A Diary Of A Feature Film
By Peter Wooley
Update: Click here and be one of the first to watch the trailer of Peter Wooley's film, HYBRIDS, then scroll down for Peter's final diary entry.
Peter Wooley, production designer and author, is sharing his diary about his adventures as a first time producer on Hybrids starring Paul Sorvino and Caroline Hennessy. The film was written by Tony Schweikle, directed by Tony Randal and produced by Tony Schweikle and Peter Wooley.
Peter is the author of the wonderfully, funny book "What! And Give Up Show Business: A View From the Hollywood Trenches" is available on Amazon here. Read his delightful stories about working with such greats as Mel Brooks, Chevy Chase, Dom Deluise.
"Hybrids?...What the hell are you talking about, Tony? We both drive a Prius. What else do you need to know? The world does not care to know how, what, when, where, or why a car got built in script form, yet. Tony, take a rest. Go home to Italy, and look out on that Terranian Sea and write something about two old men wanting to make a movie. Now that’s something we know something about.”
Tony Schweikle, my partner in crime was telling me about this half-assed idea he had for a script. “Listen, Dummy, this is a good and current idea, and I’m gonna’ damn well write it. Play this on your piano: Brother and sister-late teens, early twenties-their father is a vampire and their mother is a witch. They live in this old, cold castle up inna’ mountains. They are home schooled and rarely get an opportunity to mingle with the masses, and they have the abilities of both a true witch and a true vampire.”
Now, if you looked at Tony Schweikle, you wouldn’t think ‘He looks like a smart dude.’ Sorry, but at our age, that’s just not the way it is. We are both wiggling up against “old.” We are both working on our weight and a number of other physical misfortunes. We have both been through the mill.
Now Tony is prone to good ideas. I, on the other hand, am prone to bad jokes and warm hearts. He has about a half dozen scripts in various stages of undress ready for the taking. I just finished my second book, first novel, You Only Go ‘Round Once available on Amazon.
Long story short:
Tony wrote the script, and Tony wrote the script, and Tony wrote the script. And, Tony being Tony, anyone who wanted to add something could feel free to attempt to add to it. Editorial rights reserved. Those were not really a painful two years, we were both doing other things, but focusing on Hybrids. Between the two of us we’ve had about 75 years in “show business.” We met in show business. We talk in show business. Since Tony lives in Italy half the time, we do show business in two different languages.
Anyway, we just finished principal photography in South Florida on the soon-to-be-hit called Hybrids. It was one hell of a ride for two guys with all this show business experience to become “PRODUCERS.” “Piece ‘a cake! I been pushin‘ producers around for years. What’s to know?”
Tony and I are still attending school it seems, on “producer 101.” It’s complicated. ( ) the word between those thingies is that word we all say. A lot.
“Tony, Darlin’ you better give all this some serious thought. Maybe you should return to Spaghetti-land, look out again at the Terranian Sea, and have serious thoughts, not to mention serious dialogue with thy self.” Tony Schweikle, my partner in crime just laid a big one on me.
“We all agree that the script is good,” Tony announced, “Not quite finished yet, but good enough to start thinking about making it.” He just returned from Sapri, Italy, his new home town. Now Tony and Phyllis, his wife, live about four months of the year in Ave Maria, Florida; the rest of the time in Sapri, Italy. Yes, Ave Maria. It’s a town-city that sprang up overnight in the Everglades about twenty miles from Naples, Florida. Weird thing is Sapri, Italy is not too much further away from Naples, Italy. Confusing, but if you visit both places your confusion will end.
Phyllis’ family (an old Florida family who have been prominent in the area for generations) built Ave Maria, along with the Ave Maria University for the founder, Tom Monahan of pizza fame. The centerpiece of the town is a very Germanic Gothic church shaped like the pope’s hat, and you can’t buy contraceptives at the local Publix Market. However they had a considerable amount of unused office and empty space for sets and production requirements. For a song. Big chunk of the budget saved. We’re brilliant.
“Yea, Tony, the script is sweet and it works, but it doesn’t work...yet. ‘Coupla characters need better defined. Shit, I don’t know. I write books, remember? All of that can be taken care of, anyway. Using only our wit and...wisdom.”
“Okay, Pal, whatsit you need to know? You need to know where we gettin’ the dough?” Tony smiled and hesitated. We stared at each other for a moment. Both thinking the same thing....
What sort of magic does it take for two old fools to fall in love? Between us lies about 75 years of film making in the big leagues. Tony with the likes of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade among a large number of other major projects with all the major studios doing various duties, and me with too many films and television films as a production designer to count. From my first day on the lot at Warner Bros. in 1963, I think, until...now, it’s been one hell of a ride.
Tony and I met on an HBO movie, a western-called The Tracker in the fall of 1987, starring Kris Kristofferson, Scott Wilson, Mark Moses, and David Huddleston. Tony was working for the Colorado Film Commission and I was the production designer. We spent a lot of time together scouting and setting locations. We connected, our wives became friends; tried to build a permanent western town in the shadow of Mesa Verde National Park in the Southwest corner of Colorado. Locals had us for lunch. We kept in touch, as they say.
Tony was really getting into writing, and the stuff he was writing was chock full of thoughtful, funny, and meaningful plot twists and giggles. I was writing my first novel, and we exchanged chapters and scenes. Gave suggestions to each other: “Why is she sittin’ during that whole scene?” “You use that phrase too much.” “We don’t meet him/her soon enough.” That sort of thing. Always talking about where and how we would make this one or that one.
On our fiftieth wedding anniversary, Linda and I went to Italy for a month. Flew into Rome for a week, then Tony and Phylis drove up from Sapri and took us south for a week. The little villa with the many gardens overlooking the Terranian Sea awaited us. On the drive down, clinging to the mountain on the Almafi Coast, I asked Tony what those tower-like ruins were lining the coast.
“Donno’ for sure. Some sort of watch towers. They date back to before Christ, I understand. No two are alike. Some have been restored into restaurants, B&B’s, that sorta’ thing.” Tony mused, “I would like to do a coffee tables book on ‘em. They are all over the Mediterranean.”
“Sounds more like a documentary to me,” I said as I looked straight down at the Terranian’s surf crash two hundred feet below our strip of blacktop. . .
Crash, boom, bang, wooden swords, authentic costumes and two years later we finished the documentary “Barbarossa and the Towers of Italy.” Tony wrote and directed it. Rode the film festival circuit for awhile and racked up a few awards. We turned around and looked at each other and smiled, and said, “What next, Pard?”
Seems we’re still turning around and smiling at each other. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Tony asked holding on to the smile.
“No, Shithead, I want to know where we get the dough, and I’m not sure I heard what you just said.”
Tony smiled, “Me, or is it I? Anyway, shithead, I figure we can do it for $500,000.00 using all our wit and wisdom. I am gonna’ finance it myself.”
“You know what they say about lawyers representing themselves? Same goes for financing your own movie. Tony, we’re just a little long inna’ tooth for this sorta’ thing...”
“But if we don’t, we’ll never know, will we?” Tony was grinning and I was thinking about a director... That word: ( ) goes in here.
Now this part is the weirdest thing that ever happened to me. Maybe the hardest bit of information I have ever tried to write. Honest stuff now. Tony lost track of his senses, and began talking to cameramen, editors, and hired a production designer. (Now the production designer, Chip Radaelli, really was a given. Chip, Tony and I met, and worked together on “Tracker.” He was the construction coordinator. In my mind, Chip came with the deal.) But historically the director has the say as to whether these three people,along with the heads of other departments like wardrobe, hair and make-up, are on the team. The director. We didn’t have one of those yet. ( ) Insert the word here.
While I was watching Tony putting together a team, I was not watching myself. Oh, I reminded him from time to time that we should get one of those director-type fellas, but after all my years of knowing how to it, I was not doing it. GET A DIRECTOR FIRST!
Hell, Nearly all the directors I worked with were all dead, nearly dead, dying, or rich. I thought about it, Talked to Tony daily. We decided we needed a young guy who was hip to this Hi-Def and CGI stuff. The script had people disappearing, turning into bats and flying away.
So shopping began. One director, size negotiable. Sex, any.
Got the usual number of passes, a fair amount of want-to-dos, but haven’t-done- anything-yets. Tony entered the script in a lot of film festivals, and it was always “up there” or winning. It still wasn’t completely flushed out, but festival judges tend to judge a film without having to make it. Or think about making it. Or what’s the subtext.
Hiding in the back of my mind was a director. Not just any director, but just about my best friend. We had worked together on more films than we care to count. We always seem to “see” the same movie in our heads as we’re working. Finally, after long conversations with myself, it didn’t “feel” right, but maybe.... Talked to Tony and he thought it was a smashing idea. Gave my friend the script and waited. For about an hour. “This baby needs work, Peter, I mean work.”
We hopped a plane to Naples, Florida. He and Tony sat down and started a page one read. I laid down on the couch and covered my head and listened. It was not going well. What’s that oil and water don’t mix? Most of the changes that came out of that meeting, however, were positive. It was just a relationship thing, but rewriting began long distance. Both in miles and mind. I, of course, was the sounding board for both of them.
In the meantime, Tony had pretty much set the editor and cameraman, and was having serious conversations with effects houses. The editor, Tony Randel and David Rakoczy, the director of photography were talking about stuff already. Now I have an unhappy writer and a director with one foot out the door. I gotta let my best friend go. More pain, and we haven’t started shooting yet. No director. Lot’s of hand wringing and sleepless nights and feeling awful about my friend. Happy to say, he’s still my friend.
“Tony, if you even think of directing this, I’ll crap in my hands and rub it in my hair.” That was before I said hello on the phone.
“It’s right under your nose.”
“What’s under my nose?”
“You heard what I said. Not “Hybrids”. You shouldn’t direct “Hybrids.” Let’s do this picture and find out how to be producers first.
“Tony Randel, shithead. He’s directed a couple of features. He’s our editor. Let him direct and edit.” So we hired him.
“See,” Tony grinned, “Now we have no problem with the director not wanting our crew. Shit, he is the crew.” Tony had never laid eyes on the guy, nor had I, but, hell, it seemed like the right fit. I had lunch with Randel and it seems like this just might work. He wanted to rewrite and offered to quit, and me and my gut said he’s our guy.
“Don’t quit. Go home and rewrite your ass off. I’ll talk to Tony. He’s in a mood right now to accept a good rewrite.”
As we were leaving the restaurant, he handed me a DVD of his last film. I took it home and watched it. Didn’t like it. the direction was pretty good, but it was cut all over the place. It was a horror film (Randel’s forte, it seemed). Not my cup of tea.
“Burt Reynolds! You gotta be shittin’ me.” I knew we were talking to “his people”, but Tony just got a letter of intent from ‘his people’, Then we got a letter of intent from Burt his own self. Big time. Seems Burt liked the script and thought it might be fun.
It was one of the few times Tony and I were in the same place at the same time. We passed this on to a distributer friend who on the strength of Reynolds’ intent gave us a letter of intent. Sounded positive. Moving forward....
But what about Tony Randel? Had we screwed up by committing to him? Tony and I thought it through, talked it to death, and decided we made the right decision. We just had to make sure he made a happy movie and not one of the scary things he had been doing.
Seems Tony Randel was having the same thoughts: Was he ready to go from horror to comedy? Seems he wanted to stretch his chops so he was making the jump. We gave him two weeks to do what rewriting he thought was needed. Then we three would either bang out the kinks or kill each other. Last minute. Burt Reynolds backed out. He had not been feeling well, had some surgery, whatever, no Reynolds. The two Tonys and I and by now our casting director, Kate Engren are searching heaven and under rocks. Insert word ( ) here.
Two weeks go by and Tony Randel says, “How ‘bout Paul Sorvino? I know his daughter, and will give it a try if you want.
“Hell, yes, we want,” I scream. To make matters even better, Randel turned in his rewrite, and it was good. Cleaned up the story line and character development, and didn’t change the thrust of the original Schweikle script.
Then Kate announced that Carolyn Hennesy had signed to play “Aradia” to Sorvino’s “Count.” In the meantime, Kate was putting together a wonderful cast of young actors.
Tony Schweikle called. “You know what I dread?”
“No, Tony, what do you dread besides the need some day to have to use Pampers?” “That smell. You know, how old people smell.”
“Geez, Pard, do you think you’re starting to smell, or is it me? Wait just a damn minute. Old people smell ‘cause they spend too much time sitting on their ass. As painful as it is getting up and moving around, that’s about the last thing we have to worry about. What the hell are you talking about? Smell.”
“Well, it could happen,“ Tony said, and made an “old” sound over the phone. “Do me a favor. Hang up, walk into the other room and ask Phyllis if you smell old. See? I lost my sense of smell years ago so I can’t help you much. She’s gonna’ throw something at you, and between you and me, I hope she hits you and knocks some youth back into you. Just do what I do: don’t get any older.”
“We can’t get any older.” As I was contemplating those wise words, Tony hung up.
Burt Bluestein signed on as our line producer. Burt, a sweet, curmudgeonly guy almost as old as us from New York seemed like a good match for us. Not quite as old, but, you know, understanding. The team was just about set, and we set a start date for principal photography. We would start shooting in Florida on October 28th. and have everyone home for Thanksgiving. Start serious post after the holidays, and each rob one convenience store a night to pay for post costs. Makes sense. Tony suggested that we use a horse for our getaways.
Then he said the sweetest thing. “Who’s Burt Reynolds?
So Burt Bluestein and I limp into Ave Maria, Florida in the middle of the night.I feel too tired to go to sleep right away, and begin thinking about all the locations I have showed up to over the years.
Hundreds, it seems, and for me in about seven other languages by now. It’s such a unique thing. Flying into, or near, a place. Getting picked up by a stranger holding a smudged white board with my name written on it, and being delivered to one of two places. Either where I’m probably going to be sleeping for the next ( ) months, or where, for the same amount of time, I am going to be working out of. Bad grammar, but I have discovered that any location office in which I work, I will soon begin to work “out of.” Did I mention that besides the director, producer, unit manager, and first AD, everyone I’m communicating with are strangers-hopefully speaking English?
If I am shown to my personal accommodations first. It’s usually the middle of the night, where I’m dropped off, spoiled goods, to unlock a door with a key nestled in my mit, and find a bed to slam myself into because I’m too tired to be hungry. ..............................Or to drop off my things, jump back into the car/truck/limo,or horse-drawn something, and proceed to the production office. I am shown the workspace assigned to me, introductions mosey in and out as I wander over to a window and figure out which way is north.
I am musing my musings. I am Old. ( ) Word. I am about to republish my first book, “WHAT! AND GIVE UP SHOW BUSINESS? On Amazon.com. You can read more about that, there, soon. This is about “HYBRIDS”, right? Old poops do that.
Anyway, There is magic, uniqueness, to this “coming together.” Besides the common love of the business we share, Despite the common knowledge we share. Also because we need the money, we probably don’t have as much in common as you might think. One thing we all know: Those 100 or so pages called “the script.” We, then as common strangers, can speak “scriptese” to each other and make a movie. (Once did a single, six month project, in three languages in three countries.) Accommodations at Ave Maria were fantastic. Seems Tony and Phylis had two condos. Connected. Tony Randel and I in one, and Tony Schweikle, Burt Bluestein, and our old friend from Italy, Fabio Micelli, in the other. Fabio was going to do a “making of...” video. He was our cameraman on “Barbarossa and the Towers of Italy.” Fabio’s soon-to-be- wife, Grazia, was the star of our reenactment sequences. I fell in love with both of them, and, it seems, they with me. We keep in touch via email.
They were an “item” when we were shooting “Barbarossa”, and have since married and have a beautiful daughter, Ginevra. They are all going to be with us on the shoot.
(Fabio shot a “making of” video, and had it cut before the holidays. I don’t have a clue how he did it. Did I mention that he speaks not one word of English? I don’t speak any Italian, but we “talk” constantly. Quietly, one by one Fabio pushed cast and crew into a little room, where his camera and sound were set up, turned on a light or two, and said, “Speak.” He had no idea what we were saying, but knew when we were finished. I’m sure Tony looked over his shoulder from time to time. I’m sure, but in my heart, I believe Fabio produced, directed, and edited the making of “Hybrids” from his heart and not his ability to speak English.)
The brain trust has two kitchens-refrigerators stocked-thanks to Tony, and we all have our own bathrooms. What’s not to like?
Tony and I had pretty much pre-scouted Ave Maria and the buildings within for locations so we were sure where things were going to take place. Right across the street (an un- busy street) was an empty three story building. Empty, except for a bank in the back corner of the first floor. Top floor was decorated for law offices-never used. Great interiors for the family chateau. The first floor was one big empty space for building the interiors of the old witch Aradia’s house. In the heat-laden South Florida month of July, Chip and Tony’s son Luke built Aradia’s house with money Tony made shooting a Mercedes Benz commercial. Damn good low budget producing, I would say.
Tucked all around the building was office space for every department. Tony secured furnished condos for most of the out-of-town crew. A hotel for the rest and the cast. With van service. We would all walk to work. Every day. A couple of parties were thrown to loosen-up the troops. The Tony’s were doing a final polish on the script. Come to think of it, there really is no such thing as a “final” script. As they say, “The script is final when you are walking down the isle at the premier. Or not.” Hold ( ) for future placement.
Kate Engren, our casting director, put together a stellar cast. We, Tony, Tony, and I waded through.... Wait a minute.
My partner in crime just interrupted me... I’ll get back to you. zzz zzz
He has some stuff he wants to add to my ongoing prose.
Without further fanfare, I introduce to you the words of---let’s hear it, put your hands together for---Mr. Tony Schweikle!!!!!!!!!!
I can’t stand it. As much as I love to tickle Tony, I asked him to write his thoughts from time to time. Otherwise he would never have the opportunity to say naughty things about me. I’ll tell you about Kate later.
And the serendipity continued with the hiring of the grip and electric guys. It came about when the DP, who had some grip and lighting on the truck, decided the production needed more crew and equipment to do the job right. He turned us onto Jay Shropshire and his gang. These were all young guys in their twenties, but had already worked on a dozen low budget features in the Miami area. They worked silently, respectfully and like a symphony orchestra. When the last shot of the day was done, they had wrapped everything that was not being used. Never went overtime, and all of it with no drama. In fact, Pete and I from the beginning warned everyone before they were hired, that we would not tolerate Prima Donnas, screamers, and those gremlins who would make problems so they could solve them. We worked on too many shows with those kind of people, and we were determined it would not be like that on Hybrids. And it wasn’t.
Tony, by the way, has also written a book, “The Cardinal’s Treasure,” and, of course, turned it into a screenplay. It’s “off the beaten path” from what he usually writes and thinks about, but it reflect’s his fascination with Italy, the Catholic Church. Tony:
This is my first novel. “The Cardinal’s Treasure,” is an historical/fiction story of 33,000 words. The idea and much of the material is from 2 years of research for a historical documentary. The novel and the documentary have nothing in common, except for a few historical icons I use in my story.
Bio: The following is a list of professional occupations during my adult life, not necessarily in chronological order.
Musician, Chef, Carpenter, Snow Skier/Racer, Still Photographer, Actor, Screenplay Author, Film Producer, Film Director, Film Editor, Marketing Manager, Graphic Designer, Audio/Visual Manager, Softball Player, College level Instructor in film & television production.
I have also fathered and raised 5 children.
My wife and I have now lived in southern Italy since 2003. We own a small home overlooking the sea. We have a large garden of fruit trees and flowering plants. A small portion of the garden is set aside for my vegetable growing. We are here from April to November, the rest of the year we spend in southwest Florida with our children.
Now, where was I? Oh, yea, Kate. Kate Enggren,to be exact. Tony knew Kate from Durango. (What the hell is it with Durango? Tony met David Rakoczy in Durango. Now Kate’s from Durango. Why Durango? Who knows, in this business?)
Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, Kate came from heaven. Lives in Southern California now, and works as a casting director. Tall blonde, beautiful-that got my attention- and wanted to come and play with us and cast Hybrids. She did a difficult and taxing job brilliantly. She then threw off her casting hat, became our production coordinator working with Burt Bluestein. At our urging, she took a small part in the film as a librarian in a great little scene with the “bad guy.” She was with us every day of the shoot, and ahead of us every day in the details. Kate became mother superior, problem solver, peacekeeper, shrink, and Associate Producer, in that order.
That’s not all. She has a kid, Erika. Tall, blonde and beautiful. (They cornered the market.) Erika was our extra casting head, an actor in the student film within the film, and set decorator/prop man. These last two titles demanded that Erika be on set all day every day. She was. With good humor, patience, and way too much knowledge of the business for a kid of twenty-one, Erika turned in a number of stellar performances on and for “Hybrids.” In the witch Aradia’s house, she even had appropriate titles on all the books on the shelves. Hand-did some of them.
Well, there you have the Enggren Ladies. What a pleasure! Linda and I met ‘em for lunch at our favorite Italian restaurant at the beach the other day. I wanted to show Linda what I had been putting up with, poor me. Funny. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant-never could-but it is the same restaurant where Tony introduced me to Kate, who we were meeting for dinner so many months ago. Same joint. That Tony, he really gets around...
Now. Let’s jump backwards in time to shooting the beast. I love the words “principal photography.” Sounds so...well, important. Principal Photography. “Yes, well, we just completed principal photography on our multi-million dollar epic. Good to be finished with principal photography. Now we shall rest.” This should be read in a George Sanders-type voice. Haughty, British.
A shooting day (or night) is pretty much like yesterday, and yesterday could have been downtown in any city in the world, and today is on stage in any city in the world. After the first couple of days are in the can, a shooting company settles down to “work.” Everyone knows their spot on the floor. Most mornings you come to work and every one is just working. No talk, no banter (that comes later) they might have a breakfast burrito in one hand and a C-stand in the other, but they’re doing what it takes to make the day. Actors in the makeup trailer, wardrobe setting the day. Props and set dressing laying out the day’s work (and a little more, just in case). Assistant directors doing that magic thingy of all knowing, all seeing. (How the hell do they do that?) Camera, Grip, andElectric doing their “dance.” The director would like to take a dose of hemlock about now, because everyone has “one little question.” Producers sitting there with their earphones around their throat at “Television City,” at the monitors, thinking, “I just looked at the budget again, and I wonder if the director has any more of that hemlock.” The only people really moving fast are the production assistants who feel like they have to be moving fast.
Mornings on a movie set are, and will always be to me a magical place. Sometimes angst can run underneath it all, but most of the time, it’s professionals doing what it is they do, and doing it very well.
We have such a happy cast and crew. Hangin’ out at night together. Just being a team. Hold ( ) until further notice.
Sorvino and Hennesy are due tomorrow for wardrobe fittings, and makeup tests. They’re the last actors on the call sheet. In the meantime, we have shot the film as written, and been dumbfounded by the performances we are getting from our cast.
This is all so new to me. All my career as a production designer, I have been prepared for “how it looks.” I was involved with the actors, their performance. AlI I cared about was did the image on the screen look as I wanted it to look to help the performance. All I cared about was what the actors needed from me to make their performance complete. I, all these years, have been building nests, arenas, boxes, if you will, to provide my actors a place to play. I read the script-any script, and it told me what the sensibility, the thrust, the passion of the scene was so I could put my actors in a place where they couldn’t fail.I built them what they needed to perform the words on the script. They needed a place to play, a place to make the story, whatever it was, come alive.They needed a place to become the characters by way of how they felt working in my playground.
Now here I am working as a producer, not giving my production designer, set decorator, property master, costume designer, lighting director, and cinematographer all the movie tricks I alone possessed and now am choosing to ignore. Or, at least, not focus on. That’s their job now. I am finding all the other pieces of this insanity that make up a motion picture shoot. Insert ( ) here.
“Producer 101,” I think I called it awhile back. I can fully admit that I have been missing a class or two. Sometimes, at my age, it’s just embarrassing. BUT we’re through the song that had us all concerned. We shouldn’t have worried. Leanne Agmon nailed it. Hell, she got the subtext right away. Even cried during her performance. (Leanne is currently starring in a production at the Old Globe in beautiful Old Town, San Diego).
So actors #1 and #2 on the call sheet are arriving. Their sets and locations have been settled, fussed over, and even acoustic-set for Paul Sorvino’s singing in Aradia’s kitchen. Singing.
What the hell doesn’t Sorvino do? Let’s just say he sings, probably dances, acts, directs, sculpts, and loves what he does. Let’s just say there is not a lot of air in the room when he exits.
Changing the subject for a minute, I’m constantly amazed at the professionalism of our crew and cast. No snits, no “sorry I’m lates”, no missing props, no waiting for makeup. We have a great pair of assistant directors, Frank Falvey, the first, and Laura Wheeler, our second, were always ahead of the curve. Many times on a film set, the curve is hard to find. Not here. Tony and I keep looking at each other and smiling...
So we wrapped last night, at night. The last day was a split day so wrap was about 2:00AM. Everyone was too pooped to party. Not too pooped, however, to smile and hug.
Paul Sorvino and Carolyn Hennesy came in, nailed it, and are asleep in their condos. They were as prepared as actors can get. They brought some goodies with them in their performances, and gave us two unforgettables. May the gods continue to kiss.
Their scenes were complete in four no overtime days. The last three days we shot split doing the movie within the movie, the student film, around a concrete factory a stroll away. The last scene we shot was Blaz and Maria in the cutting room finishing their student film with the words “The End” on their editing screen. Never pass up a “moment.”
And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, “The Great Unknown.” Post production. Editing, music, foley, more special effects, CGI, ADR, hell, I donno’ LSMFT. You know, the great unknown. And while we’re going through that gymnastic, we gotta’ try and sell this mother. Put two of these here: ( ).
Stay tuned for the Post Production Phollies...
Post production. Post production. As near as I can figure, post production is like rolling over after your first wedding night bliss, (after principal photography has passed between you), and saying, “Now what do you wanna’ do?”
It’s time to ‘cleanup’. Let’s see, there’s music, there’s special visual effects, there’s foley, there’s color “timing”, and the dreaded director’s cut. Three of these: ( ).
This is also that peaceful time when there are only a few of us; most importantly, the director and editor. In our case, it’s the same guy, Son of a bitch. How do smart people allow things like this to happen? The director thinks the editor is an asshole, but won’t listen to anyone else. You figure it out.
Tony Randel has been handed the reigns. Handed the reigns. How do producers give this away? Hey, I’m going to go away, and bathe myself in healing oils for the next few months while you have my testacles in your hand. Giddyup, Tony Randal. Right now Tony Schweikle and I are lying in the arms of Tony Randel hoping he doesn’t kill us. Right now he’s handling effects, timing, even music. He’s successfully delivered a final cut to us. We tweek it from time to time, but except for CGI and music and sound effects, we got us a picture. Our director and editor, who are not speaking as far as I know, are still playing on the same team. Bless those two guys.
Schweikle and I talk all the time about talking “picture” to Tony Randel. We’re never sure which one we’re talking to, director or editor. Either way we must insult one or the other to get our opinion across. Bet that discussion is as old as film-making itself. “The editor is going to love my opinion on this one and the director will want to ambush me in an alley.”
Then there’s the matter of this computer thing. Yeah, I know, here comes that old coot again, but I miss making decisions in front of people, with discussion and disagreement. Now the Tony’s and I are in front of our computers all day looking at cuts, listening to music, reading actors, passing judgment on the trailer. We do this in the privacy of our own offices. Quietly, by ourselves. No looking your workmates-the brain trust-in
the eyes, and saying, “Is that the best we can do?” Man, I really miss the studios...
We lost our original composer towards the end of shooting because of time restraints. We hired a guy Randel has worked with before. Corey Wallace. Young, energetic and full of himself. Just the way you like it. His “sound” is perfect so far, and we have no reason to expect anything less.
CGI is being handled by a young man hiding in the great unwashed mass of the Midwest. He lives somewhere around the twin cities, I think, but with this new age stuff, he lives most of the time in our computers. Jim Ray Rodriguez is his name, the Special Effects Supervisor, and they tell me is only a child. I have a feeling I’ll never really meet him. That’s another reason I miss the old time studios. Walk across the lot and get your work done. Also on his team are Michael Spear, Visual Effects Artist, and Jeanna Penoff, Graphic Design Artist. Their first animation attempt-changing Todor into a bat-was masterful, so I’m breathing easier on that front as well.
Sound, Foley will follow and, as usual, pull things together for the viewer. I am in preliminary discussion with a US distributer, and Schweikle is talking to Foreign guys. We had a trailer company pound together a quick trailer for the distributers-barely color corrected, and uncleared music. Turned out it wasn’t bad, so we submit to the distribs and wait....
This whole post production thing is getting out of hand. Life is getting out of hand. If anyone is following this crap, they must understand that I am holding on with both hands. Not as an old time production designer, not as a new producer, but me. My life, Peter Wooley.
Here’s where we stand: Music is trickling in-CGI is taking forfuckingever. What I have seen and heard, I like, but ...
Distributers, looking at the trailer, want “to see the final product”, and who wouldn’t blame them them? Our first distributor choice passed because he didn’t know it was a horror film (It goddamn ain’t a horror film) Lots and lots of these: ( ).
As I sit and write, I sliiiiide back into the past. I think about making a film, finishing principal photography, and looking around for the next one. Job done...NEXT. Producing does not allow for that sort of order. You ain’t done until everyone who works for you tells you you’re done.
And so I sit. I sit and try to think of ways to bring attention to my yet unborn child. ...and I muse...
... So we’ll wrap this up with the last chapter of my HYBRIDS diary very soon. Optimistically the last chapter will be called... “SOLD.” Please stay tuned.
Post production drags on. Post always drag on, but we can only advance as fast as we can afford “things”. Sat in for a few minutes on a music recording session. Brilliant. Corey Wallace is wonderful. Music is wonderful. I have seen the finished product of countless films I have worked on, and noticed the differences, and accepted it. Now, getting to take part in the process is wonderful. It dawns on me, that as some wag said sometime, someplace, “You’re never too old to learn.” Hell, Sometimes I feel too old to get up in the morning, but learn, I must.
Just got a rough cut of the main titles with Corey’s music tucked in, but not balanced. Tony Randel’s daughter, Sofia, took the lead in designing the main titles. Bunch of old farts like us-Tony, Tony, and me-desperately are in need of a young “feel” for HYBRIDS. Sofia, by the way is attending the Dodge School at Chapman College, and “Hybrids “ain’t her first rodeo. I haven’t had the chance to tell her yet, but I think she’s what we needed in the main titles. I’m delighted. “Yes, that feels good. Let’s move on.”
Strange thing. “Hybrids” is having a life of its own right now. Tony Randel’s director’s cut is in and approved, We know what this film “is”, and what it “isn’t”. Yet, we hear it with the intended music, we see it with the intended effects, and it becomes-slightly- something else. And we say, “Yes, that feels good. Let’s move on.”
We are desperately searching for what this film, this thing we have been nurturing for so long, really is. Having never sat through this post production process-from beginning to end-I am truly amazed at what editing a movie can do to alter slightly what the script said.
Oh, yes, Sofia’s first main title design was “Sharkansas Woman’s Prison Massacre.” You really can’t make this stuff up.
So, as producer, I stay the hell outta’ the way, and let the players play, sing, dance, and make funny noises with their noses. And I wait...
Well, the T’s are dotted and the I’s are crossed, and we have a preview screening date at the DGA on January 10th. of HYBRIDS, our completed movie film. I have looked at all Tony Randel’s labors and those of a wonderful gang of post production mavins, and have found them stellar. We probably have a picture, I think, and we are going to die of badness, I think. Or no one cares, I think... Even if they hate it, they won’t try to hurt us in any way..... I hope. Time passes, and we had our screening. It was a wonderful and glorious weekend. We had a party at Kate Enggren’s house at the beach Saturday night. Just about everyone from the cast and crew attended, within traveling distance and marriage plans.
There is nothing like the love fest of a prescreening party. I suddenly realize my age, and how many times I have played this scene-never knowing in my heart-of-hearts if the film was a hit or a miss. I only hoped the hopes of the innocent. Sunday evening, DGA theater on Sunset Boulevard. We get a full house! oh, boy. The love continues but the lies increase. Lies from cast, crew, friends. Good intentioned “nice” lies. Just trying find the “good spots.” That’s not to say that every movie we see needs work. It’s simply that no one is eligible for “hit” status, except the hits.
I can’t count the times I have attended these things, but always they’re a love-fest. At the end of the screening, everyone lines up and tells us what a wonderful evening they had, and “they just loved” this scene or that performance, or that montage. And we all head for our cars and, slowly, the lights go out...one at a time.
But, Goddamn it, I knew. I always knew. Right here in my movie-loving heart I knew. I understood the “stinkies” from the “goodies.” I have been rarely surprised. Rarely...I’m human, after all.
You see, I just turned eighty. The last fifty, making movies, telling stories, playing “cowboys and Indians”, but I never fell into the deep and dark pit of the independent film maker. I sucked lovingly at the teat of the majors-film or television-always the “big guys”. I loved being under contract to Warner Bros. Now I find myself standing in the theater lobby listening to lovely words. All those nice words we say after the screening. People are coming to me with that positive grin, saying “nice” things about my movie. Nice lies, if you please.
￼And I ask myself, “Okay, Dummy, what do you think about this film? What’s your feeling in here-that spot that is rarely wrong-about, as they used to say on some radio talent show back in the day, “Is it a hit or a miss?”
Ever so slowly, Tony Schweikle and Peter Wooley, find themselves joined at the hip. I, declaring myself officially retired sitting on the back porch of my place at the Jack Daniel Tennessee Squire Home for the Unencumbered. Tony vowing to bring the Italian history back to the Italian masses. Somehow, as the story-teller says, Peteranthony Productions is making an unlikely film in an unlikely part of the world for an unlikely sum of money. Two old farts pitting their combined movie making wisdom against the system. (By now, if you, dear reader, are still reading this thing, you know Tony’s and my histories: Vast film knowledge and on a first name basis with, well anyone who is who) er’ excuse me, I’m going to the bathroom. Thank you. I have completed all my humility classes, and I am ready to accept the audience praise, no matter how bad it is.
The evening went quite well, as expected. The audience reacted the proper way to the scenes, and laughed in all the right places. When the lights came up there was a nice applause, and lots of happy faces turned and looked our way. In the lobby, people came over and “just loved” this scene, or that performance, or that montage. And we all went home.
Is it good? Did I like it?
Look at these HYBRID clips, and tell me what you think... I can take it. I have just lost my ability to know-really know- is it a hit or a miss?