Seniors Have It Tough:  Making The Movie

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Selected paragraphs from the book

The guards edged Keith and his friends toward the limo. As an ancient protestor tried to swat Sam with a sign, Spunk yelled, "Up your nose with a rubber hose." David, Spunk and Savage laughed hysterically at this odd rejoinder, leaving a mystified TV crew behind as the limo drove away. The gullible TV reporters would have had a real story to report if they had known that most of the protestors were a hired flash mob, arranged by the filmís publicity team, along with look-alike body parts from Stage Specialties and Fake-O-Blood from Delightful Gore. They had been hired to generate publicity, and their antics were being carefully filmed by bogus tourists to flesh-out the DVD release and publicity materials. Everyone knew that over 80% of a filmís revenue would come from the sale of ancillary rights and DVDs, while traditional box-office income was a smaller and smaller part of the take.

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Keithís screenplay indeed had "nubile young virgin clones" as a key feature. However they were not sex objects, at least not yet. His story centered on a group of extremely old people, average age 150, and their struggle to stay alive. They kept going by replacing their body parts as they wore out: just like keeping an old car running. To ensure a steady supply of parts, they raised perfect young human clones on a secret farm. This all happened at a posh retirement complex, a remote fenced enclave far out in the desert. The film opens with an explosion as a group of teenage clones escapes, and the rest of the film concerns the oldiesí bumbling efforts to recapture the perfect young bodies before the I.R.S. discovers what the oldies are doing.

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HOSEMAN BRUCE: (as he drags Poins into the office) "I've never seen anything like this one ... seems to have a good brain in a terrible body. See what you think before we cut him up for parts. Maybe we can do a brain transplant into that golf-proís carcass weíve been holding." (Bruce exits)

HOSEDOCTOR: "So you really can read; what's your favorite book?"

POINS: "THINK AND GROW RICH by Napoleon Hill."

HOSEDOCTOR: (laughs) "Have you ever considered a medical career?"

POINS: "I'm good at math."

HOSEDOCTOR: (more serious) "That's the most important part. Maybe we can teach you how to do a walletectomy. Thatís my favorite operation."

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Keith smiled and as Jessica turned to leave he saw an unusual painting on the back of her faded light blue work shirt. He couldnít resist asking, "Jessica, whatís, whatís that on the back of your shirt? Where did you get it?"

"Oh, itís just for fun, I painted it to wear while working on your film. Do you like it?"

"Itís really different, but what is it?"

"Itís a new Tarot card in honor of the medical complex in Senior City, itís the Three Of Quacks."

"What did you call it? I donít know about Tarot: whatís it supposed to mean?"

"Three of Quacks. It shows three crazy doctors, somewhat stylized, and they represent money, Latin words, and golf scores. It fits your script perfectly."

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Jessica was in a hurry for at least three reasons. The most pressing was a sudden need to recycle the booze that flowed through her body, as she dumped her fancy gown on the floor and ran for the bathroom. The next order of business was to grab sketch pads, pencils, and a full bottle of scotch then head for her favorite chair where she curled up under a blanket and began to draw rapidly, page after page in the dim light. The interaction with Houdini had been the strongest psychic experience she had ever had and capturing her feelings and the visions that she had seen on paper would take the rest of the night. The third activity was mulling over Keith and what he might or might not mean for her future. He was so sad, so wrapped up in Kristin and her death. Jessica began to realize that if she were interested in Keith, she would need to outshine his memory of Kristin, rather than a few bimbos scattered about their film sets.

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She walked around the bedroom slowly and carefully in bare feet, feeling the texture with her toes, smelling each piece of clothing, looking in closets and drawers, running her hands over the material, pressing it to her face and feeling, sensing, smelling her surroundings, the invisible textures. As her hands slowly explored Kristinís most intimate clothes Jessica could almost feel Kristinís soft warm body inside them and wondered if she could talk with Kristin and ask her about the other side. How strange it was, as though Kristin were here, or not very far away. Just a hovering presence, not good or bad or threatening, but everywhere. Jessica realized that she had never been in a similar situation, in such close contact with the other world. Contacting Houdini had been a big conscious effort, but this was so easy, like walking into a fog, or vapors, or smelling the evanescent perfume of someone who has just walked by. There were artistic possibilities as well, soft, ethereal, paintings in faint fleeting pastel colors, almost invisible shapes, like a ghost drifting away into fog: she could almost see entire scenes waiting for her brush to bring them to life.

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Jessica swayed back and forth, her words slurred. "I think maybe a tree jumped in front of my car and smashed it on Mulholland, coming over the top from The Valley. Took a cab from the hospital. Tow-truck left my wreck in your driveway."

Keith sat up in bed quickly. "You look awful, are you all right?"

"Terrible." As she said this, Jessica kicked off her shoes, dropped her coat on the floor and flopped down on top of the covers next to Keith. In the dim light he could see that she was dressed perhaps for a wild party, wearing a provocative, blood stained, thin dress and not much else. Her perfume mingled with emergency room medications and the smell of adhesive bandages. He had never seen her in such clothes, they had no relationship to what he felt he knew of her feelings and he wondered what she had been doing and where.

~~~~Technical Bits~~~~~~

An odd branch of sound recording was creating laugh tracks for TV shows. These tracks mimicked audience laughter. A special machine, a laugh box, was used to make the laughter. It contained perhaps a dozen loops of tape running continuously, with a fader for each. Each loop held a different kind of laughter. An expert would sit with the box, watching the TV show. Whenever the Director pointed, the expert would fade up one or several kinds of laughter, using his judgment to select something appropriate. This was an old art, used in radio for decades, to add life to dry studio recordings. It was so phony that Keith could never listen to a TV or radio comedy without mentally seeing a technician fading laugh tracks in and out, no matter how inane the program material.

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Since the film had been shot in the sequence that minimized cost, the editorís first task was to arrange all the pieces in the correct order, and group the shots that belonged to each scene. Then he would put the scenes together one at a time, an artistic, not a mechanical, process. For example, the logical thing to do might be to open a scene with a wide establishing shot so that the audience would immediately understand where the scene was taking place, and who was involved. However, the editor might open instead with a close-up of someone removing a pistol from a pocket. Now the audience was curious: whose pocket? What next? Then if the editor cut to a wide establishing shot involving many people, the audience would be intensely wondering who was going to shoot whom. So, just by arranging the pieces of the scene into a different sequence, the editor could build excitement into the film. As Keith carefully watched his scenes being re-arranged he learned much that he could put into the writing of his next film.

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For each shot David described what was supposed to happen in terms of action, then George determined the camera angle relative to the sun that would make the best DFN [Day For Night] effect. The idea was to have the sun slightly behind the actors, enough so that the background would be dark with shadows falling toward the camera. The front of the actors would be in contrasty partial shadow. Dark backgrounds and actors with lighter clothing were preferred whenever practical. George underexposed the film two stops and filtered to give it a bluish tint. He shot from a high angle or against backgrounds so that the bright sky never appeared in the frame. A small amount of tungsten cross-lighting, with straw-colored gels over the lamps, was aimed at the actors, to warm their skin tones against the blue-tinted scenes. Front-lighting was avoided because the idea was to have as much contrast, with deep black shadows, as possible. When it matched the script, the actors used bright flashlights or walked past fires, or other night-time effects to help the audience think this was night. Cricket noises and other night-sounds like owls hooting would be added later to enhance the effect.