It was a series of short meetings, with legwork in between. I’ve been in the car enough now that one arm is darker than the other. I headed up north, to a small town a few miles west of I-40, where I knew there was a cafe/bar but I knew nothing else about it. On the way I stopped off at Raphael’s, another potential location, but it had been closed every time I passed by. Apparently the hours posted on the door have nothing to do with the hours that they are actually open. It was still pretty early but I thought I’d drop by and see if there was some kind of license or better business bureau ID number on the door that I could use to track down the owners.
Unlike my previous visits, there was a car in the parking lot. The door wasn’t locked. I stepped in to the smell of ammonia. “We’re closed, buddy,” called out a man from across the room. There were three of them in there giving the place a good scrubbing down. I looked around a bit – the place was much more of a bar than a roadside café, but the folks there had no problem with us filming. The daughter asked to be in the movie as an extra. I had no problem with that. I checked sight lines and all that, decided it wasn’t perfect but would do in a pinch, and got contact info and called Rudy from the parking lot. “Oh, we talked to them,” he said. “The Director of Photography likes J&J’s better. It’s more like what Ruthie would have.” Here is the problem when you have a mix of very experienced industry pros and rookies. The inexperienced producer took the DP’s word as more or less gospel, without assking the people who invented Ruthie what we thought. While I’m inclined to agree in this case, a decision like that is no time to be bypassing the director or his surrogate. And at the very least, tell me about it.
Right, so, on to PeÃ±a Blanca I went. Before I even got there I knew that it was just too far from Albuquerque to be useable, unless it was absolutely perfect. It wasn’t, not even close, so I turned around and headed back into town. Next I headed out West a few miles, to the very end of Central Ave. The terrain was good, still more buildings than I would have liked, but workable. I passed a sign for Angel View Cafe. A cafe? Out here? Sounds promising! Only, I couldn’t find the cafe. Signs last a long time out here, often outlasting the buildings they mark. I’ll make one more attempt to find the place using high-tech tools like the phone book, but I suspect once again that time has overtaken the sort of place I’m looking for.
In to town, a couple more errands, a meeting with Archie about props. He had welded up an anchor from scratch the day before, and was starting fabrication on the nuclear warhead. We discussed snow globe styles and limitations, and other props. Apparently the machine gun is not a given. He can make a fake one from photographs, but we would need a belt of ammo hanging out to really sell it.
Then to callbacks. Going in I was reasonably sure who I wanted, but I wanted to see if the people who looked best for the role could iron out some of the flaws in their earlier performances. When I got there I discovered I would be looking at two more people than I thought I would. One Moab had said he was unavailable because he was going to be at a pirate party, but the role was just too juicy for him to pass up. The dude lives and breathes pirate. The other was a potential Ruthie that had not been available for the previous auditions but was well-known as an excellent actress so they tossed her into the mix.
So, things were a little more complicated than I expected. There were a couple of actors who could have made my choice easier by nailing their parts, but they didn’t. I could coach them so they would get one key phrase right, but then they would lose track of the rest. In one case it was nerves, I’m sure, but we just don’t have the time for our lead actors to get over the jitters and start performing. In the end, there was only one Moab, Izzy was a slam dunk, Kentucky Jack fell out of the mix, Miguel was decided long since, but for Ruthie there was no clear standout. The new candidate did a good job and had excellent chemistry with Moab, but just came off a little, well, lightweight. The other top Ruthie contender isn’t as experienced of an actress, which is a risk, but she projected a stronger personality, though not as much range. I had not been prepared to direct the actors myself, and in retrospect I don’t think I put the Ruthies through enough.
Now, I must decide.