Duke City Shootout Now Accepting Submissions

Got an idea for a short film but despair of it ever being produced? Buck up, Sparky! The Duke City Shootout is here to make your film dream come true.

What you do: Write one of the best 12-page screenplays ever. Send it in.

What they do: Choose the best of the screenplays submitted, bring you out to Albuquerque, and provide you with a mostly-skilled crew and (usually) a film industry mentor to help you get the job done. Cameras, grip, and whatnot are provided.

What happens next: After casting local talent and getting everything ready, teams have three days to shoot and four to edit, before the films are judged by an industry panel and then shown in a big theater packed with enthusiastic people. It’s a good time. You can read of my experience in the Shootout Under the Pirates! category. I advise starting with the oldest episodes and working forward in time.

If you have a flair for writing cool short movies, you really can’t go wrong with this festival. It’s a lot of work getting a film to the screen, but here’s a chance to make it happen. Check out The official Duke City Shootout Web page for the lowdown.

What are you waiting for? Get to work on that script!

Gotta be there

It’s the little things – the timing that could be a wee bit better, the fill-in radio chatter that needs to be written, the F-117 keychain hanging on my wall that’s needed for a shot. The way they are afraid to push the music forward when atmosphere is more important than realism. Not to mention, Charles the Second needs his Becherovka.

I spent two months on the production of Pirates of the White Sand, and it would be difficult to point to any one thing and say, “Dang! Jerry kicked ass right there.” (Aside from my part of the writing, of course, but that happened long before.) I was (so I tell myself), a general lift to the entire production, leaving very small marks everywhere. There was the general good feeling on the set. I provided pure pie-in-the-sky American Dream. Pirates was not a goal but a vehicle, a stepping stone to something grander. The film was itself theCrusader, a pirate ship ready to storm pop culture. I painted a vision so grand that no one else could be embarrassed for dreaming big. I did that. And honestly, I’m a little bummed that that didn’t show up more in the raw footage. There was sloppiness there that didn’t echo the belief that we were building a new pop-culture franchise.

The last day when, after my incessant whining, we set things up so the pirates could do some serious shouting, it was golden. (Credit must also be given to a crew who gave us a day to go back and do stuff like that.)

Also, I brought an enormous number of breakfast burritos for the crew. And a machine gun.

The part where Moab says “lay a course for the Sierra Madres”? I happened to be paying attention just then, made a comment, and then C-2 used that to change the cut by a fraction of a second, and it was better. So most of the credit goes to Chuck II, because he had the skill and immediately knew what I was talking about. Dude knows his shit. Not to take away from fuego, he was there too, and it was actually a pretty tough cut. They worked together on it for quite a while. I really came to appreciate how many hours of post production go into each second of film you see.

But I made the comment. They probably don’t need me for that so much now that they have time to be picky, but I bet there are places in the flow of things that they are just used to, places where they understand more than the audience, that could be better. I know that’s the way with my writing.

And there are the relationships. I was on the ground for the Duke City Shootout longer than they were, and I just got comfortable with people. It doesn’t sound like they are having any trouble in that regard, but they are dealing with people I would like to see again, whether or not my participation would be helpful. If you’ve been paying attention, you know who I’m talking about.

When it comes right down to it, while intellectually I have surrendered the vision of the story to people with the skills to make it happen, emotionally I am still wrapped up in the thing. I hear reports from far away, encouraging noises, and I know things are in good hands. Skilled hands. Passionate hands.

Just not my hands.

2

The Cast and Crew

the whole crew

I will not list them all here – my apologies to those not mentioned. Not being listed here is in no way in indication that someone was unimportant. This blog is all about me, and the people here are the ones who had the largest effect on me. Note that, except where I am given permission to use a person’s real name, I am using pseudonyms. People are listed in the order I think of them.

fuego
My brother, co-writer of Pirates, and director. If you’ve been paying attention, you know all about him. Before writing Pirates, I never knew collaboration could be so fun.

Rudolph
I also refer to him as Rudy fairly often. Although he had experience on a few films he had never been a producer before. Soon after we were notified of our winning the Fellini award, fuego and I began to get emails from Rudy. He had gone through the script and was already putting together the team to make the movie work. He notified us of potential problem areas and what he was doing about them. “I like this guy!” I wrote to fuego. I still do. He worked hard, long hours, juggled dozens of priorities, and when the tide changed he went with the flow, bending without breaking. He embodies one of the key lessons of this whole adventure: You don’t get what you want if you don’t ask. From the Crusader to the Director of Photography to the helicopter, Rudy got what he wanted.

Bonnie
She can build furniture and charm a car dealer out of a couple of SUV’s. I’ve already written about her, so I won’t go into detail here. I do wonder, though, if she’s read that other bit. Kinda makes me nervous.

Seldom Seen Smith
As the name implies, Seldom is most notable for his absence. Every crew was assigned a mentor, an industry veteran to guide them through the moviemaking process. Seldom has directed a couple of major motion pictures, and although we felt we had things under control it would have been nice to at least hear from him. Finally I heard through the grapevine that he was working on a different project and the schedule had been stretched. You can’t blame a guy for that, but it would have been nice to get at least an email from the guy explaining the situation. In the end, he was a bad example of how the business works.

Moab
The actor who eventually came to play Moab was critical for the casting of not just pirates, but for all the movies. It was he that guided (or misguided in a couple of cases) the actors during auditions. I was the only writer to participate directly in casting, so Moab was left to interpret the other scripts on his own. Moab is Pirate through and through. During casting he said he was not available on the first days of shooting because he had a big pirate ho-down to attend. He is a member of The Society for Creative Anachronism, in a section specializing in pre-flintlock pirates. He had all the gear, and even before we cast him had loaned us a bunch of swords and other props. Aye, maties, Moab be a pirate, and his leadership skills showed as the pirates came together as a unit.

Louie
Louie is a big guy, friendly and enthusiastic, and had been taking courses in film production. He had some camera experience, but on our film was assigned to the sound crew, where he had no experience at all. He was there to help, no doubt about it, and didn’t want to miss any part of the production. I was a little worried during casting, when he would make noise while people were reading for parts in other movies. It wasn’t that he was impolite, far from it. He was one of the nicest guys around. He just wasn’t quite aware of all the things expected of him. He would require careful guidance on set, with lots of feedback, in order to perform well during production. He didn’t get it.

Smithers
Smithers was not directly part of our crew. He had the unenviable job of getting seven movie productions going simultaneously. He is an intense, just-so hardass who will repeat himself many many times after the matter has been decided. He can be frustrating to work with, and made it difficult to get the resources we needed. A festival like Duke City Shootout would not work without someone like him.

Seldom Seen Smith Jr.
Perhaps an unfair monniker. SSS Jr. was assigned to us as Assistant Director after our first one had to quit before we even got started. Seldom Jr. was working on Wildfire, some sort of TV series filmed in New Mexico, but he had never been an AD before. He arranged to take the days we would be shooting off of work so he could help us. The thing is, much of the AD’s work comes before the shooting starts. AD is a vital planning and communications role. No one had explained the role of an AD to him, and the people who assigned him that role this time made no effort to fill him in, or even to see if he was available to do it. fuego ended up doing much of the AD work himself, with some support from Rudolph.

Giovanni
Our Director of Photography was one of the most respected camera guys in the state, the guy who taught many of the other camera people participating in the festival. He came with a whole truckload of equipment as a bonus. An easygoing, funny guy, he had the knowhow to get things done, and had plenty of good suggestions for improving shots. He brought along with him several other key people.

Pablo
We were burning through mentors faster than Joan Collins through husbands. When would it end? Would we have a mentor when the shooting started? Other teams had established actors (Adrian from Rocky, for instance) or Hollywood producers. We were doing all right on our own, but feeling kind of left out. One night, with shooting immanent, we get word that our latest mentor had flaked, but the home office had lined up another. Enter Pablo. He’s not some hollywood big shot, but he is a grizzled veteran of Shootouts past, and he knows what it takes to get things done. He strength is editing, which fit beautifully with our needs. He and Charles the First had worked together before, and knew how to move as a team.

Charles the First
Our lead editor lost his day job just in time to give us his all. Chuck 1 is skilled, abrasive and outspoken. “I know Chuck is not for everyone,” he told me one night. After one meeting where he told Smithers he thought a particular policy was stupid, we forbade Charles I from speaking to Smithers ever again. Alas, this policy was impractical and he went on to piss off Smithers on more than one occasion. In the editing bay he was often the first one to find a problem with the equipment, and he had no problem being the squeaky wheel. C-One gets it done, and he’s not afraid to tell you that. He is also a master of barbecue ribs.

Charles the Second
C-2 is another old friend of fuego’s, and a long-time veteran of the film biz. When he learned of our impending production, he managed to hollow out a tiny space in his schedule, rented a car, and drove out from Los Angeles to operate our second camera. Smithers really didn’t want us to have a second camera. I never heard the end of it. Giovanni was OK with it, so long as it was clear the he was the Director of Photography. So we had a second camera. It was a tough job; one day he was forced to drive around the southern half of the state in a car with two of our prettiest crew members. He had to leave as soon as shooting was done, much to the disappointment of Cynthia.

Corky
Corky, our innovative makeup guy, was also responsible for making the alien fetus in a jar. Not only was he makeup, he was our set Emergency Medical Technician, and overall mother hen. No one was going to get sunburn when he was around, by damn! He made our pirates into ugly SOB’s, concentrating most of his uglification on Kentucky Jack, giving him as misshapen nose and covering him with scars. One of his best moves was to bring Cynthia on as his assistant.

Cynthia
Well, what’s to say? Nothing, if you’re Cynthia. No worries about her making noise on the set. By the end of the week we heard complete sentences from her, and I even had a conversation or two. She was part of the makeup team. It’s easy to overlook the contribution of people like her on set – when you don’t have to delay shots because the actor has gotten too shiny, all you know is that things are going well. She’s probably going to be pissed that I spilled the beans about Charles the Second, although Corky spilled them to me.

Archie
I started breathing easier when Archie volunteered and was assigned to our team. Need a boat wheel that fits on the steering wheel of a car? “When can I see the car?” On and on like that. Archie knows tools, and knows how to weld up an anchor out of spare staircase parts. Archie knows tools, and he has tools, but he can’t use them at home; he lives in a teepee and has no electricity.

Morgan
Giovanni has taken this young lady under his wing, convinced she has talent as a camera operator. I’m not one to judge that stuff, but she is a vivacious, outgoing, and totally hot film student. She was dreafted onto the set by Giovanni and did a good job making herself useful. Hot she may be, but she’s also nice to have around.

Dog Bone
Biker, actor, and general hell-raiser. The organizers knew him, and asked us to make him a pirate. At the same time, they were asking him if he wanted to be a pirate. We each thought we were doing a favor for the other. It was cool, though. He was a great pirate, but the stories he had to tell were even better. How many Asian prostitutes was that again, Bone?

Kentucky Jack
A lawyer in a former life, the actor who played Kentucky Jack was actually part of the legal battles surrounding the treasure story we based Pirates on. Our X on the treasure map in the credits is reasonably accurate, thanks to him. We have footage of him becoming Kentucky Jack: First one of his eyes pops open, then the other, this his mouth one bit at a time, until he is transformed into the craziest of the pirate crew. It’s awesome. Kentucky Jack was also the source of some excellent ideas which found their way into the production. On the last day he came up to me and said, “I know what we need! A midget!”

Ruthie
Compared to the rowdy boisterousness of the pirate, our Ruthie was a down-to-earth actress. Her performances were not always consistent, but she steadily improved during the shoot. Chemistry between Ruthie and Moab was, well, not smooth, but they put that aside when the camera was rolling.

Izzy
We almost lost Izzy to another film in the Shootout, but luckily for us he decided to go with this role, despite having almost no lines. He is a terrific physical actor, and the chemistry between him and Moab was tremendous. His quirky, odd character was a show-stealer.

3

The Awards Ceremony

After learning of the editing disaster I ran a couple of errands and bought some more tickets to the gala for people who had helped us, then went to fuego’s hotel to hang before the ceremony. I took the laptop down to the gardens, where a crew was busily setting up for a wedding. I found a table in the shade, settled in, then went to fetch a beer.

I tried not to think of the upcoming festivities. From this point, far distant, I know I wrote, editing one of my works in progress, but I have no specifics. It’s not important. It was a pleasant afternoon, and I was in a pleasant place. I roused myself to go share an early supper with the folks, who are as excited about this whole thing as I am, and from there I went down to the Kiva, a big ‘ol theater at the Albuquerque convention center. There was no way we were going to fill that place. Not with the price of entry at eighteen bucks plus fees, twenty-five at the door.

I heard that fuego was on the way; they had finished an “exhibition edit” of Pirates only half an hour before. I cornered him when he arrived. He was near-delirious from sleep deprivation. “The cut the judges got,” he said, “has problems. Chippie never rendered all the title graphics, and there’s a couple other holes.” I was dismayed by the title graphic thing, as whole disaster had been when they copied the files to the master machine. Everyone had assumed they were done. Chippie just had a different definition of “done”. The version the crowd would see was much better than what the judges got. At that moment I wrote off any hope of carrying away the grand prize.

Each crew got a block of free tickets. The number of tickets for our crew was far from adequate, so I had bought a bunch more so everyone could get in. I stood near the ticket window, intercepting our crew members and giving out tickets. The show was starting, time was running out, and I still had a couple of tickets. Effin’ Genie had asked for eight tickets, but I had held the line at two and a DVD. She was a no-show, leaving me with two extra very expensive tickets.

Meanwhile, the line stretched across the lobby. This was a hot ticket indeed, and my days of bitching about the ticket price seemed unfounded. People were coming. They were excited. This was a Big Event.

The show was starting, but I needed to get a beer before I went in. By the time I got inside it was dark, and I couldn’t find the rest of my people. I missed the introductory speeches, boo hoo, and groped my way to a seat as the first of the sorts, Sympathy for the Devil, began. It was good. There was not nearly as much to the script as we had, which gave them the time to show some beautiful scenery. The movie is, at heart, a single joke, and they did it well. They got a big round of applause and deserved it.

Next came Confessions of a Reluctant Bra Buyer. This flick was a sweet story of a girl coming of age, and the whole production lived or died on the girl they could cast in the lead role. I had been around for much of the casting and I was worried for them. Not a problem. The lead was on it, sincere, and cute as heck. She was natural and easy in front of the camera. A couple of the supporting roles were weaker, but overall the movie worked. Big cheers, well deserved, etc.

Between flicks I had been trying to find my people, but at the start of the third movie I was still standing in the back, just behind the sound guys. The third movie was Pirates of the White Sand. I stood, rigid, nervous, as the camera moved from the pirate flag flapping in the breeze to Captain Moab, for his first line. People were laughing. There was a buzz about Pirates, and people were ready. I wasn’t thrilled about the audio in the first bit, but things were working as we hammered into the opening titles, Bird and Dway’s fucking awesome music launching us into the movie as we watched the Crusader roaring down the empty highway.

Then they turned it down. I was all over the sound guy. “Can you turn it up? This is rock and roll!” he pointed to the next booth over. “It’s their call.”

I popped over to the next booth and there was Smithers. “I need it louder!” I said, and he hopped out of his seat to talk to the sound guy.

By the time he got there, the titles were over and the dialog had started. “Oh, Hell,” Ruthie said, booming though the auditorium. Good thing they hadn’t turned it up. “Que?” asked Miguel, almost inaudible. “You know those guys?” I stepped back from the sound console and leaned against the back wall for support. The editors had spent long hours before the disaster trying to compensate for terribly shoddy sound work on set, and most of that had been lost. I stayed for the whole movie, but just barely. The audience was still reacting well, getting into the whole pirate vibe, but I was dying. It wasn’t just the audio, the lighting was unbalanced and harsh. Some of the acting wasn’t up to par. The last was my fault. Ruthie had been steadily improving during the shoot, but Miguel never showed on set what he had in his audition. Maybe in the future, when fuego as director doesn’t have all the other shit to worry about that an AD would normally handle, he will be able to spend more energy on the performance of the actors. There are times when I decided to keep out of the way when a choice comment – “Jimmy! Give me more! Show me what you had during casting!” may have made a difference. In this way I failed fuego, the crew, and myself. Sure, it’s easy to say in hindsight, and hindsight is the devil’s currency, but there it is. I could have done better.

A tougher time when I knew things weren’t going the way I wanted them to, but sat back and relied on the experts: I came to the set to find a very subdued set of pirates. They were trying as hard as they could to put out, but the sound guy had told them they were too loud. I sat outside, head in hands, listening to quiet pirates. These were the same guys that had swept me along with them with their shouting during rehearsals, soaring on the joy and unfettered exuberance. Right then I should have had a smack-down with the sound guy. “Buddy,” I ought to have said, “We’re all here to serve the story. And in the story people are shouting. Your challenge is to make it work.”

I didn’t say that, but on the last day of shooting we set up the boys again and let them holler. A lot of that footage is in the cut. We needed more. We needed more even miking. We needed fewer boom shadows ruining sweet takes. We needed a sound pro on set. Our main guy may have known sound, but he lacked leadership, did not tutor or demand the best of his crew, and I found myself listening to an emergency cut with audio problems that, in my ignorant opinion, should never have made it off the set. “Cut,” says the director. He looks at the Director of Photography, he looks at his sound guy, and he says, “Print it.” He is counting on his crew to tell him if there were problems. Sound guy’s biggest flaw was that he was quiet when he needed to make noise.

As the showing of our little flick ended I ran into Dog Bone, who had played one of the pirates. He’s been in a big movie or two, and only reluctantly joined our scurvy crew, based on his belief in the strength of the script. He was pissed at the result. I was pissed too, and neither of us did anything to diminish the other’s pissedness. He went off looking to beat up Charles the First. I just wanted out of there.

More flicks came and went, and many of them were good. Coppola’s work was, frankly, tedious, but a lot of people ate it up. I must have missed something.

Blah, blah, blah. On to the awards.

Moab got best actor. He is the single reason that we couldn’t fit our little story in twelve minutes. There was just so much of him, and it hurt to cut any of him out. He deserved it, and let’s all raise a toast to Cap’n Moab. Toooooooooooooast!

The audience did not see the same film the judges saw, and that is part of the reason we won the audience choice award. We had a lot of shouting on our side. We stood up on stage, fuego and I, holding our little plastic trophy in sweaty hands, as they announced the grand prize winner. It was not us. Nor should it have been. It is possible, when we get the real cut together, that ours will eclipse the other entries. We certainly have the most to gain by throwing off all the other restrictions – we have footage wew couldn’t use, and we have the time to tell the story right. I’m really, really anxious to see how it comes out.

2

Disaster

High noon brought the last of the obligatory press events before the awards ceremony. This one is pretty clever – a mock court proceeding where the seven films are submitted to the judge as evidence that Art is not dead. I was early, so I drifted around the downtown Albuquerque for a while looking for a breakfast burrito. Not on a Saturday, pal. Sure, you can finally find a parking space, but forget starting the day with green chile.

I held off phoning fuego until 11:30 — I assumed he would try to catch a few winks between the editing deadline and the ceremony, but I thought is would be a good idea to make sure he woke up in time to stagger over for the event. There was no answer on his phone when I finally did call, but at least it rang this time. No worries — if fuego slept through the ceremony I was there to represent us. I gave up searching for breakfast and walked to the courthousse through the rapidly-heating morning.

I got there in plenty of time, and Rudolph was already there.I sat with him and exchanged idle pleasantries, all of which had to do with some movie-releated business or other. He said we were lucky Pablo was on our crew; when Rudy had left the editing bay at 1:30 the previous night Pablo had moved from working on the opwning titles to helping with the movie, and he was flying.

Other people drifted past, connected either with the festival or with one of the other movies. “How’d it come out?” was the most common question. “I have no idea,” was my reply.

One of them (I don’t remember who) asked, “So did you recover from your problem last night?”

“Problem?”

“Didn’t you hear about it?” asked Rudolph. “The documentary crew was in your editing bay. It was crowded in there, and Delilah stepped on the power cord. The computer shut down and Charles the First lost an hour’s work.” I groaned inwardly and wondered how anyone can work for an hour without saving. Still, that’s just the kind of thing that can happen that eats into precious time. I had been right to worry about getting the editing done in time, but things could have been much worse.

fuego arrived, looking tired. He sat next to me and people around us asked how the thing had come out. “We had some problems,” he said. “It would have been fine, but we were using a Mac.”

A little background here. We had been provided computers to do the editing. These were fairly high-end Macintoshes with gigantic hard drives. The first step of editing is to capture the video off the tapes from the camera and store it on the drives. This is a very time-consuming process and the resulting files are huge. Our raw footage was approaching a terabyte in size. During the editing process the files are modified as the editor tweaks the color balance and the audio, but the sheer size of those files makes them impractical to back up. (Note: Impractical but not impossible. Maybe it’s just me, but I would have kept unadulterated copies of the original footage in a separate place. I’m just paranoid that way. It probably comes from using a word processor that is constantly in development and is by definition untested.)

Unlike Windows, when you copy a folder to a new location that already has a folder by that name, the entire previous folder is replaced, not files within that folder that have matching names. Each time a new version of the Mac OS comes out I check to see if Apple had finally pulled its collective head out and given me the option to make folders merge rather than replacing the whole damn thing.

By now you have guessed what happened. In the early hours of the morning the editing crew had moved the files for the title sequence from one computer to the main editing computer. fuego had started to make a new folder for the files, but Charles the First had already started the transfer. The folder with the title stuff had the same name as the folder with all the video for the movie. When the warning came up asking if he really wanted to replace the folder, Charles I, and experienced mac user, tired and distracted, said “yes”.

Blammo. No more video files. It would take hours to recapture all the video segments that had been deleted, and even then the work balancing the colors and working with the audio would have to start all over again.

The powers that be had granted us some extra time to recover from the disaster, but the judges were going to need their tape soon. fuego sat next to me at the ceremony, slightly dazed, while Chuck one worked feverishly back in the editing room, trying to make a presentable cut of the movie. The footage had all been recaptured, but there was still a lot of work to do. Disqualification from the contest was a real possibility. After the judge’s cut was complete we would be allowed to keep working to make a more presentable version for the gala premiere.

We went through the motions of the ceremony as each team approached the bench and presented the judge with their tapes. fuego went up in his turn with a placeholder tape, and the judge announced he was accepting it as exhibit 7. He then announced that the decision on whether art was still alive in New Mexico at eight o’clock that night. Pablo had been recruited to close the ceremony, humming Taps into the microphone from the witness stand. He was gratifyingly awful and a good sport to boot, and everyone left the room feeling jolly.

Almost everyone, anyway. fuego paused to talk to the documentary crew before drifting back to the editing bay, and I went to find food and a place to write. I was worried, bit while we had lost several hours, we had been given a few hours extra to make up for it. We would at least still be in the running.

2

Anticipation

I managed to finagle my way into the editing room yesterday, but it did nothing to put me at ease – in fact, it did the opposite. The sound was uneven, thre was no background audio, the music wasn’t in, the lights were harsh and flat, and there were still plenty of rough spots in the flow. The movie is only allowed to the twelve minutes long, and this cut was fourteen and a half.

Charles the First didn’t seem worried. He estimated five hours to have something good enough, and the rest of the time until this morning to make it continuously better. He knows far more about the biz than I do, but I’ve been the boss of enough optimistic software engineers to trust my instincts when they give me an estimate. What it boils down to is that when you have lots of little things to do, and each time estimate has an error of half an hour, when you estimate your safety factor you have to combine the estimated error range of each task. I was seeing a possible creep of several hours just to get the piece to a showable state.

I wasn’t worried about the length until later, when I realized that a whole sequence was missing from the version I watched.

They asked me for feedback, and I pointed out a couple of problem areas, but the sound was bad enough that I didn’t think about other issues until later. Over the course of the afternoon and evening I left a series of messages with fuego about lighting and timing of certain parts. I never heard back.

Part of me (most of me) says “Those guys are pros, anything I spot they can see also,” but they’re awfully close to it now. They may just be accustomed to the way certain things are, and not be able to see that the comedic timing is off.

It doesn’t matter anymore. The tape was due more than an hour ago. I have heard nothing from them, but they must be tired. While I slept last night they were down in the trenches. However it comes out it won’t be for lack of effort or lack of skill. Pablo is with them, and he’s damn good. Another editor down from Santa Fe Arthur the Dog-Face Boy, was putting the finishing touches on the title sequence last I heard. The work could not have been in better hands.

Still, skilled and dedicated workers or not, the second hands keeps sweeping around, minutes and hours tick past, and no amount of skill can stop them. They are sleeping now, I hope, with smiles on their faces, knowing they have done well. All I can do is wait.

2

Shooting – Day Three

Drove out to the set with Charles the First and a whole bunch of breakfast burritos in tow, to supplement the meager fare provided by the Shootout. I was immediately a very popular guy. Yes, you can buy friendship, if you use the correct currency. There was a good buzz on the set as we set up to finish the interior shots. I had my laptop with me of course, and on the computer was the rendition of “All for Me Grog” that was going to form the backbone of the music. On tap for today was to finish filming the interior, leaving us with helicopters and re-dos for our last day of shooting.

I hooked up the laptop to the boom box that served as the bar’s sound system, so we could play it before action started, allowing Kentucky Jack to get the time for dancing on the table. The shot was a long boom/dolly shot that followed the pitcher from a table back to the bar, showing all the pirates partying madly on the way. When the pitcher reaches the bar there is business with Ruthie, Moab, and Izzy. We rehearsed the shot a few times, and then went for it, me turning the musing on and off and then hiding behind the bar. Kentucky Jack would dance wildly for the duration of the shot, then do it again, and again. The dude was in shape, no doubt about it.

Finally it all worked perfectly. Everything moved together, the dialog between Moab and Ruthie was good, and all were happy. Except Giovanni. He stood up from the camera and said, “boom shadow”. Everyone groaned. fuego made a colorful comment in Czech. The microphone boom was casting a shadow on the far wall, obvious in the shot, ruining it. No one had told Louie how to wiggle the boom to see where its shadows were. I doubt he was even aware that it was part of his responsibility to check for shadows. Giovanni calmed himself, they figured out a new place for the boom, and kept trying.

I left before lunchtime – no sense in using up more of the precious food, although by now Rudolph was making runs to a nearby casino for trays of extra food. I needed to get back anyway, to sit with Pablo and go over the opening credit sequence. Progress on that front was slow; the treasure map wasn’t even done yet, and the other elements of the animation were not ever begun. So we sat, I went over how I would like things to move and how the story of the treasure was to be revealed along with the story of who had made the film. After that I called fuego, to see if there was anything I could take out to them on the set. “We wrapped early,” he said. “We have everything we need.”

I thought of things I wanted them to take another shot at – shots of pirates when they are allowed to raise their voices was at the top of my list, and it looked like after the helicopters in the morning we would have time to go back and try several of the things that we good but could be better. Giovanni was arranging to borrow a longer boom for the car pull-away shot, and we could go for better performances in a couple of key places as well. Word from the editing room was that audio levels were good, and we were all feeling the excitement of a production going smoothly.