Sunday, June 26, 2011

Shooting a sex scene in the courtyard at Atomic Cowboy on Pridefest day

Today we pulled off a shoot for our movie Go South for Animal Index in the courtyard at Atomic Cowboy, which has just enough leafy fenceline to suggest a fence around a military base in a remote location. The scene I wanted to shoot was a soldier paying for and having sex with a whore who works the fenceline around the base.

John Parker is our soldier.

D'Mari Martinez played the whore.

We had trouble casting the whore role at the last minute, after a couple of actors backed out. In case we were shooting without the whore character, I lined up some other characters who could interact with our soldier along the fenceline. Martin Sophia is a recent recruit to play one of the tribal men who lives near the base.

Our crew for the shoot was Laurent Torno III, director of photography, and V "Elly" Smith.

John and Martin were the first actors on location, so we shot them walking along the fenceline and walking past one another.

The shooting script calls for lots of walking and passing shots to establish a complex, interconnected world of military base, bush, tribal encampment and uranium (zombie) mine. This approximates the actual world of Los Alamos, a secret military base built on a former Hopi mesa surrounded by tribal peoples and not far from uranium minds worked by Navajo.

I'm amused we are able to create some of this tricky illusion in the courtyard of a bar that has things like giant paintings of beers on the wall that can never enter any of our shots without ruining everything. Martin is from Kenya, by the way, and his costume is traditional; the drum was made by my brother in law, a traditional craftsman from Ghana.

The motivation of the soldier character is pretty clear -- he is out to get laid. The tribal man, on the other hand, is on his way to a healing ceremony. He is moving toward the spirit like the soldier is moving toward the flesh. The main action of the tribe in the movie is to conduct a series of healing ceremonies for a sick child.

The hat is a St. Louis original -- Robert Van Dillen made it for our Art Invitational to The Sydney Highrise Variations. The hat is actually a work of art titled "At apogee". I like it for this costume because it incorporates feathers. Our tribal people in the movie are a collage of native peoples who mined uranium for the atomic bomb project. This includes native Africans (though not Kenyans) and native Americans, all of whom worked feathers into their sacred headdresses.

Our shoot was complicated in an amusing way by the need to get a parade float out of the same courtyard where we were shooting. The Pridefest parade was today, and Atomic Cowboy had a gang of friends come by to take out the Grovefest float. Atomic Cowboy co-owner Jim Kellogg is in the rear in the red shirt. Jim has been a great ally of Poetry Scores.

Our shoot was minimally affected by them making their merry way onto the street and toward the parade. The other Atomic Cowboy co-owner Chip Schloss brings up the rear here.

I also called George Malich to come out and play his priest character. I wanted the priest to walk past the soldier, tribal guy and whore. This was in a way filler; in case I didn't cast the whore part at the zero hour, I would have found more things for the priest to do. Between actually having the whore character after all and a losing a bit of time to parade float logistics, I wasted George's time today. We never shot him. It's a shame, and I feel bad about it.

The very good news, however, is we did shoot the entire range of motion for a difficult scene, the soldier/prostitute trick scene. The actions opens with the whore preening.

We all felt D'Mari did a good job of establishing her character as a desirable sex object advertising her services.

Laurent's experience shooting fashion was a great assist in explaining to D'Mari how to act with her shoes. The bad news there is that we destroyed these nice shoes having her grind them in the gravel.

We were very limited in shot setup by a stage that the guys at Atomic Cowboy understandably did not want to move for the occasion. John walked into the frame from the other side of the stage, though we could not see the stage in any shot. Notice in the corner an idol where we would have shot the priest and tribal guy if we didn't have a whore actor for the day.

I didn't shoot a still of their simulated sex act, but here is Laurent showing them a take.

You can double-click on these images to enlarge them. John is having an interesting reaction to his scene here.

The Pridefest parade floaters returned while we were shooting the sex scene. Fortunately, Elly had some great long shots of the soldier and whore rutting by then. Here Laurent shoots tight with the parade truck behind him as D'Mari prepares to leave the soldier lying on the ground after he has satisfied himself.

The scene ends with the soldier lying on the ground having a smoke alone. John smoked himself sick. I liked the way the soldier looked dead lying there.

His helmet and gun made an interesting tableaux against a Buddhist sculpture in the Atomic Cowboy courtyard. Oppenheimer, who ran the physics side of the military bomb shop, was a student of Oriental religions, so this works as a deep inside joke for anyone who notices this rock is more than just a rock.

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