Monday, April 03, 2006


Every year about this time we are notified that some studio will be filming in our neighborhood; for unknown reasons most of the birds seem to leave the area for 3 or 4 days of shooting, though no one has as yet credited them with obviously astute cinematic sensibilities. The huge trucks and vans come rolling in, lining the streets and sandy off-road way-sides; they are carrying a virtual small city of props, lights, reflectors, dressing rooms, hoists and camera dollies of every description. I happen to know this because a lot of it is unloaded across the street from my dwelling--but I do not venture outside anymore in its midst. I know there will be appetizing food spread over long tables for the film people and on a couple of occasions in the past I was offered something at breakfast or lunch—knowing full well, however, that someone might also try to press me into a leading role of some sort. I do not know why this always happens—I have heard some muttering about a “great profile”, but while I may be available for advice from time-to-time, (my expertise goes back to the 40s), acting is far too wearying a job.

A year ago they were doing a thing called “She Spies”, probably a take-off on the old “Charley’s Angels” series. They used my entrance-way for many of the scenes and most of the action took place outside my kitchen window; I was in most of the shots though undetected by the busy crew. They did one scene with as many as six retakes and that just goes to show why it is such hard work; a gun had been dropped on my porch, purposefully of course, and the female lead, who appeared to have been originally cast for a production of the Ziegfield Follies of 1938, was supposed to rush up to retrieve the weapon and foil the baddies. Unfortunately, directorship not being what it used to be, they could not get her to reflect the right degree of aggression and militancy; she had to run a short distance beside a fast-moving camera rigged to roll on wheels, and I sensed immediately that her stiletto heels must make it difficult for her to dash out of hiding and appear menacing at the same time. After each take a stunt man would follow her steps with rather vicious gusto, throw himself on an imaginary gun and coming up in a crouch, finger firing as he came in order to illustrate for her the proper level of urgency; she gamely crouched with him, but still seemed to approach my porch as if inspecting an invisible array of weapons for just the right color combination. Any director worth his salt would have whispered that her boy friend was flirting with one of the pretty extras, or that a big once a year sale on Rodeo Drive was about to end, just to get the scene over with. By the way, that gun was picked up and put back after each of those takes by a man who, by law, was hired only for that specialized task; then, and only then, the cameras would roll again.

This year the series is called “Criminal Minds” and it is obvious to me they have already missed a big advantage. It is rather prosaic to expect criminals to have criminal minds, what else would they use to plan those things they do? The real interest arouser would be to change the title to “Criminal Bodies”. Imagine all that rapaciousness and mayhem committed without a single thought—as much of it may in fact be. They evidently plan to go ahead without my input as it is the fourth day and the last of the huge, bulging, air-conditioned vans is huffing its way down the road. Birds are flying back again, some with feathers ruffled, making plaintive noises of disapproval. Quiet descends on our street like an answer to silent prayer; some people hereabouts are breathing sighs of relief.

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