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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Close Quarters

I was in a movie once. A locally produced comedy short. I don't think it's available anywhere, tho I haven't checked recently.

I was acquainted with the writer/director, and he cast me wildly against type as a nerd. (The premise of the film was that nerds who make computer viruses should be taught to play sports and woo women as a rehabilitation scheme, which makes more sense to me as the years go by.) My first day of shooting was to take place in the evening at a jail in a poor town. I didn't write down the address for the very good reason that I was a fool, so when the evening came I went to both jails in town and came up empty. The guards at both facilities denied all knowledge of a film shoot. The first jail told me how to walk to the second jail, anyway, and I traipsed the few blocks from one to t'other. On the way, with the setting sun turning the sky rosy, I passed a little house with a girl sitting alone on the porch.

"Mister?" she called out. "Where are you going?"

"To see some friends," I answered, which was kind of true.

"Can I come with you? Please?"

Well, I thought. That's one way to find out where the jail is.

Anyway, I pretended not to hear her because I was that smooth. Later I found out that they'd canceled the shoot without telling me in time, and it was at a third (closed) jail that I hadn't known about.

I finally made it to the musty old jail, where the cute women doing props and makeup took me on a tour of the crude pornographic graffiti they'd discovered in the urine-scented old cells. This was unsettlingly exciting. We worked almost till dawn. The next day we spent all day at a school filming (and I do mean filming; the director comes from money and was springing for 35 millimeter film, not the video so beloved of local shorts) one scene ofter another. A lot of the scenes took place outside, doing slapstick sports routines in the sun. The cute women who did makeup and props offered to rub suntan lotion on us and we all said no thanks. Clearly our brains were scrambled with sleep deprivation and sunstroke. That evening we were the color of fire trucks. Let that be a lesson to the would-be gentlemen out there: getting rubbed down by two lovely women is better than going to the burn unit.

Meals were provided by the director. This consisted of chips, honey buns, candy bars and soft drinks, because the director thought this would give us energy. I began to see the down side of amateur filmmaking.

The final scene for the evening involved the nerds learning to play "quarters," a drinking game in which one tosses quarters into cups of beer and then drinks them or something. I'd never heard of this silly thing; all my drinking game experience involved kissing and confessing. By now we were all like kindergartners who had replaced naptime with pixy stick time, so happily we weren't using real beer. We were using flat Mr. Pibb. Once we pushed through the sheer awfulness of this we discovered a strange ecstasy on the other side; we were directed to act as if we were bonding in drunken, manly fervor, and for one wonderful, sleep deprived, sunburned moment it was true.

The film went on to win the audience choice award for local short films at the local film festival, mostly because half of Birmingham was in it and came out to vote. I drank an unusual amount of stuff that wasn't flat Mr. Pibb and was very happy to hear from our director that the cinematographer had told him "Every scene with Aaron in it is gold." In return for this complement I hit on the cinematographer's wife.

Local film!

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