Awkward Press

Independent publishers of imaginative fiction and daily meditations on the ridiculousness of the universe.

Shooting The Vanishing Point

June 22, 2010 By: Category: The Awkward Film Project

The Awkward Press film project got underway this past Saturday with the shoot of The Vanishing Point, based on my story of the same name from the upcoming Awkward Two anthology. It’s fitting that this story was the first to be shot, as it was really the catalyst for the entire project. A few months ago, my friend Eric Kissack told me he was looking for a project to direct while he was between editing gigs. “What a coincidence!” I said, “I happen to have written a story that I believe would make an excellent film!” Because that is how I roll.

Remarkably, Eric dug the story. I went home and busted out a screenplay in a few hours. This is not as impressive as it may seem – the screenplay was only 7 pages long. It is a very short story.

We sent the script back and forth for a few weeks until we finally came up with something we thought would work. I kept waiting for the moment when Eric said, “Hey, I’ve changed my mind, this is a terrible story,” but that never happened. Before too long, he’d signed on two excellent producers (my wife, Sarah, and Eric’s friend Lisa) and the ball was rolling.

At that point, I was pretty much out of the picture. Being a writer is the best thing a person can do on a movie, I decided, because you get all the thrill of watching people enact your vision without having to do any of the hard work of actually making that vision come to life. They say we’re not very well-respected in Hollywood, but my new pool does not really care how respected I feel. That joke would be much funnier if I was getting paid.

I showed up on set (a backyard in Encino) Saturday morning bright and early at 6:15. In addition to writing the thing, I was also playing a gorilla who shows up at the end of the movie for no reason that I can really explain other than I wanted to wear a gorilla suit. Vision! Most people on the set had no idea I wrote the script and probably wouldn’t have cared even if they had known. “Hey,” they said when they met me, “you’re the gorilla.” I did not bother to tell them I was the writer, because I think I was getting more respect just as the gorilla. Although as one of the actors pointed out, my name was on the front page of the screenplay three times – written by, last revision by, and latest revision by. I swear, that was not intentional. I thought Eric deserved a co-writing credit because he was instrumental in creating the final script, but he declined. What a mensch.

Shortly after Sarah and I got there, the lead actress arrived. Her name is Jennifer Irwin, and she’s done a lot of really impressive work. She played a conniving executive in Slings and Arrows, which is an amazing Canadian show about a theater company. If you have any interest in laughing or crying or not being stupid about great TV, you should Netflix it immediately. She also played the sister-in-law in Eastbound and Down, which is possibly the funniest television show of all time. She said a very friendly good morning, we introduced ourselves, and then she was led off to get hair and makeup done.

I continued standing around like an asshole until our friend Andrea, who was helping wrangle people up for the day, wrangled me. Eric was not on set yet, and Jennifer had some questions about the script. I got very nervous because I don’t really know what the script is about, and I did not want to be that guy who was like, “it is whatever you imagine it to be.” So I went back and answered her questions in a way that hopefully did not betray my complete ignorance of my own work.

The first thing we shot was a scene in which the parents exit the house with me in the gorilla suit. I was truthfully very nervous about putting on the gorilla suit. The last time I attempted to wear an animal costume was back in college when I worked at Borders book store. I was asked to play Curious George one day for a special event that was being held in the kids’ section. As soon as I strapped on the head, I FLIPPED OUT. “Get this fucking thing off me!” I screamed. Luckily, I was not actually in the kids’ section at the time … I could have given those kids some permanent life scars. I would not call myself a particularly claustrophobic person, but the minute I got inside that hot, giant head, I was convinced I was going to die.

I felt a similar sense of panic when I put on the gorilla head. I was seconds away from saying I couldn’t do it, but then a sense of calm overtook me. “You’re okay,” I told myself. “It’s just a plastic gorilla head. Other people in the world have to deal with things that are far more terrifying. Wars and things. You can do this.” I didn’t know I would have to do it for the next hour and a half, which is how long it takes to film people walking out of a house and onto a porch in movie time. But I got used to it, and I think I might have finally conquered my fear of wearing fake heads over my real head. This is a good thing, because that fear has prevented me from engaging in many of life’s finer pleasures.

It was weird being inside the suit … the minute you put on a gorilla head, you become this strange leering presence that intimidates everyone around you. Jennifer and the actor playing the dad (the phenomenal Brian Huskey) bonded with each other while I hulked around like a jackass. For some reason, I felt like I was not allowed to speak when the head was on, which probably made my presence even more upsetting.

After the gorilla experience, the Prisoner and the Boy shot for a few hours, while I hung out on the porch with Brian and Jennifer. They were both incredibly funny and nice and I spent most of the day laughing like a giddy schoolgirl. I did not have much time to bond with the actor playing the Prisoner (who must remain nameless for mysterious IMDB reasons) because he was filming most of the day, but the Boy (Anthony Crehan) was a really great kid. His dad Kevin was on set all day, so I got to talk to him a lot … he was a great guy, too. Really, an incredibly nice and supportive environment all the way around.

The day ended around 8:00. From what I was able to see, I think it’s going to be an excellent piece of Communist propaganda that we’ll all be proud to have on our resumes some day. Just kidding. I don’t have a resume.

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5 Comments to “Shooting The Vanishing Point”

  1. Cool! I can’t wait to see it!

  2. I think any movie that has a guy in a gorilla costume is probably going to be a good movie.

  3. SHUT THE HELL UP! Jennifer Irwin was in The Gate. That’s one of my favorite childhood movies!

    • You are one in a million, my friend. I wish I had you in my corner before I shot with her. If she knew one of my friends was the world’s only The Gate superfan, I just may have gotten a phone number.

  4. First off: The Gate rocked and made me scared of Clay-mation for all of my elementary school years. Second off: I will be in LA for the first and last weeks of August, Dinsmore. You have 2 choices: Put me in your movie or get drunk with me. Take your pick.