Brian Thomas,

Brian Thomas,

A weeklong electronic journal.
March 11 1998 3:30 AM

Brian Thomas,

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       Tonight, after 14 hours of shooting, we wrapped filming on TheIncredible VibratingMan. No major accidents or fatalities.
       I almost didn't recognize my assistant director when I saw her this morning. She has dim circles around her eyes, and her mouth is permanently puckered. Her job is to worry; she's doing it well.
       To make it easy on the camera crew, the first and last scenes of the movie were shot at the same time from different angles and overlapped in such a way that it was easy to get confused. The actors were rushed in and out with different wardrobe and speaking lines, first from one scene, then another, then back again. I did several takes, and the crew was actually yelling at me to get a move on. These scenes had to be right or the whole film would suffer, but I couldn't indulge too much. Our tiny budget meant I had to keep my average shooting ratio extremely low (two takes per shot) or I would run out of film.
       My friend Chuck arrived early on the set for a bit part in the film as a pharmacist who is mistaken for a supervillain. We were running behind, so he had to wait six hours. Every time I walked by him, I heard him deadpanning, "Come on, Brian ..." Chuck had a brain tumor removed a few years back and needed prompting every time he said his one line in the film. I knew this would be the case, and he was wonderful to work with despite his need for prompting. The crew didn't ask about it: They liked him and were patient.
       The toughest actress to read was a 5-year-old girl with a bowl haircut and thick glasses. I needed her just to walk through a doorway, but as I whispered to her before the take, she just stared at me with distant eyes, and I couldn't tell if she'd heard a word I'd said. In the first take she walked through the door staring directly at the camera lens. I placed her mom in the room just off-camera to guide her. She strolled through the door perfectly and was met with a standing ovation.
       After lunch the camera jammed while being reloaded. Everyone took the opportunity to eat and crack jokes while my stomach squeezed itself into a new organ. It was too late in the day to find another camera. I said a mental prayer and, 30 minutes later, the camera was up and running. But the time lost was lost for good.
       Most of our shooting day was spent in "Chip's Place," a surreal laboratory setting. My production designer, Chad Griffin, was possessed when he put this set together. On a meager budget of $200 he filled two rooms with bubbling test tubes and grids of glowing lights and rusty industrial apparatus. The character Chip sits in a rickety wheelchair with a dozen rubber tubes coming out of it and what looks like a green, metallic spine on the back. In silhouette the chair resembles a giant spider. I could never have achieved a look like this on my own. I remember seeing the set for the first time and suppressing the urge to jump up and down like a kid.
       After I shouted, "That's a wrap" at 9:15 p.m., everyone looked different to me. For three days we were a dedicated team working toward a common goal. Now the task was done and we were just a roomful of people. I stammered through my thank yous. I did a lame Brando impression to make the cinematographer laugh. I no longer had to be captain of the ship and could just be myself.
       We drank amber beers and someone's leftover New Year's champagne.
       I had my picture taken sandwiched between my two leading characters, Johnny and Roxanne. When the flashbulb popped I got a tickle in my stomach--six months ago these were abstract ideas and now they had their arms around me.
       Tomorrow I drop the film off at the lab. I hope there's an image on it.

Brian Thomas is an independent filmmaker who lives in Seattle.