Henry Rollins: Making a Movie
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
At long last, the first week of shooting for He Never Died, the film I'm currently working on, has been completed. I am so glad to have the production meetings behind us and to be finally doing the work.
Our first day kicked my ass, as it always does. No matter how many times I have worked in film, that first long day is a bit of a beating. It's not as if I watch the clock, waiting for it to be over. It's full on until we wrap, and the time passes quickly. It's when I get back to my lodgings that the exhaustion hits me.
It's like getting sea legs. I need at least a day to get back into harness.
I woke up the next morning, fully clothed, lights still on, food out, script open next to me. Shower, protein shake, vitamins, aspirin and out the door I went, back to the set.
The crew is like every other assemblage of Canadians united for the purpose of making a film I have ever worked with: can-do, kickass, professional, friendly, funny and fast.
On our budget, everything is done at hustle speed; our only option is to be good to go at all times.
Rarely am I involved with a project such as this that doesn't have budgetary constraints. From making records to everything else, it's usually a tightened belt and a lot of preparation before go time because there is just not the budget for anything else.
This ethic has always served me well. I used to read about bands that would write their albums in the studio and wondered how they could afford such a venture.
The process I learned when I started out was to do your work in the practice room and soundcheck, then take the songs to the only place it really matters -- the stage. There the songs would set loose in the bully-rich schoolyard environment to see how they stood up for themselves. All their weaknesses come to light very quickly.
After the songs have been in multiple skirmishes and learned how to fight back, they were taken into the studio and committed to tape quickly.
Our little film is much the same way and so far, we're getting it done. The project's weak link is me. I have no acting training, and most of the action falls on me.
The idea of failing the cast and crew is self-plunged-katana-blade-in-the-guts time for me. I take the script with me everywhere. In the gym, on the treadmill for those of ruined knees (elliptical), there I am running as fast as I can, going nowhere, the existential beauty/futility of that not lost upon me, going through scenes over and over.
At one point, my mute facial machinations compelled a woman to come over to me and put a hand on my left shoulder to ask if I was OK. (This nearly sent me out of my skin.) Canadians are often a friendly bunch.
Last night, there was a scene that required me to basically fall flat on my face. I worked through all of this days before with Billy and Shelley, our ace stunt coordinators. They had a very forgiving mat for me to do this on, no problem. Sadly, we could not use it, as we couldn't get it out of the shot.
Billy advised me on how to basically step forward and bow out of frame to make it work. I tried but lacked the coordination to do it on a mark. I figured I would magically figure it out when I had to. Nope. On action, being in the moment of the thing, I just hit the sidewalk, letting my right shoulder take most of the impact.
Apparently it looked great! Hopefully it looked great the other five times we shot it. I kept getting up and doing it. In situations like this, my only course of action is not to fail.
When we finally moved onto the next shot, I figured I was pretty damn hard to beat. I was disabused of that notion upon waking up this morning feeling as if I had been the winner of a Singapore caning. I can't tell you how much 52 years old isn't 22. I hurt so completely, all I could do was laugh.
Perhaps the biggest boost to the quality of the overall is the rest of the cast. There is a woman named Kate whose character does a lot of work with mine. Kate has talent to burn. We have this one scene where we walk a great distance with a lot of back-and-forth dialogue, marks to hit, all on a live sidewalk.
From the elderly gentleman who kept sticking his head into the shot, asking, "What are they doing, a documentary?" to the car that went by with its passengers yelling my name, take after take, Kate never dropped a line.
During one take, I stumbled on a word when my face was literally too cold to work properly, but for the most part I kept up with her.
In the next scene, her character is less than pleased with mine. We had no time to rehearse except on the street. Shoot the cold rehearsal, what the hell? On action, Kate unleashes a focused wave of fury and exasperation that damn near made me forget my lines.
We shot it three times and she just crushed it -- I left mild dents in it just by being in the same shot. She's an ace.
I love an environment where I can work my ass off and hit the wall. Truly, I live for that. It's why I do 190 shows on a tour and not 100.
I want to go until whatever it is I am doing goes beyond a mere task and turns into the single reason for living. That is my answer to the what-is-the-meaning-of-life question. I am exactly where I should be.
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