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The Assembly  

Posted by:

Mark Medoff

,  August 10, 2009.

2:21.  That's the length of the first assembly Harry and Max did, viewed yesterday morning, Sunday, August 9.  They put a little music in -- not much; Reuben and I had talked the day before he left for LA to return the camera about a version of the first 45 minutes he'd seen with source music but no score and how oddly effective that was. He reminded me that NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN had virtually no score. 

I didn't remember that; happened to be on late the that night. Stephanie and I watched most of it again.  She's not a fan of the glibness of the violence; I have come to like it more the more I've seen it (like Cormac; we played golf together once at the NMSU course, long ago). NO COUNTRY has enhanced source sounds -- faint wind in the beginning very effective.  Interesting.

REFUGE has a good bit of source music that I built into the script.  I can't imagine it without a score, though. JD Hinton and Ross Vanelli and I talked just last Tuesday about the music; the phrase "tension music" rose early in the conversation. Part of me thinks we should have the opposite music than what we anticipate, though I won't know what I mean by that until I hear it.

Interesting audience in our kitchen for the first look at what is REFUGE strung together: Harry, Max, me at the kitchen table; daughter Debra making breakfast for Gracie and Mason behind us.  Realized at some point that Stephanie had been watching for a while in jammies when she said, "Honey, that's so nice," about a climactic scene later in the movie.  She is a very good, if ruthless, critic; will need her shortly, though I anticipate I won't like everything she has to say.

[Whom to listen to as a writer or director dealing with new work is a large subject. The desire to please everyone never quite goes away, no matter what I say to the contrary -- or what logic and experience suggest. YOU CAN'T PLEASE EVERYONE!  And the effort to do so can result in work that satisfies no one.]

First impulse yesterday morning after three and a half decades as a playwright, screenwriter, and director: Start cutting! I am always amazed as a writer what I can do without at some later point that seemed indispensable at an earlier point.  Learned a lot from Sidney Levin, the great movie editor, on CLARA'S HEART and CHILDREN ON THEIR BIRTHDAYS, about cutting into a scene as late as possible and out as early as possible. Harry, Max, and I talked immediately about trimming "heads and tails."  I said I thought we had many tails, especially, that we could start cutting back. Less finality to every scene. And no doubt there are exchanges within scenes that will raise their hands to be excused.

What can we lose altogether? There are several scenes that may be irrelevant, therefore expendable; we'll start by trimming them down, making them work their best.  Always a shock --  "irrelevant, expendable," really?  We talked about the pace in the beginning.  The boys want to try intercutting the initial Amelia, Darryl, Jack, Helen scenes more, coming into them later, leaving earlier, more montage than full scenes.  In theory, I like that idea, though I told them it's crucial not to make the audience think this is a movie that's going to fly along like a thriller, when in fact it can only succeed if we can make the audience sit and listen hard to the nuances of four people interacting in dialogue and medium close-up stares, glares, and introspection.

Talked to Ginger several times yesterday. The woman sounds like she finally crashed after balancing our world on her palms in Herculean fashion for four (organized) chaotic weeks.  I am mindful every day of my gratitude to the 40 or so people who came to play with me in the heat.

Start rehearsal on a play in a couple of weeks. Start teaching here and in Houston -- where I owe a play.  Have a one act to deliver to an anthology as well as the introduction to that anthology.  Returning to my palates class this 8 AM.  Up at 5:30 this morning, anxious to get to work. Pleased not to be hitting the sack for half the day, as I did last week.  The shooting recedes; the editing proceeds.  Very different ambience: 40 people moving at mach speed to finish construction on schedule versus 3 people around a monitor performing micro-surgery.

I am a lucky man.

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August 5  

Posted by:

Mark Medoff

,  August 6, 2009.

Reuben watched 45 minutes of assembly last night.  He said it's a movie.  I don't want to look for a few more days.  I want to catch up on the sleep I lost shooting before I start waking up in the middle of the night contemplating the editing.

Amazing how we keep going with the requisite energy, then collapse when it's allowable to do so.  I have slept without guilt or warning the past three days.  Could easily conk out at this moment.  Stephanie invited the Frishberg boys over for dinner.  See if we can not talk about the movie.

Reuben's parents, Phyllis Frelich (Tony Award winner, Emmy nom) and Bob Steinberg (set designer extraordinaire) visited again.  I'm writing a new play, with Phyllis as one of the main ingredients, on a commission from our mutual friend Steve Wallace at the University of Houston.  Tried mightily to turn my attention to the play at dinner last night; couldn't do it.  A few mumbled notions.  They understood.  
Their main interest, really, was how their son did as our cinematographer.  Answer:  very, very well.

Reuben went out to shoot a shot of the moon over the pecan orchards last night, but nature conspired against him.  Cloud cover until right after he'd given up.  When Stephanie and I and his parents arrived back at our house, we remarked on the clarity of the night, the fullness of the moon in the southern sky.

Reuben and Mary packed up the camera equipment this morning and headed for LA.  As did Bob and Phyllis.  And Ginger and Lara.  The amount of things -- stuff upon stuff -- that Ginger accomplished since we wrapped is mind-boggling.  Everything from banking and accounting matters to delivering gifts to restoring my library to powerwashing borrowed vehicles and Armor All-ing them.  She's like a fabulous glove that fits the hand extended for warmth.

Marissa and Eric, who worked so hard for us, started shooting their senior thesis film mere steps from Meson de Mesilla and Lorenzo's. Cooper, Hudson and I took chocolate chips, juice and soda over.  Glad it wasn't me shooting.

Headed for Walgreen's.  Stephanie called.  I had missed an appointment.  Two people from the NMSU Foundation were waiting at the house for us to sign over the deed to some property we're giving to the new Center for the Arts.  Real life, real life -- tune in!

Start directing a play in three weeks.  Can't imagine it.  Pretty sure I'll show up.

The afterglow of what people gave to REFUGE is bright.  This website is a fascinating enterprise.  So interesting how people find things on the web and tune in, respond.  Small world smaller.  Social networking that took days by mail once upon a time, virtually instantaneous now.

Exec producers Kathy and Jim Gurfein behind this phenomenon -- cheerleading us on with love and knowledge.  Sebastian Oddo, who works for Jim's company MediaSpa, our web master.  Always available, day or night.  Had his wisdom teeth out last week; still seems smart as hell.

Pressure to be interesting.  I'll try to wake up and be more amusing.

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Posted by:

Mark Medoff

,  August 3, 2009.

11:45 PM last night we were supposed to break for lunch.  Ginger had prepared a major meat featured meal.  I hate lunch.  The old saw is: You shoot GONE WITH THE WIND before lunch, "The Dukes of Hazzard" after lunch. I don't see why we need to eat when we're making art.

I wanted to finish the final scene and set-ups before lunch.  First A.D. Laura's job is to keep us within the law.  She felt we should break for lunch and come back for the final set-up -- medium and close shots of Chris PG in the emotional scene where Amelia asks him for help.  Both Chris and Linda wanted to finish, not break the emotional flow.  The crew agreed they'd rather finish, wrap, then enjoy a middle of the night feast.

Last shot -- the Martini, as it's called.  Tight on Chris.  First a big truck.  Then a long train.  We waited.  Did I mention the train was long?  And though a mile away, it was loud and The Dave didn't want to roll sound until the whistle was gone.  I knew we had what we wanted from the scene -- plenty of cuttable pieces -- but wanted Chris to finish the shoot for us cleanly.  He did.  About to call a wrap on the movie, The Dave reminded me we needed room tone -- we were at an abandoned cotton gin that Reuben made look wonderfully eerie in the night.  Room tone done, I thanked everyone, Laura called it a wrap, and hugging and kissing broke out.  Our little band of experienced pros and avid students had shot a feature and we were all still speaking.

Any number of people conspired to make the feeling on set a good one. Ginger is an irredeemable good person; you can't help but love her for the love and massive competence she brings to the set every day.  And Linda, who said to me at dinner one night that she decided at some point back there in her past that being kind to people was the way to go, was always -- always! -- accessible to everyone on the set.  A big hugger and kisser, she expressed over and over to everyone her gratitude for what they did.  Laura kept order as a great First must.  

Make-up/Hair artists Pepper and Amy spread good cheer wherever they walked.  Costumer Mary walked lightly, said little, but was everywhere her actors were, quietly looking to make sure they were wearing what they were supposed when they were supposed to.  Second Marissa was everywhere with her band of PAs, several of whom actually RAN everywhere when asked to accomplish one thing or another, crucial or mundane.

Grandson Cooper found a new hero in Chris PG and hung out as much as possible the last few days, into the night until mom Rachel made him go home.  Last night, as we approached 11 PM, he had to hold back tears when told it was the witching hour for 6 year olds.  As noted before, a movie set is a great place for a kid to see how hard people work and how their abilities can be integrated.

Chris PG made me laugh on the second to last take -- not out loud but inwardly -- the way he delivered the one word sentence:  "What?"  All of the humanity he brought to Darryl was incorporated into that particular delivery of that particular word.  Linda, to her last line:  honest, honest, honest.

This morning, Laura, Lara, and Marissa working in the office, finishing up paper work.  Ginger, in one of her many jobs, breaking down craft services, much of the leftovers going into Stephanie and my pantry.  Me, trying to stay out of the way.  Looking back to the other life, the one in which I have lab work to do for my kidney doctor, roof repairs to arrange, pasture to irrigate (will rise from my chair at this moment to order water from Elephant Butte Irrigation District).

I'm back:  water on order.  Wrap party tonight at Lorenzo's Mesilla. Lorenzo and his cousin Vince have been generous to us.  Lorenzo is a writer of children's books.  Mentioned him in the COAS bookstore scene; figured we'd trade the mention for the wrap party.  Many times, movie crews come together, are a family for a time, then go their separate ways and never see each other again.  This group, our group, I think I'll see almost everyone again, and in the case of the students, often.  We will always have this bond.

I'm immensely proud of what we have accomplished so far, all of us, together.

It's Harry, Max, and me now -- not today or tomorrow; give them time to finish an assembly -- to see what we shot and how what we shot might go toward telling the story the writer wrote.  Let you know as we go along.

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