‘JAY and SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK’ - On-Set Production Report
Making films is a labor of love, and no one’s love labors more than that of Kevin Smith’s, which I clearly found evident within the first week of shooting.
So let me take you on set and show you around at what all went on during production for Week 1. We’ve got a looong week ahead of us - so let’s get to it!
Saturday, January 13th through Friday, January 19th 2001.
"GETTING A JUMP START ON THINGS" – Saturday, "Pre-shoot", Day 1
Before the first "official" day of shooting begins on Wednesday the 17th, Kev opts to get an early start on things and decides to go with two days of preliminary shooting, which essentially means that Miramax picks up the costs for those days without adding the expenses to the initial budget of the project. So it’s basically two free days, that Kev decides to take advantage of.
It’s also on this day that I’m informed to report to the studio lot at 1pm, where my name will be listed at the gate.
As I drive down Ventura Blvd., past the studio lot, its an easy enough shoot to find as all the trucks, lights and equipment are lined up the street in front of the main gate. I swing around and enter through the back gate, get my on lot pass, and find Bungalow 20 where I’m to meet Kev’s assistant, Gail whom I’ve spent time and time again talking with on the phone and who has been most instrumental in helping coordinate this thing between Kev and myself. She’s a crucial liaison between us as she keeps me abreast of scheduling (including the where’s and when’s of locations), any last minute changes and setting me up with daily lot access.
So I meet Gail at the office and she walks me down onto the set where I find Kev and Jay dressed in costume already working hard rehearsing a chase sequence. Diedrich Bader of "The Drew Carrey Show" and "Office Space" is also there on hand rehearsing in the scene as well.
I hang back with Gail and the crew for a bit, and soon find Kev’s wife Jen and their daughter (who at about 1 _ years old, is just about the cutest thing on two legs), Harley Quinn. Jen’s about to take Harley back to the house for a nap, but not before "Uncle Jay" comes over to play with her for a bit. Harley takes a real liking to Jay, as does Jay to her. It’s with her that I see the softer side of Mewes for the first time.
Jay recognizes me on the set, nods his head as says, "Hey, what’s up?" He hands Harley back to Jen and takes a seat opposite me where we chat briefly as I begin looking over his outfit. I first notice the black T-shirt, underneath a Quick Stop employee shirt. The T-shirt prominently features a picture of "OLAF" (the Russian metal head from ‘CLERKS’) and reads "Berserker" down below. Pretty sweet to see "OLAF" not forgotten and back in some way (more news to come hopefully on this later as it breaks).
Jay gets called away and that’s when I see Kev who comes back for make-up touches. He sees me, smiles and says, "Hey, glad you could make it down." He then goes on to inform me that they’ve been shooting some stuff earlier on down at the E Studios with E Entertainment correspondent, Steve Kmetko. Kev hops off the chair and goes in for another take.
I stand off to the side and watch and that’s about the time I glance past my shoulder to find Kmetko’s corresponding partner, Jules Asner, sitting alone for the moment on the back of the E van. She turns my way and finds my jaw-slacked gaze, and offers me a warm, friendly smile in return. That made my day all right. The woman is amazingly gorgeous and more striking in person.
Once Kev and Jay were through with their take, I decide to go over to the video tap and watch the playback with them. I notice then that the picture is being shot with an aspect ratio of about 2.40:1, in the Super 35 format like ‘DOGMA’ was. The shot looks wonderfully well framed, and that’s when Kev informs me of the DP responsible for not just the composition and look, but who also chose to go with the Super 35 format. "He wanted to shoot it Super 35, I was like ok, so it’s more his choice which I’m fine with." Kev says.
Now the DP responsible is a fella name Jamie Anderson, who most recently lensed Sam Raimi’s "The Gift", as well as the flick that sold Kevin on him, "Grosse Pointe Blank"(it’s obviously a favorite of his and mine as well). Anderson brings a lot of knowledge behind the camera with him, including years of experience as a camera operator working alongside such masters as Tak Fujimoto and Conrad Hall on projects ranging from the likes of "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" and "Tequila Sunrise" respectively.
I later see Scott Mosier and meet ex-Film Treat writer ‘Mad’ Malcolm Ingram, who also co-wrote and directed the films, ‘DRAWING FLIES’ and ‘TAIL LIGHTS FADE’, which Smith helped produce. We spoke for a while until I noticed someone walking up towards him. It, in fact, turned out to be actress Elizabeth Berkley. I stood there perplexed for the moment as she’s not cast in this film, but had somehow made her way onto the set. She said she was just driving by and literally saw Malcolm from the distance and had to pullover to say "hi." Malcolm informs me later that he had directed her in a role for ‘Tail Lights Fade’ and they both had a great experience working together on set and hadn’t seen each other since.
Jay comes around and meets Berkley and then proceeds to playfully mock Malcolm at a distance, but he’s too engaged in deep conversation with her to take notice. Malcolm then introduces her to Kev and Jen.
Just one of several celebrity visits that I’m sure is yet to come, and it’s no sooner that very same day that the set is paid by an un-expected visit from MTV’s "The Real World’s" own Puck. Apparently Puck saw the filming and deciding to take a peek. That’s when behind Malcolm and I we hear security asking him the stand away. "I’m cool man. I just want to see Jay and Silent Bob, that’s all," he says in typical Puck fashion. He stood there for a bit before hoping back into his car and jetting off.
Malcolm and I later inform Kev that Puck just dropped by. "Really? You mean Puck from ‘The Real World’?" he says.
At 4pm that afternoon Kev wraps for the day, and drives off in the golf cart with Jen down the lot (but not before shouting something along the lines of "See ya later fuckwads!" to Malcolm and me), as we walk back. Ha-ha, funny.
This was a good, smooth first day of shooting, and from talking with some of the crew, one of the smoothest days they’ve ever experienced. This obviously stems from the cast and crew that Kev’s assembled. It’s a very relaxed, but hard-working and professional crew that he has.
"STILL WITH ME?" – Tuesday ("Whatever happened to Monday?") – "Pre-shoot", Day 2
Monday is Martin Luther King Day, so production resumes on Tuesday with Jeff Anderson’s first day of shooting, reprising his role as "Randal Graves" from ‘CLERKS’. It’s basically somewhat of an action sequence that involves Randal with little dialog (and that’s all I’ll say), so Kev and crew wrap early that day, and I unfortunately miss that day on set more or less.
"NOW THE FUN OFFICIALLY BEGINS…" – Wednesday, Day 1
…With George Carlin. Yes, it’s Carlin day, all day today. I arrive on set at 8:44am which is somewhere out in Camarillo, about an hour outside LA. The location is a bit away from crew parking so I’m shuttled in.
Once I arrive on set I quickly find Kev with Jay hard at work. Within 3 minutes, they wrap a scene and everyone packs up and moves a little further down the road. Apparently they all started at 6:30am, so I just catch the tail end of that scene.
8:56am - The crew unloads and sets up, and it’s here that I find George Carlin on set.
9:00am - Kevin begins blocking scene with he Jay and Carlin, while DP Anderson sets up shot. I soon begin to feel the chill in the air, as conditions are sunny, but also cold and windy at times. I also notice that we’re shooting on a road that runs parallel to some railroad tracks. In the not too far distance is also a small airport.
As I talk to Scott and Kev, they inform me that they’re also shooting "TV-safe" versions, which are basically alternate takes that will be re-edited for TV friendly airplay. Believe me when I tell you, this is no easy task with this film. Kev doesn’t really care for the idea either, but it’s more a studio call than his as Miramax thinks they can make a viable sale of the film to the networks if Kev shoots alternate takes.
10am – Grilled Cheese sandwiches are made and served on set. Kev rehearses another scene involving Carlin getting into a semi.
10:57am – The crew changes to another set up, as Carlin walks alongside the road rehearsing his lines to himself, all the while Scott talks to line producer, Laura Greenlee, while Kev takes a cell call and Jay tries to stay warm in the van. On set I soon meet ‘AMY’ & ‘DOGMA’ production designer, Robert "Ratface" Holtzman. We talk about the difficulties of location scouting and how he came to choose this site and the challenges of doing a road trip movie that’s localized in LA, but needs to be representative of several cross country locations. He invites me to stop by his offices to show me further designs, and prop mock ups for the film. Very cool indeed, and I assure him I will indeed be taking him up on that offer.
"PLANES, TRAINS & SEAGULLS"
It’s during the 11:00 hour that we’re hit with elements beyond our control. In the middle of takes, we begin picking up unwanted outside noise that prevents Sound Mixer, Whit Norris from getting clean sound during the take that we’re forced to stop rolling and wait for circling planes overhead to pass. When the planes fade out into the distance, that’s when a flock of chirping seagulls begin to come inland. If that’s isn’t enough, lo and behold, here come the trains!
"LET THEM EAT…"
…Grilled chicken, fish, BBQ ribs, cheesy pasta and salad!
It was a trying hour, but we manage past it. Breaking for lunch at twelve, we all shuttle back to base camp for chow.
As I go off, Jen leaves to go catch a quick interview with George Carlin for the documentary that’ll appear on the eventual DVD release. From what I’m told, the documentary should be very lengthy (anywhere from 2 to 4hrs.), fashioned in a typical "behind the scenes" format, with a View Askew retrospective from past cast and crew as well. It’s going to be pretty sweet, and she already has tons of footage. Can’t wait to see it myself when it’s all done and put together.
I grab a quick bite and head back to the trailers, where I meet up with Jen inside. We discuss the expectations of this film and how much it means to Kevin in hoping that the film not only appeals to the fans but also plays to those unfamiliar with his past work. We also talk about how trying and difficult it was in living through ‘DOGMA’ including the rather serious and fearful death threats against Kev and the family at the time Jen was still pregnant. Things not to taken lightly, that it eventually got to the point that they had to have bodyguards protecting them.
I ask Jen if she’s shooting today, and she informs me she unexpectedly is as one of the stunt girls never showed, so she’s stepping up to bat. It’s a minor scene in which she just has to drive a van down the road, but one that soon requires her to go to make-up.
It’s also about the time that the 2nd 2nd AD, Casey Mako, comes into the trailer informing me that Kevin has requested me back on set and that I have a shuttle waiting to take me there.
"BACK ON SET"
I watch Carlin from the playback monitors and can’t help but to laugh. Kevin has given Carlin some great dialog to work with here, and Carlin delivers to perfection.
The scene wraps and all come over to watch the scene playback. We all laugh hysterically at Carlin acting off Jay in the scene, to which afterwards Carlin says something along the lines of "that kills my chances of ever getting in with the academy." The scene is hilarious, as with sooo many I’ve seen so far.
Someone sitting behind us just sneezes and Kev is the first one to shout out "bless you" as he continues looking at the shot.
So 2:25pm Carlin wraps, and he’s shuttle back to base, while we stay on set to do a little more coverage with Jay and Silent Bob. Carlin was very professional and obvious takes comedy quite seriously, and the results are now priceless and forever caught on film.
We finish at 3:26pm after "checking the gate" and move down the road a bit more. It’s here where Jen is to do her scene and it’s to be the final shot of the day. But before we move on down the road, Kev takes a call from Bob Weinstein who informs him that he’s just seen the first set of dailies and loves them. News that Kev and co. are delighted to hear.
"THAT’S A WRAP FOLKS, NICE JOB EVERYONE."
At 4:02pm Jen finishes and we all pile in the van together and head back to our cars at base. Kev then decides on what time to show dailies from the previous days shoot of Jeff Anderson’s stuff. "Say in about an hour from now? How long is it to get back into the valley from here?" Kev asks. "At this time going back on the 101, you’re gonna hit traffic, no way around it." I say. "How come I don’t yet know about all this traffic?" Kev says. "Because you’re a Jersey boy, you’ve got turnpikes, we’ve got freeways." I explain. "All right, let’s make it at 6 then, dailies at 6." he says.
"BACK AT THE OFFICE & VIEWING DAILIES"
I just beat the gang back to the office where they trail in about 5 minutes behind me. At this point, we’re all looking a bit exhausted and haggard, not to mention quite red in the face from being out in the sun all day. Kev checks his messages and then we all pile into one of the golf carts as Kev drives us to the screening room for dailies.
Since this was stuff that was shot on the day I missed, I was eager to check out what was shot and see how it came out. Once inside, I find that the place is loaded with pizza, beer and soda. We all grab some, and Kev gives the go ahead to kill the lights and run the dailies. It’s like sitting in with a bunch of friends, watching your friend make a movie. That’s what watching dailies with Kev feels like.
After viewing the dailies of Anderson, I see that he’s eased himself back into the role of "Randal" that its weird watching him reprise that role back to life these years later. But he fits back into it like an old glove that feels just right. Good stuff. Our day ends here, at 6:53pm.
"BIGGS, VAN DER BEEK & A MONKEY?" – Thursday, Day 2
Well not really a monkey per say, but more like an orangutan named "Tango".
When I arrive back on lot late afternoon, I’m informed that I’ve just missed Jason Biggs and James Van Der Beek for the day. Damn! Well, what’s left? I enter into one of two and a half occupied stages for the production, and today it’s Stage 19 where I find Jay, Kevin and Tango rehearsing. I see Scott Mosier talking to ‘X-MEN’ producer Tom De Santo who decided to stop on by. As Kevin works, I talk a bit with Tom until Kev comes over towards the monitors, sees me and gives me a wave.
Kev checks the shot and decides to do another one with he, Jay and Tango. The trainers shout directions to Tango off to the side of camera hoping to get Tango to do the necessary performance that’s needed for the scene. Working with an orangutan ain’t easy folks. As Scott Mosier says, "You just have to keep rolling and wait for the magic to happen." And that’s exactly what you have to do. As Malcolm Ingram points out "the monkey’s not a trained performer, it doesn’t have to play by Hollywood rules."
Once Kev’s satisfied, we move to another shot of just he and Jay sans Tango. It’s a simple scene that has Kev (as Silent Bob) taking down two garment bags off the wall and holding them up to camera. Sometimes the simplest of tasks can be the most trying and difficult to nail just right, and with this it’s just the case. But as I mention to Kev this is indeed going to be one of those shots that makes the audience go "oh, yeaaah!" so it has to be just right.
We later wrap, and as we walk out of the stage and head up to dailies, Kev introduces me to his co-writer on ‘CLERKS: TAS’, Dave Mendal who dropped in for a quick "hello" and was soon heading out.
"LAST DAY OF WEEK ONE" – Friday, Day 3
Arrive on lot again at 5:07pm to find Casey tooling by me in a gold cart. I flag her down and she offers me a lift onto the set. She also informs me that they’ve just wrapped for the day and finished up with Biggs and Van Der Beek in the morning. Oh well, thank god for dailies because at least I can see what I missed.
I go back to the office, meet up with everyone and head to dailies to get my first glimpse of these two in action.
Before dailies I chat with Scott about the concern of being on "Storm Watch" out here for Monday’s outdoor shoot and how he goes about dealing with the situation, including the impending threat of California’s "rolling blackouts".
He basically tells me that the blackouts shouldn’t disrupt production as they’ll just run off "gennies" (generators), and as far as getting rained out it’s just not an option. Because a day you don’t shoot, is about a loss of $150,000. So he tells me they have construction guys working overtime over the weekend to erect "cover sets" inside the stage, just in case production is unable to shoot outside and is forced to move indoors. That also would mean that they’d have to flip-flop the schedule around to accommodate the changes, rescheduling actors, permits and such.
We also talk about how to make sure the first week of production is a happy and productive one, to which he offers me this advice, "What you want to do is schedule scenes that you know are doable, and you get what you need and not fall behind schedule right away. Plus the fact that you’re on time and in control makes your cast and crew feel more comfortable and relaxed. And you also want to allow a little time for the crew to get to know one another during this first week." Sage-like advice from such an "uber-producer" as Scott Mosier is.
During dailies it honestly took me a moment before I recognized Biggs and Van Der Beek in costume, but these two look great and are funnier than I thought they’d be.
I’m just amazed at how well this thing is coming together, how in control Kevin is in front and behind the camera, keeping everything on time and on schedule, the job that cast and crew have done just within the first week, Jay’s performance, all of it truly phenomenal watching all this coming together before my own eyes. It really gives you a different perspective and new appreciation being on this end watching the entire process take shape from script to screen. The crew is great and everyone gels and bonds together in a matter of days. We’re all literally having such a fun time here so far, and from the work, and dailies I’ve seen so far, it shows onscreen as well.
So that’s week one down, with about nine or ten left to go! I know it’s kind of long, but as you can see there’s been a lot of productivity happening within the first week alone.
UPCOMING IN NEXT WEEK’S COLUMN…
We’re currently on storm watch here folks. Do we get hit with rain or do we just miss? My first glimpse at week one footage roughly edited by Kev and Scott, meeting Will Ferrell, and let’s not forget about Thursday’s BIG upcoming El Rey shoot with about 350 extras, not to mention more meets and greets with the cast and crew and maybe even a few surprises I’m currently working on. Trust me, it’s not one you’ll want to miss!
So tune in back here, different Bat-time, but same Bat-channel, as I think we’ll try and do this column each Tuesday from now on (but don’t quote me on that!).