Well the world didn't blow up and my former L.A. Rams won the Super Bowl. I've been receiving reels from different cinematographers since December. None have made me really sit up with excitement. I've decided to offer the job to a guy my friend (and H.R. editor) Philip Botti used on his film. So I sent the script and storyboards off to him and wait for his decision. In the meantime, things with the band aren't going too great. There seems to be something of a communication breakdown between Rob and me. He tells me one minute things are great, the next that he thinks it ain't gonna work. One night I actually showed up for a meeting and was told by the guitarist that it was canceled. So I decided to contact the Harry Fox Agency, who handle music rights. I submitted the paperwork to acquire the rights to the Brady Bunch song. Once Rob hears this it seems like suddenly he's working to get things together. A new guitarist is brought in. The original guy just didn't seem into this. He kept trying to add his "Ed Van Halen Jr." riffs into the song. I mean, I know this may not be a great "creative outlet" for a musician. But I never acted like this was some great piece of music. It is what it is. A cheesy song. And that's what it has to be. The new guitarist John Cafaro seems a better fit. He knows what needs to be done and I think Chris the bass player needed someone like him to help arrange the song. John's cool and I start to rely on him to keep me up-to-date on what's happening. I also hear back from Harry Fox, I was denied the Brady song rights. My guess is the songwriter probably wasn't too crazy about his song playing while someone was getting pissed on.
The other original song I wrote for the film "Pals" is a goof on the Maurice Chevalier song "Thank Heaven for Little Girls." Since H.R. is French I thought it'd be a funny little thing to do. The "Sunny Day" band are too busy with that project, and don't really know what to do with "Pals," so Rob suggest I use another friend of his: Heshy Rosenwasser, aka The Hesh. I'll say this about Rob, He's a nice guy, and regardless of some of my problems I've had getting him to keep me informed - when all is said and done, I brought him on board to find me musicians who could do what I need them to do. And he's done that. I sent a tape to The Hesh of me singing the lyrics to "Pals" as well as me humming the tune. A few weeks later Kevin Kolack and I meet at The Hesh's home studio. We rehearse the song 2-3 times and then start recording. Within an hour we're done.
Steve Hicks has been working on the other puppets for the film. They're all being made, like H.R., out of carpet foam. The fart puppet "Gassie" we haven't figured out how to create. Our first plan was to use a clear balloon and fill it with smoke. That didn't look right and it photographed pretty poorly and I got sick from inhaling all this cigar smoke. Next we tried this large green ball. That didn't look right either. So we decided the best thing to do was make him like all the others. Carve him from foam. We added some holes in the top of his head for cups of dry ice to add a sort of smoke cloud effect around him. And Walla! A Fart is Born. Ain't filmmaking grand? Steve and me argued about the color of Gassie. I wanted him green and Hicks thought he should be brown. And as we all know, The director always wins these kind of battles.
Well, Phil's D.P. passed on the project. This sent me scrambling to find someone to shoot the film. Rich Siegel's reel looked pretty good and when I called him he had the right rates for my budget (which was around $7,000 at this point). His price included his crew and the majority of the camera and lighting equipment we needed. He had some connections that got us the extra grip equipment we needed for a pretty cheap rate and Andrew Sterling for sound, who I also got at a good price thanks to Rich. One import from Phil's crew I did use was Scott Black as Assistant Director. Scott's the kind of guy you want as your right hand man on the set. He knows what's gotta get done and he's got that loud voice that people respond to. I filled the rest of the cast out with friends. I went through 3 girls for the Bikini Girl part until my friend Tracey Kavoleff stepped up and agreed to do it. I think the other girls had a problem with it because it suggested nudity. Tracey trusts me and knows I wouldn't do anything to make her look bad or show her in some way she wasn't aware of. The only part I was having trouble casting was "Token Midget." I'm sorry, but I find midgets funny. I know it's not P.C. but I just do. So, I had to have one in the film. I placed another ad in Backstage but got no responses. I contacted some casting agencies in New York and no one could help. One agent even told me it was impossible to find a non-union midget in New York. Scott had mentioned he saw one working at a gas station on the Garden State Parkway. So, one day while we were location scouting, we stopped by. His name was Kenny Titone. I offered him the part and he seemed to like the idea. He said he'd do it. Everything was in place. We set up the first 2 weekends of April to shoot. I figured the first weekend we'll do Interiors, the second we'll do Exteriors.
I only wanted to have one rehearsal before we shot. This was only a 15-minute (at that time) film and it was all pretty goofy. I didn't wanna ruin some of it by over-rehearsing it. Sabrina, myself, Kevin (and H.R.), and the Dude met in New York to rehearse. Everything went pretty good. The only real bump in the road was with The Dude. He was having trouble reacting to H.R.'s arrival. I didn't want him to be freaked out by H.R. I was trying to create this world where that sorta thing wasn't too unusual. Besides if we spend all this time with the Dude freaked out by H.R. it would take longer to get them out the door and into the "meat" of the film - the goofy bits they do outside while "Sunny Day" plays. Sabrina had a suggestion and we tried it. It seemed to fix the problem he was having. So we called it a day. I went home and felt pretty good about how things were going. I had a nice call with Rich and was all set to go the next week. Then the phone rang. It was the Dude. He wanted to drop out. I was speechless (well, sorta). He complained about Sabrina giving him a direction, which I thought was silly. That's what rehearsals are all about. We work together. If we're struggling with something and someone else has a suggestion, then let's try it. Maybe it'll work, maybe not. I think when it all came down to it he just didn't "get it." It wasn't his sense of humor. He should've told me this in January after he got the script but for some reason he didn't and now I was screwed a week before we were supposed to shoot. I called Scott right away. He calmed me down a bit. We figured out the next chance we would have to film and told me to call the cast and crew and find out if they were available. Everyone was cool. I think, in the end, having that Dude drop out actually brought us together as more of a team. Next I had to find a new Dude. I went through my tapes of the actors I had auditioned. There was one who seemed like he could do it. The funny thing was the only reason I'd originally called this guy in was because he looked EXACTLY like a friend of mine. I called him up and we met and went over the script. I never told him what had happened cause I didn't want him to feel like he was a "replacement." He was really into it. He had ideas about some of the gags in the film, etc. He had all this enthusiasm. Everything the other guy didn't have, this one did. His only problem was that he had no film experience, just stage work. This tended to make him sometimes perform "too big," like he was playing to the back row of a theater. But the thing is he knew this and told me if I thought he was doing this to tell him and he'd know what to do to fix it. It was great. This was exactly the guy I'd been looking for in the first place. Joe McClean was The Dude. The train was back on track.