The Making Of Colours - Part 4
Spellbound - Vol III Iss I
Will this tale never end? All I can answer to that question is, "We're still trying." Still, you never know your luck. There is just a remote chance that I might even make the finishing line this time. So, just read on and see, or, alternatively, forget the whole thing.
I wasn't going to repeat the cast list again this time. It probably gets a bit monotonous, you should know it by heart anyway, and there are only three characters which have not been mentioned in earlier episodes. However, I have changed my mind. To save me the trouble of spelling out who the still missing three are and to help fill up the page, the full cast list is given below, complete with asterisks denoting those who have appeared in Parts I to III. Another reason for showing the full list is to illustrate that, yes, I did get The Catering Person out of order in the original list. I am quite aware of it, and so, there is no need for all of you to write in to Spellbound to point out the mistake.
Day 2 Commences - A Few Inauspicious Moments
The next day featured a lightly overcast sky and a cool southerly breeze in contrast to the scorching, thunderstorm-interrupted sunshine of Day 1.
The Old Man had received a later call for filming this morning. Not that this had anything to do with it being Sunday when people are often permitted a bit of a sleep in; it was simply that there were more important people to film and the Old Man had hogged the camera somewhat on the previous day.
So it was, that when he and the Real Artist appeared at Location 1 about 10am, business was already well in progress. The Director, with the able assistance of the two Heavies, had achieved the setting up of railway tracks and camera. The Producer, while present, seemed to be making fewer doleful pronouncements about the budget. Perhaps he had passed the point of no return in despair and finally given up on it, or possibly, he had concluded that the budget results would be less disastrous if he said nothing and let the Director get on with the job.
All the other members of the crew were present and engaged in their various tasks. In fact, they had been joined by a further crew member in the form of the Catering Person (yes, here she is at last). This young lady had already taken charge of the kitchen of the large house which constituted Location 1 and was systematically filling it and herself with confusion as the Old Man and the Real Artist entered at the rear of the house. On being introduced, the Real Artist, as is her usual custom in such circumstances, asked if she could be of assistance. Perhaps the Catering Person did not realise that the offer was made on a purely voluntary basis and interpreted it as some sort of challenge to her day's employment, as she responded with a hasty verbal presentation of her credentials for the job in such terms as:
"I have been catering and cooking all over the world. In India, I did the cooking for an ashram where there were forty people, much more than we have here today."
So, if not entirely convinced by this performance, in the face of it the Real Artist had little option but to withdraw from the kitchen and rejoin the Old Man on his progress through to the back verandah where the filming had occurred the previous day. There they found the studio scene all set up with sketches, brushes, paints, etc., scattered about in the same places as before. The Staging Person had been busy.
But, he had been even busier, as the Old Man discovered when a gasp of horror from the Real Artist drew his attention to the portrait of the Dream Girl on the easel at the far end of the verandah. The subtle muted-toned background of the painting had been obliterated and the beautiful head was now framed in a stark, white background. The continuing gasps and cries of "What have you done?" from the Real Artist evoked the explanation that the background had been too dark and lacking in contrast for filming purposes, hence the need for a white base to make the darker-toned head study stand out more before the camera. It was also pointed out to the Real Artist that, "You did say we could use it as a stage prop as we wished."
Notwithstanding these apparently valid excuses, the Real Artist did and, indeed, still does, feel more than a little put out by this rather unsympathetic regard for her work. However, at the time, all she could do was point out that the change could just as effectively have been made by the application of pipeclay which could subsequently have been easily washed off, instead of white acrylic paint (probably ceiling white which comes by the gallon rather cheap and, perhaps, is more commensurate with the Staging Person's level of painting skill).
The Real Artist's painting skills could probably have repaired the damage from the Old Man's vermilion attacks of the day before, but this sheet of blank background was more than she was prepared to face for the salvage of her art work. Thus, was a potential Archibald Prize1 winner lost to Posterity.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends” 2
The Old Man retreated to the robing room to find the day's action well under way there, too. Unlike the day before, he was not the centre of the Robing Trio's attention. The Musician had not yet faced the camera and the Director's strategy for Day 2 was to make up for lost time in this regard. So, there were the Wardrobes Person, the Hairdresser, and the Make-up Person pushing him into clothes, brushing his locks and painting his lips in preparation for his filming.
The Musician was to be attired in a dinner suit, an item quite beyond the resources of the Wardrobes Person, so the dance company had again been called upon. However, the Wardrobes Person's role included taking charge of all such garments for the duration of the filming. Apparently she discharged this duty very thoroughly in the case of this particular dinner suit, as its absence from the various borrowed plumes subsequently returned to the dance company wardrobe suggested that she was still taking this aspect of her role very seriously well after the conclusion of the filming event.
However, to return to that event, the Musician was soon made ready and sent off to the studio set to play oboe, or at least to look as if he were, for most of the morning. Then the Old Man was rushed through a processing by the Robing Trio, more or less a repeat of the previous day.
Just as well he was rushed through it actually, as the Director and camera crew suddenly appeared in the dressing room and took total charge of it. The reason for this invasion lay in the pair of leadlight panelled doors which opened from this room onto the back verandah just where the action end of the studio set lay. The Director thought it might be effective and ever-so-arty to take shots of the Musician and the Old Man through these leadlight panels -- probably not a bad idea when making a film about colours. Nevertheless, it did rather disrupt the work of the robing trio who were forced to evacuate to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.
The Musician and the Old Man, on the other hand, were kept reasonably busy in front of the camera. After spending some time being filmed through the coloured glass panel while they played oboe or painted, respectively, they had a short break while the camera was relocated back on the railway tracks in the studio.
It was at the point of resuming filming there that the Old Man enquired whether he should take off the old overcoat in which he was enveloped, or continue to wear it for the next take. This seemed to produce quite a reaction from the Director who not only suggested "Yes, leave it off," but launched into a long and abject apology for not allowing the Old Man to take off the coat all through Day 1 when the weather was so hot. "You must have been sweltering," he said, "I am so sorry."
The Old Man quite graciously accepted the apology without revealing that he had not been sweltering really and that the coat was not nearly as warm as it looked. Too many years on the backs of Heaven knows whom and the racks of the charity clothing shop had worn it thin enough for it to make very little difference whether on or off. He further refrained from observing that amends could hardly be made by the permission to shed the coat now that the weather had turned somewhat cooler. Instead, he simply handed the cast off garment to the Wardrobes Person and returned coatless to the camera.
Any good film cast or crew marches on its stomach 3
At morning tea time, the Real Artist, who had rendered sterling service in the field of coffee making on Day 1, again braved further scorn of the Catering Person by returning to the kitchen for a repeat performance in this role. However, by this time the Catering Person seemed to have developed a totally new attitude towards the acceptance of assistance. In fact, she was in quite a state of nerves -- panic even -- and, this time, quite shamelessly pleaded for the Real Artist's help. She had devised all sorts of delicacies with which to feed the troops, but was fast running out of the time needed to prepare and cook them for lunch. Doubtless, the constant invasions of the coffee drinkers were not without negative impact on her progress, too. On the other hand, the Catering Person had already expended most of the morning shopping for the ingredients for her ambitious dishes.
The Real Artist quietly set about the task of, firstly,
establishing some better degree of calmness in the Catering Person and,
then, aiding and directing her onto the path to culinary success. The
latter quite readily accepted this direction while still muttering protestations
of how she had provided food for forty people at an ashram in India.
The ultimate result of the labours of this ill-assorted kitchen couple was that cast the crew did eat, though not exactly heartily, at lunchtime.
But, do let's keep making movies
Meanwhile back at the set the Director seemed to have struck a problem or two, not with the cast this time, but with the inability of his filming equipment to match his artistic aspirations.
Most of the morning had been absorbed in filming the Musician seated on a studio stool simulating either playing oboe or singing as the music demanded, variously with and without the Old Man daubing at the easel in the background. Then, this couple was temporarily dismissed while the filming crew endeavoured to obtain zooming shots from the main room of the house, out through the double doors leading to the back verandah and then down the length of the studio set.
Here the frustration really began for the simple reason that their railway track assembly was not really capable of crossing a raised threshold, down one step and then immediately negotiating a right-angled bend. They tried to obtain the right effect by filming in short segments, repeatedly demounting the camera and moving the position of the tracks, with the ultimate objective of assembling all the little bits into a smooth-running, apparently single take. It was a slow and tedious procedure, and, what is more, it did not look as if it was going to work.
The Director finally gave up on this, dispatched the near-exhausted Heavies for a break and went into muttered consultation with the Producer. While none but this pair were privy to these deliberations, it can be reasonably speculated that an alternative method of achieving this tricky piece of filming was being advanced by the Director and receiving challenge on budget grounds and then, final agreement from the Producer.
Presumably the alternative method was to call for the services of the Specialist, since that gentleman arrived some time later, complete with sophisticated equipment. The latter consisted of a very large video camera with its own inbuilt power source, mounted on a very complicated harness featuring all sorts of automatic stabilising and levelling features and which could be strapped to the operator's chest. Provided one had the bulk and strength to carry it and some practice in operating it, this equipment allowed for travelling filming on foot, with no need for any railway tracks at all. The Specialist amply met both these specifications and, being first in the field in Australia in providing himself with such equipment, was doing quite well by contracting out his services for tricky filming situations as this one.
Actually most members of the cast had already seen the Specialist in action some months before, when he had done the filming of a clip for another song from the same album as "Man Of Colours." On that occasion he had to walk backwards for 100 metres or more through an old disused power station, reliant totally for guidance on an assistant director walking beside him shouting directions. In this unenviable mode, he had to film the Musician as he marched towards the camera, confidently(?) singing, as all sorts of stunts and chaos raged around him. This method of filming enabled the whole video clip to be recorded in a single continuous take. This facility would seem to have budgetary implications which would doubtless have appealed greatly to the Producer in our present story, even if the Workers' Compensation insurance premiums may have been somewhat higher than usual.
This time the Specialist's task was not nearly so challenging. He only had to walk forwards through the loungeroom and the automatically opening doors into the studio, a distance of no more than five metres. The automatics for the doors were supplied by two crew members lying on the verandah floor, one on each side of the doorway and out of sight of the camera, pushing the doors open on a single syllable shout from the Director.
All of the door-opening having been rehearsed to perfection, the Specialist literally climbed into harness and, looking all the world like a pregnant beetle in full charge, commenced zooming from the loungeroom into the studio, accompanied by the opening strains of the music, punctuated by shouts of "Doors." A few similar takes and the Director's dreams for this segment were fulfilled in a matter of a few minutes. Which all goes to prove that, even in these days of advanced transport technology, there are still some things which are best done on foot.
"Watch my lips"
This problem having been solved, the Old Man and the Musician returned to work for some miscellaneous little bits of filming which might be needed to fill a few gaps in the final product. Most significant among these was a session of lip-synching, which might be described as human beings making sounds of silence in synchronization with other sounds emanating from a loud-speaker.
The Musician was, of course, most experienced and skilled in this art, having used it on stage and screen for many years. He was, thus, able to breeze through his part of this with a minimum of fuss and direction. On the other hand, the Old Man, being of an earlier generation, was more familiar with the reverse procedure, which came into being when they invented talking films back in his youth, and where they dubbed voices onto the soundtracks of films in synchronization with the actors making sounds of silence on screen. Nevertheless, he had been briefed on this lip-synching, even to the point of learning the words of the song and getting in a bit of prior practice.
So, when the Director seated him in front of the camera
and issued his instructions, the Old Man enthusiastically launched into
his well rehearsed production of sounds of silence, "Man Of Colours"
variety. However, this very enthusiasm proved to be his undoing in the
first couple of takes, in that he had interpreted his instructions as
requiring a silent singalong with the music coming from the ghetto blaster.
Perhaps he tried a little too hard to out-sing the Musician, as the Director
soon pointed out that his lips were moving rather too much.
Whereupon, the Old Man dutifully curbed his aspirations as a lead vocalist and descended into a sort of silent geriatric mumbling of the song lyrics. This seemed to meet the Director's needs somewhat better, or so the Old Man thought at the time. He did have some later cause to doubt this when all of his lip-synching seemed to have been edited out in the finished video clip. In short, his moving lips ended up on the cutting room floor.
Let's Dance 4
Mid afternoon, the Dream Girl and the Dancing Partner appeared and were made ready for their filming at Location 1.
The Director's immediate need was for some sequences of the Dream Girl dancing in rather more brief and voluptuous attire then the Edwardian costume of the night before. The Dream Girl was not unaccustomed to appearing on stage in brief costumes, so this should not have presented any major problems. However, the Wardrobes Person's answer to the occasion did cause some and left the Dream Girl reeling in astonishment.
Out from the large black plastic bag emerged some strips of roughly torn curtaining which the Dream Girl was supposed to drape about her person in strategic positions to form a sort of poor man's (Sorry! -- poor girl's) bikini. She eyed the tattered remnants with the utmost suspicion before enquiring: "Have you got a body suit for me to wear under this... er... this creation?"
Quite unabashed, the Wardrobes Person replied in the negative. In her innermost thoughts she was probably saying, "What the hell's a body suit?" Openly, she just met the Dream Girl's pleas in the cause of modesty with a bland response of "Oh! Just wear your panties underneath if you like."
In due course the Dream Girl appeared on set arrayed in her costume in the form of a two-piece bathing suit, decorated with long trailing ends of tattered curtain. These attachments presumably were designed to wave and flap about in the breezes created by the dancer's sweeps and twirls. So they did, as the Dream Girl again demonstrated a very professional routine of impromptu dancing before the camera.
At times the trailing ends came perilously close to some of the projecting objects around the studio set, inducing apprehension among the onlookers that a piece of the swirling curtaining might catch on something with disastrous results. For only one very brief moment did their dreams become reality as the Dream Girl rushed screaming from the set, frantically clutching a dislodged top garment to herself. However, the inventive Wardrobes Person soon made good the damage and the seasoned trouper returned to complete the act. Nevertheless, the Dream Girl was more than happy to return to her neck-to-floor Edwardian gown.
Then followed a session of the Dancing Partner and the Dream Girl waltzing around the studio, until finally the climax of the whole show was reached. The Old Man was called in to replace the Dancing Partner.
Now, waltzing was something in which the Old Man had felt reasonably competent in his earlier years, but he really was seriously out of practice in that field. Unlike the lip-synching, he had received no notice of this one. However, ever willing to try anything, he dutifully approached the task of resurrecting his lost skill in the waltz. Taking the Dream Girl in his arms he launched into a clockwise turning one-two-three stepping dance, strictly ballroom in style, at least, if not quite up to strictly ballroom standard. The Dream Girl followed his feet with truly amazing precision, and it did not matter if the three quarter time stepping did not quite match the music, as no one wanted to point a camera at their feet anyway. The important thing was their faces did not show any sudden grimaces of pain, reflecting trodden toes.
The Old Man had been accustomed to reversing into anti-clockwise turning as a means of countering giddiness, but, in this instance, use of this device would have disrupted the flow of the filming. Consequently, they had to keep waltzing in clockwise mode for the full length of the verandah, and this did not seem to worry the Dream Girl at all. Not so the Old Man, who by the end of the first rehearsal was as light-headed as a drunk. Still he battled into the full take which seemed to go for hours. Round and round went the waltzing pair. The camera kept on whirring and the Old Man's head kept on whirling. The Dream Girl somehow propped him up until, at last, they reached the end of the room and the Old Man collapsed in a giddy heap.
Faced with that performance, the Director decided to call an end. There was really nothing more that he could film, so he made the final announcement to this effect.
Cast and crew rapidly and enthusiastically moved into cleaning up phase. The set was rapidly dismantled and carried off piece by piece, make-up was removed and false hair pieces unpinned and returned to the Hairdresser's box of tricks. Costumes were hastily stuffed back into the large black plastic bag as the cast members shed them and gladly donned their own street clothes.
The mood became positively jocular. The job was done, they had made the film and, better still, it was the time to be paid off. All excitedly praised and thanked each other for the wonderful job done, collected their chattels and commenced ferrying them out of the house up to the road to their waiting vehicles.
The Real Artist had assembled all her painting equipment and artworks and was still quietly staring at and lamenting over the remnants of her portrait of the Dream Girl when the Old Man emerged from the dressing room. Together they carried the equipment, sketches, etc., up the front path and loaded them into their station wagon. Then, having said goodnight to all, they drove home, comforting each other with the thought that they, above any, had both played their parts very well.
"Drama is life with the dull bits cut out." 5
About a week later the Old Man and Real Artist received a call inviting them to a viewing of the finished video clip. They took note of the address of the film editing studio and set off, filled with joyful anticipation, to reach it at the appointed time. On arrival they were greeted by the Director, who sat them down before a screen and proudly proceeded to demonstrate his opus.
They anxiously listened for the opening strains of "Man Of Colours," but found they were preceded by some silent images on the screen: a canvas on an easel, a gnarled hand grasping a brightly tipped paintbrush, until the Old Man exclaimed, "There are my old shoes. I can't hear any shuffling, though." (There really were some sounds of shuffling, but bear in mind that the Old Man's hearing is not perfect.) Then the introductory music started and they were assailed with a visual journey through opening doors into and through the artist's studio.
"There are all your sketches and things," the Old Man told the Real Artist, to which she responded, "Look at the broken window. Isn't that good?" Then they both fell silent as the rapidly changing images flashed before them. It was all too quick to make any more comments. There was the Musician playing and singing, the Old Man painting, the dancers twirling, in a kaleidoscopic succession all the way through the song. It was all too much to absorb in one go and they gladly accepted the Director's offer of a second viewing.
The Director presented them with a copy of the tape, but explained that this was not the final version. The record company people had complained that there was too little focus on the Musician who was supposed to be the star of the video. The implied suggestion was that there was room to replace shots of the artist painting with the Musician singing. The Old Man was inclined to agree with this. However, when he later received a copy of the revised version and played them both one after the other, he found it difficult to detect very much difference.
More than how much was seen of each cast member, the Old Man was concerned with how little was seen all together. Their whole session in the editing studio lasted no more than fifteen minutes, during which time they had, among other things, seen the video twice. It really was a very short film, but then, he supposed the song wasn't very long either. Nevertheless, he could not help thinking of the miles of film and hours of filming, which must have all gone to waste; so much so, indeed, that, over the next few weeks, he could frequently be heard to declaim to the Real Artist in simulated Churchillian style:
"Never, in the history of motion pictures, has so much been filmed, by so many, for so little."
And so, "Colours" was made.
It was a quite frequent occurrence. The Old Man and his Older Sibling usually meet for lunch together somewhere in the city whenever the latter makes the 100 kilometre train trip from his country home for a day in town.
On one particular such occasion, the two old gentlemen strolled through one of the city shopping arcades on their normal quest for a venue for a comfortable, adequate, and reasonably-priced meal. They encountered just one possibility in the form of a take-away food bar on one side of the arcade and a large alcove equipped with tables and chairs where the customers could sit and partake of their take-away purchases.
The elderly pair paused in the centre of the arcade eyeing off these facilities. The food at the bar was not greatly appealing and the decor of the dining alcove seemed rather spare. Finally, realising that loud music was coming from the alcove (actually, they are both rather hard of hearing), they were about to announce a mutual decision that this really wasn't their scene when the Old Man exclaimed, "That's me." Perhaps it was the familiar ring to the music that had first drawn his attention to it, but, indeed, there he was, dressed in that ridiculous painter's garb and occupying a large television screen mounted high on the back wall of the alcove.
As they moved in closer and the Old Man spotted a second screen, he added: "In fact, there I am in duplicate... no... triplicate... quadruplicate (he had always prided himself on his Latin)... quintuplicate..." He paused. There was a battery of six televisions ranged side by side along the back wall of the dining alcove, all showing the same picture. Then, as his eyes turned the corner he happily discovered one more screen on the side wall and, with some relief, gasped out:
"Yes, there I am in septuplicate."
The two stood silently watching the video clip for the next two minutes, their eyes flashing from one screen to another, uncertain as to where they should finally dwell. As the song approached the end, the Older Sibling spoke:
"I am so glad you found that last screen around the corner."
"Yes," replied the Old Man. "I really don't think I could have coped with there being just the six."
The Older Sibling, his face lit with an impish grin, came back with, "No, not at your age."
They turned to each other with a knowing smile, then moved off down the arcade together, leaving the old artist on the wall to a seven-times fade-out.
1 This is a highly prestigious and quite lucrative art prize awarded
annually in Australia for a portrait, preferably of a person eminent in
the arts or sciences.