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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Leaving Hong Kong

I left Hong Kong on a hot and steamy Thursday afternoon. My last night was celebrated at a going away party in a lovely Greek tapas restaurant in an area of Hong Kong known as Soho. MG very graciously hosted a dinner there for about 16 people. The food was delicious and the company even more so. I felt very close to everyone at the table and was so happy to share my last meal in Hong Kong with them.





We ate and drank and took too many photos, which really sums up my Hong Kong experience.





The trip home was, as you might expect, long and arduous. The plane was completely jammed, there was not an empty seat to be had. I watched The Producers, Rumor Has It and reruns of Sex and the City, CSI and Everyone Loves Raymond (none of which was even moderately good.) I slept and walked around the plane and ate all the free snacks that were offered and listened to my ipod until the battery went dead on me.

Now I am home and feeling a sense of total dislocation. I can’t believe that, only a few days ago, I was half way round the world.

My last photo of Hong Kong, taken from the window of the train on the way to the airport.











Oh, and I am happy to report that I found that day that I lost going over. I left Hong Kong at 1PM on Thursday and arrived in LA at noon on the same day. Yes, I got to live the same day twice but, I have to admit, that neither one was much fun. The first time I was on a packed plane and the second time around, I was unpacking and trying to sort through a mountain of mail in a total daze. Next time I get a do-over on an entire day, I hope I can enjoy both versions a lot more.


MY LAST DAY ON SET

On my last day on set, I was in a reflective mood. I was reminded of a question Jack asked me a few days before when we were getting out of a cab. “So you’ve been asking all these questions all month, let me ask you one. What have you learned from being on set?”

I couldn’t answer. I thought, well, I’ve learned that those silver poles are called C-stands. I learned that dailies are shown without dialogue. I discovered that sometimes you record the sound of an empty room. I learned that video recorders keep track of every shot so that the director can get instant playback. I learned that sometimes the film stock is bad and you have to re-shoot a scene through absolutely no fault of your own. I learned a little bit about continuity and how locations are scouted. I learned that, above all, a film crew has to be flexible in all possible ways. I discovered that if you want to work on a movie set, you best get yourself some cargo pants, a worn out baseball cap that features some obscure logo and a piece of camouflage clothing.

But those are relatively isolated pieces of information and Jack’s question really made me think about what I had learned in some larger, universal way.

I pondered his question for a long time and finally realized that what I learned was quite simple but, then again, the big truths are always simple.

I learned that filmmaking is far more complicated and complex than anyone could ever imagine. An unbelievable amount of time, energy, effort, and dedication goes into every second of film. Until you see it firsthand, until you spend hours and hours on a set, you cannot fathom how difficult the work truly is.

The logistics and day-to-day operation of a film production include: the hiring (and firing) of cast and crew, feeding 60 people three times a day (some of whom have very particular eating habits), providing bathroom facilities for that same group of people, scheduling and re-scheduling the shot list, moving the furniture and an enormous amount of equipment from room to room for almost every scene change, coordinating the wardrobe, lighting the sets, covering the continuity, keeping track of the props, transporting the cast and crew, sticking to the budget, staying on schedule, working within union guidelines and too many other tasks to list here. The madness and mayhem never stops.

The work is hard, the hours are long and the details are endless. I have seen many movies about the making of movies and some of them try to portray the craziness on the set. But really they don’t begin to tell the true story because it is the day-to-day work and the amount of time, effort, money, blood, sweat and tears on the set that is really astounding to witness.

I have garnered a new respect for the people who work behind the scenes and a greater appreciation for the ones in front of the camera.

Almost everyone I interviewed said that they got into the business of filmmaking because they love the movies. All of them told me that, no matter how difficult the work, they loved what they did.

Freud said that there were two things a person had to work out in order to have a successful life: work and sex. Well, everyone here seems to have accomplished the work part, I only hope that they are as successful with their sex lives.

I don’t know if Irreversi will ultimately turn out to be a great movie or not. If not, it won’t be for lack of trying. Everyone involved in the making of this movie is certainly giving it their best shot but no one knows what the final edit will yield. We will all have to wait and see how all this work is going to translate to the big screen.

In the mean time, I have a book to write.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Photos from the Peak House

Mei had her big death scene today and her makeup reflected the fact that she wasn't supposed to be feeling so good.




Here is her BEFORE photo. Mei is a seriously gorgeous woman so it was startling to see her in full make-up. It was the only time in history that I will ever look better than her.



I did not go to set yesterday. I had a girls days out with Caroline and Sarah. Caroline has a small part in the movie and her fiancé, Kenny, is one of the leading actors but she wasn’t needed on set today. Sarah is married to Lee, the gaffer, so she has loads of lovely free time to explore Hong Kong. We spent our day shopping and bumbling about searching for a place to eat lunch. (Did i mention that both Caroline and Sarah are British? How brilliant of me!)

It was extremely strange to have missed a whole day on set. And from what I hear I missed quite a day. Everyone came home tonight in a bad mood. The day did not go well. Apparently, the owner of the house where we are shooting showed up which is about as big a problem as you can have. The last thing you need is a picky homeowner complaining about how you are treating his house.



Here is roughly the state of his multi-million dollar house. Not so bad for a movie set.




















The owner, however, had never before been on a movie set, much less a movie set in his own living room. He did not share our love of cinema. He complained bitterly that we were ruining his house. He felt we were being reckless by using his fine antique chairs for napping between takes and stacking C-stands and neon lights on his dining room table. (He also probably hated that neon green in the nursery.) He was frantic about his works of art.

From where I stand, though, he needs to reconsider what he calls those colorful objects hanging on his walls. They are certainly not works of art by any definition of the word in my world.


And, to prove my case here are a few examples of the art we have been forced to live with for the past month. Is it any wonder that most of us are nauseous when we leave the house? He should pay us for having to stare at these things all day.



















Finally, I could not leave the blog today without a photo of the f***ing golf cart guy who has been extremely nice to us ever since Kacy gave him a piece of her mind. Today he not only took us up the hill in the morning, he was there to take us down the hill when we wrapped.

I guess some guys just like the abuse.



Coming Next Blog: I say good-bye to Hong Kong!
Everything I Learned from a Month in the Far East.
And a List of all the stuff I Bought.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

We Schlep to See The Buddha

We started our Sunday off with brunch at Al’s Diner. Eggs, bacon, sausages, toast and chocolate shakes. Ah, the joys of feeling like you are on vacation.

Actually, my Sunday began a bit earlier as I spent the morning interviewing Michael Gleissner on camera for my book and the DVD tape. We took over a room here at our apartment building and converted it into a recording studio. All the furniture got turned over and shoved into the bedroom to make room for the lights and camera. I hope no one from the building goes in there.

The interview went extremely well so I was in good mood as I headed off to the diner with Kacy. After we all stuffed ourselves to the point of oblivion, and gained a minimum of five pounds each, we headed over to a Japanese store called GO APE! Elliot, the guy in Hong Kong who is working on the Mandarin version of the movie, told the guys they had to check out this store which, he said, was by far the trendiest shop in all of HK. Elliot said all the guys simply had to buy a tee shirt there.

I don’t think I can even describe this shop and we were forbidden from taking photos. You walk in and the floor is glass, underneath the glass is a conveyor belt running on a continuous loop displaying pairs of sneakers. Look up and see an entire wall, backlit, of glass cubby holes, each holding a pair of sneakers. Walk through white, white halls to go into small rooms to see the merchandise. In the men’s section, there was one pair of jeans on display and empty racks where the shirts should have been hanging. We were told that all the tee shirts were sold out and only this one pair of jeans remained. They were dark wash with a painted white smiley face across the crotch.

In the women’s section, there were tiny tee shirts for sale for $1400HK (over $200US). They were little tank tops. The store was also selling camouflage gaffer’s tape.

Although I didn’t really get the appeal, in some way, I have to say that the shop was pretentious to the point of being interesting.

No one bought anything.

YES, HE IS BIG!

From there, we decided to visit Lantau Island which boasts the biggest Buddha in, well, I want to say the world but the world is a pretty big place and there are some pretty big Buddhas in it; so let’s just say, it was certainly the biggest Buddha on Lantau Island.

We took the subway for about 40 minutes to the bus station.


(Sidenote on Butts: The buses in Hong Kong are five seats across (3 and 2) because Asians have very small behinds.)

We spent another 40 minutes on a long and winding road through the mountains. This was a one-lane road, mind you, but there was 2 way traffic. We discovered that “chicken” is an international road game. Only here they play it with buses.

On the way to Big Buddha, we passed more gigantic high rises, sea side apartments that resembled Baja and Jamaica, a state prison (with a glorious ocean view) and an enormous sewage treatment plant that was frighteningly close to the water reservoir.

WE SHOOT OURSELVES

Finally, we arrived at the Big Buddha. And, yes, he was big. He sits atop a fairly long stairway, although for those of us who climb the path to the set every day, Buddha was a mere hop, skip and a jump away.

And thus began the camera frenzy. We shot Buddha from every angle. Greg was off shooting video, Jack was off shooting Flat Stanley, Lee was experimenting with his just purchased Nikon. I was off looking for the bathroom.

There were 9 of us so we shot ourselves in various combinations: all the girls in that shot, all the guys in this shot, all the Brits over here, married couples over there. Group shot!

This is Lee's interpretation of:
All the boobs with Buddha!






Then we headed over to the temple to see how many other photos we could take.










When the batteries in our digital cameras started giving out, we decided it was time to head home.











Instead of the subway though, we opted to take the ferry across Hong Kong harbor to get what is really one of the most spectacular views of the city.

Once there, we hired one of the professional photographers selling portraits by the pier to take our photo. We had to do this because each of us had only shot about 80 photos so we still felt there was more of us to discover in a “professional” photograph.

We paid this guy about $10US for a print that Kacy will take back to the production office to scan. We are now in the process of emailing each other the photos that we took.


Here is the harbor view that Ian shot and emailed this morning.





Our trip to Lantau lasted about 3 hours and garnered, between us, approximately 901 photographs.

It was a great day.

MY GLASSES MAKE THE BIG TIME

Today we went from one of our most complicated shots (the crane shot I described in a previous blog and shown at left) to one of the simplest shots—a head shot of Caroline sitting at a desk and talking on the phone. I learned that this shot used to be called a “phone booth” shot.

The expression came from the practice of always having a phone booth available on a shoot so that when the crew had a few minutes, they could pull out the booth, place it almost anywhere and shoot a scene of a character making a call. Of course, the advent of cell phones and the disappearance of phone booths has made this expression all but obsolete.

I can just imagine children of the future asking, “Mommy, what’s a phone booth?”

Back to Caroline on the phone. She was supposed to be in an office but we fudged it by putting a desk in the corner of the living room at our big house and throwing a light on her that looked like she was sitting next to a window (she wasn’t.)

The set dresser had piled the desk with file folders and other paraphernalia that MG told them to remove. “She’s a $400 an hour lawyer,” he said, “she doesn’t have staplers and scotch tape on her desk.” Only one file folder and one pen on the desk. I guess MG knows better than anyone else on the set what an expensive lawyer’s desk actually looks like.

Then MG decided Caroline needed a pair of glasses. He wanted designer frames that looked expensive so, of course, they used mine.

I only buy really expensive glasses because it makes it so much more meaningful and dramatic when I lose them.

Now my glasses have made it into the movie. Even if my scene as the decorator lands on the cutting room floor, my Calvin Klein glasses will have their little moment of fame.

THE NEON GREEN THAT DEVASTATED HONG KONG

The final scene shot for the day was in the nursery. Maybe I mentioned that my scene took place in the nursery—before it was painted. I was the decorator (“The best decorator in Hong Kong,” said MG, which really helped with my motivation.) In my scene, I was showing paint chips and fabric samples to Mei. Well, I almost plotzed when I saw the nursery’s final set decoration.

Those of you who know me know that i would never select this color in a million years. It is such a hideous color of neon green that it would scare any baby right back into the womb. I am telling you, the color is so awful that this room will ruin my career as the best decorator in Hong Kong. In fact, once the color of this room is seen on screen, I may never work in Hong Kong again.

Even Ian couldn’t keep a straight face about this color. At the end of the scene, Ian was supposed to say, “Yellow was a good choice for this room.” Well, since the room was now neon green, that line went out the window. Instead, he said, “I can’t believe you picked this color. The baby better be color blind.”

MY TROUBLES WITH THE CREW

One of my jobs in Hong Kong is to interview the cast and crew for the EPK files and the behind-the-scenes DVD. The EPK (Electronic Press Kit) tapes are interviews that are edited and sometimes appear as special features when the DVD is released. Mostly they are used for marketing and publicity purposes, to garner quotes from the cast and crew that can be used for press releases and other marketing materials.

As you can see this is a fine looking group of men. They are (from left:) Jack Messitt, DP, Ian Bohen, actor, Greg Collier, camera operator, Lee Walters, gaffer, Johan Maertens, audio mixer. I have to interview all these guys anyway for my book so when MG asked me to do it on camera, I thought, no problem.

Well, hello, problem.

The guys who work behind the cameras are totally reluctant to appear before them and getting these guys in front of a camera for an interview is way harder than you can imagine.

Take, for instance, Johan, the audio mixer who came from Belgium to work on the movie. Johan keeps telling me that he is a shy guy and hates to be interviewed. He is threatening to stutter when the camera rolls, just so we do not put him on film.

“My job is to sit in a dark corner and listen to other people’s conversations,” says Johan.

On set, you will find Johan stuck in some small corner, facing away from everyone, turning the dials on his equipment and wearing earphones. His total focus is the sound of the movie. His job is to make sure that the actors can be heard and that there is minimum of background noise in the shot. Usually after a first take, Johan will come barging onto the set with big scowl on his face because he is hearing crickets or conversations or, even worse, not hearing the actors.

Johan’s audio equipment can pick up the smallest noises. This means he gets very upset when there is noise on the set (see my previous post about the cell phones.) The birds in Hong Kong, and even the insects, are making his job very difficult. He can tell when the audio on a shot is bad even when others think it sounds fine. A sound mixer can hear things we mere mortals cannot. Johan knows, for instance, when it is time for lunch. On his ultra sensitive equipment, he can hear stomach rumblings of cast and crew.

Here’s the thing about Johan. Give him a pint or two and you will discover an absolutely wicked sense of humor. Why is he keeping it under wraps?

Lee, the gaffer is another one of those who I will have to drag kicking and screaming into the interview room. (This is a photo of Lee and his charming wife, Sarah.) A gaffer, I discovered, is an electrician on a movie set and his job is to get the lighting right. This is way more important than you might imagine. The proper light can make or break a shot, it can also establish time of day or night. We often shoot “day for night” which means we make the set look like it is night, even though we have not broken for lunch yet. The windows are blacked out and all the light is generated on set.

Lighting is a complicated business.

We have also shot night for day. We needed a shot of Mei coming into the house around noon but could not shoot it until after 7PM when it was just getting dark. So these enormous lights were set up outside the house and light just streamed in as if it were still morning. It is an eerie feeling to be manipulating time like this.

THE GOLF CART GUY

We were working late on Saturday night so that we could get a shot from the balcony of the house with the skyline of Hong Kong in the background. The call sheet called for the crew to start at 8:00 AM and go until 9:00PM---so it was going to be a very long day.

Because it was such a late call, the producers planned a BBQ dinner on the roof with wine and beer after we wrapped. But by 8 PM, the food had not yet arrived and the catering guys were just standing around doing nothing; so Kacy went to see why.

It turned out that the guy who drives the golf cart decided it wrong for us to be having a “party” at the house and, since he worked for the owner of house (from whom we were renting,) he was taking it upon himself to shut us down. He refused to transport the food up the hill on his golf cart. Since he was the only person in Hong Kong who is authorized to drive the vehicle, it was looking like we were not going to eat on Saturday night.

Kacy tried to reason with the guy, to explain that it was not a party; that she had 60 hungry people on the roof who had worked hard all day and needed to be fed.

The guy would not budge.

Finally Kacy lost her patience. “You are the f***king golf cart guy!” she told him. “Get the hell down there and bring us our dinner!”

I don’t think the f**ing golf cart guy had ever been told off like that, especially by a young blonde woman, because the next thing you know, our dinner was on its way up the path.

In the end, we had a wonderful dinner on the roof, looking out on the glorious view and enjoying our chicken wings and spare ribs. So thank you to the f***ing golf cart guy. And, even more, thank you Kacy, our f***ing great producer gal.

Photo of Kacy, hard at work on set.














Kacy's hisband, Jack. Decidely NOT a big jerk! Having a jerk chicken dinner in a restaurant called Havana.






Next blog: We schlep across Hong Kong to see the biggest Buddha in China.

Friday, April 21, 2006

View from the Crane

Hong Kong has turned hot and steamy. And very humid. Just what we need when we are climbing that hill. The golf cart is almost never there anymore and I have resigned myself to the daily trek. I will go home with calves of steel!

Today I discovered that the batteries in my digital camera last about 20 minutes. I thought they were like my 35mm camera and would go for six months or so.

My thought for the day: The technological age is great but the batteries needed to keep it going are a royal pain.

And now I am accumlating an ever-increasing amount of electronic paraphernalia and between the chargers, adapters and various cables I will soon need a separate suitcase just for this stuff.

Here are some of the shots i took today:


Today we shot the exterior of the mansion where we have been shooting all week. the guys were really excited about being able to play with this new equipment.


The shot was of Mei and Ian on their wedding day. He carries her up the stairs of their new house. Ian had to repeat the scene five times.

Tottie, who is shooting the behind-the-scenes video and Lee, the gaffer, who is responsible for lighting the set.

Michael Gleissner, the director, with his ever present capuccino.


Kacy and Lisa, the hard working producers are always electronically available.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Flat Stanley in Stanley Market

We went to Hong Kong’s most famous flea market/street market on Sunday. We started our day with a long brunch at a seaside restaurant where the food was exceptional and the beer flowed like wine.

Flat Stanley joined us for brunch.

Let me introduce Flat Stanley, a character from a kid’s book who makes himself flat so that he can slip through city grates and under doors. Jack’s nephew sent him a hand drawn copy of Flat Stanley so that Stan could travel the world and be photographed wherever Jack went. And Jack never leaves home with his Flat Stanley. Jack brought Flat Stanley to Stanley Market and shot him underneath the street signs that bear his name in both English and Chinese. Flat Stanley has also visited Jack’s sister in South Africa and is a decidedly more worldly traveler than any of us, with the possible exception of Kacy and Jack who have been everywhere and back again. Flat Stanley has been more places than the Travelocity gnome. (For more on Flat Stanley, check out jack’s web site at this address: http://www.jackmessitt.com/flatstanleysa.htm)

Please note: Flat Stanley makes a quick appearance in the movie, Irreversi. Actually he makes several quick appearances but you will have to find him yourself. Where’s Waldo will now be Where’s Flat Stanley?


Though Flat Stanley is an international star, he is still humble enough to pose for photos with his fans. So here is a shot of me and FS. That is me on the left and Stan on the right. He’s the skinny one. Flat Stan is a handsome devil, don’t you agree?




After brunch on Sunday with Stan and some other friends, it was time to shop. And shop we did! Stanley Market is such a fun place to spend money. Lots of little stalls with Chinese goods. Clothes, scarves, children’s goods. Jewelry. Souvenirs. Scroll writers creating personalized cards with American names. There’s a place on Canal Street called Pearl River Department Store and this must be where they get their inventory. I did some serious damage to my MasterCard and then we took a double decker bus back to our apartment building.

We traveled along the coastline and saw some beautiful beaches and some amazing architecture. They are really re-inventing the skyscraper here. At times it looks like Lego City, they use these primary colors and the buildings often have huge empty spaces.

That night we had a marvelous dinner at a very fancy sushi restaurant in Times Square.



Yes, the set is bilingual, well, sort of.

Monday night we ordered in from Fat Angelo’s, an Italian restaurant and ate dinner on the roof of our apartment. It is lovely up there and at 8:00 PM exactly, every night, there is an amazing light show that can be seen from the rooftop of any high rise in Hong Kong. The newer buildings here are decorated with neon that not only lights up the skyline but, at 8PM, creates a laser show right out of Las Vegas. It is quite spectacular. We shot a night scene last week around 8PM so that we could capture the razzle dazzle of Hong Kong at night.
HOW MUCH IS THAT NIKON IN THE WINDOW?


Last night, Greg, the camera operator, and I decided to take the subway to Mong Kok, which is the electronics district of Hong Kong.

First, I have to tell you about the subway system here. It is clean, quiet, efficient, odorless and extremely easy to use. For an old New Yorker like myself, I have to say that I was astounded at how convenient and stress-free traveling by subway can be. There is a lot the rest of the world can learn from this city.

We landed in the heart of the electronics district and I was ready to buy the first camera I saw. Greg convinced me to shop around a bit so we went to 2 other stores and I wound up with a completely different camera than what I first wanted to buy.

So I have been experimenting with taking digital photos. I know the entire world has already been into this technology for the past, oh, decade or so but, okay, I am a slow learner, so what?






Remember what I wrote about the skyscrapers of Hong Kong. This is a very small island with an enormous population so the only place to build is UP!






And finally, the tablecloth from the lunch area. I just love it! This is my new screensaver. What is wrong with me?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hello Zoe!



Meet the very stylish Miss Zoe, wearing my Christmas present! Love the shoes little Z!

Now back to Hong Kong!

I know that most of you are wondering whether or not I made it to the big screen. Well, wonder no more! Yes, I had my day in front of the camera and, darling, I am exhausted!

My debut performance!

I sat in the hair and make-up room, closed my eyes and imagined what it felt like to be Meryl Steep. Frankly, my dear, it was not so much fun. The make-up lady had my lashes in a curling wand and the hair guy was pulling my hair straight behind me and I was trying really really hard not to move so that I wouldn’t get my lashes ripped out.

Then it was time for my call. I arrived on set and was handed a book of fabric samples and a chart of paint chips. My director said I should just start ad-libbing. I should talk about feng shui, about how expensive but luxurious the fabric felt, about the color samples, and about how excited the leading lady must be to be expecting a child. Oh, and I should end by looking at the leading lady and asking her opinion. I was to say and do all this in seven seconds.

Seven seconds? Do you know how quickly seven seconds go by? There it is gone.

I am ever the pro, however. Still, by the eighth take, the producer was commenting that this was only a clip for the montage and we had already spent way too long on it. I was remembering that the Tom Cruise/Jack Nicholson confrontation scene in A FEW GOOD MEN took 58 takes to get right. Perfection does not come quickly! I was ready to do my scene over and over until it was right, despite the fact that the production is four days behind schedule and the producer was pulling her hair out by the roots. Calm down everyone, get a grip! This scene could be the most crucial 7 seconds in the film, especially for my sister and other members of my family.

The camera guy thought I was out of earshot but I heard him tell the gaffer that Nicole Kidman was less trouble, that the toilet bowl was easier to light and that Max the dog took better direction.

I didn’t take it personally. After all, I am a practicing professional.


HELLO TOTTI!

Totti, our camera man for the behind-the-scenes production arrived yesterday and we are preparing to shoot the interviews. Totti, who still must be jet lagged having spent 18 hours traveling from Germany, has several projects to cover while he is here. I really only need audio interviews but I had agreed in my contract that I would conduct my interviews with a camera man so that the video could be also be used for the DVD and for a series of instructional DVDS that MG wants to produce.

So instead of taking my subject out for a martini and bringing along a tape recorder, this part of my job has become way more complicated.

First, Totti has to decide where he can shoot the interviews. He was asked to shoot the cast and crew in front of a skyline view of Hong Kong or a prop from the movie. Well, we can’t shoot the skyline because it is way too noisy outside for us to get a clear audio -- so that is out. We could shoot in front of one of the props, I suppose, though the only props we have at the moment are a heart monitor and a glass toilet bowl. I don’t think either one would give a really good representation of the movie. At least, I hope not.

A MOST EXPENSIVE CALL

We have been having so many problems with cell phones ringing on set that a NEW RULE was instituted today: Anyone whose phone rings will be fined $7500 Hong Kong. This is a little more than $1000 US so everyone has been removing the battery from their phones or throwing them off the balcony.

Please, don't bother to call us today!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My Acting Career Goes Down the Toilet



Happy Passover to One and All!
{Love this photo from the states, sent by Tina Fisher. Thanks Miss Tee!}


I arrived on set on Friday all prepared for my acting debut. I had washed my hair and packed my one and only skirt.

I got to the location and there was no golf cart but I did not complain. I had worn sneakers and used deordorant. I trudged up the hill like the professional that I am.

Today on set the work was about as exciting as flushing a toilet. No, I am not speaking in metaphor. There is a scene in the script where Adam, the leading man (played by Ian) has second thoughts about poisoning his wife with a white substance called DCP. He decides to flush the DCP down the toilet.

So our camera shot was looking up from the bottom of the bowl. Imagine the point-of-view of, say, a water bug (which is the least rude example I could think of.)

In this shot, we see Ian’s face through an oval shape as he lifts the lid of the toilet. From our POV (point of view) as a water bug, we see Ian pour the poison into the bowl. (A special pin light illuminates the powder as it pours out of the sugar bowl.) The white powder floats to the surface, the water swirls, turns a milky white and drains out of the bowl.

You know how in movies, there is that scene from the inside of the refrigerator or the back of the oven. I always wondered how they made that shot. Now I know.

To create this effect of the flushing toilet, a clear glass sink was mounted on a wooden platform and connected to a drain that emptied into a big garbage can. Water was pumped into the bowl using a clear plastic tube. The camera is positioned underneath the bowl and the actor stands on a crate and looks down into the camera. Sound easy? The set-up for this scene started at 2:50 PM and it was 5:30 before they were ready to test-flush the toilet. No, wait, first they rehearsed it dry, without the water.

Ian had to figure out how to hit his mark and get the powder in exactly the right spot in the bowl. Also, he had to determine how far into the fake toilet he needed to bend in order to get into the frame of the toilet seat.

And they say acting is a glamorous profession!

Ian was a trooper, he worked with that toilet until the two were in perfect synch and we finally got the shot that made everyone happy. The director yelled cut, the crew guy cut the water and Ian walked off the set.

“He looks a bit flushed,” remarked Johan, the audio mixer.

The tragedy of this scene is that it took so much time to set-up that my scene was bumped to tomorrow. I mean, it is one thing to get bumped by a more important actor but you really know where you are in the hierarchy when you are upstaged by the flushing of a toilet bowl.


MOVIE NIGHT

MG decided that once a week we should have movie night on the rooftop of our apartment building. The other night he screened THREE NEEDLES, a movie that he partly financed.

I had already seen this film when I attended the premiere at the Museum of Modern Art with my sister Susan and my brother-in-law Peter. Kacy had gotten us tickets to the event.

I don’t know how many of you will have the opportunity to see this very important movie because I am not sure what kind of distribution it will receive. But if you can, do go see it. This is such an important and moving film about the AIDS epidemic and how it is changing cultures in Asia, Africa and North America. Yes, it is a difficult subject but this film is beautifully conceived and executed and has a message that everyone needs to hear.

On a lighter note, I was reminded of my favorite Groucho joke when Gren, one of MG’s young assistants from Cebu, revealed that he has four children. When Groucho was hosting YOU BET YOUR LIFE, one his contestants said that she was the mother of 14 children and Groucho asked her why she has so many children.

“Well, I love my husband,” said the woman.

“And I love my cigar,” Groucho replied, “but I take it out of my mouth every now and then.”


JOHAN’S BIRTHDAY

We had a hard night of drinking last night to celebrate Johan’s 35th birthday. Johan is our Belgian audio mixer and is quite shy. As he says, his job is to sit in a dark corner and listen to other people have conversations. Still Kacy was determined to get him a birthday cake at lunch and take us all out to dinner to celebrate the occasion. (No one loves to throw a party more than our Kacy!)



{Me and Kacy on set, as seen through the lens of my laptop}

At lunch, we discovered that the crew had made this a "$20 Day." That meant that everyone threw money into a box and the winner won the contents. Apparently, you are supposed to write your name on the $20 bill (about $2.60 in US), a fact that our lovely Lisa missed. She had thrown $40 in the box without writing her name on the bills. No matter. Johan got to draw the winner and when he chose his own boom man, everyone thought the fix was on.

For dinner Kacy took us all out to a Mexican restaurant in Soho, the super trendy, party-all-night-and-way-into-the-morning part of town. The streets are narrow and winding and filled with one fabulous restaurant and club after another. Apparently, many ex-pats live in this part of town.

We ate at a restaurant called Carumba! I thought it was kind of strange that I had traveled more than 8000 miles to eat food that I can get a block from my house. But you know what, the Mexican food here was as good, or even better, than LA and, for sure, the margaritas were just about the best I have ever had. Unfortunately, I had far too many of them.

I was with a bunch of folks who thought nothing of knocking back shots of tequila with beer chasers. Oh, I remember those days when I could keep up with the best of them. Now it’s one shot and I am fast asleep under the table.


HOLIDAY IN HONG KONG


This weekend is a big holiday in Hong Kong so they are short staffed in the apartment and there is no maid service. Yikes! I had to make my own bed.

I decided to do a laundry as I was staying home to work in peace and quiet. There is a laundry room on each floor. So I bought some detergent and went to use the machines. So far, my clothes have been in the dryer for more than 2 hours and they are still damp. I must be doing something wrong. I am pretty sure I followed the directions on the sign in the laundry room as it was written in English.

Now I know why there is laundry hanging from every apartment window in Hong Kong. The dryers suck.



BYE BYE LINGUAL


Did I mention that the original idea of this movie was to shoot two versions at the same time: one in English with an American cast and one in Mandarin with a Chinese cast.

Although the idea of doing a dual language production is not common, it has been done before. THE BLUE ANGEL, in 1930, was simultaneously filmed in English and German, using the same cast; Marlene Dietrich being, of course, the most well-known actor in the cast. Both versions of the film were directed by Josef von Sternberg. Interestingly enough, the German language version (with English subtitles) became the most popular version in the US because the German accents in the English version were so difficult for people to understand.

And that is your movie trivia for the day. That and the fact that one of the actresses who auditioned for the Marlene role was Leni Riefenstahl who, as we know, would become a famous Nazi filmmaker.

That just goes to show that I have indeed done some research for this book.


VIRGIN ICHAT

I just had my first ichat tonight! It was thrilling!

I heard the ringing on my computer, answered it and there was a video of my dear friend Mary sitting at her desk in Arizona. She had just gotten up, it was 8 AM for her (and 11 PM for me.) I could see her but she could not see me. I could not figure out why my end of the video was pitch black and then it occurred to me that, hey, I was sitting here in Hong Kong in the dark and perhaps the camera needed some light. I hit the overhead and, presto, there I was on screen.

I was looking into the future and it was totally in focus.