Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween a time for fun

Halloween is gone and the goons and goblins put away in cardboard cartons to await another airing. I love the idea of dressing up and having a different face. It has always been my fun to do so and often on set I dress to my own dress code. I suppose that the strangest incident that brought out this idiosyncrasy was in China when I was there filming MButterfly. It was totally an awesome trip with Jeremy Irons and Jon Lon and of course David Cronenberg and many of our Canadian crew. We even filmed on the great wall. I remember my first visit to the wall when we climbed the steps to the tower we were going to film from. Every step was a different hight and a different depth so you had to look down or you would trip. I could not believe what seemed to me to be very bad workmanship until I realized if I was an enemy I would have to look down on every step to see where I was going and at night it would be impossible to go up without tripping. I guess the Chinese defenders were trained to go up and down blindfolded both forwards and backwards giving them a tremendous advantage in defending the wall. On the day that we filmed we saw about a mile away at the next tower a bright reflecting light. We investigated as it was spoiling the picture. It was a film crew just like ourselves filming a fashion show. Can you imagine the laughter that in the thousands of miles of wall two film crews would be so close to one another. Luckily they were gone in an hour and out scene was as it should be. In Beijing we shot streets and comings and goings which would be used in the film. We did most of our interiors for China in Toronto. That was odd to in that the studio we filmed in used to be Toronto Iron Works and in 1960 one of my last jobs before I went into show biz was as an xray technician at Toronto Iron Works and I worked in the same huge building back then xraying large boilers to make sure their welds were perfect. Shooting MButterfly was the next time I ever went there so it had a certain special meaning for me.
In Beijing we did the play in a local play house. It was down an alley and on first look hard to imagine that a 400 or so seat theatre could be anywhere nearby but then that is the surprises found in the city. So Jon Lon was going to sing with the Opera group and we loaded in and prepared for our first day. We had about 300 extras and the scene was the first time Jeremy sees Jon and is infatuated by him. One major problem we had was that it took Jon about 3 hours to do his makeup. He was trained in classical opera and rehearsed himself tirelessly to bring back the skills he had learned as a teenager and young man so that in the end he could once again perform his own singing. He did not take kindly to the heat and because alll the make up was pancake make up we had to worry about him sweating. After much fuss we were able to get two air conditioners put in the room he was to use as a dressing room. I planned the day to use 4 hours of insert shooting of the other singers and the players to give Jon time to do his makeup without rushing. Everything was going along swimmingly until one of my assistants came to me and said that a spot of white had flaked off Jons cheek and he said he would have to begin again as there was no way to repair it.
I thought for a moment and told my assistant to tell Jon that I would only do wide shots and a small blemish would not be noticed. It was disaster to the day if I could not film him for it would have meant turning all the lights in the other direction to do the audience and Jeremy's side of the scene. My assistant came rushing back and said it was too late and Jon had already begun to strip off his white face. I was distraught to say the least. Not my fault but now my problem to reorganize the shooting to satisfy the bad situation. We all discussed what to do and the orders were given and in a moment of I frustration I ran behind the stage to the large room that the other singers and performers were using as a dressing room. I said I had two minutes to spare and I wanted them to make up my face. It would make me feel better. And they did. Two of the singers came over and after a quick exchange decided on what character they would make me up as. It did only take a couple of minutes to do and for the rest of the day I ran the set looking an odd mixture of things. The Chinese audience laughed when they first saw me but took my orders to watch and clap and enjoy so we accomplished Jeremy's entrance and all his close ups and the day was saved. When I was doing The Bay of Love and Sorrows in New Brunswick it was Halloween and there were some lovely make ups done and the make up lady there did my Chinese face once again for me to enjoy.

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