Saturday, May 01, 2010

Filming Cigarette

Who knew a Zippo lighter would be so hard to find?

The film is currently titled Cigarette, and the first of two nights of shooting took place in Las Cruces overnight. The film is a single-act drama that will probably run ten minutes, depicting an eventful conversation between two men at a diner.

Our location was the 5 Brothers Chinese restaurant and bar near NMSU, which agreed to let us film in their place overnight after closing. Closing time, 11:00 PM. Wrap time, 5:00 AM. A long night.

I got to town early enough for some dinner and to run what I thought would be a quick errand: procuring an old-fashioned Zippo lighter, an accessory most appropriate to my character, who smokes throughout the scene.

This turned into a tour of Las Cruces worthy of a short film in itself. Gas stations. Liquor stores. Several Pic-Quick stores. Target. Wal-Mart -- the biggest one I have ever visited. This Wal-Mart needs its own post office. I even tried an Albertsons. I can purchase butane to refill a Zippo at any of these locations; the lighters themselves, not at all. The closest item I found was a selection of peculiar, abstractly-designed lighters in an array of metallic colors that looked like they were designed by Jeff Koons.

Around 11:30, as the employees finished mopping up, the crew began laying dolly track through the restaurant and setting up the snacks and caffeinated beverages that would keep us going until dawn. Everyone was very polite -- even at quarter to five. I am not used to this.

We had rehearsed the piece all the way through several times, as one rehearses a play. By and large, we also filmed it that way, with long takes from various angles. As a theatre guy, I loved this.

Oh, and the continuity man lent me his Zippo. By the end, I was feeling great compassion for him. Cigarettes quickly pose a continuity nightmare: how low have they burned from shot to shot? Where's the smoke? Where is it resting in the ash tray? To say nothing of those little coffee creamers we deal with, splashes of milk on the table, and other little details.

The director of photography pulled much of his thick curly hair out over the highly reflective windows that surrounded us and kept reflecting him, lights, electric cables, etc. in his dolly shots.

The slate man took great delight in trying to embarrass us with suggestive names for each scene. For example, scene 1-M became "scene 1-M.I.L.F."

We did our scene again. And again. And again. Wrap time took me complete by surprise. Was it really 5:00 AM?

The sky doesn't lie.

1 comment:

Debby said...

Zippo is manufactured in Bradford, PA, not far from us (across the reservoir actually). They are collectibles in our area. I can get you an old zippo from an antique store. I'm not sure how much it would cost, but if you are interested, let me know, and I will price them. My e-mail is