Thursday, August 26, 2010

Shoot Me! - A Synopsis

The last few posts are texts from a project called Shoot Me! They’re based on extracts from filming notices I’ve been collecting over the last few years, from productions shot in my neighborhood, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I think of them as “picture in picture” narratives, but they can be read as screenplays for unseen performances or closed captioned storyboards or maybe even stage directions, for walking the increasingly fine line that separates the real from the unreal on the streets of the DTES.
I’ve lifted location details and scene descriptions directly from the notices, cut and pasted fragments of dialogue and film lingo from the shooting scripts, call sheets and screenplays that I’ve found discarded on the streets and then re-mixed the whole thing to try and reveal the sometimes uncanny, occasionally inconsiderate and often uncomfortable narrative overlaps between life as lived in one of Canada’s poorest postal codes and life as filtered through the lens of Hollywood North.
The DTES has always been a kind of ground zero for Hollywood North productions, being malleable enough to be dressed up for mid-town Manhattan, stripped down for small town, depression era Mid-west, or more often than not, filmed almost as is, to mimic the urban ghetto of Anytown, USA . Alleys get cleaned up, hosed down and then re-filled with “prop” garbage, neighbourhood residents get hustled out of the way and replaced with extras dressed to look like the very people they’ve displaced. TV shows are filmed about serial killers while local women are disappearing on the same streets that “fake” police cars are cruising. As a long time resident of the area, at some point, you can no longer tell if the “Crime Scene” tape is real or a prop. Like it or not you find yourself cast as an extra and scripted into storylines and scenarios that are not always of your own choosing.
The film production notices themselves are usually a bland mixture of damage control and boosterism; filled with thumbnail sketches of the action, mundane parking restriction info, apologies for noise, pleas for late night filming extensions, tantalizing hints about the “Stars” involved and thanks in advance for “your support of B.C.’s film industry”. Reading between the lines, there’s a wealth of other information about money, agency, gentrification and identity.
In the texts I’ve composed, I’ve maintained and/or recreated the original formatting of the source document text – i.e. aspects of spacing/layout, Italics to signify either the title of the film being produced or to note quoted dialogue and the use of Caps or Bold type to denote specific times/ location info. Fracture, Revolution and The Butterfly effect 1&2 are built entirely out of text excerpted from production notices, call sheets, and screenplays. The other piece, Re-Write, is a screenplay-esque treatment of two actual incidents that occurred in conjunction with filming in the DTES ( the placement of a cryptic billboard for a Canadian TV series new season, in the middle of “The Stroll” and another production company's hanging of a prop female corpse, right behind the Women’s Drop-in Shelter, both events occuring during the height of the search for the neighbourhood’s missing women).
The images in between the texts include scans of discarded film ephemera, as well as pictures I’ve taken, documenting actual film shoots in the neighbourhood. There are also a few images from an earlier project of mine called Hollywood, Not, where I hand painted a number of fictitious film signs and hung them in anticipation of upcoming film shoots.
Collectively, the texts function as a sort of mise en scène of the area’s supposed meta-narrative. Individual pieces can be read as Cinéma Vérité call sheets, cutaway shots of the cutting room floor, or perhaps, a montage of real-time rushes or dailies, from the filmed on location pilot, based on a true story, about life in a make believe place called – 'The Downtown Eastside'.
Or maybe Shoot Me! is just my attempt to script myself into the mix, so I can figure out which side of the camera I’m really on.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Butterfly Effect ( 1&2)

The Butterfly Effect (1&2)
Based on the generally positive results of a poll we conducted in your neighbourhood, we film the aftermath of a police incident with many police cars and extras in the street.
  • We are planning to film on this day between 9:00 AM and 3:30 AM .
  • In the show 235 Alexander is a nightclub, and in the first episode there is a grand re-opening party scene, which is why we require a longer extension.
  • Our day begins at 12:30 am on the 00 block of Alexander.
  • Two actors discuss the discovery of a dead man in the lane.
  • A scene with several police cars with emergency lights on pulling up to the property from all directions (lights will be flashing, but there won’t be any sirens).
  • Some of these scenes have choreographed stunts of actors having an altercation.
  • The location will be dressed as a night club with partygoers gathered in front. We will have a number of people milling about the entrance to 1 Alexander and out into the street as well.
  • We will be preparing some of the surrounding buildings in the weeks leading up to filming.
  • Exterior scenes of an actor walking down 90 Alexander and another stunt scene with 3 actors fighting. Vancouver Police will be on hand to perform a temporary road closure when necessary during the filming of this scene.
  • There will also be a camera in the intersection to film the club-goers.
  • We will be parking “fake police cars” on the street. The sidewalk will be blocked for approx. one hour.
  • Actors will be wearing holstered weapons in all scenes.
  • The activity will include a number of “extras” waiting to get into the club, as well as, several cars driving up to drop off club-goers.
  • We realize that your neighbourhood entertains it’s fair share of filming.

  • BG X 66
  • Waiters x 8
  • Patrons x 50
  • Drivebys w/vehicles x 4
  • Passerbys x 20
  • Our filming will be very low impact.
  • Lights on stands, and also perhaps on scaffolding eight to twelve feet high, will be focused on the exterior, although other lights may shine along 200 block Alexander and up to the sky to create mood for night-time filming.
  • We will make the area brighter than usual.
  • Pedestrian foot traffic will be closed and re-directed between Gaolers Mews and Blood Alley.
  • Please identify yourself to an officer for access.
  • There will be minor special effects of fog and a wet down of the streets for these scenes.
  • We are sensitive to concerns about filming in the neighbourhood.
  • The usual curfew is 11 PM.
  • The noise from simulated gunfire is comparable to the sound of firecrackers.
  • An SUV drives westbound on Alexander from Main and crashes into a fake wall that will extend into the north sidewalk from the south sidewalk.
  • Police will be on hand to assist us.
  • Actors will run around the corner and others will get into a car on Hastings and speed away.
  • The City of Vancouver has granted us an extension.
  • A crowd of people and emergency vehicles gathering in front of 41 Alexander Street.
  • Our final shot of the night will be from a scissor lift on the north sidewalk.
  • An actor lies on the ground as another approaches him.
  • 3:30 AM. Our crew will then pack up and move to film at another location.