Thursday 25 February 2010

Is everything OK yet ?

Nghi and Joy came to my house today for a last production meeting before the rehearsals actually start. Nghi always has a list running of all the things we need to do. And there's always more there than you think.

Sound., for instance: it’s not a straightforward matter. I'm not even talking music. When Asian guy is walking, in the first scene, is there sound of him walking? When Cow Boy smokes a cigarette, is there any sound of breathing out? Decisions to be made on every single detail – Who's in charge? I suppose it's my role, as director. Right – and how does it happen? When are we recording what sound? On what shots? Only close-ups, or wide shots as well? Who's holding the mike? Where will they be? Shadows?

Shooting order - another issue? We've got two nights on location, we're filming four sequences, one outside, and three inside. We must wait untill darkness for the first. We won’t be following narrative order. I’m thinking about my actors, already. But also, me.  Will they like that? the tango sequence, it will mess up with clothes, we can’t start from there.

We discuss it a bit, and come up with  working solution: focus on the dance sequence only the second night; on the Friday, shoot all the rest – it’s more technical, it's less important, it will take longer. We start with the urinal scene, which we can probably shoot with a bit of light outside. An hour for that, a pause, we follow on with the outside sequence (weather depending, of course, it's Melbourne, who knows if and when it's going to dribble or blow), we finish up with our final sequence. On Saturday morning - I'm think, wow, early to rise... - we can review the Friday footage, and re-do the shots that didn’t work. Nghi adds, if we've got a major problem, we want a few security shots of the dance sequence on the first night. Hey, storm, broken arm, or power shortage - everything happens in this world. He's trying to cheer us up, I guess: ‘I think it’s all looking good. It’s in your hands now. Remember, always have a Plan B. Things are not going to work.’

Monday 22 February 2010

shooting on location

Joy and I decided to go on location early the other morning to finish work on the photo storyboard, and explore a few camera angles. We met at the corner of Swanston and Collins, opposite Westpac, and jumped on the 109. It was about 8h30, we thought we'd have the location to ourselves. We did, for about half an hour. Then people started coming.

First it was a man in his thirties, who came in as we were measuring the space. Joy went out, I went out, then I thought I could go on measuring. The man was undressing, then he started having a shower. We started chatting – 'so you’re shooting a film? And what’s the film about?' When I said ‘it's a gay film’, I could sense, instantly, that the naked man in the shower tensed, a little bit. It was comic actually. But I thought, it was not the most diplomatic way of presenting it  – from then on, I shall describe Honey-pot as 'a comedy'.

The man dried himself, got dressed and left. A few older blokes had been using the urinal in the meantime, but eventually, Joy could come back in. Untill a flock of children arrived. Having lived in Australia for more than a year, I know how peadophilia is THE major evil, and, a funny side effect, I was instantly terrified I could get into some sort of trouble, so Joy and I grabbed our bags and headed right at the exit: I mean, some of these kids were so quick, they started undressing while walking in, to change into their surfing outfits!

I had read the situation well, though. Lateron, as Joy and I were chatting outside the toilet while some guy was having a shower or something, the surf instructor approached us: ‘excuse me, you’re aware that you’re not allowed to film the children, are you?’ We nodded apologies and reassurance – yes yes, children, forbidden, we know, not interested. I didn't say 'gay movie' this time.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Auditions II – the Cow Boy

Four people answered our call for ‘one Caucasian actor, aged 25 to 35, not too tall, medium build, muscular, traditionally attractive, masculine looking’.

We ruled out half of that: one had his issues and preferred a film with dialogues. One had a completely wrong look – alternative grungy  rock, with tatoos – we said ‘attractive, traditionally attractive, dude!’. Funnily, the remaining two were Matthews.

We were to meet our first Matthew at Brunetti’s, on City Square, on a Sunday afternoon at 6h. But the dumb place decided it would close at 6h15 that day, so we moved on to Fed Square before they kicked us out. That Matthew had been in quite a few short films, he was expressive with his face and eyes, handsome, even sexy, but he was not enough of a dancer for me. Flic was there, and asked him to learn a few simple tango steps; he struggled. And then, she asked him to interpret the footwork, first in a clumsy way, then in a seductive, assertive way. His middle body was weak and stuck, his hips didn’t sway. We were doubtful.

It was about a week before we met our other Matthew. Joy had been in charge of coordinating all e-mails, she told me that Matthew was very keen. And he lived in Ballarat, he would  be coming all the way for an audtion, all the way for rehearsals, all the way for shooting. I thought, if he’s ready to do that, he’s motivated; and I never mind a bit of enthusiasm.

He was more than that. He was good, he was handsome, he was a bit rough, and had incredible knowledge of his own body. He’s a break-dance instructor, a real dancer: he got through Flic’s footwork in about a second. I then took him through the first scene, asking him to seduce me using various parts of his body, shoulders, hips, or legs. He did it, well. He was a bit young, sure, but it’s easy to fix, a touch of make-up – it was really the only thing wrong. I was relieved: I had a cow boy, now, to tango my Asian guy.

Saturday 13 February 2010

Auditions I – the Asian guy

Nghi was always doubtful: finding a fat Asian actor willing to shoot a gay film would be hard. I was always my optimistic self, and said, it’s got no dialogue anyway, worst of all, we can always get a foreign student. I was ready for everything, use Joy as interpreter, hand-language, anything.

Things went better than we could hope for. We had waited until everything else was sorted before calling for actors, we didn't want them to lose impetus or feel the production was lagging, but send them right from the audition to the rehearsal and then on to the shooting. Joy had been in charge of sending a casting call on the net, using the website Starnow. We advertised for 'one Asian actor, aged 25 to 35, medium-heavy build or chubby. All skin colours and ethnic types welcome to apply, but must have recognisable Asian/South Asian features'. Three guys answered, and they were good!

One was a really handsome and skinny Chinese guy – very professional, but not at all the type of body we wanted, he was not short-listed.

Two candidates remained. We asked them to come for an audition in my St Kilda place, which I’d only just vacated. A large rectangular living room was a perfect setting for trying out a few dance movements.

The first actor was a bit young, but he sounded like a good dancer. I wasn't sure from the photo what he would actually look like. I was disappointed - weirdly, because he was way too handsome for the role, a young South Asian guy with bollywood features. If we casted him, the public would not understand, how was he ever supposed to feel insecure about his ability to seduce?

The second actor, Nick, was rightaway perfect.  He’s not exactly fat, but he’s got a strong body, so that when he slouches a bit, he looks exactly the part. His features are also very interesting – he’s got one of these admirable acting faces that can vary from the handsome to the plain or even the slightly ugly.

We didn't give them an answer rightaway, though. We want to do a screen-test first, with the Cow Boy - after all, both actors have to match. But the decision is already very clear.