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February 20, 2007

Guerilla Filmmaking 2

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The Wife, our director buddy, and I are now midway through our two-week microbudget-movie shoot. Going very well, thank you. A comic-erotic-philosophical masterpiece is making its way into the world. And quite an adventure too: Remind me to tell you about the subfreezing evening when our actors spent three hours naked in an outdoor hot tub. God I love actors! At least when I don't want to kill them ...

A few more observations about the process:

  • Peanut butter. What is it about young men and peanut butter? One of The Wife's duties on our set is to supply the day's food. She does a swanky yet informal job of it, coming through with soups, salads, excellent coffee and tea, tasty pasta dishes, and endless amounts of high-class nibbles. What could be better eatin' than that? But the food that consistently makes the young guys working on our film happiest is peanut butter. Peanut butter on bread, peanut butter on toast, peanut butter on crackers ... Even peanut butter eaten directly from the spoon or knife. I should add that the couple of European young people on our crew have no interest in peanut butter, and that I've always avoided the stuff myself -- it makes me thirsty, sticks in my mouth in gluey ways, and usually leaves me with a case of the hiccups. But I'm an exception, I guess. (I recall that in his younger days, fellow Blowhard FvB was quite the peanut-butter consumer. His other main food groups were hot dogs and mayonnaise.) Does anyone have any theories about why it is that young American guys -- and perhaps especially young American guys with an interest in filmmaking -- so adore peanut butter? One of our actresses has ventured the guess that it's a "Mom is taking care of me" thing.

  • Petty cash. It's quite amazing how the fives and twenties disappear when you're making even a small movie. The cash vanishes on swarms of minor, barely-noticeable expenses: parking, cabs, cold medicine, bulbs, train tickets, wigs, equipment failures, makeup. It seems to be a given of filmmaking that a plethora of tiny things is forever going wrong even when things generally are going very well. As a consequence, quick and frequent outlays of cash are a standard feature of the filmmaking process. I gotta say that fives and twenties are miraculous in their power to solve, avoid, or at least deflect minor calamities. Would films get made at all if the machinery weren't being oiled in this way? I wonder if there isn't another element that comes into play too. I wonder if the exhilaration and the high of filmmaking -- and filmmaking is indeed a high -- gets to people. Or maybe it just gets to me; perhaps I've developed a small case of big-shot-itis. In any case, making a film is a silly, quixotic, yet intoxicating activity; it seems to require and encourage a certain heedlessness of attitude. And when people start to feel a little flamboyant and what-the-hellish with their money, watch out.

I don't know if this qualifies as an observation or not, but ... Hey, it's actually true that people on Long Island listen to a lot of Billy Joel.



posted by Michael at February 20, 2007


You sound happy.
Maybe that's what you ought to be doing with your life?

Posted by: Tat on February 20, 2007 3:30 PM

Peanut butter has a fair amount of protein yet contains no animal products. It's a good way for vegetarians and, especially, vegans to get enough protein in their diets. Could some of these actors be vegetarian?

Posted by: Peter on February 20, 2007 4:06 PM

Mmm. Peanut butter. Food of the gods. Sadly for me, I quit eating the stuff 11 years ago because it was sticking to more of me than the roof of my mouth.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on February 20, 2007 4:37 PM

I second that. Peanut butter has fat, protein, and carbohydrates, and packs a lot of calories in a small volume, so it will fill you up. Plus, like Peter said, good way for veggies to get protein. Another excellent source of vegetable protein is beans, but those aren't as tasty and have a musical side effect.

Posted by: SFG on February 20, 2007 5:01 PM

I suspect the chief appeal of peanut butter is as comfort food. I have lived in Europe since the 80s and nobody eats it here. My American mother always kept it on hand when I was a kid, though. All complaints about meals were headed off with an open offer of a peanut butter sandwich. As my family's chief cook today, I fully understand this strategy, but I would never voluntarily eat the stuff, except maybe in a satay.

Posted by: robert on February 21, 2007 3:14 AM

I have lived in Europe since the 80s and nobody eats it here.
The Dutch will eat it, though. A lot. Though the Dutch peanut butter is based on the Surinamese original, with peppers. The American stuff is much too sweet, compared to ours.

Posted by: ijsbrand on February 21, 2007 9:13 AM

I think the difference in sugar content is a large part of the difference in popularity in the US relative to Europe. US peanut butter more nearly approaches the taste of other common snack foods. It's also an accustomed flavor for most Americans, perhaps because it is sweet. I suspect the result is a feedback loop.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on February 21, 2007 12:38 PM

MB - Slightly Off Topic: has the script remained pretty much intact, as written; or is it "evolving?"

Posted by: ricpic on February 21, 2007 1:39 PM

Tat -- Could be! But if so I'm 30 years too late. Just don't have the stamina it takes any longer ...

Peter -- I should have been clearer. The actors aren't eating the peanut butter, it's the behind--the-scenes male people. The actors tend to be trendy and health-conscious in their eating. Then they go outside to have a smoke ...

Donald, SFG -- It's interesting to me the way some people really really love peanut butter. It's just never meant much to me. I wonder if you have to get hooked as a kid. Although I do love peanut-butter ice cream ...

Robert -- I like your comfort-food theory! A dose of peanut butter as a way of pacifying the rowdy boys. I wonder if it's a technique that's recommended in child care books ...

Ijsbrand - Peanut butter, unsweetened, with peppers sounds pretty darned good. You damn Euros, always getting so sophisticated with your foods ...

Doug -- We're Americans, we *need* the extra added sugar. That's non-negotiable.

Ricpic -- As far as I can tell our director is shooting the script. No new scenes, no wandering off Michael Cimino-style ... Part of why we like him, though, is that he's determined the give our little movie some real movie-life apart from the script -- some sizzle in the acting and some real visual interest. So he's keeping everything loose and free. The script's full of a lot of "Oh, baby!" and squealing anyway, so it's not as though a lot of the "dialogue" can't be messed with. Easy to see how movie productions can turn into runaway disasters, though. There must be a lot of microbudget "Heavens' Gate"s out there, don't you think?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 21, 2007 2:26 PM

Making movies...the most pleasant form of masochism I've ever tried!

Cheers me up just to see you having fun.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on February 21, 2007 6:42 PM

My favorite peanut butter comfort food "recipe": Make a peanut butter and jely sandwich. Instead of bread, use two Eggo waffles. Delish.

Posted by: Tosy and Cosh on February 22, 2007 11:41 AM

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