Saturday, January 31, 2009

DAY EIGHT - “Wishin’ I Was Witcha in Wichita,” or “Paging Doctor Handskin”

Today we shoot all of the scenes that take place in Professor Jack's office. It's our heaviest dialogue day so far, and never has it been more apparent that this "soundstage" is neither soundproof nor suitably removed from trains, planes and traffic. About a half hour into shooting - when we're still trying to get clean takes of the same two lines - our youthful soundguy Chris looks as though he has aged five years before our eyes. At this rate, by the end of the day he'll be able to play the Cranston Brothers' dear old dad.

Chris is easily the quietest member of our crew. Then again, what self-respecting soundman would be anything but? Unfortunately, he is so quiet and mild-mannered that it's difficult for us to tell how he feels about each take. Whenever I ask him how a particular take sounds, the most demonstrative gesture I'll get from him is a nod or a grunt. Even the most hideous audio disturbance is acknowledged by little more than a frown and a grunt from Chris. So I quickly learn to grade his responses on what I call the Chris Curve: the frown-and-grunt combo means the sound sucks, a shrug means that it's usable but not great, a nod and raised eyebrow means it's pretty good, and the ever-so-rare grin means it's the audio equivalent of solid gold.

I can imagine what a more vocal audio man would have to say about our noisy locale. Even so, the low-key Chris can't keep his thoughts entirely to himself. At the end of the day he turns to Jeff and says, "Next time, I'll do the location scouting."

Joel Ripka joins the cast today as Jack's sidekick, Buddy. Not only is this Joel's first day on the set, but he was just given the role less than 24 hours ago, as a last-minute replacement for another actor who had to drop out. So, "It Came From Yesterday" literally applies to Joel as he stands on the set desperately trying to recall the lengthy monologue he had to memorize overnight. After a number of interesting variations on a speech in which Buddy recounts a time he almost wet his pants while on a mission in Wichita, Joel finally nails it. Well, except for the final line. Instead of concluding with, "We'll take them nasty things on, dry pants and all!" he instead exclaims that they will confront their enemies with "wet pants and all!"

Now, I'm not usually one to break up from laughter on the set. In fact, our key grip Chuck was reportedly asking several members of the crew last week if they'd ever seen me smile. Naturally, after hearing this I made an extra effort to keep a straight and stoic face around Chuck. But today he must be astonished when I crack up - not once, but twice - during the office scene. The first time is on Joel's wet pants line. The second moment of unexpected comedy comes courtesy of Nayli, who inexplicably begins referring to the character of Dr. Haskin as "Dr. Handskin." I bite my tongue and try to maintain my composure, lest I ruin another take. That is, until I look over and see half the crew doubled over in laughter as well.

By day's end we make it through all of the office dialogue, despite the noisy traffic and noisy laughter. And I'm pleased to report that although the laughter got pretty uncontrollable for a bit, everyone leaves the studio with dry pants.

1. The view from Jack's office
2. Jeff and Steve "hold for sound" as Chris silently curses the traffic
3. Thumbs up for Joel Ripka, who joins the team as Buddy
4. Aaron and I have a laugh; Midian has a mere chuckle

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