Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Joyful Bubbles of Ordered Chaos

As I mentioned before, they are shooting a scene for the new Batman film The Dark Knight near where I work.

As I was hoofing it to Union Station to catch the train home yesterday evening, a police officer stopped me from my usual walking route on Canal Street. The Dark Knight production had a couple block radius cordoned off around the old Chicago Post Office. I was kind of irked by this as I would have to go out of my way to get to the train station and did not want to miss my train. As I walked up Clinton Street, I briefly looked down Van Buren to see what was going on. At that time a black helicopter whooshed off the ground into the sky from the corner of Canal and Van Buren. Cooooooool.

My annoyance was replaced with a "gee whiz" kind of feeling.

I have worked on a couple movies before, as a production assistant, as an electrician, and once as a jack-of-all-trades on a low budget 16mm feature film I was doing with a friend of mine. There's something really appealing about being a part of a film production, particularly when you are shooting "on location." It's like being part of this self-contained world which seems to defy the traditional conventions and logic of good ol' fashioned reality.

One time I was working on a film where there was a dialogue scene in the middle of a cornfield. I was there for several hours as they were filming. There's a lot of downtime as things are readied and perfected prior to them actually starting the cameras rolling, so I'm just standing there, thinking...
I am standing in a cornfield...
I am standing in a cornfield...
I am standing in a cornfield...

Something about that, that I was part of some beast that was, for its own reasons, hunkering down in a cornfield for a few hours, just struck me as really neat. I have felt the same way when I have been part of film shoots in businesses -- offices, restaurants, bars, etc. Often times I have met the real owners and workers of establishments we are filming in, and I get a sense of excitement from them when we are there as well. I am possibly misinterpreting the excitement vibe I get (maybe they're hoping being in a movie will help out with business, for example) but the way I think about it is someone you don't know has entered your place of work and suggests everyone go out and play a spontaneous kickball game.

My film experience is pretty paltry compared to most people who make a career out of the movie business, but I did have something amusing happen to me that others might not regularly experience. The 16mm feature film I mentioned was all done in various locations around Chicago, and we didn't have any permits to shoot anywhere. We were out on Columbus Drive near Buckingham Fountain shooting a scene where a character is on a pay phone. Across this big street was a large number of trucks, people, some police cars, etc. We eventually realized it was another film shoot, but not a dinky one like ours.

A production assistant (P.A.) from their crew yelled at us from across the street, "GET YOUR SHOT!" -- as in finish up, you film hoboes, because WE are filming here.. We noticed a guy with a large rolled-up newspaper sticking out of his back pocket, and we realized it was Kyle Chandler, and the cast and crew was from the CBS show Early Edition, whose bubble we were bumping against. It would have been nice if the P.A. could have personally walked over and cut off our balls, but he probably was busy doing other things.

So, if you have an opportunity to be on a film, as an extra, etc., give it a try. It will be freaking boring and there will be lots of waiting, but you might catch some of this "joyful bubble" feeling. Just make sure you don't set any buildings on fire.


Dale said...

Our train station in Toronto is Union Station as well. It gets cordoned off on occasion for filming diverting the busy rush of commuters too.

I hope I experience your joyful bubble feeling sometime.

A friend of mine's parents house was contacted by a location scout once as they they wanted to use it for the exterior shots in the film Julianne Moore did The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio. His dad thought it was a scam and threw out the request, got another, did the same thing and then they chose somewhere else. He was not a prize winner when the rest of the family found out too late that they'd missed the chance at having their house be a film star.

Splotchy said...

Sorry your friend missed out on their filming opportunity. On a positive note, I have never heard of that Julianne Moore movie.

My friend was working on a movie where they were going to film some exteriors of a house in a Chicago suburb for a TV show. They had already used the house before, had an agreement with the owner of the house, etc. Apparently, this time the owner was pissed off about something -- maybe some disagreement about money, I don't know. Either way, when they got there the owner had a put up a big Home Alone poster in the window.

Dale said...