Independent Film Production
November 4, 2000 - Geoff with his Newton redbox

Pounded out two easy scenes today. They take place just before the Shelly the mechanic scene, where Johnny decides he needs to call before they go over to her house (and learn that she is working.) It's starting to get colder, and we are now desperate to shoot the remaining outdoor scenes before it's too miserable to film. It already snowed a couple of days ago, so we're highly motivated to finish the outdoor stuff pronto.

I suppose what made today fun was the fact that we didn't know where our second location would be. We needed to find a pa yphone which would be out of the way enough where we wouldn't have to deal with too many people. (In the indie biz, it's called "stealing a shot". We weren't going to bother with getting permission, just show up and do it and hope nobody objects.) Our schedule was this: show up at the office around 11 am. Rehearse the two scenes for an hour (Johnny and Geoff hadn't even looked at this section of the script yet), set-up and shoot for an hour, load the car up and find a pay phone at a suitable location, shoot for an hour and be done before it gets too dark. (Which was now around 4:30 pm) The entire crew was: Me, Dan Bridges (doing sound), Johnny and Geoff.

By 2:30 the cast and crew were loaded into two cars, driving down Route 16 in Watertown, Massachusetts, looking for a location to film in. We spotted a pay phone in the corner of the Arsenal Mall's parking lot and went for it. I thought the fact that the Mall security might arrive at any moment and decide to throw us out of there actually helped Johnny and Geoff's performances. Their energy was much more "jumpy" than in our own parking lot, so I would highly recommend this method of filmmaking to anyone who wants a little more 'edge' to their actors performances. With a crew this small, you could film just about anywhere and get away with it. If you look at the photo on this page, other than the conspicuous boom that Dan was holding, it looks like we're four guys just milling around a pay phone. Behind us was a parking lot with easily 200 cars and a nice roaming crowd of people, not one person bothered us.

What is a 'red box'?

A red box was originally a device that could mimic the tones that a pay phone would make when you inserted some money. A certain quick tone at a certain frequence would signify five cents. A series of five tones would mean a quarter has been inserted. Radio Shack used to sell a key pad tone dialer that you would use to play push button tones on a regular rotatory phone. By changing a crystal inside this device (so it would play them at a higher frequency), you could mimic the tones of a pay phone! Someone realized that you could program an Apple Newton to recreate these tones without a Radio Shack dialer. Apparently this was one of the most popular pieces of software you could download for the Newton before the product was discontinued by Apple. I'm pretty sure the phone company has wised up to this, and has now prevented you from playing any tones into a pay phone. I guess it was fun while it lasted. ;-)

I gave Geoff's character the obsolete Apple Newton for two reasons: first, I could use as a source of a joke that Jimmy, the gimpy kid, could use against Geoff at the end of his scene. (Thus, making a nice edit point.) And second, I could illustrate how techno-savy Geoff's character is by having him use this device as a red box. (Sorta a steal from the film 'War Games' where Mattheuw Broderick manages to hot wire a pay phone.)


November 5, 2000 - Tess the cow

Today we shot the fantasy sequence where Johns mentions during Amandas party (with Kim Lannon) that "one dead cow would supply a TON of food for a keg party." This occurred to me when I was actually chatting online with someone (from Texas) that they indeed sell old, mangy cows for around hundred bucks. I figured, "a hundred bucks? That's all? A piece of steak costs $10. There's alot more than 10 steaks in a whole COW."

First, we had to find a cow. (I assumed that the field to film it in would come along with it.) Second, we had to figure out a way to EXPLAIN what we wanted to do to this cow to the person who owned the cow. Old-coot farmer: "Internet? alt dot SEX?? And what do you want to do to my cow?"

Well, here's a piece of indie fimmaking advice:
"you think of this shit..you gotta film it."

A year and a half ago when I wrote this scene, I thought, "this'll be cute, I'll have everyone PRETEND to kill a cow out in a field with these huge knifes." Man, it LOOKED easy enough in my head. :-P

Dan and I had scouted out some farms with cows near my home and surprisingly, everyone seemed receptive to us filming there. (We didn't go into much detail.) Dan eventually contacted the Doug Stephens farm in Framingham, Massachusetts, and the owner Doug basically told Dan that we could do it, but under our own risk. (Do insurance policies for movies cover cow attacks? Didn't bother me, since we didn't have any insurance.) I managed to get everyone together except John Horrigan. (Since he didn't have any lines from this sequence, I figured we could get away with not having him.)

I've never had the chance to hang around cows, so this was my first up-close personal experience with a cow. (And basically the same for everybody else on our crew.) The farmer woman who worked there found us a nice, placid animal from the herd that was watching us from behind an electrified fence. (Farmer woman to cows as she enters the gate: "who here wants to be a movie star? Tess? How about you?") We pile all of our equipment out in an adjacent field while Johnny fed Tess with some cow treats. (To get her to "cozy on up to the person who will be leading her.") The minute we laid all of our equipment down, three to four cows snuck under the gate and approached us, sniffing and drooling all over the C-stands and equipment cases. It's amazing how curious these animals actually are!

I always thought that cows were just large blocks of living meat, waiting to be sliced up when the time came. Johnny noticed that each cow had a personality, and they appeared to be very affectionate. You tend not to think of these things when you are in the supermarket, looking at the nicely wrapped chunks of material on a styrofoam plate. This doesn't really get hammered home until you've actually hung out with a bunch of cows yourself. (Insert sexist male joke here.)

Luckily, we finished up just before the rain really started to come down. As we were leaving, I tried to explain to the farmer women who worked there on WHY we had a keg, a large bag of charcoal and a bunch of knives out in a field with Tess. They laughed when I explained that the concept was "a cow would supply a ton of food for a keg party." I thought all farmers are right-wing animal rights activists. Johnny thought that since they deal with cows and farm yard animals (and most likely have them killed on a regular basis), that the death of one of them isn't such a big deal, that they know their fate from the start. I'm just waiting when we can genetically engineer a large chunk of cow with just a set of internal organs with no head or nervous system. That way you could "kill" it when your good and ready and not feel guilty. Problem is, a living cow bio-mass would make a lousy pet.

Hey, what's this?

Hacking away at "cow"

Johnny & Tess

Phil & Johnny ready

Phil gives up rubberass

Cows, camera & Geoff


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