Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lights…Camera…Action! by Hudson Owen

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 – David and I arrived early at the Players Theatre Loft, in Greenwich Village, and waited outside for the space to clear so that we could get started.  A tall woman walked past us into the loft, Jessica Savage, the dancer, who did not recognize us.  She had been unable to meet with David Fletcher, Malou Beauvoir and me prior to the shoot, as planned.

Jessica lists fan dancing as one of her special skills.  But there is nothing of the burlesque queen in her demeanor as she warms up.   She turns gracefully, like a ballet dancer while I give her notes.  She asks if I want a slow or fast dance, and I say slow.  I have not seen her dance, but she has an impressive resume and I have a good feeling watching her.  Malou texts me that she will is five minutes late.  Good.  We will have plenty of time to shoot this 4-5 minute film.  Or, so I think.

This is my second film to promote my show Paris – A Musical of the 1920s.  With two characters, it will be a highly condensed version of the Bricktop scene in the Second Act.  Bricktop was a favorite of the literary set in Paris.  The F. Scott Fitzgerald’s drank and danced at her nightclub.  Did you know that T. S. Eliot gave her a birthday card?  Bricktop was known to the royalty of Europe.  When King Edward abdicated the throne and ran off with Wallis Simpson, he and his lover stayed with Bricktop awhile.

Malou plays Bricktop.  Malou Beauvoir is an American who traveled with her parents from America to France at an early age.  She enjoyed a globe-trotting career in business before turning to singing.  And what a voice she has!  She has sung in top clubs in Paris and Europe.  She is a star with a gorgeous voice, and I am lucky to have her.
David sets up his camcorder.  He has prepared a tape of incidental piano music to go over Malou’s dialogue and music for the song itself, “Café au Lait.”  The theater sends up a staffer to man the sound-light booth so that I can concentrate on directing.  He sets up some stage lighting and says he needs to run an errand and will be back shortly.

Malou arrives with her several dresses.  I make a choice, and she and Jessica go backstage to change.  Fifteen minutes go by…twenty…David and I make noises at the curtain…twenty-five minutes.  Finally, my actresses emerge in costume.  Jessica requires half an hour to change and put on make-up—time I had not allowed for.
A new crises arises.  When we first met for this film, David and I discovered that the lead sheet, written years ago, reflects an earlier version of the song and does not match the CD version.  This means that Malou and David had to learn the song, separately, by ear from the CD.  So, should Malou follow the tape David has prepared?  Or should David follow Malou’s singing on the baby grand piano in the loft?  Words fly back and forth.  David is an experienced musical theater director and has his own band, Washington’s Best.  As producer and director, as well as writer, I make the call for David.

Where is the staffer to man the booth?  With less than twenty minutes of rental on the space, we shoot our first take, with David at the piano and me behind his camera.  We get in another full take and one aborted take.  I see time running out, and lock the loft door.  I call places for a third take—and hear loud banging on the door.   It is the staffer who, ages ago, had promised to man the booth, and now he wants us out.  David and I descend on him like wolves.  “We’ve been waiting 45 minutes for you!” David, a mild-mannered man, hollers.  Okay, we get five more minutes and one more take.  Will that be enough?

I leave with Malou a short time later, hurrying past a dreary looking theater troup waiting to get inside the loft.  She is hungry, the evening is young.  We stop in at Panchitos down the block on MacDougal Street.  It’s just like in the movies: producer and star.  We slide into our warm booth by the window.  Outside, the real world walks by in the cold.

The young waiter appears to ask if we want drinks.  Casually, effortlessly, I say: “We have just wrapped a film.”  Ah, those magic words.  The waiter glances over at the fabulous singer.  A smile slides across his face as visions of fame and glory dance in his eyes.

You can catch “An Evening at Bricktop’s” on YouTube.

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Genre – Essay
Rating – G
More details about the author and the book


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