"Beasts" wrapped principal photography in the bayou last week, and now we're in New Orleans shooting miniatures and special effects until July 3. I still don't have words to process how special and beautiful this experience has been.
My father, Baya--the man whose life and words inspired much of the story, had a chance to visit set and make a cameo. Again, one day I'll have words to talk about this but right now I don't. So I'm sending along a letter he wrote to his best friend John about the experience. He bcc'd me on it, because he's a business man and doesn't have time for foolishness.
So without further ado, my dad, on making art:
John, here are some pictures from Lucy's movie. I did not get into this earlier when we spoke about it, but our trip to see Lucy/Nathan was a highlight of my life, maybe the biggest besides the birth of the three kids.
This current project, "Beasts of the Southern Wild," is deep, very symbolic, very political and just a great piece of art. It is hard to say what it is "about." It chronicles to some extent the challenges poor Bayou people faced in Katrina and subsequent storms, but it is a lot more than that.
The lead actor, Mr. Henry, pictured above with me, is incredible. He is just as nice and down to earth as one could be yet very talented. Court 13 “discovered” him operating a bakery across the street from their studio. During Katrina, he fed hundreds of displaced people.
What amazed me was that there are at least 80 young people involved in making this movie. They are all located down in the Louisiana Bayou, near Houma, LA, down near the coast, most of the places where they film/work/live are closed to fishing because of the oil spill, they are right there where all the action is regarding this spill. We actually saw the cops making people get out of the water. Obama was right near there last week.
They have a headquarters in an abandoned gas station -- it is like a movable feast, groups of kids sitting around a table with lap top computers doing graphics, editing, still photography, accounting, just everything associated with making a movie.
Then there are set designers -- they build these incredible sets, decorate boats, cars, etc., just make this whole world of things up.
What is incredible is all these young people seem to know exactly what they are to do -- and they do it well. In other words, there are no slackers, they appear to be laid back in conversation but when their part of the overall effort is up, they deliver. They start early in the morning and don't stop till around 10:30 at night.
Making a movie is an incredible complicated thing.
I was just one of the extras but it sure did not seem like that to me. I was one of three old men who are on life support. Mr. Henry’s character, Wink, is in the hospital with us and decides to break out.
I saw the incredible organization of the thing in some of what appears to be the simple things, but they were far from that.
They have a costume and makeup group, they have people who deliver you to the place you need to get made up, they have it all timed out so that what needs to be done is done on time, and they are serious.
The guy who did my makeup was deadly serious about it, he spent about thirty minutes with me, getting my hair just right and putting stuff on my face to make me look almost dead. When it came time for our scene, we were taken over to the set in a van and put in a holding room, then we were put in the beds and hooked up to what looks like life support equipment, with the monitors, the bells, whistles and the whole nine yards. I was surprised at how democratic the thing was -- there are no egotists -- I was treated just as well as the stars were treated.
I was on camera for maybe 20 seconds if that. I am lying there and Mr. Henry pulls the plug on me. His daughter then comes by and listens to my heart. She was only about six years old but is a trooper. They shot the scene maybe six times. There is incredible attention to detail.
Some of it was funny. Benh told me that after the guy running the scene said "action," I was to take five breaths then hold my breath. But he forgot a few times to say "action." So I just lay there. Again, my part was so minimal that it did not matter., But I almost have the star's lines down that he said when he was talking to his daughter about the first guy he pulled the plug on -- I do because Lucy used one of the lines that I have used over the years when I talk to her about dying.
Mr. Henry comes to the first guy and he tells his daughter "Look at him, look at him, that is no way to live, he was once a real person, now he's nothing, no one should live like that, once he was somebody, I ain't going to let him live like that no more" -- then he says, "OK partner, it's check out time," and he pulls the plug on him, then continues down the line to the other two geezers, me included. Lucy says that she got that line from me when I talk about my heart operation.
They are something. I am thrilled for them and for me.
Take care and stay left.
The Boss Man