Lights, camera, action. Those
three words, to many people, conjure up
images of movie stars
and show business -
adventure, romance, and that
'We must get the shot' adrenaline rush. Ha!
I'd rather go through
with ten pounds of the stinkiest weed taped to my abdomen and a
passport than repeat the experience of speding six weeks on a film shoot.
Don't get me wr-
ong. From the producers
down to the grips, everyone
was friendly and cordial. And hell, I don't
think a writer has had
access to a production since Julie Salamon stuck it to 'Bonfire of the
Vanities'. I knew that I would be privy to some pretty candid moments and
have the chance to
develop some deep insights.
My first observation was
that a film set func-
tions like a high
school. The stars are like the
most popular kids. The
director is the
orian. The producers are the
rich kids . The
camera crew are your
AV geeks. The grips are
the stoners. Wardrobe is full of
The production assistants are the
was the foreign exchange
student. Man, I even
bunked with the producer, Scott
ing on his floor, not unlike a dog.
The first day of shooting went
hitch. I have to admit
was a little dissappointed with director Kevin Smith's relative calm.
Hell, the last time he called 'action' on a film, he was surrounded by a
bunch of pals, doing a film
with zero expectations.
This was the show.
His sophomore effort. With a crew of at least fifty
(including most of
the original crew from 'Clerks' reprising their various duties), the heat
Kevin's directing style is
loose but authoritative. He considers
himself more of a writer than a
director, but being both
let him do some
on-the-spot rewrites. That moment when Willam (Ethan
Suplee) turns to
René (Shannen Doherty) and delivers that memorable line,
"Brenda?", was con-
ceived in literally two
minutes. Ethan had no idea
that Shannen had been informed of the last min-
Afterwards, he honestly thought he had offended her.
My favorite scene came out of
a conversation that
producer Scott Mosier,
Kevin Smith, and I had while standing around a camera.
We were waiting
for a shot to be set up. The topic was monkeys, and everybody knows that
keys are funny - in hats,
driving cars, smoking cigars. Monkey equals
Comedy. After finding out
how easy it was to get a
monkey, a scene was
written for the last shot. I believe this scene will go
down as one of
the finest in the annals of monkey cinema history.
"In jokes" are a staple on any
film set and 'Rats is chock full of 'em.
Walter Flanagan is a mild-
mannered friend of Kevin
who is omnipotent in
both 'Clerks' and 'Mallrats'. In 'Clerks' he had a
multitude of cameos,
among them the offended customer and the guidance counselor with a thing
for eggs. In 'Mallrats', Walter is back with a vengence, playing a
creepy comic fanboy and a
worker who gets yelled
at by Svenning (Michael
Rooker). He is also frequently mentioned by na-
me: characters in two
different Brodie stories are named Walter, and Jay says something is
than Walt Flanagan's dog.
And in a special crossover appearance,
Brian O'Halloran (Dante Hicks
returns to play Dante's identical twin cousin, Gill in 'Mallrats'.
The mall itself was a pretty
depressing sight. Located about forty-five
minutes from the Mall of
America, most of it's
stores were empty and
replaced by mock storefronts for the film. I'm sure I
was not the only
person fooled into believing that those were real stores. Of course some
- like the
Burning Flesh tanning
salon and the discount carpet outlet,
Rug Munchers - were a bit obvious,
but most just blended in
with the rest of the floundering stores.
No matter how sad it was, the mall
was a welcome shelter for the bitter
When shooting moved
outdoors, I think everyone shed a
tear. Not because of the emotional bond
formed with the place, but
because we were now in the damn cold. And in retrospect I think that
the most poignant thing about those frigid days in March is that those
scenes never made it to the
As the days progressed, the
actors seemed to warm to me, and I was
accepted into their fold. I
figured that they were
where the action was.
And everybody wants to be seen with the most pop-
ular kids in school.
Without sounding like a goof, I have to say that everybody was pretty
and happy-go-lucky. Even
Time off was generally spent
playing video games, going to the other mall
or just hanging out
in the bar. We took over
the hotel during the week.
During the weekends it was taken back by
various Peewee hockey
think all the infighting that could have happened among the cast
and crew was replaced by the sheer
disdain for those little menaces.
After shooting was done for
the day, people would usually congregate in
the bar to gossip. Af-
ter a brief visit, Kevin
would retire to his room
with the Jersey Mafia (a group of his pals were on
the set for the shoot)
to play Sega for hours and talk about comics. They rarely discussed the
of the day and rarely did
crew or cast invade these sessions.
The wrap party was my last
shot at getting some action going. Everything
had seemed too damn-
ed uneventful. With the
lure of free booze maybe
the place would go up like a powder keg. There
was dancing, food, and
pleasant chatter. But nobody was stepping on any toes (well, there was a
small incident between Doherty and the winners of the woman's Final Four,
but they provoked it).
I just had to throw some
controversy into the mix.
I suggested that we get a cast photo in the hotel's
hot tub. After much
hemming and hawing (and drinking), the troops were rounded up. And
body squeezed into the tub
for a bit of fat boiling and photo shooting.
I think a film set is a
fragile place. If you have people dicking around,
everything falls apart.
Everybody has their job
and it all has to be run
like a machine. Tensions are high, but nobody
wants to be the one that
So, in this case, the cast and
crew learned to live with each other for
six weeks, and by the end
of the shoot, the only
news to report is that everybody seemed to have made a few more friends.
You always hear about the
closeness on a set. I think it must be the
same kinda thing as in a war.
You might hate the person
next to you, but
they're usually watching your back. And you're both
fighting for the same
So I concluded that
filmmaking is like war and school.
Why does anyone bother?