Monday, March 21, 2011


Some of you may know this, others may not, but I recently wrapped my feature film; a project that has been nearly three years in the making. And throughout the last three years, although the film was at the forefront of my mind, I always found the time and energy to do a play here, write another screenplay there and of course, contribute my weekly rant on this blog.

But at the conclusion of my last post nearly three months ago, I informed my cadre of loyal followers (all seven of them) that I would be neglecting all other pursuits to focuse exclusively on my film. Then I did what any committed artist with no life to speak of would do…I stopped blogging, suspended my subscription to the New York Times, did the same with my cable and then immersed myself quite blissfully in tunnel-visioned workaholism.

I did this for two months of pre-production and three weeks of principal photography. And since I yelled “That’s a fuckin’ wrap!” a week ago, I have slowly and painfully returned to reality. And the reality that there actually is a reality out there greater than me and my little movie.

Art is important. I believe that. Films matter. I believe that too. And when you’re making a film that is, in and of itself, both the culmination of all your life’s pursuits and the reward for enduring a decade of hopelessness, rejection and dejection, reality becomes an irrelevant if not annoying distraction.

It took an entire day to black out
1,000 square feet of windows
I spent the first two weeks of the shoot at a beach house in Southampton and as a writer, producer, director and actor on the project, I had a lot on my plate and quite a few things to worry about.

I had to worry about all the performances, including my own. I had to worry about whether or not the crew was happy and doing their jobs to the best of their abilities and if not, would I have to fire them. I had to worry about pipes bursting in the dead of winter. I had to worry about forty mile-per-hour winds that made the house shake and recording sound impossible. I had to worry about falling behind schedule and going over budget. I had to worry about whether or not my scrotum popped into frame while filming simulated sex on top of a washing machine. And I had to worry about keeping my penis flacid while having simulated sex with a scorching, twenty-five-year-old Columbian sexpot on top of said washing machine.

I simply did not have time to worry about tsunamis in Japan. 

The tsunami was a blip on my radar. When you are wearing that many hats, your brain is processing a perpetual stream of stimuli that bombard you from a hundred different directions in unison. The tsunami was one of those pieces of stimuli. And it was a distraction I could not afford.

For the briefest of moments, I worried about the safety of my cast and crew because we were in a house that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. But I quickly got my bearings…Japan…Pacific Ocean…we’ll be fine. Okay, now I can concentrate on setting up this dolly shot. It’s a very important shot. The camera slowly pushes in on one of the leads when he has a moment of clarity about his life. It is VERY important. Far more important than something as trivial as a tsunami that kills thousands of men, women and children.

So we continued shooting and as we did, little nuggets of information would penetrate the set, dirupting my focus. I would hear something about Carmelo Anthony joining the Knicks. I hear about our trading four starters for a locker-room toxin that is allergic to both defense and high percentage shots. I remember being angry for a second or two before realizing I had only twelve minutes to get two shots at the exact moment that the sun sets behind the main character. I have got to position him just right and I want him drinking a glass of wine and I want the good grape juice god damnit! Because the market brand grape juice looks like shit! And why are there fucking bubbles in it?! And someone get me my goddamn Snuggie! Before I know it, I am not thinking about the Knicks any more.

So the shoot progresses and things are going swimmingly. The crew rocks and the performances are top shelf. And that’s all that matters, isn’t it? War looms in Libya? Not my problem. What’s going on in the world of reality television? Who gives a fuck, I’m making a good film. Who won the Oscar for best supporting mime in a musical documentary? Who cares, our movie is the center of the universe and for the first time in my life, I am doing what I’ve always wanted. Wars? Tsunamis? Oscars? Blockbuster trades? Footnotes in the historical event that is my film.

So it’s the last day of shooting in the Hamptons and we are in a rehab clinic. I spend portions of the day joking around with my friends, who were generous enough to come out for the day and serve as extras. I spend other portions gladhanding the employees of the facility and thanking them for all their help. And I mean it. I am very grateful but my appreciation comes out as formulaic, as if it were learned by rote. It’s not my fault, I’m just in too much of a rush to tap into genuine gratitude. I have a lot of things to worry about. My extras have to leave by two o'clock. I have to make sure everyone, myself especially, doesn’t crack any jokes about drug abuse or drinking. I have to worry about whether or not the rehab director is going to shut down the production because unbeknownst to him, two of the four scenes we are shooting there involve my character snorting cocaine (Vitamin B-12 actually) on the premises.

I have all these things to worry about so I don’t have time to look at or talk to all the patients that are milling about, eyeing the production curiously. I don’t have time to worry about them or their unimaginable sob stories. I have an hour left and I still have to light and shoot two scenes. But lighting takes time unfortunately so I have nothing to do but wait.

So I wander over to a few patients and I ask them if we are in the way. They say 'no.' They ask me what the movie is about and I methodically regurgitate my elevator pitch because I don’t have time to explain the plot with any spontaneity or feeling. Sorry but I’m a very busy man. And then after one minute of small talk, they start telling me why they are there. One tells me how many times he has been in jail. The other tells me that his sister ODed two weeks ago. She’s dead…and suddenly my movie doesn’t seem so important any more.

I had told these two men and various employees of the clinic that day that I had passed through Program many years ago but I don’t realize the magnitude of it until this moment. I look at these two strangers who are sharing their lives thirty seconds after meeting me and then I remember. I remember being eighteen and spending three months in a center that looked very much like this one. I remember the shitty coffee. I remember the unbridled honesty. I remember the broken lives.

And when I found myself inconveniently emotionalized between two soda machines, I cursed those two fuckers for making me remember and for making me realize that there was a world beyond this project. I hear someone asking if anyone’s seen the director. So I pull myself together and then go shoot a scene where my character snorts blow in the bathroom of his rehab bedroom. Moments later it occurs to me that I had actually done that and fifteen years later, had recreated the incident in a movie. But I didn’t have time to reflect on the ironic cyclicity of life, I had a film to finish.

DP Gus Sacks shooting, on the verge of regurgitation
It’s the last week of the shoot and we return to New York. I come home and embrace the sleeping bag on my bed. Yes, I use a sleeping bag instead of a blanket, stop judging me. So I wrap myself in it and I whisper sweet nothings into its ear. I tell it how much I missed it and how happy that I was to be back home, enveloped in its goose down embrace.

Then I realize that my producing partner is probably saying the same things to his fiancĂ© after spending two weeks apart. And that my sound man’s wife is in Chicago and they probably miss each other. It occurs to me that this film is probably not the center of the universe for everyone working on it. And instead of being jealous of everyone for actually having lives, I find myself angered at the fact that they might actually place loved ones higher on their priority list than this picutre. How dare they!

And then I quickly see that I am being unreasonable. I apologize to my sleeping bag and caress it lovingly. It then occurs to me that it has been weeks since I have had the time or energy to have sex with myself. And for a moment I think about putting on my Enya CD and busting out my variety pack of exotic massage oils. But then I realize how tired I am and how after dropping twenty pounds for the film, I am no longer attracted to myself. Moments later, I roll over on myself and fall asleep.

So it’s the last few days of the shoot and we are heading into Newark to shoot in a courthouse for three days. We are stuck in traffic and almost an hour late to set because of it. And as we pass an accident, the thought enters my head; ‘Someone better have been seriously injured in that fucking wreck, I’m an hour late because of it.’ And of course, I am immediately disgusted with myself for having thought such a thing.

But nothing else matters when you’re making a movie. At least not for me. The health and safety of some commuter? I don’t have time to worry about strangers, let alone strangers from Jersey, sorry. The director is late to set and so is the entire crew. Clear the fucking road and get me to work. Is this mindset selfish and despicable? Absolutely. But regretably that is just where I was while shooting.

Carolina Ravassa in a pink yetti-skin coat by Donna Karan
We have extras for some of our scenes in Newark and as I do yet another round of gladhanding, I hear them talking. I hear murmers about Muamar el-Qaddafi going bonkers and some sort of escalating situation in Libya but I can’t be bothered with it. I thank my extras for coming, I crack a few jokes to try and elevate their spirits and then I’m off. I don’t know their names and I don’t want to. I have to rehearse my actors. That’s far more important than getting to know people I will probably never see again. Selfishness baby…that’s all I had time for. It wasn’t about them and it sure as shit wasn’t about me. It was all about the film. It had to be. 

When we wrap for the day, I have time to genuinely thank everyone for their time. Since I am no longer battling time, money and depleted coffee rations, it is safe to do so. And it feels good. People worked hard and gave twelve hours of their life to help my film so I enjoy shaking their hands. But the moment is short-lived because tomorrow is another day and we have ten pages to shoot.

The next day, one of the police officers assigned to watch over the film shoot tells me about his experiences in Iraq and for a moment I am reminded that we are still involved in two wars. ‘I wonder how those are going’ I wonder ever so briefly. Then a P.A. comes over and tells me they are ready for a blocking rehearsal. 'Thanks for sharing officer', I think before scurrying off.

The last day in Newark, we are shooting a press conference scene and we have close to thirty extras who are not being paid. How could I get all these people for free? Don’t they have jobs? Then I remember that a lot of people are still unemployed. I am waiting for my crew to set up the jib arm and I recall that I haven’t heard a peep about job creation legislation in months…not from either side of the aisle. I wonder if either party gives a fuck. Then someone says “Mr. Wolfe, they’re ready for you.”

A visionary at work
I laugh because every now and again, someone calls me ‘Mr. Wolfe.’ Then I stop laughing because I realize that in a week, I will be a bartender again. How’s that for reality.

So we complete the film and we are thrilled. We got every shot we wanted and we came in on budget. We made a great film and we are all very much in love with the completion of the process. I am filled with more pride and self-satisfactin than I have ever known and my heart overflows with the love I feel for everybody that helped us get this bitch in the can. Everybody worked their asses off and now, for the first time, I have the opportunity to express genuine gratitude towards the members of my cast and crew…by getting them drunk.

But now that it’s over, I realize that nothing is over. I may have re-assimilated myself into the world but I find that I want nothing to do with it. My first day back at my bartending job was agonizing. As I muddled my first mojito in a month, I found myself spiting the man who ordered it with every fiber of my being. I resisted every attempt my customers made at small talk. Sorry, I can’t be your fucking friend right now, I have to…oh wait…I do have time to be your friend. But I just don’t want to. After all, I still need to find an editor.

The newspapers have returned to my doorstep but I find that I want nothing to do with them either. The casualty toll in Japan is up to two thousand. The next day it is up to four thousand but five thousand are still missing. The next day eight thousand are dead and twice that number are still missing. There is radiation contamination but no one seems to know how much and I find that I don’t really care. I still have to raise more post-production money…somehow.

I was riding the stationary bike at my gym and I see something on the news about the U.S. bombing Libya. Fuck, that can’t be good. Who’s Libya friends with these days? They probably don’t like us very much. Can we afford to get into another war? Isn’t three wars at the same time a bit much? Are republicans still trying to repeal the Health Care Bill? Do I care? I used to. Will I care again? I don’t know. After all, I still have to find a composer to score the film and he has to be willing to work for deferred pay.

I go home to flip on CNN but my cable is still turned off. I wonder if maybe that’s for the best. But then again, I immediately sat down and started writing this post so perhaps I am not content living in blissful ignorance. I am asking questions again so maybe that’s a good sign. But most of my questions still revolve around the film. Will we have to do re-shoots? Will the footage look as good as I think it will? Was my performance up to par? How will everything cut together? Will we get into Sundance? Will we win?

I like those questions. I think I’ll keep asking them. And who knows…maybe I’ll find the time to ask a few more on this blog. My seven followers will be delighted.


  1. Great one this time! Loved the brutal honesty. Hope the reintegration into reality only takes a little while, and you do at least get accolades, if not a win at sundance.
    Can't wait to see it! Heck, I can't wait to see the knicks jell too.

  2. No reason to wait for accolades here my friend... you are a FORCE! A talent. A brave courageous son of a bitch and damned imppressive. I didn't know about your past with drugs. I learned a lot here and want you to know I love your blood and guts anger and relentlessness and am with you 110%. You are biting into life ferociously. Hope to see the completed project soon!

  3. Hey lito, I mean bitch, oh wait Mr. F*in Wolfe, I thank you for allowing me to read your blog. Your charming & a genius. Love the pic "a visionary at work" good to see you two in action & I love the black wife beater - classic!! MJK