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Eclair ACL 16mm Movie Camera

April 29, 1999 - Bought ACL camera on the New York turnpike.

I needed to own a camera for this project. (I'll explain in a moment.) I just bought a used ƒclair Super 16mm rig from a guy who had it up for auction on E-bay for $4800. Super 16mm is a slightly wider film format that converts to 35mm better than "regular" 16mm. It also fits within the frame of high definition TV better than "regular" 16mm.

The guy who was selling it lived near Buffalo, New York. I was going to a wedding in Rochester, New York. We decided to meet on the New York Turnpike at a tollbooth near where he lives. I'd been standing there conspicuously for about 30 minutes. I've got a wad of cash on me totaling $4800. After waiting a while, the guy pulls into this rest area near this busy tollbooth and opens his trunk. Just then a cop pulls into this area and wants to know what the hell is going on. Thankfully, most of the wedding party was with me and they explained everything. "No officer, we're not selling's FILM EQUIPMENT."

Like I said, I want to be able to look at this project on that porch 30 years from now on my high definition TV (which we will all have) and go, "Doesn't this look neat? Look how YOUNG we look!" I could've shot this project on video. I have all the necessary equipment to do that right now. Thing is, you can't SELL a video project as easily to whomever. There's still a sort of snobbery to film vs. video. Film is ART; video is commerce. I hafta agree...if you intend to SELL your artwork, you've got to use oil paints. You COULD use crayons...but who's gonna buy it? I just gotta go for it. What's a little cash? (Note: that $4800 cleaned out my savings AND I had to borrow $800 from John MacLeod to get the stupid camera. It took me the better part of a year to save up for it. At the same time I didn't take any vacations, buy new clothes or a new car. I'm still driving my 1987 Mitsubishi pickup truck.)

Everyone says, "RENT your camera...rental fees are a tax write-off! You shouldn't OWN the camera." I don't get it. Here's the math: I've figured out that I have about 21 shooting days to pull this off. To rent a basic 16mm rig is about $200 per day. Multiply that by my 21 shooting days = $4200! A super-16 rig costs even more to rent. (A LOT more!) I could've bought a basic ƒclair NPR or ACL 16mm rig for about $2000 on E-bay if I chose to...but, I went for the better rig and I'm STILL saving money.

But wait, there's more: I own my own rig. The next movie I shoot WILL COST NOTHING IN CAMERA RENTALS. Even better, I no longer have to cram all the scenes I need on fewer shooting days. If I want an extra day, I can shoot it and not worry where the money will come from. (And George Lucas was bragging about this when he shot "Phantom Menace" with his own equipment.)

May 27, 1999 - Spinning wheel...(got to go 'round)

Indie filmShortly after I came back from my friend's wedding in Rochester, NY, I noticed one morning that I had a slight spinning sensation in my head. As I was lying there looking up at the ceiling, I noticed a horizontal "shifting" of my vision, it LOOKED like a mild case of dizziness, but I didn't FEEL nauseous. Went about my day, woke up the next morning and it seemed to get a little worse. Couple of days later I had SEVERE strobing and spinning of my vision.

What the fuck.

It was a very strange experience. I could focus on one thing if I stared at it, but if I moved my head and tried to re-focus on something else, I would get the "swirlies," lots of disorientation as if I had spun around 25 times real fast then quickly stopped. Went the emergency room after about 3 days of this and explained it to a doctor. He figures I'm suffering from vertigo. He saw some wax build up in my ear, shot it out with some water, gave me some pills and said, "There, You should be fine in about a day." No such luck. Went to an optometrist, figuring maybe my glasses prescription was no longer holding my eyes together. He scratched HIS head, sent me to a specialist, she scratched HER head then sent me to a neurologist.(Then sent me a referral bill for $500.)

At this point the "swirlies" were so bad I couldn't drive my car. Just looking over my shoulder was a very strange and disorientating experience. Now picture this: The neurologist I went to see was a complete mess physically. This guy was probably 5 foot 2 and ROUND. I don't think the guy ever jogged in his life. He literally waddled when he asked me to follow him into his office. He gives the standard tests. Pokes my legs, asks me to follow points of lights, makes me do coordination tests. I respond perfectly, other than my eyes having trouble focusing to my extreme left of right. He then states, "Either it's a brain stem virus which is doing a number on your optic nerves and will eventually disappear, or you have multiple sclerosis."


Here's this guy who probably hasn't even THOUGHT about taking care of himself ever, telling this athletic guy who's been weight lifting and doing karate training for his whole life, that MY life MAY be totally fucked up from this point on, yet HE was probably fine, and would probably eat another bag of potato chips when I leave. Nothing like getting a "bitch slap of life" done to the side of your head to make you think about things. You probably won't believe me, but I was almost giggling during the drive home. It was too surreal. In the MOVIES, the cute nurse or handsome doctor tells you this information with a good dose of drama (and a good musical cue playing underneath). I got a squat, fat troll telling me in a monotone that I'm most likely screwed. Hell, if a cute nurse in a short dress told me this, I would've thought to myself (in typical guy fashion), "Damn, that was some pretty awful news...but she did have some nice legs!"

Indie filmSo I get an MRI done. This will tell me if I DO have multiple sclerosis, or nothing at all. As I'm about ready to be pushed into this giant machine and have my head examined, they hand me this list of songs that I could listen to while the process is going on, because "You'll hear a lot of banging and it sometimes upsets people." They show me a list of such performers as Garth Brooks, Billy Joel and Barry Manilow. I said I'd prefer to listen to the banging. Amazing, that machine must've cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they had the worst piece-of-shit Radio Shack headphones for you to wear.

I asked when would I know if my life is completely ruined. "Couple of days," they said. Great. I've got to walk around like I'm on death row for the next week, thinking to myself, "Fuck...this could be IT." They leave a message on my machine later that week, "Oh, it was negative...CLICK." They wouldn't even take the time to call me with a cheery voice and say "SURPRISE! You're absolutely WONDERFUL!" Those bastards. Christ...I could've use this as a happy ending to a movie somewhere. Instead, I've got to witness real life, complete and utterly impersonal.

I update my prescription to for my glasses. All symptoms disappear in three days, gone. I mention this to the neurologist. He says that he's sure that my glasses had nothing to do with this, it was probably a brain stem virus. Brother. So the moral of this story? Don't ever wish that you had some sort of outside motivation (like a terminal illness, or a death of a friend) to cause you to change your outlook on life and DO something about it. (Because you MAY get what you wish for!) I'm sort've ashamed that it took me this long to get my ass in gear and do this movie. I always said to myself, "Eh... I don't HAVE to do anything now, I've got a whole life time ahead of me to do what I want to do." Well can only ASSUME that you've got a whole lifetime of health and energy ahead of you. As I've been nearing 40, I used to think, "Hmmmm...40; I'll probably live to be about 80, thus, my life is about half over but I've got 40 more years ahead of me (to do what I want to do)." Now I can't count of those 40 years.

July 5, 1999 - Version 3.0 of script finished.

OK, new plan of attack. Been thinking of how much work this project is going to be. I normally can juggle a lot by myself, but I'm now convinced that I won't be able to do a GOOD job at directing, lighting, sound AND acting. I don't have a video tap for my camera, so if someone else DID shoot this, I'd have no idea on what was the framing or even HOW I looked on camera. John McLeod agreed to step into the lead role. If you've ever seen us together, you'd noticed that we have similar cadences to our voices and the same outlook on many things. (Perhaps from hanging around with each other for over 20 years?)

I found a screen writing book which pointed out something interesting. (Forgot which one it was). Most "good" movies have complimentary characters. You can basically pair off most of the lead roles and you'd have a "foil" character for each, or someone who can "knock heads" with. (Thus, infusing more drama in a storyline by generating tension just between characters by who they are and how they deal with each other.)

This book pointed out Star Wars as a good example. Obi-Wan Kenobi has to deal with Darth Vader. Han Solo "knocks heads" with Princess Leia most of the time, C3PO is always arguing with R2-D2, and Luke Skywalker struggles to get Han Solo to help him, and then eventually HE takes the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the next Stars Wars movie. You put these opposing characters together, and you have conflict without even including the plot!

Decided that Dan, the boss, didn't really have anyone there to annoy HIM. Since the Jim character wasn't really doing anything, why not make the Jim character an opposing character to Dan? Since employees can't really argue with their boss, they must do it in a sneaky sort of way. A couple of months ago, I was in Boston on a production meeting with a person who had a company on Newbury street. This guy was of Indian (the sub- continent) descent, but did not have a trace of a foreign accent. Later in the meeting, as a joke, he broke into an over-blown Indian accent which cracked us all up. As I left, I mention to him, "Ya know, you do an Indian guy REAL WELL!" (Let alone looking EXACTLY like an Indian guy! Which he was!) So I put the two together. Have Jim be a person of foreign descent, not have any trace of the typical accent, but have this person pretend to play dumb, just to make Dan's life more miserable.

Changed Jim's name to Tariq and am now hoping to find an Indian or black actor. Also felt that someone should've taken revenge on Rob's behavior with the "up the skirt" cam incident. I always liked the image of a fake bomb being planted somewhere, and having a character being forced into dealing with its disposal and being VERY apprehensive about the whole process. Added this type of sequence for Rob’s character. (He also didn't have any sequences that were just about HIM.)

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