Now that I’m home, I find myself slightly out of sorts. Three months in Louisiana, a week at home then Australia for two weeks of research. I’ve been home for a two weeks but still feel mostly upside down. I know, woe is me. Nic Cage movie, world travel, please don’t flood me with your salty tears.
Lussier and Danton. That’s Glenn in the BG but we’ll come back to him. This snap was taken by Nathan Amondson back during the Tech Scout before we rolled the first camera. Director and 1st Assistant Director. Steve Danton is an excellent Assistant Director. Organized and on the ball. He moves the crew like a well oiled machine. The man worked on Lonesome Dove for crying out loud! “Crying out loud.” That’s an old southern saying. Not sure where that came from. Let’s pretend I didn’t say it and move on.
So. Here’s the catch. It didn’t start out smooth sailing. Danton is a powerhouse of an AD. I asked around. There are basically two schools of thought in the world of Assistant Directors. There’s the school that feels the 1st AD there to “assist” the director. Lunacy I know. The job description isn’t exactly hidden within the job title. Then there’s the school that believes the Assistant Director is there to keep the director in line.
Danton is of the later school.
This is actually a great thing. If your director is an idiot.
Patrick Lussier is no idiot.
It’s great if your director is scatterbrained, a drug user, egotistical, all art and no substance, a drunk, a conman. I could go on. And believe me, all of the above exist and most of them make far more money than you or I. They keep working too. Despite their assorted obstacles. And that is because of ADs like Steve Danton. The Dantons of the world come in and keep the peace.
But we had a competent director. Smart. Accountable. Likable. Our director needed an assistant, not a dictator, so, needless to say the early road was a little rocky. I’m not here to sugar coat the journey. But here’s the thing to remember, a lesser collection of strong personalities could have…and most likely would have…bled out. And as a result would have failed to producer a great movie. But our team adapted, improvised and in the end…overcame.
So, let’s talk jackets. I should have mentioned this in April but April was already pretty unwieldy. In April the 300 crew jackets Patrick and I ordered arrived. I started folding. Remember, Patrick had traded in his assistant for…I forget…a better lighting package or some production advancement. So when it came to jacket folding and distribution…enter the writer.
When it was all said and done I knew every crew member by first name and jacket size. And…we needed to order another 50 jackets in order to cover the really big teamsters as well as the post guys. Composer and team, editing, sound and a few politicals as well.
So with two weeks to go…it certainly looked like we might win although the shoot was stacked easy to hard. The roughest work was coming. Two weeks of straight nights…although much of that was on stage. See, there’s no reason to shoot stage work at night but we didn’t have the extra days to properly turn us around. So nights it was.
Most weekends I would join team editorial for breakfast. But work never ended. Every moment we discussed the film. What we could do differently to overcome what we didn’t have and utilize the small resources that we did. There was hardly ever a moment to just chill out.
Patrick and I were also preparing pitches on other gigs by night. There was apparently some Drive Angry buzz back home so we were receiving some scripts. Most were dismal. I hate kicking my brother writers in the balls so I’ll blame the development process but we were sent some of the worst scripts ever written. Some great ideas dismally executed. So we worked up some fixes and pitched.
Mel and Nana kept me knee deep in Izzie pics and it helped keep me going.
One thing that both annoyed and fascinated us was that we didn’t have the time nor money to cheat. We couldn’t throw big money at the screen to cover up or distract the audience from our challenges. We had no choice but to THINK our way out of problems. It’s funny but all movies should start with a story. What saved us at every turn was focusing on story. Relying on story telling always bailed us out of any problem where the cats with big money and lots of time rely on big explosions and massive CGI fixes.
In case there’s any confusion, yes. I am bragging. :)
See them boots? Them is Frank’s boots. And now, my boots. I played Frank. Frank wore them in the movie. I wear them now. Our Costume Designer, Mary McLeod found them. She dressed us all. Kept us all warm. Along with Andree (who was also essential to our crew jackets conquest). This wasn’t your normal group of clothiers. Tough as nails these gals.
I don’t understand the hierarchy of world costumes but it seemed as though Susan and Sarah ran the truck. Dena was Nic’s personal costumer. Bunny and Frank (great gals both) kept us clothed on set. And toward the end, Bunny’s man, Paul dropped in to help when Frank shot down to New Orleans on another gig. Paul also gifted me with the jar of Tennessee moonshine above. They really should pack that stuff in the barrels them St. Bernard’s carry. Stuff heats you from mouth to crotch in less than 5.4 seconds.
When I saw them standing there, I announced, “Three of my favorite fuckers all standing together.” And I meant it too. Left: Randy Kinyon, Transportation Coordinator. If it had an engine or wheels then Randy was your guy. Here’s an example. Nic was not completely thrilled with one of our cars. Didn’t like the look. Came back to us with a photo of the look he was attracted to. It was LATE in the game to make a switch. But. We showed Randy the pic. He said without the slightest hesitation. “I know where that car is. Five minutes from here” Said car is now in the movie. And as a side note, Randy’s wife had a screenplay optioned during the shoot. Not easy to do in today’s world.
Middle: Captain Dan Sumner. Dan ran basecamp. Got trucks and trailers from point A to point B. Got Actors from Hotels to set and back again. Dan became a fundamental part of Patrick’s ritual. Patrick could not leave at the end of the day without finding and talking with Dan. Dan was Patrick’s shutoff switch. There was a calm about Dan, a peace. Only need to chat with him for 5 minutes to feel it. Like a walking Fountain of Youth. The Holy Grail with feet. Of course, not all would notice this. Not all could. You’d actually have to have a heart in your chest to notice. We had some that didn’t have one of those.
Finally Erik Vonhoff ran Bandit Rentals in Simi Valley. Erik provided the 69 Charger(s) which as it turned out, my character Frank owned in the movie. Erik and I did a few video’s together to discuss the cars. They should hit the net at some point.
Now, here’s a little unknown fact. When you buy your crew 350 jackets, Karma repays you in ten T-shirts. Seems just about every department made shirts. The Teamsters, Grips, Gaffers, PAs, Transport, Bandit Rentals, Production Design, Craft Services and the list goes in. Even the studio ended up ordering T-shirts and caps. One side of my closet is filled with Drive Angry swag.
Assistant Props Master, Wade Easley has a private conversation with Issac Amondson (Nathan’s brother), Set Dresser. Those standing near, reported the following conversation.
Wade: “Hrmph. Would you look at that.”
Isaac: “What’s wrong with it?”
Wade: “Dunno. Sometimes it just does that.”
Wade’s job was to manage the props on the truck and later he ran props for second unit. Isaac was the on set dresser. It was his job to make sure props didn’t move around. If the Gun was on the table when the scene started then it was up to Isaac to make sure it stayed there til the end. Guns, Canolis, clothes, beer, you name it.
The above conversation took place on the day we unveiled the Morgan. Only one in the US of A. Shipped to us from LA. Randy behind the wheel. I can’t tell you this story. The story of the Morgan’s journey throughout our little movie. But a good story it is. Remind me to tell you later. After the movie comes out.
What I can tell you is that the scene in which the Morgan appeared…changed. In fact, a week before shooting we did not have the scene written. But that part was easy. It’s what we do. Crunch time. Solve problems. Adapt, improvise, overcome.
But then the kind folks who allowed us to use the Morgan had to approve the new scene since it’s not what we originally presented to them. That took a little time.
Next, we had to find where to shoot it. Because we had no location. This sent team locations into a scramble…and as always…they triumphed perfectly. Although…once we had started shooting, as you can see, Sherrill from Locations…had earned a break.
The wrap party was like the moon. In constant rotation around production. At first we heard the company did not do wrap parties. There were a few rumors floating around as to why. 1. Didn’t want to spend the money. 2. Last wrap they had, folks got so drunk there were big problems, arrests and so forth. 3. Another story told was that they had a wrap party a week early and as a result the crew phoned in their last week. I’ve no clue what the real story is but by the end, the suits and masters were mostly pleased so I was hearing there would be a wrap party. First I heard it would be a week early. Then I heard it would be a few days after wrap. In the end. It was a few days after wrap. When it happened the bulk of us were already gone.
But Nathan created one heck of a flyer.
So, as we drew to near the end we were only missing a couple of elements. One, we’d had some 2nd Unit mishaps. There was one big car chase that would be in question as a result. But, Patrick did what he does. He made sure we had what he needed to have.
We were also missing a close up on Frank. Yeah. Me. Seems the A camera slid in front of the B camera during my close up. Bill Fichtner could not have been more happy as the A camera, of course, was on him. This meant I would have to done the clothes and I would have to step back into the role. Bill came with me. Bill was off screen. You’d never see him. You’d never even hear him. Jay had already recorded Bill’s side. No. This was all about me. And yet. Bill was there. Standing just a couple of feet away. Acting. Again, he didn’t have to be thee. Many actors would not be there unless they were going to be seen or heard. But the moment he heard about it, there was never even a question. He was there. At my side.
My god, I love that man.
The last night was an emotional one. I didn’t take pics. Didn’t want to. It was the only day we went into overtime. Two hours I think. When Danton called wrap, Patrick thanked the crew. His voice cracking. I found it hard to speak to those crew members I knew had bled for us.
In fact, this is Sam. Sam’s a PA. Production Assistant. She rents a room from my buddy and screenwriter, Dave Rosiak. Sam could work most people I know into the ground. PAs never stop. Never slow down. Both their bodies and minds are constantly turned on. Constantly on the move. Constantly on alert. They eat standing up.
Three or so weeks from wrap I noticed Sam limping. It hurt but she didn’t want to take time to go to the doctor. By the way, we didn’t have enough PAs to do the job. Any surprise? So they were all doubling and tripling up. Watching each other’s backs. Sometimes you’d see Sam limping to and from set and you could see the pain on her face. Sam refused to leave her team hanging. She was making crap money in a thankless job. Suits didn’t even know she existed. None of them. PA Patrick, Matt, James. They were invisible. Still they worked. Because they love their the movies. The love making movies. They loved our movie. And I guess you could say they loved us.
But that last night was tough. Tough to say goodbye knowing all the sacrifices that had been made. Made for the movie. Made for us. This cast. This crew. Simply amazing. Even the suits. Even the gatekeepers. I understood why they did what they did. I understood how doing what they did allowed us to make even the tight budgeted stuff we did. Well all except one gatekeeper. Who I have never mentioned. Likely never will. Other than to say I hope he gets hit by a car.
But except for that one gatekeeper, everyone else, even those with whom I may have differing theatrical ideologies, were all striving to make a great film.
And now I’ve seen it. several early cuts anyway. It’s far from done but the movie is there and it’s the best thing we’ve ever made. By leaps and bounds.
Home to see Izzie. Amazing how much she had grown. Her vocabulary was so much bigger. She was telling stories, answering questions, asking questions, communicating.
I’d missed so much.
I guess that may have been the hardest part.
Once she was tucked safely in bed and asleep. I walked to the office.
Figure there’s no better time than the present. Mel and I have been separated since August. Not sure that much is different. Still see her throughout the day. The two of us still break breakfast bread with Izzie every morning. Still laugh and cut up. Moving into a house right up the street. It’s going to be just fine.
So, back to the finale…we wrapped the morning of the 16th. I was home the afternoon of the 16th.
It was soooo good to be home if only for a week. And by the way, Izzie loves people. If there was any doubt, this should clear it up.
But sadly, I could not stay. I’d agreed to go to Australia to do research for a project Patrick and I were considering. Two weeks. Guess I’m nuts.
I flew to LA and hung out with Patrick in Editing, watched what he, Devin and Martin had put together over the last week.
I brought one of Izzie’s toys with me. Muno. He’s from Yo Gabba Gabba. I know. You’d really have to have kids to understand that one. Anyway, I was gonna do that thing where you travel somewhere new and take pictures of an item at every stop. Yeah. That didn’t last long.
Brian stopped by for lunch. We ate spicy Indian food. Told old war stories about running in the trenches.
It was a little surreal.
Hard to explain. I had not decompressed yet. And there I was about to fly 14 hours forward in time to Australia’s tomorrow. They are a day ahead you see.
I said my goodbyes then Jeremy was kind enough to drive me to meet BenDavid Grabinski.
I don’t really know who BenDavid is. Fellow writer. Knows everybody. Far more than I. Seemed all these people I knew, knew him. F.J. DaSanto, Kyle Newman, Mark Wheaton, Craig Perry. BenDavid had sent some very kind FB messages back during the MBV3D days. Messages of support. Had also been amazingly supportive of Drive Angry. For instance we’d announce attaching David Morse and BenDavid would make an enthusiatic comment. Nothing major but sometimes it really is the little stuff when you really need it that counts.
So, it was time to meet in person.
Turns out, the reason he knows so many people is that he is a genuinely nice guy. Passionate about movies.
But his fiance, Amanda, is way cooler.
So by midnight I was on a flight to Australia. More on that in June.
Wait a minute…have we caught up? No. I’d have to get June out before July’s end.
I’m currently moving into a house up the street from Mel. Next week I’ll be in LA for a premiere, meetings and diner with Fichtner. The following week is Comicon…nah…I I’m not so sure we’re gonna catch up. :)
In closing, thank you so much for the kind emails, FB messages and comments concerning last month and my young padawan, Izzie. You have all warmed my heart. Thank you.