Mark Quinn, my producer, texted me: “Got the bar location. 509 2nd Ave and 10th. Meet at 2?”
Like many indie filmmakers I didn’t have a lot of money. We would be working on what is known as a “micro-budget”. So I was going to have to rely on favors. Using this bar, which belonged to the uncle of a friend of Mark’s, was one of those favors.
After a brief discussion on the sidewalk about the awning we went in, introduced ourselves to the manager and surveyed the interior of the bar.
“They’re closed on Mondays so we can shoot all day.” Mark told me.
“What time can we get in here in the morning?” I asked. There was this old looking jukebox but it was actually one of those digital things hooked up to the web.
“He’ll open it for us at eight. So if we tell the crew to be here at seven we can unload and be ready to go.”
Mark took pictures with his iPhone 11. I have an iPhone 8.
“So actors should be here at eight thirty.”
“I’d say eight.”
If I had said eight, he would have said eight thirty.
He tapped a note into his phone.
“We need to start contacting people to be background.”
We would be shooting three different scenes here. The first scene involves the two main characters: Jeff, the desperate middle aged married guy and Michaela, the African-American transsexual waitress. Jeff comes to this drag bar with two friends from work as a sort of joke and sees Michaela performing Karaoke. He becomes infatuated with her. (Not in love with her, though he thinks he is. He just wants to escape his life.)
In the second scene, Jeff comes back by himself and has an interaction with Michaela and gets her contact information. We establish that Jeff is interested in pursuing some sort of relationship with her and Michaela is responsive.
In the third scene Jeff comes in drunk. Michaela has not outright rejected him but made it clear she is dubious about his intentions. He sees her flirting with a patron, gets angry and nearly violent and is ejected from the bar.
I didn’t love the location. The colors were too bright. I had wanted something dark with reds and blacks, kind of smoky and mysterious to mirror the fact that Jeff is a typical suburban husband and father who is treading into murky waters.
However, it was free.
“We need a smoke machine.” I told Mark.
“Good idea. Did you get my notes in the script?”
Mark had written some dialogue in which Jeff sits with Michaela and tells her that he feels trapped in his conventional suburban life and that he loves her and wants to be with her. She tells him that he is not in love with her but the idea of her.
Mark knows a lot about the theory of filmmaking, angles and lenses and all that. He has seen all the classics and read all the books. But he is a terrible writer.
He actually had the Jeff character saying the words “conventional suburban life”.
I hadn’t asked for any notes.
“Yeah, I read them but I don’t want the characters to come out and say those things. I want the audience to understand Jeff’s motivations without telling them.”
“How is that supposed to happen?” he scoffed.
“Acting?” I shrugged.
This was going to be an issue.