Thursday, September 1, 2011

The More Things Change...

So I had this great idea for a post titled, "I haven't had a Woody like this in 12 years!" about my reaction to seeing "Midnight in Paris."  Maybe I'll write it someday, but for now I'll only say that the best thing the movie did for me was make me optimistic about his next one - a feeling I have not had in far too long for a filmmaker I admire as much as I do him.  I still think he's got one or two masterpieces brewing, I just hope I don't have to wait another decade to be proven right.  Hear that Mr Konigsberg?  More Misdemeanors and less Barcelonas - stat!!

Now to the crux of the biscuit.  I've been going through some old photos - prints mind you, not just jpegs - and out comes the NYU batch, complete with old friends, bad hair, worse behavior and the origins of peteandjosh.  Hard to forget hanging out at a post-screening party in our first year and I ask Pete if he'd like to shoot for me next go round.  He asks if I'd shoot for him, too.  Thus was born a 17 year-long friendship/co-conspiratorship/co-directorship - and the old married couple jokes just keep on coming…

Here's back when we could pull the ears off a Gundark -

So, sometimes the peteandjosh thing is easy like breathing.  Sometimes it's, well…

Case in point,  Kaaterskill Falls  -   Shooting a feature in 13 days over three months with no money, no crew and no script - I'm still amazed we all lived through it.  There was one night though - and this when people shot on film cameras with large detachable compartments to hold the film spools called magazines - one night when at around 4AM, something just snapped.  Peter was holding said magazine, having just loaded it with unexposed film, and I was doing what I do best - pushing and pushing.  He was flat-out exhausted, I was uncharacteristically annoying (quiet down, anyone who knows me at all) and I just crossed the line.  There was a shot I wanted and Pete was just too tired.  Don't remember what I said, but I remember knowing it would be better for everyone if I just backed off. 

I didn't.  I couldn't.  I wanted the shot.  Pete warned me to stop.  Fuck the shot, it's late and we're spent and it ain't gonna happen.  I kept going just to test him.  Then, with a look I've never seen on his face before or since, he uttered a phrase that's since become a shorthand joke for us, but at the time was the purest, most sincere, heartfelt threat I've ever received,  "Josh, I'm gonna take this magazine and smash you in the face."

We wrapped right about then and my face escaped un-smashed.  But it was a side of doing what we do that's not all fun and lollipops and creative light bulbs going off.  It's hard work sometimes - filthy with conflict, argument and worst of all just a lack of ideas.

Jump to Summer 2011 - ten years and many projects later.  We find ourselves shooting our second Urban Dictionary piece, "Premature Evacuation - when someone takes off after a one night stand."  The first day was shot in an ultra-swank suite at the Waldorf Astoria, though we had to tweak the script to make this suddenly available location in any way relevant to the story.  We had tons of room, not too much to shoot and walked away feeling pretty slick indeed.  Just maybe we know what we're doing by now…

Not so fast there guys.

Second night of shooting - 115 with the heat index.  By the time the AC units in the microscopic and quite filthy apartment we shot in finally started cooling, I'd already sweated salt deposits in my shirt.  We could barely move, let alone shoot, let alone squeeze the seven of us in there.  It was hot and late and the inverse of the Waldorf.  Nothing meshed, good takes all hard fought, and the coverage we needed slowly crawled along thru the thick sauna pushing back at us.

Then, with two shots left, I describe a move I think will help do a lot of narrative heavy lifting - right after this one.  Pete says, "Yeah, we're not doing that."  He's got the makings of the look - the 4AM, Catskills, have-mag-will-smash-face look.

I don't push it, instead help with the current set-up.  Bide my time.  Then, while passing him a beer, I take the camera and show him the move I'm thinking of.  It's not bad.  We try it.

Made the whole night worth while, if'n you ask me.  Not that it's the most amazing moment of cinema in the world, but it's the right shot for the scene - a woman realizes she's not waking up at home, and definitely not alone.

You tell me…

So the conclusion of this long, rambling mess of a post (I'm making up for writing absolutely nothing for almost two months, so bear with me) is maybe just that the more things change, the more some things actually change?  

Pete and I walked away from that night - easily the worst conditions we've had in ten years - with the instant retrospect needed to laugh it off.  The Waldorf, it was not.  But we got the shots, and no one's face came close to getting smashed.

Shit, man - Carlos Santana says all this and more without a single word, so I'll leave it for him to take it home this time.

NOTE: I actually have no idea what he's singing about, but it definitely says Summer, I'm pretty sure he mentions something about friends (one theme of this post, I guess) and it's always felt like one of the perfect end credit songs of all time.  I dare you not to feel a hard cut to black at 1:17.

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