27 April 2011

Row Butts

Photos by Andrew Bellware.
A couple of weekends ago was my first experience on a real film set.

Now, some will argue that what I was experiencing was not by any stretch a real film set. Craft services consisted of Chinese take-out and a stunning abundance of snack foods and sodas. We were filming in the warehouse space of a railing-design workshop (right next to the bundled set of the recent tragically short-run Les Miserables). And, believe it or not, I worked without a trailer. That's as may be, but it's the closest I have yet to come to a real film set, and I think all the major elements were there. For example: A crew of really smart and funny people (myself excluded, naturally) got together, played pretend, and someone recorded the whole experience.

Mercs + android.
It's one I rather stumbled into myself. One night I went to see Friend Nat's one-man Lovecraft show at Manhattan Theatre Source, the which the charming Ms. Laura Schlachtmeyer happened to be stage managing. We sat for a bit after the show, she asked me if I was SAG, I said no-with-sad-face, she cheered me up by offering to send me a script. It looked like it wasn't going to work out schedule-wise for a while. And then it did, just like that. So I'm playing the ambitious, arrogant ex-space-mercenary Rathbone. I have two more weekends of filming after Easter weekend in which to live some of my favorite tropes.

Said android.
The movie is probably best described in the current parlance as a mock-buster, but I don't like thinking of it that way. Sure: It is Predator meets Aliens (with more than a dash or two of Whedon-istic glee/feminism) and yes: we have no money. I resist the term, though, because everyone knows what they're doing, and everyone takes it just seriously enough. That is to say, we have a ball and laugh as much as possible at ourselves, but on-camera everyone's in the same high-stakes movie. If this were ever to get picked up by, let's say, Syfy (ARE YOU LISTENING, SYFY?!), you would turn to it in the early-morning hours and most likely think, Huh. This looks like it would go nicely with this pint of Americone Dream I have here. I wonder if there will be much gore...

To be a bit more succinct: It's good fun, done well, and I can't complain at all about getting to play around in a genre and process that I've enjoyed since I was about eleven years old.

It's made even easier by enjoying all the folks whom I've thus far met. In no particular order, there's:
  • Nat Cassidy, as a medic a bit out of his depth.
  • Virginia Logan, as the hard-scrabble, near-invincible leader of the merc crew.
  • Juanita Arias, as a scrappy merc.
  • Sarah-Doe Osborne, as an elite prototype android.
  • Tom Rowen, as a cocky, quasi-rock-a-billy merc.
  • Joe Chapman, as the heavily-armed, bulldog merc - also the set designer.
  • Libby Csulik, amazing do-it-all-er.
  • David Ian Lee, as the maniacally handsome Colonel (David also co-wrote the first draft of the script with Mr. Cassidy).
  • And Mr. Andrew Bellware, as a maniacally maniacal director who occasionally seems to be having even more fun than I am (and the aforementioned Ms. Laura Schlachtmeyer, keeping him in check).
In our little tale, we venture into a suddenly radio-silent robot factory to extract a special new prototype of android from what appears to be a situation wherein the artificial intelligence has taken over and slaughtered all the human faculty. I essentially play the dubious jerk of the crew - think Predator's Carl Weathers meets Aliens' Paul Reiser (by which I of course mean Weathers' muscle tone and Reiser's razor wit). It's delightful, made all the more fun by the implication of a storied past with Virginia's character and some blatant animosity with Joe's. So far I've mostly gotten to trade what are hopefully telling looks with folks, and say a few lines; but I've also been kicked over by a giant robot.


"It's quiet...TOO quiet..."
I'm back this weekend for what are likely to be much longer shoot days, and I'm very much looking forward to it. It's difficult for me to imagine enjoying the product nearly as much as the process, but it might be pretty cool to finally see some actual robots incorporated. For now I'm more than content to let the enormous gnashing things be played out in my imagination.


Laura, Queen of Mars said...

FUN? There's no fun in moviemaking!!

Can't wait to play spaceships again this weekend.

Jeff Wills said...

I know I KNOW me too ME TOO!

Andrew Bellware said...

Fun? There will be no fun on my set.

Oh and note that "Mockbuster" is a trademarked term -- owned by The Asylum! ;-)

(Technically we're not even doing a mockbuster as there's no particular movie we're riding on the heels of, we're just doing a sci-fi action flick which all but necessarily has to reference Aliens and Predator. Also, you know we're not doing a mockbuster because we don't have any money.)

Jeff Wills said...

Is it seriously trademarked? Cheapus fright. That's almost as bad as the TM on "superhero."

Andrew Bellware said...

Yeah, they trademarked it. I don't know that it really does them any good. They probably made some decent money with their Pirate movie and their "2012" movies though.

And even if I say we're not making a mockbuster, I assure you it will be marketed as one...

Jeff Wills said...

Wanted to mention - I love "Android Insurrection." Apt, and nice acronym. (Not to mention rife with sequel potential...)

Andrew Bellware said...

Yes! Sequel potential!
Somebody get to writing "AI2" right away!

Jeff Wills said...


Davey said...

Firstly, all part twos are Electric Boogaloo no questions asked.

Secondly, how sad is it that it's been so long since I've eaten Ice cream that when you mentioned a pint of Americone Dream, I missed the pun entirely, and thought you had found a new small batch bourbon.

Jeff Wills said...

I want to try that bourbon.

And I'm sorry, but The Chipmunks TOTALLY stole Breakin' 2's thunder.