Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Set Diary: New Decade for the Toads

It's been a year since I wrote in this blog, and fittingly, this post mirrors the last, also a set diary for the San Diego 48 Hour Film Project.  It's been less than 24 hours since we turned in the film (on time!) so I'm a complex mix of dazed and exultant.  I really like our film this year, but then again, I like them every year and sometimes I'm the only one.  So we shall see.  Come see our world premiere at the Gaslamp Theatres on Wednesday, July 16 at 6:30.


3:00 p.m. I've been alone all day, thanks to the generosity of Mary and David, who whisked Jarrah away in the morning so I could do some planning and get some rest.  For the first time in 11 years, I am coming down with a cold just before the competition, and I'm pretty worried about it.  It is worth saying again that David and I could not do what we love to do without Mary and Paul, because kids don't care if you want to make a movie in 48 Hours.  They still want ridiculous stuff, like food and your attention.

5:00 p.m.  Ack, what am I doing?  All this leisure and I've forgotten to leave for the kick-off on time. Apparently, most of our team members will be at the starting line.  This trend of everyone showing up will continue all weekend, and I marvel at it.  Everyone just wants to be there, helping out and keeping the faith.

5:30 p.m.  Hospitality Point, Mission Bay.  It's windy and overcast.  A few people are already here, including Angel, Will, David, Mark and Cheryl.  We are shortly joined by Kam, Eva and BJ, and the Colliers.  Tension is building--what will be the big surprise we've been hearing about?  It turns out to be something called "Plinko"--I wasn't familiar with the game--which will make for a fun spectacle of drawing our genres.  Goodbye, Duane's grandfather's famous hat.  I miss it.  Though the Plinko looks cool, we are there an hour longer than normal, and I am itchin' to get to work before I get tired.  I hobnob with some old pals, including cast members from "The Vagina Monologues" and "Barefoot in the Park," and that's fun.

6:15 p.m.  Keeping with Cane Toad tradition, our youngest member draws the genre--this year that is Eva, whom we met through Kam.  She's 17 and headed to film school soon.  We cheer her on as she mounts the Plinko steps and sends the puck hurtling toward our fate.  We get...ROAD MOVIE!  I've heard "Buddy Movie," but I think this is a new one.  We're excited, especially since new teammate Mark Petersen has a '66 Mustang he's volunteered for the shoot.  Everyone is a-buzz with possibilities, and we really don't consider throwing it back.  I like genres that give us some structure, and this one does.

6:55 p.m.  We've got our elements:  Character - John or Joan Jansen, Investigator.  Prop - a marshmallow.  Line of dialogue:  "I saw one of those yesterday."  These are the three things that must appear in every movie.  Robyn yells, "What are you all doing here?  Go make a movie!"  And we're off!

7:30 p.m.  Per tradition, I've booked the back room at the Friars Road Coco's, and soon everyone is there, except Tyler who is joining us Saturday.  I'm calmer than usual--often I spend all my energy yelling and I want to conserve it this time.  We hear lots of ideas.  Benji's is particularly intriguing--a meet-cute about a Lyft driver with road rage.  But in the end, the one that gets my spidey senses tingling is Kam's:  two white Priuses that keep running into each other on a cross-country jaunt.  David is annoyed:  he WILL have his Mustang Shelby no matter what I say.  So we compromise:  boy meets girl on the road, and she's a rocker in a Mustang while he's a hipster with a Prius.  Time to write!

10:00 p.m.  Headed back to our house.  Kam and Kate are invited to help me brainstorm.  BJ is staying over so he can compose all night.  Mark and Mike are there to help David work out equipment and props.

10:45 p.m.  First wrinkle:  do any of our actors drive a stick?  Texts reveal that some of our actors don't even have a license.  Oops.  Might need to shoot around this road movie conundrum.

11:00 p.m.  We brainstorm an homage to one of the greatest road movies ever:  "Thelma and Louise."  What if we adapt their ending?  We all watch it and everyone is super-excited.  This is our thing!  "Steal from the best!" I yell.

11:30p.m.  We're actually getting stuff done.  I'm not writing dialogue (occasionally Kam will record a line, and I do go back to those later) but I'm composing scenes like wildfire, and we're trying to stay firmly focused on structure and ending.  Everyone is in a good mood.  As it gets later, Kate and Mike peel off and head home.  BJ has his headphones on and is crashing away on the keyboard near us.  Normally, repetitive noise annoys me, but it's kind of endearing how inspired he is.


12:00 a.m.  Mark Perino is furiously working out props, on FB, text and the annual Wee-Hours Walmart visit.  Thank you, Mark, for handling all that.  Kam is tapping away at her laptop, giving costume notes and making lists of scenes, locations and what we need to do first in the morning.  Thank you, Kam, for your stellar organizational and interpersonal skills.  Took that right out of my domain and boy, was I glad to see it go!

1:00 a.m.  Mark and Kam head home, and I'm feeling the need to cocoon.  I leave BJ in the zone in the living room, and curl up on the entryway love seat.  The thing doesn't have much shape at the moment, but I've started writing.

2:00 a.m.  Getting tired, but still determined.  And now my cold has kicked up a fuss.  My throat is raw.  I have a sad little cough.  I think what keeps me going is knowing how badass I am for pushing through it rather than throwing in the towel.  David makes me tea and goes to bed.

3:00 a.m.  Now is the dark night of the soul.  I move to my computer, transfer what I have, and read it over.  I could go to bed, and try to salvage it "in the morning." Or I could hunker down, locked and loaded, and power through this thing if it kills me.  I choose the latter.  The house is dark and quiet.  I am alone.  And I am responsible for 17 people having something to shoot in a few hours.  I.  Will.  Not.  Let.  Them.  Down.

4:00 a.m.  I've been writing feverishly, fingers flying over the keys.  Could I possibly have a complete draft before Saturday afternoon?  I even fix it up, make it prettier.  I save and shut down.  I can go to bed.  Wake up call:  6:30.

5:00 a.m.  Heart pounding like a freight train.  Head feeling like it's wrapped in hospital gauze.  But it's okay, I think.  The draft is done.  Now sleep.  And I do.

6:18 a.m.  David stirs.  Okay, guess I'm up, too.  I open my mouth to talk to him and very little sound comes out.

7:00 a.m.  BJ is getting ready.  Angel is here.  I want to be hospitable but I think I might actually vomit if I open my mouth.  David is throwing bags of cables around.  He's good at that, and it's quite sexy.  I whisper to David that he needs to take the boys in his car so I don't vomit on them.

7:15 a.m.  Crap.  Based on thinking Kam had a copy of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, I've put it in the script.  But she doesn't.  I whimper about this to David, who is such a freakin' genius--he gets another book, prints an image of the classic book cover on line, and doctors it up with tape to look like a real cover.  That's how it's done.  BAM.

7:30 a.m.  David, Angel and BJ head to GoPro.  Several team members have been quite assertive about seeking locations, and the result is we have a plethora of wonderful options.  Thank you, Team, for your initiative. We are able to base ourselves at GoPro for all of Saturday and branch out from there--an embarrassment of convenience.

7:47 a.m.  I shouldn't still be here.  My team needs me.  But I need more coffee...and the pigs need kale...and the script won't print...

8:00 a.m.  Frantic call to David on the road:  "I saved the script and now I can't find it at all!"  He pulls over and checks Dropbox.  "It's there, you're good, now GO!"

8:30 a.m.  Finally at GoPro.  We're running around figuring out where to go first.  The Cardiff Office, a bar, is happy to host us, and they will have soccer and patrons later, so that's the best bet for now.  However, new wrinkle:  our minors won't be allowed in.

9:00 a.m.  The Diva has arrived.  And she's shiny.  In the parking lot, Mark Petersen is perfecting the gloss on his prize Shelby.  He has also brought a Mini-Me whom I am not surprised to learn is his son, Sean.  Sean becomes Cane Toad #17, and we're mighty pleased about that.

9:30 a.m.  Everyone is here, fresh as possible, and getting in costume.  I'm running around barking orders.  Ah, my natural state.

10:00 a.m.  Setting up at The Cardiff Office.  A shout-out to Shanti and our peeps over there:  YOU ROCK!  Just the nicest, most accommodating folks.  Totally let us take over the place, and even turn down the TVs for us.  The patrons happily watch and stay quiet while we're rolling.  One of my best shooting experiences EVER, for sure.  And, of course, since it's the first set-up of the day, it goes at a glacial pace.  The scene is a bar heart-to-heart between Rachel (Lucy) and Angel (Theo) who have been running into each other on the road.  And the second part of the scene features our Investiga-TOR, played by Will, who is HI-larious with his litany of fruit perils.  Everyone quickly adapts to my directing style, which features a lot of shouting and sarcasm, much to the delight of people in the bar.  Rachel, of course, has heard it all before.

11:00 a.m.  We're being interviewed for the Union-Tribune by Jeanette Steele!  She's awesome.  She sticks around for a while watching the filming, and then chats with me outside about why we do this crazy thing.  Nothing like having your weekend whims validated by a feature in the newspaper the next day!

12:00 p.m.  We think we're finally done with the bar scene.  Hooray!  I keep telling everyone "That's actually 3 out of 9!"  But already I am getting concerned by how many daylight scenes remain to be shot.

12:30 p.m.  Pipes Cafe is out.  Too crowded.  Flat Rock looks promising but we'll need to eat lunch there to secure a spot on their patio.  We think we can shoot one scene on the patio and the other at the bar, consolidating two locations.  Like The Office, they are strangely welcoming and accommodating.  Love the good people of Cardiff-by-the-Sea!  People mill around figuring out props and getting new equipment, while we take over a big corner of the restaurant.

1:00 p.m.  Lunch on the Flat Rock patio, rather fauncy for us.  Tyler FBs that he's almost here.  I have this fantasy that the next two scenes will take an hour total.  Have I mentioned I have a rather rich fantasy life?

1:30 p.m.  An extremely helpful list of "interesting props" on our Facebook page (why have we never done this before?) has yielded the delicious nugget that Eva plays the harp, and owns two of them.  Ooooh, harps are PURTY!  But Eva has other stuff to do in this scene.  So Kate is all gussied up in her concert black and blood red lips, strumming the harp quite masterfully after a tutorial from Eva.  Eva herself can be heard playing the harp in the scoring for this scene.  Love it!

2:00 p.m.  Shooting the "marshmallow lovers" scene on the Flat Rock patio.  BJ is performing plastic surgery on a bag of jumbo marshmallows.  It's messy work, but he's got the technique.  I start rehearsing with Ben and Eva and I freak them out a bit with my dictatorial style.  When I'm tired and short on time, I often reduce my thoughts into a single syllable:  "NO!"  And I just yell that as many times as possible.  Strangely, it often gets the job done.  The problem with our marshmallow lovers is that they're really young and have no personal access to how people might be feeling at the moment they get engaged.  So I keep yelling stuff like "He just offered you a diamond ring, not a piece of gum!"  Eventually, they get it perfectly.  "Are you CRYING?" I ask Eva incredulously at one point.  "It's called acting, yo" she retorts.  (No, she doesn't.  Because she's nice.  But she could have.)

3:30 p.m.  Preparing to shoot the pie scene behind the bar.  Cheryl, who is also clapper loader, is playing Rosie the Waitress.  She's changing, so I'm blocking the scene with the other actors and I give it my all.  It's as close as I want to come to acting these films when I've been up all night and have no makeup on.  Mark Petersen says I'm very natural with the dialogue.  Well, yeah--I wrote it.  I give good pie.  As in The Office, the few customers present seem delighted to watch us do take after take, respectfully shushing when I yell "Action!"  Eventually, I can see that more people are filtering in, and we're going to be in trouble if we don't get a good take soon.

4:45 p.m.  The manager of Flat Rock asks if it would be okay (!) for a customer to sit at one end of the bar.  I say "How many more minutes until we wear out our welcome?"  He's like, "One?"  But they let us stay until we're satisfied with the take.  Cheryl is hilarious with her giant bun on top of her head.  But we need to skedaddle.

5:15 p.m.  I'm running through the halls of GoPro, shouting everyone into costumes, packing up gear, jackets, snacks, water, because we're heading into the wild and I know we won't be back before dark, with all we have to shoot.  Like a power-mad Jewish mother, I yell "And everyone use the bathroom!  No facilities out there!"  This directive will come back to bite me in the ass later.

5:45 p.m.  Driving to Sorrento Valley.  Mark Petersen has suggested a road closed to cars (amusingly, we have to shoot around some anyway) which is indeed very picturesque, with local plants and salt flats.  Thank you, Mark!  It's a relatively quiet outdoor spot, and we're able to get some aerial footage of the cars as well as film our most emotional scene with the urn.  Rachel and Angel really knock this one out of the park--Benji tells me later that he teared up watching it during editing.  I'm especially excited about a hand-held camera rig that David has dreamed up--it enables us to get a really intimate, constantly moving two-shot with none of the typical hand-held shaking.  There's a reason (actually, lots) I call him my evil genius.  I tell David that next year the whole movie's getting shot with that thing!

7:00 p.m.  Damn.  I have to pee.  And it's going to get dark and I can't stop it getting dark.  And did I mention I have to pee?  BJ helpfully takes the edge off with M&Ms.  A couple of smarties have brought camp chairs, which I'm really craving right now.  My feet hurt.  My head hurts.  My throat hurts.  My bladder hurts.  And I only have one lame tissue in my purse because my handy kit of supplies is back at GoPro.  Sigh.  Luckily, the actors are really bringing it, and we only have to cut due to trains and planes and passing bikes a couple of times.  I have a lot of fun choreographing a short scene involving the opening of hatchbacks, the slinging of avocados and the closing of car doors.  Too bad it's going to have to wait for the Director's Cut to be seen.

8:00 p.m.  We need to get to the beach.  And any pessimist would say it's currently dark.  But before anything else, I need to pee.  I've got BJ in my car for moral support, and Rachel and Angel in the back running lines.  I'm so tired that I'm deeply worried when I eavesdrop on their "conversation," because they're saying all this sad stuff about grandfathers dying.  Several times I have to remind myself that it's dialogue and I WROTE IT. ;)  We race to Rachel's office because she has a key, only to discover she forgot her purse.  It would be hilarious if not for my discomfort.  Then we race to Taco Bell and I don't even mind that I have to stand in a puddle of indeterminate origin to finally get relief.  Afterward, I notice that the hems of my pants are wet, and I resolutely shove this out of my mind.  This is the 48.  Homie don't have time for namby-pamby niceties like non-urine-covered pants.

8:30 p.m.  We pull up at Torrey Pines Beach.  Thank you, Mark Perino for thinking of this location--it's perfect how the nose of the car practically extends over the water.  I am proud of myself for what comes next--I tell my sound people to go get ambient sound and command David into the back seat to get some footage of Rachel and Angel with the last wisps of sun setting over their heads and the water.  If not for my quick thinking, that shot would have been a bust.  Go, Sam!  It's Mark Perino's quick wit that makes the next part possible, and the uncomplaining diligence of Kate, Eva, Will Rodgers and Benjamin that executes.  Mark sets up the lone light he has with him (plugging it into my car!), and the kids position the reflector so we have some evening beauty light bathing our actors.  Magically, other cars peel away so nothing else is in the shot.  The waves are crashing in the darkness, a refreshing breeze is blowing my brain cobwebs away, and we are going to get this shot!  I feel like a new woman.  Kam, flight attendant to the core, adorably sets up a snack buffet in the hatchback of the Prius, and coordinates our Italian dinner with Dan the Man so it will be waiting for us back at GoPro.  I'm kind of in love with everyone right now.

9:00 p.m.  I can't really hear what the actors are saying over all the beach noise.  BJ to the rescue with comfy headphones.  I strap in and soon have a birds-ear view of the proceedings in the car.  Later, I tell Rachel and Angel that I want to thank them for their hard work, but not that much because they were warm and seated while we were being buffeted by the elements.

9:30 p.m.  A quick word about the entire team:  it warms the deepest recesses of my terrible heart that each and every Cane Toad stood out in the cold and dark for nearly two hours, happy and helpful, and never once complained we had missed dinner or how cold they were (I'm lookin' at you, Eva :)) or had anything but a smile, a cheerful word or an offer to help out.  I am truly humbled, peeps.

9:45 p.m  We've got it!  Back to GoPro to wash the sand off and get some food in our bellies.  Everyone is feeling a bit jubilant because it's way before midnight and we're done with principal photography.  In the morning, we'll need some driving and beauty shots, but maybe without even actors.  Damn!

10:00 p.m.  Eating and socializing.  BJ is back to work on music, and the boys are "ingesting" the latest media.  (I hadn't heard this term before this year.)  Tyler comes out and says he's nearly done editing the bar scenes from earlier.  That's just one reason we call him The Wizard.  He shows me there are a couple awkward close-ups that we might want to reshoot.  Well, at least we don't have to drive anywhere, and judging from today, I expect The Office will happily have us back on the morrow.

11:00 p.m.  Getting our ducks in a row for the rough cut, the music and anything that still needs to be shot.  I am feeling spectacularly bad now.  My throat feels like I swallowed a beer cozy.  Without too much guilt, I tell everyone that I'm headed home.

11:45 p.m.  Probably shouldn't have driven alone.  I am periodically smacking my cheeks to keep the road from seeming like a video game with very low stakes for not hitting other cars.  Blasting Rush's "Living in the Limelight" helps a bit.  The universal dream!


12:15 a.m.  The kitchen lights won't turn on.  I have a brief frisson of terror, imagining I'm in a horror film where someone is outside messing with our fuse box.  Then the frisson fizzles when it hits my foggy brain.  Oh well.  As long as the Bad Guys stay outside.  I feed the irked piggies, who are standing by their bowl with expressions like "Nu?  You are feeding us dinner six hours late because...?"  I drink some water and a handful of Advil.  I wash the dirt socks off my feet.

1:00 a.m.  I get into bed with an issue of Us Weekly that seems way too complex and tell myself "I'll just rest my eyes for a moment, then get back to reading."  I wake up a while later with the lights on, clutching the magazine, and wonder why I couldn't admit to myself that I am tumbling down the rabbit hole.

7:00 a.m.  BLAAAAAM!  Okay, I'm up.  Heads pounding like a bongo player in a rhumba band.  My kingdom for a cup of coffee or three.  Phone is blank.  Facebook is blank.  Hmmm.  You don't suppose other people are tired, too?

8:00 a.m.  Heading to GoPro.  With Advil and coffee, feeling pretty pumped to make this happen.

8:20 a.m.  Meet Mike Collier in the parking lot.  No one is answering the door.  We can see some legs lying on the ground off the lobby with something blue where the head should be.  "Who is that?" I ask.  He shrugs. "Didn't want to wake him."

8:45 a.m.  First view of Benji:  sitting up on an air mattress that's wedged between two desks, looking adorably rumpled.  Benjiiiii!  Our ninja!  Now the party's started.

9:00 a.m.  Where is everybody?  We have reshoots to do.  Oh, and we can't film the Prius if the Prius isn't here!  Part of a director's job on Sunday of the 48 is texting a lot of people to demand their presence.

9:30 a.m.  Tyler shows me the rough cut so far.  Of course, it's long.  There's also a strange dearth of close-ups.  He says he doesn't have them.  Shucks.  You can't see Eva's face in the proposal scene.  But even more important, we don't have our "money shot" where the marshmallow is opened.  I start yelling that we're reshooting it.

10:00 a.m.  Okay, Rachel's here.  Angel's up.  They get into costume and we ready our gear for an Office reshoot.

10:15 a.m.  Benji is going to turn our credits into an animation map of the Death Head '14 road tour.  I love it.

10:30 a.m.  Love those Office folks.  They are happy to have us back.  This time, we're fairly quick and dirty.  I block it out, give everyone their marks, and we get it and get out.  I have to confess, I sort of love the reaction I get from the morning drinkers when they see me barking orders at everybody.  One of them says, "What are you doing later?"  I say "Making a movie."

11:00 a.m.  Kam is here, with Benjamin and Eva.  The latter two get into costume because we're doing a macro of the marshmallow (that probably doesn't get said much.)  We review the footage to check on what hands were used and how.  I scold Eva for having a green scrunchie on her wrist today.  The continuity gods must be appeased.  Then we discover we don't HAVE marshmallows anymore.  (Confess:  which one of you ate them all?!?)  Sean saves the day by racing to get a new bag.  Thank you, Sean!  That guy's a keeper.

11:30 a.m.  At the same time, we're readying a short, dialogue-free scene in the parking lot where we see our two characters and their cars for the first time.  I sketch out how I want it done, in a way that seems really precise to me.  But David points out that I haven't actually described the POV or shots.  Sigh.  Need to learn that stuff.  I am apparently baffling people with my demands, as there's a lot of blinking and staring when I give an order to move a car or a camera.  I'm kind of on the verge of a meltdown, but this year it doesn't get any further than a single whine and foot-stamp:  "Why won't anyone just DO WHAT I SAY?"  Eventually, we get it sorted out without bloodshed.

12:00 p.m.  Marshmallow has been shot.  I really want a twinkle added, but it never happens.  Ah well.  48 hours and whatnot.

12:30 p.m.  I have this vision of Rachel in slo-mo, but it's starting to seem silly.  That happens.  Sometimes people are amazed and say stuff to me like "But yesterday you said you wanted X, and today you want Y!"  And I want to respond, "Well, I wanted X at 4:30 a.m. so give me a break."  It's like I'm doing a tiny truncated shooting schedule which might otherwise be stretched out over a couple months:  changing my mind might seem quixotic, but if it's gonna happen, I can't hesitate.

1:00 p.m.  The two Marks, Sean, Angel, Eva and Benjamin are headed out for some car footage.  Mark Perino has it all blocked out, and knows where to go.  Kam asks if I need to go with them.  "Hell, no.  No actors to direct.  Let the boys go play with their cameras and cars."  Also I'm feeling kind of bad again.  Maybe it will help if I eat this chocolate donut.  Kam says "Oh, you're all bright-eyed!"  I say, "I just ate a donut.  I've got 20 good minutes starting now."

1:30 p.m.  Tyler and I have a reckoning.  The movie is 12 minutes long.  ARGH!  Why does this always happen?  But something is new this year.  I don't want to cut ANYTHING.  For one thing, all the acting is very natural, and we don't have as many short scenes to piece together.  For another, the story is revealed bit by bit, and removing stuff creates logic gaps.  Benji has been tolerant of my "death by 1,000 cuts" technique, but Tyler has been up all night grappling with the bar scene and is less so.  He's more of a surgeon, as he puts it.  And this time, we really need it.  I have to walk away because I'm upset and don't know what to do.

2:00 p.m.  We hear the limpid strains of "Zombie Bunnies" emanating from Mike's "recording studio" across the aisle, as BJ wails away to create the the stylings of "Death Head."  Tyler expresses some concern that our speed metal might be "too lovely."  But it works.  The song is hilarious, and I can't wait to hear the whole thing.  I'm getting a bit worried, though, because BJ hasn't seen the movie all the way through, and it's changing by the minute.  I tell him some scenes he's already recorded music for are out.  "Why didn't you let me know?" he asks, reasonably enough.  "Well, I would have, if I'd known before two seconds ago."  Next year, he'll understand how quickly the movie can become something else entirely.

2:30 p.m.  I ask Tyler when he wants to nail down all usable footage, as some is still trickling in from the driving shoot.  "2:00," he says, in typical Tyler style.  I get it.  Right now he has a driving shot "placeholder" where new stuff is likely to be, which is really smart--that way we don't forget about it.

3:00 p.m.  I ask Tyler what we should do.  He's been grappling with my tiny changes and it's not helping the length.  He says "Lose the pie scene."  I'm incredulous.  What?  It works.  It's funny.  I love my pie scene.  He tightens the noose.  "I've got news for you:  that's only 90 seconds.  That's not all that needs to go."  We're only down to 10 minutes.  NINETY SECONDS for a whole scene??  And one that still won't make our movie the 7 minutes it must be??  GAH.

3:30 p.m.  I watch the whole thing, and painfully note about six things that can go.  One line item is the second half of the pie scene, which nearly kills me.  He quickly removes them all.  We're at 9 minutes.  Someone shoot me now.

4:00 p.m.  Rachel watches it all with a fresh eye, and she is stumped, too.  She sighs.  It must be even harder to cut when it's YOU you're cutting.

4:15 p.m.  Mark Perino shows me his ideas for cutting.  A few we've already done, to no avail.  A couple I can tell would instantly throw the movie into "impressionistic" territory with no real story.  Damn, damn, damn...

4:30 p.m.  David sticks his head around the door and suggests we turn in the long version and just accept it won't be eligible.  Then I do freak out.  "NO WAY!  I listened to you two other years when you said this and I've always regretted it!  This is a competition!  I'M COMPETING!  We are turning this freaking thing in under time!"

4:32 p.m.  I storm out of Tyler's office and tell Kam that the pie scene is cut and ask if she'd like to break it to Cheryl.  She bursts into tears, which is what I want to do, if I had time.  When we do tell Cheryl, she's a consummate pro (no surprise) and says "That's movie-making.  Sometimes you end up on the cutting room floor."  Cheryl, you get top billing in the Director's Cut.

4:45 p.m.  I've gone into Benji's office to see if he has any ideas.  David suggests that Tyler and Benji edit competing versions, to see if there's one cut that I'll accept.  The only reason I know this, though, is because BJ comes in to mediate when he hears me screaming.  I'm not just screaming, I'm jumping up and down, because no matter he long David talks, I can't understand a damn thing he says.  At one point, David starts to *draw a diagram on the white board* to explain, and I yell "ARRRRGH!"  Later, I laugh about this with BJ.  "What was he doing?" BJ asks.  "Being an engineer," I say. It's especially worth noting that throughout my high-decibel screamage and my husband's ineffectual rebuttals taking place two feet from his nose, Benji keeps on quietly animating his map.  I'm not sure if this is a commentary on how cool he is, or how much he was praying that I didn't start screaming at him, too.   Probably both. ;)  Thanks, Benji.

5:05 p.m.  I have a brainstorm.  "What if...we cut the entire ending?  Have it end with avocados and them driving away, then do the final dialogue as a voiceover over them driving?"  There's a short pause, and then David, Benji and Mark agree they can accept the idea.  I breathe a sigh of relief.  I go in to tell Tyler.  "WHAT?" is his response.  But he doesn't argue.  He checks the time.  Two minutes.  It would save the film by cutting off its arm with a Swiss Army knife.

5:10 p.m.  We're all a-twitter how this 11th-hour solution will save us, and everyone is chiming in some kind of justification.  I think Rachel says, "Definitely.  I mean, we had an excellent film, and now it will just be okay but at least we can turn it in."  LOL, Rachel! :)  Someone comes barreling down the hall (Mark, maybe?) to say that Tyler would like to see me.  I go in and he looks at me with that wise Tyler stare and says "Just keep an open mind.  I'm at 7:05."  I sit down and everything is strangely quiet, although there are other people in the room.  I watch the entire thing.  Hey, this is good.  Tight.  The story makes sense.  Most of the funny stuff is still there.  Most importantly, I'm not initially noticing what's even gone, which seems like an excellent sign since I wrote it.  It ends.  There is a short, expectant silence.  "Well, I'm intrigued..." I say, and Rachel cracks up.  I am honest with Tyler.  "First, thank you.  This saves us, and it's good.  But I'm still really sad, and it's going to take me a while to get over it."  He's fine with that, since now he has more than a fighting chance of saving this thing.  Later, he confesses that during the smackdown, he said "Just keep them out of here for a few minutes.  I'm going to try something.  No way in hell we're cutting the ending."  And these wise words:  "Sometimes the job of an editor is to simply find out-of-the-box solutions that the director can't see yet.  Thank you for trusting me in the heat of battle."  Well said, O Sage.  In future, I will trust sooner.

5:20 p.m.  I am completely annoying.  I've titled the movie "Mustang Love" but told everyone I'm not satisfied with the title.  Then I walk by a small group brainstorming titles and every time they share one I wail "NO!  Absolutely not."  How much would I hate that? :)  Eventually, someone says they can't think of anything they like more than Mustang Love.  So Mustang Love it is.

5:25 p.m.  Some people are trickling out.  Rachel has an event and calls to reassure us that fair traffic is only bad going north.  Sucks to be them.  We're going south.

5:30 p.m.  The surgery is done.  I walk away to compose myself.  Now there's a little lull.  Mike and BJ are diligently recording and exporting music files, and Tyler is dropping them in.  Kam and Mark are assembling the credits, creating titles, doing the on-line wrap up, copying two sets of releases so we can send two teams to the finish line.  Benji's applying the final tweaks to the map animation.  I take a moment to marvel how much smoother this part is because we've been doing this so long.

6:00 p.m.  I start yelling at everyone that I want both versions blended right now.  David has been color-correcting and Tyler is finessing music.  Now I want the whole thing--titles, movie, sound, music and credits--all in one place.  NOW, dammit!  (This is always the moment when I feel the most ignorant and helpless.  All these skilled people around me and my only function is to shout at them.)

6:15 p.m.  Rendering!  Woohoo!   RENDER FAIL!  Ack.

6:30 p.m.  Render complete!  Mark grabs it and heads to his car.  I sit down with Tyler and David to watch it.  Amazingly, I don't cringe the whole time, thinking "OOOH, now that doesn't make sense" or "AAAAH, I can't hear that line" or "GAAAAH, why is he so green?"  I just enjoy it.  And kudos for BJ for having such a subtle understanding of what music would complement it all perfectly. I am pleased.

6:45 p.m.  The next render has gone "ping!" while we watched this one, so we grab it and sprint for the parking lot.  Then I realize I'm not actually holding the documents.  I try to yell, but my voice is gone and comes out sounding like a Zombie Bunny.  Back to the lobby.  David runs the documents to me and I run back to the car.  I'm pulling away when I think to ask BJ if the thumb drive is in there.  Well, by golly, it's not.  "DAAAAVVVVID!" I scream almost soundlessly, seeing his car pulling out in my rearview mirror.  I get out of the car, yelling about the thumb drive.  He opens the window and says he has it.  "I want it!  I want to put it in the envelope!"  In retrospect, we were both going to the same place, so it wasn't that rational.  But apparently, it was important enough for me to risk people's lives and property, because while David is running the thumb drive over to me, I see his car behind him...starting to leave.  At a brisk clip. DRIVERLESS.


6:47:02 p.m.  David leaps into the moving car and manages to stop it inches before it plows into Mike's car.

6:48 p.m.   I'm shaking and freaking out.  Everyone around us is stunned into silence.  BJ says, calm as ever, "It's fine.  Let's drive now."  And we do.  I mention that I always make wrong turns, so Angel (in the back seat) is on it, gently telling me when my turns are coming up.  He also reminds me that I can use the carpool lane.  We go 80 most of the way without impediment.

7:11 p.m.  David calls and is telling BJ something for what seems like 9 minutes.  "WHAT IS HE SAYING?" I keep yelling, which is super-helpful.  Eventually, BJ hangs up and says we should turn in Mark's version, the first one.  "It took him all that time to say THAT???"

7:22 p.m.  Just as predicted by my phone, we have arrived at 7:22.  The parking lot is packed and we end up quite far from BJ's (that was one thing about the apparently-failing Randy Jones--its parking lot was never crowded) but luckily, we've got all the time in the world.  We stroll leisurely to the finish line, meeting up with David along the way.  The joint is jumpin' and we head to the patio, where we can barely even see the finish line through the crowd.  Then we spot the countdown screen. We still have a ridiculous three minutes.  WHAT?

7:30 p.m.  We take a selfie holding our documents while we count it down.  "I look demented," I say to BJ.  "No, you don't," he reassures me.  Now all that remains is to celebrate.  And we do.  14 out of 17 Cane Toads have made it to the finish line with us.  Soon we have apps on the way, and I have a Cosmo in hand, as it should be.  I'm looking around through a delicious haze, smiling at everyone, taking it all in.  All is right with the universe.  The amazing Tyler Davis gifted us with a bottle of champagne during the render, and now it's on ice and waiting to be poured into accompanying flutes.  Our three 17-year-olds have received parental permission to imbibe on this momentous occasion.  The sun goes down.  And we toast.