Sunday, April 25, 2010
8:30 a.m. GMT + 1
The radio blurts out the latest news. It’s ANZAC Day in Australia. A whole nation mourns the loss of 8000 lives at Gallipoli in the winter of 1915. Nothing nearly as terrible’s about to happen in Cologne today, but inevitably the scenes we shot for the video of Golden on a military cemetery the other day pop up in my mind. Clumsily, I set the coffee grinder to work. Shooting Golden wasn’t finished before the wee hours, and I absent-mindedly imagine my brain to be some sort of army general who vainly attempts to reassemble dispersed ranks of confused thoughts, dysfunctional limbs and sensory organs after an arduous battle… Already, the weather’s great, the sky a cloudless blue. Sitting at the kitchen table, gazing out the window over the rim of a large mug of Italian cappuccino (God bless Jura coffee machines) my mood slowly rises with the morning sun. Let the good times roll!
On the set, in a loft we hastily rearranged for the first scene. Christina and Timo grapple with technical details. Subdued curses fill the room. A bulb for one of the spotlights breaks. Nothing to worry about, we have spares.
I am standing on the topmost rung of a large ladder, trying to tape the last lanes of Molton, a dense black fabric used to darken a room, to the high windows overhead. The first extras arrive on the set. Sue shows them around, telling them where to get dressed and put on make-up. Yesterday’s schedule was very tight, and already we’re lagging behind...
I’m getting dressed in a hurry. (I call the outfit ‘the Luigi Pepperoni look’, for it vaguely reminds me of the protagonist in a Mafia thriller.)
Everyone is sitting around a table decorated with half-filled bottles of alcohol, both genuine and fake. By now, we should have been shooting for about an hour. I see the red light of the camera flashing. So we’re on at last! Don’t look into the camera eye, I remind myself. Sue pushes play, and the beats of Sometimes fill the room.
Some of the extras/our friends are still a bit stiff and tense. Intuitively, I animate them, tell dirty jokes and try to enjoy myself as good as it gets, hoping it'll be contagious. Birgit, an actress by trade, eventually breaks the ice when she (repeatedly, as we need the scene shot from different angles) ‘vomits’ tuna salad onto the table. The cast snort dextrose (as a substitute for cocaine) through drinking straws from a hand-held mirror – a terrible, prickling sensation. Everyone laughs heartily. It all seems so absurd.
Timo beckons to me, confiding that we must improvise and change the script. Initially, the idea was that the character I play is indifferent and increasingly opposed to the orgy unfolding around him. However, this 'Luigi Pepperoni' guy has suddenly metamorphosed into the party's epicentre. What to do? Timo suggests we postpone my successive aversion to the excess until the scene when my character arrives at the bar. Suits me fine.
We leave the loft in a hurry, taking only what we need for the shoot in the 'Bar-Orange' which is in central Cologne, about 5 kilometres from here. Have we shot all we needed to? I can't really say. There's more things to transport than we can manage in one go, and the other extras will arrive at the bar in half an hour. Birgit lends us her station wagon and offers to stay on the set for as long as we need her. Two more helping hands, hands we direly need - thank God for friends!
Many more people have come than I expected. No one's let us down, although it's such a brilliant and hot day, just the right weather to go swimming or stroll into town to gobble up heaps of ice cream, or do anything that doesn't involve whiling away the afternoon in a smoky pub, really. But the best thing is - they totally enjoy themselves. Not only do they like partying in the daytime, but quite obviously they like the song! Few people have heard (the yet unmastered version of) Sometimes before today, nor has anyone ever been asked to dance to the rhythm of the song. But they do, and it all feels so natural, just how it's supposed to be!
The Incredible Holg joins us. He too is overwhelmed by the crowd's reaction to Sometimes.
No way are we gonna finish shooting our script in the next fifteen minutes. Up till now, everything's gone according to plan, if, however, not according to schedule... I talk to Naima, the bartender. Can she stay on? Yes, she can, if we pay her appropriately. No bargaining here, she's a tough negotiator. Doesn't matter. Nothing could be worse than not finishing shooting the video today.
The toilet scenes are on. It's hot and sticky in here and the cubicles are very small. In the 'mirror scene' , I'm throwing so much water into my face that Timo asks whether I intend to flood the restroom... Boy, do I feel tired. But no thought of giving up now.
Timo and I have just finished shooting the last scenes, in which I stumble out of the Bar-Orange. No great acting skills needed on my part for this, I'm completely wiped out. But the day's not over yet. First, we have to clean and pack up things, then I'll have to get Christina home, return the Molton to the TPZ and half the spotlights (another bulb expired today) to the Filmhaus plus get the station wagon to Birgit's place...
Supper, lots of supper, and then off to bed. Tomorrow morning, I must return the camera to DHX studios and the other half of the spotlights to Schnittpunkt, after which I have an appointment in a recording studio in Düsseldorf. Was today's work worth it? I bloody well hope so...
EPILOGUE: Monday, June 6, 2010
10:30 p.m. GMT+1
Timo calls in with the first rough cut. Since my TV set is banished to the cellar, we visit friends of mine who not only make an appearance in the bar room scenes of the video but own a huge flat screen. The tension is palpably high. Timo's never done a music video before and I haven't seen the tiniest scrap of material yet. What if it all was just a big mistake and a total waste of time and energy?
It becomes immediately clear, after the first thirty or so seconds, that Timo has done a marvellous job. We watch the video again and again, commenting on this and that aspect, drinking beer, relaxing. Timo has yet to do some colour corrections and I must write the credits, but otherwise it's done! "What a difference a few dedicated individuals can make," I can't help thinking. It was such a great team effort, with a (perhaps less than) minimum staff of four. Repeat: Was it worth the trouble? You bet!