Alabama

So I’m back from Alabama.

For those who are fuzzy on the details, I have spent the last month working on a faith-based family film in Mobile, Alabama. Our two locations were a bible camp & a church, and no, I did not burst into flames at either place. I take this, alongside the very existence of this film, as final and lasting proof that there is no god.

The script for the film was… words fail… “awful,” “terrible,” “a pile of shit,” … none of them really convey the bland, flavorless tedium, the effortless mediocrity, that went into this screenplay. This film, Yellow Day, is a movie about… nothing. It presents itself as a kind of Christian romance with a young accountant becoming a stalker and hunting down an attractive, fucked-up girl he’s only met once, who is, inexplicably, glad to see him when he discovers that reports of her death have been greatly exaggerated (this happy ending is an event which was added in one of the multitudinous rewrites and is never explained; therefore miraculous, I presume).

In actuality, the film is little more than a 90-minute promotional film for Camp Grace, the aforementioned bible camp, owned by the film’s primary financier. We spent day after tedious day shooting people touring the camp during its fictional, non-denominational Yellow Day festival, stopping at each “attraction” in the camp to explain to the tourists, and we few, we happy few, filming it, what the appeal was of each stop.

Shooting a truly bad film isn’t new to me. Hell, I do it almost every month. But shooting one which was being so badly made, and wasting so much money doing it, just goes against the grain. The “writer” and executive producer who collected the money for the film is a spoiled little rich shit who’s never had to work a day in his life. The director of photography is a well-known Steadicam operator who hasn’t really been the head honcho on a movie, and he shoots… well… like a Steadicam operator. His lighting made no sense, his shots were always loose and sloppy, and the look of the film is very flat overall. The director is an extremely nice man who has done tons of television sitcoms and awards shows, productions which have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the way a film is shot.

When the original, extremely optimistic schedule was set, it was based on the director’s assertion her could shoot 10 pages a day with no trouble. No one realized until day one that he was completely out of his depth. It surprised him, for example, that we had to move lights for every shot. It didn’t help that his nephew, the writer, was there trying to direct every shot and scene for him. When the producers told the writer and director that there wasn’t enough money to shoot everything they had planned for the church and cuts would have to be made, it was the writer, not the director, who threw a tantrum, literally jumping up and down like a 5-year-old.

And so we ground on, day after day, shooting 21 days instead of the original 15. Every day was something new, ridiculous, absurd, or insulting. The constant exasperation was exhausting, and it was just a matter of time before we all started phoning it in. By the end of the schedule, we were all desperate to get out, bitterly congratulating those who were getting away before us. I had a countdown clock on my phone set to tick away the seconds until my plane left for home.

Now that I’m back, mired in my own struggles and drama and low-level unhappiness, I’m surprised I’m not more relieved. Things here are certainly disappointing, and on many levels, emotionally exhausting, but they beat the hell out of Yellow Day.

One thing I will take away is my amusement at the writer’s total lack of education regarding his own faith. It wasn’t just the way he kept crossing himself in the church when we shot there, despite the fact he isn’t a Catholic; it was a collection of subtle elements strewn throughout the script. I didn’t think anything would top his enduring metaphor that appears over and over again that Jesus is just like the banana spider (I’m not making this up), at which point I though, hmmm… a heartless predator that ensnares its prey in a web and drains the life out of them while they live? Not far off…

If I believed any of that ever occurred to him, I would have had more respect. It didn’t. My favorite moment, however, was the irony of having his mystical girl-child version of the fucked-up adult girl dancing around a cross as if it were a Maypole, singing “Ring Around the Rosie…”

That just still hurts my head on so many levels, I could spend an entire blog on all the ways it was wrong.

Just like my life. And the banana spider. And Jesus.

Represented here in this artist’s rendering … god, I hate this movie…

image

The irony of the Christian writer having this little girl dancing around this cross as if it were a Maypole, and singing “Ring Around the Rosie”  is so thick I can’t even begin to describe it…

Here’s my big Saturday night in Mobile… throwing gang signs in the hotel laundry room.

After we wrapped at 7 a.m. this morning, Hollywood & I cleaned up, and then drove from Mobile, through Mississippi and across to Slidell, Louisiana so he could get to the nearest Chase bank… 160 mile round-trip.

This is me getting a ticket for going 93 through Mississippi on the way back. I’m sure the fine is huge, though I have no intention of paying it. Surely, I can avoid Mississippi for another 7 years…

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