Brian Thomas,

Brian Thomas,

A weeklong electronic journal.
March 9 1998 3:30 AM

Brian Thomas,

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       I arrived 10 minutes early for the first shooting day on The Incredible Vibrating Man, my first short film since graduating from film school at NYU. About 10 people were late. Nothing to worry about, I told myself. It's a first day thing.
       The first shot went off fairly quickly, but our cheap rental camera makes a lot of noise. I can't get over how much like a steel lunch box it looks. More like a projector than like a camera. I get groans from the camera crew about how dirty it is--things like "Why is it doing that?" and "Ouch."
       In the scene where Roxanne is in a bathtub filled with ice and Johnny is chipping at it, trying to get her out, the actor cut his finger. He didn't notice, but the costume designer saw blood on her wardrobe and pointed. The actor looked at his finger and mumbled something about not being sure about when he'd had his last tetanus shot. We looked at the metal soap dish on which he'd cut himself and, sure enough, it was slightly rusty. His finger was cleaned, and the day went on. (I was probably the only one left fighting visions of sickly and sweaty actors in hospital tents.)
       Roxanne's hair was a nightmare. Months ago, I drew numerous sketches and even made a clay sculpture of Roxanne and her big hairdo. I really wanted her hair to spiral outward from the sides of her head like little blond tornadoes. Our hair person dropped out of the shoot last night, so a late-night volunteer agreed to attempt the do by wrapping fake hair around Styrofoam cones. This morning I saw them for the first time: They looked like Madonna's breast cones. Our makeup person redesigned them and made them beautiful.
       Every shot, every setup, ran late. Everything took longer than expected. I should know what I'm doing after all this NYU education, but today we ran further and further behind, with everyone trying so hard to make the camerawork perfect that we met only two-thirds of our schedule. At a certain point in the day, everything begins to feel like a compromise. I'm worried that the film might not click like I thought it would. I'm covering everything logically, but as I make new decisions on the set to save time, I'm beginning to doubt whether this will cut in the editing room, whether it will all make sense.
       All Johnny's (Johnny is the Vibrating Man) vibrating scenes are shot at half speed, so that when they are played back, he will appear to be shaking frantically. The actor playing Johnny asked me to remind him before every shot to vibrate, because it was hard for him to concentrate on vibrating and thinking/speaking/acting at the same time. I was sympathetic and agreed to do it, then promptly forgot. I should apologize to him tomorrow. My brain was just too full today.
       Tomorrow we have to catch up, get the shots we didn't have the time to do, then shoot some of the most difficult scenes of the film. Fog. Simulated freeze frames that are "live," with the actors holding perfectly still. The most fun scenes. But we may fall even further behind. Two more days and what we have is what we have.

Brian Thomas is an independent filmmaker who lives in Seattle.