I. APPROACHING THE EDGE
Monday, April 18
After a day of rest, we return to finish assembling the basic make-up effects crew – but we have to wait a few days while they finish up other projects.
Meanwhile, the art department is also playing a variety of waiting games. We convert one huge room in the Burman Studio into the official headquarters of the art department, tacking all of Ed and Tom’s artwork to huge panels of Celotex, a fiber board. Although it begins to look more like we’re thinking about making a movie, we’re held up from actual manufacturing by everything from construction bids on the sets to – again – personnel availability. Don’t all those other employers know we’ve got a movie to make here?!
Tuesday, April 19
Despite another successful casting session (including several wonderful "Miriam" candidates, especially Nancy Mette), it’s another day in limbo. Even the weather seems to be against us now – originally the last two days had been set aside for scavenging all the salvage yards, but torrential rains make that impractical. To occupy some of my time, I set up a calendar on which to tick off the days.
Forty-seven left until shooting begins.
And tensions are already rising.
Wednesday, April 20
The bad news is that tensions and rain both increase today; the good news is that we’ve finally locked in the crucial element of set construction. After considering all the possibilities (including building the sets ourselves right in the side lot of the Burman Studio) and accepting bids, a facility called Lexington has been chosen to provide most of the principal construction.
Progress continues on scheduling the make-up effects and construction of props, but just scheduling has taken the better part of a week. Hard to believe the actual manufacturing will move faster than the scheduling, but it’s got to by now.
Forty-six days and counting.
Thursday, April 21
Praise the tubes, things are starting to flow smoothly again.
Tom wrapped up his work on another project which had been cutting into his time, and he begins to focus more clearly on Life now.
Lunch becomes a wonderful prop-hunting expedition: Johnny Logan, Mike and I find the basis for Grandpa’s life support chair (an old barber chair Bari had in storage), and that’s followed by trips to a surplus store, where we find the Hollowheads’ plates, and to Sears. It’s funny how Sears, normally the Rodney Dangerfield of department stores for me, is magically transformed into a treasure chest when you’re looking for bizarre props.
The casting session goes better than well for me that afternoon, as we see one of my favorites, Matt Frewer (a.k.a. "Max Headroom") read for Henry. The best part is he reads it as Max Headroom, which is hilarious if perhaps not entirely appropriate. Imagine that charming, rubbery face wrapping itself around a line like, "twenty years as a reamer crawling through rust-encrusted pipes filled with lumps of human coagulum." The pay may not be much so far – I’ve just received my first check, drawn on the account of "The Hollowhead Company" – but the fringe benefits are incredible.
Friday, April 22
A break between rain clouds and foraging resumes with some spectacular results – the side lot of the Burman Studio is beginning to fill with tubes from one inch in diameter to massive three or four foot "Sonotubes", long cardboard tubes used for pouring concrete support pillars.
More importantly, that sense of excitement and pulling together that I’ve been missing up to now is starting to generate. I’m finally able to send Linden a comprehensive and encouraging progress report, including detailed schedules of the hand props to be built and the make-up effects (which Rob Burman, our lab foreman, assures me we are already ahead on).
And Ed Eyth’s prodigious array of talents continues to amaze. He appears in the morning with beautifully-drafted blueprints of our sets (I’ve worked with numerous draughtsmen, including set designers for other films, and Ed’s work was the finest I’ve seen, except for my dad’s, of course).
John Chavez and I successfully handle a research project in the a.m. – locating a sound effects designer. There’s been some debate over how necessary such an entity is – seems it may not be in the budget – but Tom and I saw Life on the Edge as a major sound effects creation right from the start. We’ve always wanted a world filled with the sounds of rumbling pipes and bubbling liquids and furnace howls – sounds you’re not likely to find on your local sound effects record. We decide to begin with the best and see what happens from there, so we start with the name of Alan Splet, sound effects wizard for David Lynch’s films, including Eraserhead and Blue Velvet. A few phone calls later, the trail has led us to Mark Manging, a young aural genius responsible for such intriguing sound pieces as Star Trek IV (remember those unearthly probe noises?). We deliver him a script and keep our fingers crosses.
The afternoon’s casting session is again thrilling. For a change, we give the casting people news instead of vice versa: Anne Ramsey, recent Oscar nominee for Throw Momma From the Train, and her equally-gifted actor-husband Logan Ramsey, both of whom Tom and Bari have known from years of make-up effects jobs, have agreed to appear in Life as pumping station manager Babblaxe and her assistant.
After seeing several promising Miriam candidates, we read our first Cindy. I had always though the incredibly flirtatious 14-year old Hollowhead daughter might be the most difficult role to fill…but damned if this first one isn’t perfect. The scenes we’ve chosen for our Cindys to read are the scene with Miriam in the bathroom wherein mother and daughter discuss softening jelly; and one of the more lascivious moments with the cops. Juliette Lewis, who, it turns out, is a real 14-year old, reads the lines as if she was born to them, and leaves me feeling a bit like the mischievous 12-year old who convinces some innocent victim to ask the teacher what some dirty word means. Tom has a slightly different reaction: He holds his hands guiltily over his face and says, "Oh my god, I feel like a child molestor." We immediately make Juliette Lewis the first offer for a key role in Life on the Edge.
When we’ve all recovered, we begin the arduous process of paring down the 40 or so performers we’ve seen to just our 3 or 4 favorites for each of the three leads, who will return for callbacks next week. And we discuss a new possibility for Mr. Crabneck, who will, in fact, be reading the script this weekend: Dan Ackroyd.
Saturday, April 23
Another day of flood-producing downpours keeps activity to a minimum for the morning.
The afternoon is reserved for the weekly production meeting, where I (for one) am pleasantly surprised to learn that everything is moving along well, with forty-three days left.
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