buckets of blood! Zombies!

No! No zombies in this picture! Don’t even think about zombies!

Action! Carrying my props, I walked across the store to the cash register.

Action! Carrying my props, I walked across the store to the cash register.

Action! Carrying my props, I walked across the store to the cash register.

Action! Carrying my props, I walked across the store to the cash register.

(Repeat several more times.)

Eventually Billy decided that I had walked across the set so well that I was going to be given a little bit of business to do, plus a closeup. (Is my hair okay? Can they see my bald spot? Am I holding the paddle where the camera can see it?)

Action! Turn, look over my shoulder, turn back.

Action! Turn, look over my shoulder, turn back.

Action! Turn, look over my shoulder, turn back.

The sex shop scene was over. It was a wrap. The rest of the day would be spent driving all over town doing pickup shots, and even my curiosity did not extend to that.

The movie, called I [Heart] You, will be released later this year. Be sure to check out my Oscar-caliber performance, and— if you’re a member of the Academy— vote as your conscience dictates.

For Billy Garbarina’s previous epic— which does feature zombies— check out the Necroville Home Page.

Rebecca S. June 22, 2009 at 1:53 pm

What fun! I'm sure you brought just the right touch of wry yet poignant 21st-century fetish-consumerist angst to your role. And Necroville sounds pretty good.

Lance Larka June 22, 2009 at 9:18 pm

What ever is it that you have hanging from your belt?

Admittedly I originally thought it some sort of cod piece. but upon closer examination it appears to be some sort of carrying device 😉

dubjay June 22, 2009 at 10:11 pm

I'm not wearing a leather codpiece (alas). That's the cellphone pocket on my fanny pack.

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