Tuesday, December 20, 2005


My buddy called and said he was invited along with the screenwriting class he teaches to visit the set where they were filming his latest screenplay, “Trapped in Perfection.” I thought it sounded like fun. Then he added that the day he was invited was the day they were shooting the S&M rave scene. Okay, I’m intrigued. Need to think about this. Do I want to go all the way to Hollywood on one of my rare days off to see a film shoot? A half-second later (perhaps not quite that long), I said to count me in.

The day arrived and four of us—Cindy, Drew, my buddy and me—drive up to the location. It almost didn’t happen. The day of the shoot changed then a couple other problems arose but all came together at last and I’m riding shotgun with the driving directions. All is cool. Then we miss the first freeway interchange. I swear I was looking for it. So was my buddy who was driving. We swing the wide way around and get there. The drive was an adventure in itself.

The first illusion to vanish immediately is the glamour of Hollywood. We’re on Alameda in an old, old (did I say old?) part of Los Angeles. We see homeless guys wandering the street including one in a wheelchair with a Santa hat and beard. I’m wondering if I should be carrying something other than my comb and disposable camera. Definitely don’t want to be here after dark. I write about places like this but I don’t need any “real life” incidents to draw upon. My imagination is enough.

Anyway, after we cross the train tracks with one steel guard arm missing, we find the building. The studio is on the second floor. The first floor is a real “couples” club. We find out that members of the club have been offered extra roles in the rave scene. Oh, yeah, they have to bring their own wardrobe. Hmmm…

We enter the building and are directed upstairs. Head down a long hall. The extras are everywhere. And I see more leather than at dairy farm. We reach the set. More people. But this group is the production crew. They are putting up lights and checking the props on the set. The set is a club with a bar, disc jockey station, booths, dance floor, a raised stage with poles for dancers, and several twirling disco lights. There’s also a statue of a smiling mustached red devil, a tall wooden A-frame to handcuff people to who want to whipped (or is the right term “flogged”?), a bench for people to bend over who want to be spanked, and a glass enclosed room with a bright red leather sofa. (No clue about the room’s function. Perhaps if the club music is too loud and your tush is tired of being paddled you go there for a little conversation.) We try to stay out of the way. These people are working. The first guy I talk to, briefly, is the sound guy. He’s watching a football game on his tiny portable TV. He’s ready so he’s just killing time until they’re ready to shoot. He says the best investment he ever made was in that tiny TV. Nice guy. They were all nice people even we were in their way.

My buddy finds the director, Michel Katz (California Myth). We’re introduced. He is a very friendly and affable man. He says he’ll catch up with us soon. He does but right then he needs to check on the set and get ready for the scene walk-through. Later, he tells us which room to go into so we can watch his monitor while the scene is shot. Cool.

We look around. There’re a lot of people working. It appears to be controlled chaos but everyone knows their job and is accomplishing it. My buddy talks to several different people. The other three of us just try to stay out of the way. I try not to trip over any cables or knock any equipment over. I succeed with this endeavor thankfully.
Elise Muller (Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy) sees my buddy and comes over. She is the lead in the movie. I think this is her biggest role so far. She greets all of us. She is a very nice person, warm and genuine. Okay, yes, she’s also a beautiful woman. She talks with us then poses for a few pictures. Don’t know what got into me. To get me into the group shot, Elise has to pull me over beside her. I thought I’d gotten over my shyness back in high school. Guess not. Once a geek, always a geek I reckon. I hear her talking to my buddy about her character’s motivation in this scene then she has to go. She checks on us a couple times during the day. Like I said, a very nice person.
Brien Perry (Tiger Cruise and The Wedding Video) comes over to us. Brien is the villain in the movie. He is very friendly and very pumped up about his part in the film. He jokes and laughs and his demeanor is contagious. My guess is that Brien is the center of attention at every get-together and party he attends. He’s the kind of person who sends off good vibes and people just like being around him for that.

It’ll be interesting to see how they play their roles in the finished film. I start thinking that Elise would be a good choice for Dr. Nicole Fairchild and Brien for Major Stephen Light in the screenplay that my buddy and I co-wrote, The Nest. I mention my thought to him. He just looks at me. He’s had over a dozen screenplays filmed. The Nest is my first. But I realize instantly that our screenplay has only been optioned, the financing has not yet been arranged and, if it does happen, the producer won’t ask us writers for our opinions on casting. Still I think they would be terrific.

Later we’re standing on the dance floor. One of the Assistant Directors (I’m lousy at remembering titles so he may have had another position but he was one of the director’s team) is there. This very tall blonde in black leather appears and says she a fire-eater. She goes on to explain what she does and the AD takes off to inform Michel. My buddy asks how she got into that. If I remember correctly she just thought it’d be neat to learn. She adds that when she was visiting Thailand she saw some five and six year-old boys doing the trick and they taught her. Soon the AD returns and they take off to talk. I didn’t get the impression that this woman and her talent was a planned shot in the scene but she’s here and they’re definitely going to take advantage of the fact.

Still on the dance floor, my buddy leans against a high-top table and quickly yanks his arm back. He says it’s sticky. No one says anything for a moment then we’re all chuckling. I think we all had the same disgusting thought.

We move back to the equipment/snack area just as the extras file in. It’s the United Nations in black leather and chains. Someone from every race and nationality seems to be represented. We have short skirts, long skirts, tight pants, baggy pants, short shorts, vests, jackets (some zipped all the way up and some zipped down to pierced navel), skin-tight tee shirts and halters. All in black except one big guy who is wearing black make-up around his eyes. He has the black shirt but these baggy electric-bright purple pants. All the extras are given masks to wear.

My buddy asks if any of us wants to be an extra. Drew and I decline but Cindy’s up for it. One of the production assistants gives her a mask and takes her onto the set.

We look around while the extras are placed in their positions. Discover the Orgy Room that is decked out with mattresses and red sheets and red draperies. One of the set designers shows us a motel room he built. Looks very real. I swear I stayed in a room just like this one up near the Grand Canyon many years ago. It even had the same crappy bedspread.

Time to shoot the scene. We end up in a room with the director and his team. The fire-eater is there, too. The actors walk through the scene with the camera. Michel makes changes. Wants an extra in this spot or that. Drapes need to be added to one area. Discusses the best spot for the fire-eater. Decides that one of the pole dancers should be topless. Concludes that the woman flogging the guy on the A-frame won’t be a distraction. An assistant arranges it all. Elise comes into the room. She has a question about the line of dialogue she has at the end of the scene that she says to Brien. They start to discuss it. My buddy—his mind shifting into rewrite mode—speaks up. "Don’t say anything. Just look at him then walk away." They all agree that is much better and that’s what they’ll do. Everything is set. Smoke machines turned on. Camera rolls. They shoot the scene. Then Michel decides to do it once more. They do. Michel says “print.” One of the assistants yells “Lunch.”

All that work for a scene that will last probably one minute in the completed film.

We grab a quick bite with the crew. The room we eat in is a set. One corner is a law office and another is a radio station booth. The other half is a doctor’s office.

It’s decided that it’s time to leave. Long drive home. We thank Michel and everyone we met. We head out. Past two dozen more extras who have just arrived. I wonder if Michel will re-shoot the scene with more people in the background or use what he has. I understand they are a day or two behind shooting and Thursday is their final scheduled day. Don’t know.

It was a fun and interesting day. I hope the film turns out well for all those involved. Like I said, they were nice people and the film looks like it will be an intriguing erotic thriller.
I hope the next set I visit will be for the screenplay that my buddy and I co-wrote. No S&M raves in that story. Just a ten-story science research facility. Maybe I need to expand my scene locations. Hmmm…

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