Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Ask Jason Bourne

Dear Jason,

My girlfriend is dumping me because, in her words, she’s tired of my “broke, no-airconditioning, sweatin-all-night-and-never-changin’-the sheets, sittin-around-in-underpants-blogging, never-taking-her-to-Red-Lobster, punk-ass.” For me, however, living without air conditioning is part of my basic sense of identity. It’s how I keep my edge, see. Buying a $100.00 window unit which is energy efficient and would raise the electric bill by only $3.75 per month would require some kind of extensive psychoanalysis which I can not afford. So, as someone who is basically living in a constant identity/supremacy/ultimatum crisis, do you think I should sacrifice my fundamental sense of self to keep the love of this wonderful woman, or should I stick to my principles and let her go find someone who is more sensitive to her needs for living like a normal person?

-Extra Self Absorption

Dear Extra:

Security cameras are scanning the station from their mounts on the walls 10 feet overhead, and I know where all of them are looking. I’m telling this guy by phone where to walk so he is not seen, and I know where to walk so I am also not seen. And there’s a sniper behind the rotating advertising sign. I know this just because I see the sign and it is a place where a sniper would hide. I run clattering up a metal stairway as I often do, and there’s a guy about to come out from behind the door with a gun so I grab his wrist and pull him into the landing and swing him around and bash him into the metal railing and twist him down by the wrist and seize his gun just as another guy is coming from the same hallway. I continue this twisting motion to whirl and give the second guy my elbow in the gut which surprises him because, just a second ago, I was taking this gun out of the first guy’s hand, and this second guy thought I hadn’t seen him coming. My elbow stops him, and I give him the back of my fist in the nose while shooting with the newly acquired gun, and he goes down to reveal the third guy coming behind him whom I shoot as well.

***

I went to “Bourne Ultimatum” thinking it would be good Zen practice. I had not seen “Identity” or “Supremacy,” so I would have no context for what was to happen. I would simply be living in the moment, without judgment, without expectation.

As the movie started and Bourne was busting through his first glass shop window and raiding the medicine shelves, friend “G” leaned over and said, “See, the government made him stronger and erased his memory.”

“Like Wolverine?” I said, looking for a point of reference. A few weeks ago, at a party, this very cool woman was telling me about how she has a titanium cheekbone and femur because of a terrible car accident that occurred many years ago. I said, “You’re like Wolverine!” and then felt kind of bad for saying that.

“Not that much,” said G, “But his mind is erased. So he’s a badass, but kind of fucked up too.”

Ah. So basically, through this whole movie, he chased and was chased toward an astounding conclusion. And that conclusion was his learning that, um, he had entered a government program where they made him stronger and erased his memory.

Well, I guess you could say that he got a little more than that out of it. He regained his memory of all the people he had killed. I guess he didn’t go to “Ultimatum” school for nothing.

I was very interested to see the name of this producer in the credits. I worked as key set PA on the first movie he directed. There was a lot of talk during the making of that movie that he did not know what he was doing. I think, basically, the problem was that he was kind of dorky in manner. For instance, when trying to boost people's spirits, he told the story about how, on "Jaws," the shark had hardly worked, but look how that movie had turned out! (Everyone who has taken a film appreciation class, or not even that, knows this story. I don't know why he thought it would help anyone to tell it.)

The producers had come from a theater background, and this was their first movie too. A lot of dumb decisions were made, and the experienced first assistant director would throw tirades over basics, like the proper way to establish a shot order so that you move the camera, set walls, and lights as little as possible. We were shooting much of it in a warehouse off Hwy 70 one July, and it was unairconditioned and blazing hot. They had this lousy AC unit on a trailer parked outside pumping cool air in via an insulated corrugated tube. We PA's had to move that tube around so that its opening was always at the top of the set wall where they were shooting. After a few days, that corrugated tube was shredding, and insulation was sticking to our sweaty arms and blowing in the air. We lost time one day when this actress got a piece of insulation in her eye. This was kind of my fault actually. I was on a ladder aiming the opening of the tube, and a grip looked up and said "don't point that down here when they turn it on." Just then, it came on, and debris that had loosened inside it during its last move shot out in a cloud, and something got in the actress' eye. I felt terrible, but no one really traced the incident back to me.

The director had a lot of his newbie friends from college working on it, and they also needed a lot of "breaking in." The seasoned key grip and best boy electrician called them "FOD's" or "Friends of [the director]."

One day, near the end of the production, I was crouching on the floor at the top landing of the Gothic stairway in this library when I looked up to see that the director was standing next to me, his rear end facing me. He was wearing his shirt untucked, so I clipped a clothespin to the bottom of his shirt. This is something people do to each other on sets. They clip clothespins to each other this way, so you walk around with a clip on your shirt without knowing it. It’s just about the only time I ever did it to someone.

Once, I drove the director and this producer, also working on the movie, to the airport. She kept telling him not to listen to certain people on the crew, to follow his vision, because he really had something special. I thought she was full of it. But now look who’s telling whom what to do. That director went on to direct lots of successful movies, and then to produce others, as you can see from his IMDB listing. Me, I’m still working on local car ads. But what can you say. The important thing is who you are, not what you do. I’m just glad all the pieces for my Rock’n’Roller cart with expandable shelf kit have come in. Now, when I work on those car ads, I don’t have to carry the gear all the time on my shoulders. I can set it on the cart and push it around. Man, that day would have been so much easier if I had had my cart then. Now I can’t wait for an opportunity to use it. Other folks say good audio is in the mics, the preamps, the recorder. I say it starts with the cart.

I think Archer knows this director from college. Archer, is this true?

1 comment:

Phil said...

Sort of true. We were at Brown at the same time, but I didn't meet him until a few years later when he was renting space in the business incubator that another alum friend owned in New York. I only recently threw away his business card.

More closely, I was on the fencing team with this producer:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0042992/

I guess I'll have to produce something before long, too. You know, just because.