Two Dairy Queens

I promised Chad I would not tell his wife, Jen (not one of the several Jens cast in the film), that we went to Dairy Queen twice today. We spent much of the day driving through some real Kentucky. Torrential rains last month meant that several rivers and creeks flooded--there were wrecked trailers and appliances along the banks of almost every waterway we passed.

It was fun, though, to hear and meet some real Kentucky. As we four-wheeled along muddy, washed out roads, Emily told us about her great uncle, "River" Arthur. So named to distinguish him from her Great-Grandfather, "Creek" Arthur. River lived down by the river. Creek lived over by the creek. "We're all Johnsons named Arthur. We don't get too creative with names."

Anyway, River Arthur was walking along the rain-swollen river one day when he saw two pages of a book floating by. He waded out into the brown flood to fetch them back to shore. He read these two pages and liked what there was of the story so much that he walked the creek and river every time it flooded hoping to find the rest.

We even met "Unk Arch's" uncle, "Unk Junior." He was in front of us on the tractor as we drove out of Emily's lane. He had to be 75, naked from the waist up. Half my size and twice my strength. Unk Junior was coming in out of the fields to pick peaches to sell at the farmer's market on Friday. Emily honked the horn and he pulled over. He grabbed a hoe from the tractor's fender and waved it menacingly before he smiled wide and walked over to the truck window. He ended many sentences with "I mean you know?" Emily leaned across the passenger seat and spoke out the window, "What's Aunt Doris up to, Unk? [pronounced 'uh-unk']"

"Oh, I got her workin' them beans." He smiled and winked. "You GOT to keep these people workin'."

We chatted about the floods and the bad roads and the poor tobacco crops. Unk wanted to know if Emily was going to get rich off of these movies so she could lend him some money. It was easy to see why Chad relishes every chance he gets to hang out with these very warm, very colorful characters.

Alas, we couldn't stand around jawing with Unk Junior all day. We had to go to Dairy Queen. Again. Chad practically cried for it. This DQ featured an important archive of historic Dairy Queen photos from the 1940s and 50s. It also had the Ten Commandments posted above the trash bins.

Wasps and Sparrows

Since today is a day off for the cast and crew, we've broken into splinter cells for the day. Andrew went to the airport to pick up his girlfiend, Christina, flying in from New York. The crew is largely hung over and lounging the campus of EKU for the day. The Missouri boys (Chad, Kurt and me) hopped in Emily's big truck and drove down to her family place in Booneville, KY. The road between here and Richmond is where we will film most of the driving shots next Wednesday. It is not Colorado or Utah or Nevada...but it is beautiful country--steep hills, remote hollows, tobacco farms...

Wading in the creek where we'll shoot the waterfall scenes Friday...

Wading in the creek where we'll shoot the waterfall scenes Friday...

Right this minute, I am on the wrap-around porch of Emily's home-place having just finished uploading a dozen or so pix to the other blog then hunting down bugs in my sloppy HTML code so I could make that post work. Emily and Chad and Kurt are in the pool below and I am watching the sparrows hunt wasps in the eaves of the porch and the black tobacco barn through air so thick I want to slice some, wrap it in wax paper to bring home.

Yesterday we scouted the location for the morgue scene. Chad told me that he and Andrew didn't want me to come to the set the morning they filmed it. I said they were being silly--I've talked and written and told and read this story until I have power over it. Pretty much. Still, when we were checking out the location--a basement in one of the medical classroom buildings on EKU--it was a relief to see how different this space was from the one I actually remember. THAT space was all stainless steel and well-sealed concrete floors and ominous steel cabinets. This place was full of medical mannequins tucked each in a bed. While Chad and Andrew and Emerson and Emily framed shots and imagined blocking, I sat on the edge of a bed and looked down the long row of ailing dummies.

Chad rubs the sun out of his eyes.

Chad rubs the sun out of his eyes.

The more things change...

Strange first day. Dozens of new faces and names and job titles and relationships. We shot two scenes in two hotel rooms (same hotel) today. One is the scene based on our actual night in Utah when Brian and Wendy slept in the same bed (but in the same room as Tab and I). The second sceneĀ  was based the hotel room where Tab and I stayed south of San Francisco while we waited for Brian and Wendy to come back from the city. I spent a good part of the day trying to be out of the way (though I do get credit for pointing out that the Wendy, Tab and Scott characters all needed wedding rings) and turning the ceiling fan on and off between shots. I am proud to say that at no point did an expensive and dangerous 5000 watt light come crashing to the ground because I had knocked it over trying to squeeze into the tight spaces.

Each scene was comprised of several shots--many of which required that the set be re-lit, the camera repositioned, and sometimes the furniture rearranged.

TheĀ  biggest surprise for me: at the end of the first scene that I described, Brian (Thomas) and Wendy (Jenna) are in one bed whispering. The script doesn't specify what they are saying, just that they are whispering. Scott (Nick) and Tab (Jen) are in the next bed. Scott turns and looks over at Brian and Wendy--in anxiety, jealousy, anger, fear, etc--just as Wendy can be seen to stroke Brian's hair. This scene is one that came out of the collaboration with Andrew and Chad and it is really telling. Andrew told Thomas and Jenna that it was not important for the audience to hear WHAT they were whispering, just that they WERE whispering. I should say here that these two have incredible chemistry: Thomas IS Brian--in tone, in sense of humor, even in some of his physical mannerisms. Brian (Thomas) and Wendy (Jenna) between takes in Scene 15.They shot a few takes while I squatted near one of the light stands (everything has a name in this business--I know none of them). In one shot, Jenna's whisper was very clear to the whole room. She said, "This was so unexpected. Thank you." Then she stroked his hair.

For a few seconds, I was in that other bed. All of the anger and jealousy and hurt (and the remorse for all of those things) squeezed me hard. It made me breathe quick. Then it let go.

They can't use that take. The audience can't hear her say that.

On the road, on the way...

I left New Hampshire after lunch today and drove as far south and west as Scranton, PA. Not much to report--except that my little Hyundai Accent got a whopping 45.58 MPG!!!! I'm staying in a hotel where the roaches complain about the fleas. No worries-with all the money I save between the Hyundai and the hotel, I can afford more BBQ.

I'll be in Kentucky tomorrow evening. I'm pleased that I'm driving in from the East...I'll get to drive through appalachia.