Friday, June 24, 2011
Quiet on the set?: Filming a unicorn movie in Berkeley this week
Since it was founded back in 1880, Berkeley High School has been industriously busy cranking out whole bunches of amazingly wonderful graduates who have then gone on to do amazingly wonderful things. One of these amazingly wonderful graduates is my son Joe -- who is currently working as a sound mixer on a movie written and directed by Leah Meyerhoff, another amazingly wonderful graduate of Berkeley High.
"And right now you are filming this movie in Berkeley?" I asked Meyerhoff today after joining her film crew for lunch -- cole slaw, BBQ chicken and stuffed bell peppers -- and dragging my three-year-old granddaughter Mena along so that she could see what her daddy does when he goes off to "work".
"Mostly we are filming in Berkeley. Today we're shooting a scene in a punk warehouse in West Oakland, but last week we filmed at Bette's Ocean View Diner on Forth Street and next week we're going to be filming at the marina." Apparently they've been filming in Berkeley for the past two weeks and still have two weeks more left to go.
Meyerhoff then had to run off to do directorial things and so I talked with her assistant director who was busy roughhousing with Mena and having a food fight. "What's the plot about?" I asked him.
"It's basically a coming-of-age story, but one with a twist -- coming of age in Berkeley." But then it was time for the assistant director to get back to work so I cornered one of the actors.
"The movie as about a young girl who is having problems at home," said the actor, "and so she runs off in order to get away from a situation that she thinks is intolerable -- only to find that she has jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire and ended up in an even harsher situation. And so she retreats into a fantasy world peopled with unicorns." But then the actor had to go off to hair-and-make-up, so I went off to talk with Meyerhoff's assistant.
"Will the unicorn fantasy scenes be shot with special effects?" I asked her.
"No, we will be using animation, stop-action animation done by taking the objects we shoot and moving them one frame at a time." I wonder if they want to use some of Mena's My Little Pony unicorns in the story -- assuming of course that Mena would ever let them out of her sight.
Then Meyerhoff's assistant got whisked away too, and so did Joe -- and so Mena and I got to wander around the graphically colorful punk warehouse set all by ourselves -- where we ran into a very nice ultra-punk "suicide girl" with a mohawk hairdo and a cute little kitten named Space Kitty, and the very nice punk girl and Mena chatted for a while about how cats are fragile and need to be petted carefully.
Then after that we begged everyone we saw on set for a part in the movie. This could be Mena's and my big chance! But nobody had time for talent-scouting today. "Quiet on the set!" someone yelled and that was that.
Later on, I found out that the film crew will be traveling to New York after wrapping up here, working on the animated unicorn sequences at a studio on the east coast, where Meyerhoff had attended film school at NYU. Then the film will go into post-production for who knows how long, and then it will go out on the festival circuit where, with any luck at all, it will be released into theaters nationwide and then everyone in America will be able to see how amazingly wonderful Berkeley High School graduates can be -- plus they'll get to see some amazingly wonderful shots of Berkeley as well. And, hopefully, they may get to see some amazingly wonderful shots of me and Mena as well.
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