distraction no.99

Nova Ren Suma | On Writing & Writing Distractions

Not an Author Newsletter… something else.

Movie Magic

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The trailer for Red Letters, a short film written and directed by E, my other half, is online at IFC Media Lab. Check it out, and—if you don’t mind registering—please vote…

My connection to this film is more than the fact that my other half made it and that I find it deeply inspiring no matter how many times I see it, especially knowing that the story came from a haunting dream E had many years ago. (E, I still think you should expand the story into a feature.) But—full disclosure—you will also find my name in the credits as executive producer. In plain terms, that just means I did whatever I could to see the film made. And I’d do it again, next time we have the chance (i.e., the funding). I love seeing the making of movies. The whole process of making a film is so magical and mysterious to me.

Yes, yes, I know, those of you who slave away on film crews, there is no magic and mystery to dragging dirty cables around and almost getting electrocuted, but still… to me, it’s beautiful. I love being on set to see the reality of shooting a scene—all the people standing around, the mess, the monitors, the wires I shouldn’t trip over, the coffee cups, so much coffee, the walls that stop at a certain level and the guy with the boom on the ladder behind them, the actors doing the funny things they do to prepare, the walkie-talkies, the weird language (calling out “speed!” apparently means that sound is running), I love being there to witness it all. I try not to get in the way. I love seeing this because it’s even better after, when the scene is printed and you’re in the editing suite seeing it come to life. Now you see none of the mess—it’s as if no one was there except the actors on the screen. Now it’s alive. It’s a real room. Those are real people talking. Oh, it makes me breathless.

I have the most amazing memories from the making of Red Letters. It was shot in about a week, most of the days spent on the soundstage where an interior set for the two apartments was designed by a brilliant set designer named Renee and built from scratch in a matter of days. The details in those rooms made it seem like someone was actually living there. I remember how the lumber had to be carried up flights and flights of stairs because the freight elevator wasn’t working, and about the all-night search for a legal place to get rid of it once the set had to be torn down. (Now that’s a story in itself.) I remember another search, this one for the perfect red dress. I remember the now-defunct romance that began to blossom on set. I remember the theft at the soon-condemned diner. I remember the code names coming through on the walkie-talkies ( “Red Leader”; “White Leader” ???), and how funny I found them. I remember surprising the DP with a bag of mentholated Halls (he liked to suck on them like candy). I remember the dead body that stood up and joked with the crew. I remember the extremely enthusiastic extra whose face we got printed on T-shirts. I remember sitting in the director’s chair (a perk of being the girlfriend) and watching E work with his actors to make them cry, or smile terrifyingly, or fall flat into nothingness, or say the words I remember him writing. But most of all I remember E, still up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, a light in his eyes, more excited than I have ever seen him because he was about to shoot the big scene the next day.

We need a patron! I want E to make another movie right away.


9 responses to “Movie Magic”

  1. You know you can call on me for something mysterious whenever you need to wow a patron. In person when available, and advice on how when I’m not.

    I would do anything to get E another movie shot.

  2. I watched without sound, as Sam was asleep across my lap. I’d forgotten (somehow) just how beautifully composed each shot is. So perfect. E and I have very different taste in movies, but I sure do like watching his.

  3. thanks so much, nova. this film wouldn’t exist were it not for you. you made the whole thing possible and i’ll make sure the next one is a million times better.
    .
    i can’t wait to be filming something you’ve written. hopefully very soon…
    .
    and thank you lucksmith, annika, and yoj! muchly appreciatied. muchly.

  4. I can’t imagine what it must be like on a MOVIE SET. I had to put it all in capitals. It just seems so far beyond. To think there are people behind cameras creating worlds and stories. The trailer was incredible, very, very intense.

  5. thanks so much, courtney and mel. having a good story, and a director and cast and crew that believes in it and eachother, is absolutely magical. if you can stand the 12+ hour days that is. i love it and can’t wait for the next one.

  6. I was away for a week, and the available computer wouldn’t let me log in my vote. But I’m back and have voted finally! The atmosphere in the trailer is so dreamlike, teasing out the character’s nightmare. Love the colors, and especially am intrigued by the shot of him in the hallway drilling through a keyhole—something very voyeuristic about it, making viewer anticipate with dread what he’ll find. What an expressive face on that actor. And lastly: I really want to see the entire film!

  7. thanks so much, w! i really appreciate it. it will be screening with a touring fest (includes nyc) in the fall, but hopefully there will be one sooner too.

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