We start working before dawn. First ones to set are 1st AD, 2nd AD, UPM, catering. Followed shortly by our make-up artist and camera crew. The actors drift in. We’re on our third, fourth cups of coffee by 10am. Collectively, we look out for Jimmy, our 80 year-old star, make sure he’s drinking enough water, not losing his cane or his dentures, keep his sides printed at the largest font possible so he can always be working on his lines. His memory plays hard to get, which is what this movie is all about. We flashback to moments in his life as a child, a teen, a young man. We throw his FUNeral. We film his death. We all break down in tears. We laugh when he nonsensically replaces lines like “Remember what happened on Fourth of July?” with “Remember what happened in San Diego?” Jimmy laughs hardest of all. He waits for a quiet moment in the chaos to loudly ask one of his co-stars “Have you ever worked on a farm? Cause you sure know how to milk it.” We all applaud his wit, his stamina, his courage. Our camera department heroically sets up lights in the rain. Day players cycle through, a breath of fresh air when we’re exhausted. We have three on set creatures for emotional support: a cat, a bird, and a chameleon. We’ve got one week to go telling this story of a life, by telling the story of a death. Harold and Maude, we hope we’re making you proud. We’ll let you know when we find out what happened in San Diego.
When I’m feeling down that my career (as a writer/actor/filmmaker) isn’t “there” yet, Beth (my bff and partner in all crimes) tells me that we’re still putting in our 10,000 hours. As a reminder of how far we’ve come, we recently watched the first short film/video thing we ever made: us impersonating vikings for a contest to win $1,000 and a week stay at a Nordic resort back home in Tahoe.
This was in 2009, when I still lived in a brick apartment in Reno and was a bartender and Beth lived in her parent’s guest cottage and was a go-go dancer. We were staying at Sorensen’s, Beth’s family’s magical resort in the mountains, we were tipsy, and we decided to film an entry. Our imaginations went wild with everything we could do with $1,000, and Granlibakken sounded exotic and mystical, even though it was only a half hour from home.
We wrote our video in 20 minutes and filmed it in 30. Halfway through, the camera died and we filmed the rest on a phone. Our “swords” were made of tin foil, our mustaches were made of paper and taped to our faces. I had been taking guitar lessons for three weeks so there’s a musical interlude. We don’t know our lines, we’re wearing the pajamas we woke up in, and I look like Willie Nelson. But it’s my favorite thing we’ve ever filmed, and perhaps the funniest. Our first venture as Just B.E. Productions (Just Beth and Erin), early starts, earnest hearts, I present, The Hodge Podge Vikings!
This post would not be complete without mentioning Mike Geraghty, who also entered the Granlibakken contest. Mike is a Reno friend and one of the funniest human beings alive, and the reason I didn’t post his video, Lognard of the Lake, first is because his is so fucking funny you’ll die before you can watch Hodge Podge. It should be mentioned he was actually a finalist in the contest (and is currently killing it in the Chicago comedy scene):
I think the fun we had making these videos is evident. We did it because we wanted to make people smile, and we wanted to perform, and in the end it only takes a camera and a little time. Which is the spirit in which all art should be made–straight from the heart in an inspired moment. May all our projects be Hodge Podge!