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(Editor's Note: Please consider this the "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" tag for this page ... Jake sometimes uses naughty words. Some of them start with "F." You're now warned ... carry on.)
When fellow comrade in cinematic insanity Joe Atkinson asked me if I'd be down to contribute a blog entry to this week's progression of events in relation to the awesomeness that is The Book of Dallas, my response was a rather swift and resounding, "Absofuckinglutely." And so here we go, kiddies. Greetings, reader. I'm Jakob Bilinski and I'll be your captain on this literary recap of dastardly filmic shenanigans.
Joe already covered the bases on how I came to be a part of this project in his first entry in this series. Suffice it to say, Joe and I crossed paths a little under a year ago and (rather frighteningly) quickly fell into a consistent mode of collaborative scheming. The Book of Dallas, spawned from the depths of Joe's warped mind (in this case I'll be playing the role of the pot to Joe's kettle), was one of the first projects to prepare for manifestation. Joe was kind enough to unexpectedly fellate my previous film work in his blog entry so I suppose it's appropriate to mention that while I'm not personally a huge fan of the web-series format (what can I say, I've got feature-length narrative-fiction tunnel vision), I simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to be a part of this thing. Joe's script is that damn good.
And so here we are. Three (official) weekends into the shoot. This past Sunday night was a "me" night (the directing duties for the 10 episodes are split amongst the series' producers here: Joe, myself and Marx Pyle). More specifically, Sunday was the bulk of the pilot episode to the series (no pressure on me ... at all). The centerpiece here is a series of scenes in a local bar with Dallas and his friends engaging in riveting, socially-lubricated discourse about religion and faith (or lack thereof), relationship dynamics, and other fun things like copious inebriation, meth-head shotgun tragedies, stirring adult beverages with Tootsie pops, and quickie bathroom sex. More on that later.
We locked in for the night at Gambrinus Libation Emporium in Owensboro, KY roundabout 6:30pm. This was after I had already spent the entire day filming additional scenes on my and resident visual maestro David Paul Bonnell's epic hookers-with-shotguns grindhouse double-feature shorts (coming soon!) in Evansville. And now I'd be filming Dallas scenes till sunup. Why do I do this to myself, you ask? To quote Joe Pesci in Casino ... "Cause I'm fuckin' stupid."
Speaking of Gambrinus ... John Condray, the owner of said awesome bar explained to me that it's named after Gambrinus, who was this famous king of Flanders and is the patron saint of beer. No joke: check it out for yourself. Seriously, there is a patron saint of beer. It's probably fitting that on a production centered around a crisis of faith I would renew mine. There is a drinking saint one can pray to. I've been doing it wrong. All this time I just thought you were supposed to pray to the porcelain god ...
In tow for the madness with myself and Joe were fellow director/producer Marx Pyle, Ben Crockett as Dallas, Jeanne Whitney as Lindsey, Clay Evans as Hank, Grant Niezgodski as Randy, Kiley Eberhard as Vanessa, Gamer Chick's Sarah Moore as Julie, and a handful of extras and crew including the ever-awesome/enthusiastic/crazy-helpful Timothy Paul Taylor and resident awesomest intern, Mike Armanno. A small but tight knit group of misfits.
As is the case with most every indie production, we had complications to overcome and endure to get this sucker shot (or even in front of cameras, period). Our original Vanessa, who was coming in from out of town, woke up the night before cripplingly sick and was unable to make it to the shoot. Thankfully Kiley (an insanely talented actress) was willing to step up to the plate and make herself available for the role. And girl had a huge-ass monologue to learn with zero preparation, which this director was stubborn about and wanted to shoot in a single take, meaning she couldn't screw it up and pick up where she left off in a subsequent camera angle. What can I say? I like to torture my actors. And Grant was apparently quite sick as well, disappearing between takes to barf up his intestines (something that has already happened to Ben on a previous shooting day ... maybe our web series is cursed?). But no one complained and continually brought their A-game. Go team! We can pukefilm with the best of them.
Sarah (who I've wanted to work with for awhile now and proved to be a helluva talent, and super fun collaborator) decided to work in a character quirk for Julie, making her habitually suck Tootsie Pops (and occasionally dip them in her Jack and Coke). I lost count of how many suckers she actually went through for the scene, but it was a lot. I had a blast working in some off-script fun moments with Clay's portrayal of Hank, involving Vodka bottlechugging and Dallas faceslappery. Jeanne continued her status as being almost too easy to direct (in that she requires very little direction at all ... girl just sort of does scenes right the first time, straight out of the gate). Ben brought the goods as Dallas as usual (dude's becoming a natural at this character), and even got schooled on how to properly pour beer from a tap (I should note that Ben did nothing wrong and is a swell cat and, I'm sure, a fine mixmaster when it comes to drinks... There's just an art to beerpouring).
Once we hit roughly the midnight-1am mark, sleepiness began to set in amongst the cast and crew like an unwelcome, counterproductive marauder. Power naps were grabbed in between setups and during footage dumps (transferring camera cards to hard drives every so often). And somewhere in there Joe was rad enough to make a second caffeine run (at least second for me, as he brought me my new trademarked Starbucks cup of awesome which I want to officially dub "The Jake" to start the shoot ... Hugs, Joe). I didn't pay attention to what was brought for everyone else, just that I was handed a 20 oz Red Bull (the big boy) which I proceeded to chug in under twenty seconds. When Joe turned around and saw me crushing the can as I belched and said, "Thanks!" his only response was a wide-eyed, "Are you fucking kidding me?!" Now that I was immediately hopping around like a monkey on crack, I insisted we resume shooting. Now.
Awhile later we wrapped the bulk of the location (all the table stuffs) and moved on to the closed-set scene we'd saved for near-last: the bathroom nookie. Sorry, that's probably inappropriate ... I mean toiletfucking. Myself, Ben, Jeanne and Sarah, who was kind enough to serve dual duties as a present second female for comfort purposes (these scenes can be awkward) and boom operator, headed into the restroom to choreograph and shoot an intimate encounter between Dallas and Lindsey. The actors handled themselves incredibly well and the scene worked great. The most difficult thing about it was constantly watching to make sure my microphone cord didn't fall into the toilet, as Sarah continually assured me it wasn't (I'm more than a little bit of a germophobe... doody remnants).
After that, it was outside the bar to shoot one last scene and then I retired inside to dump the last of the footage with Joe to our hard drives as Marx grabbed a quick scene he had outside the bar for Episode 2. While Joe and I were chilling inside, Sarah came to let us know that the police had arrived. Great. It turned out that it was no big deal, they just saw us filming (at a location we had complete permission to use) and wanted to make sure we were being careful as morning work-commute traffic would be out and about soon. But still, it's not a legitimate indie film until you've been stopped by the cops! So we're official now. Street cred. What up.
We finally got out of there around 5:30am. Considering how many pages we had to shoot in this all-nighter, I'm very pleased with what we accomplished and how everything turned out. At this point about 95% of Episode 1's footage is in the can (a GREAT feeling). But the shoot is still just beginning (we're not even at the halfway point yet). I'm starting to have that realization though, based on what we've done so far and the excitement levels of what we have yet to shoot, that this sucker is going to be pretty excellent. And we can't wait for it to happen in front of your face.
Again, I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to embark on an evening of insanity in Kentucky with, so thank you to my cast and crew for enduring such a long shoot. I kind of had a ridiculous amount of fun and hope you all did, too. It was oodles of awesomesauce. That's all I've got for now. I hear that the man himself, Kevin Roach, will be speaking with you crazy cats next week and I expect Joe will be back to chat with you again soon (as a sidebar, I'd like to thank Joe for the über-kind plug on my Teaser Trailer for Three Tears On Bloodtained Flesh in the last edition - you rule, bro). In the meantime ... Cheers, guys! I'mma go chill with my boy, Gambrinus.