Long Night in Crawfordville

From my timecard journal: Saturday, December 8th, 2001.

Crew call was at 5:30pm, taking us into what we call a “Producer’s Weekend” because we come in late on the last day of our work week and finish work sometime in the morning of the first day of our weekend. By the time you leave set, drive home and go to sleep you don’t have a lot of time (or energy) left to take care of personal business.

December 8th was our final night of shooting in Crawfordville. The hard stuff was finished, namely the Catfish Festival. For the props department it was a chance to regroup and prepare for the next week of shooting two or three miles to the south at a popular barbeque restaurant called Heavy’s. George Lee and our driver Johnny Poucher loaded all of our cooking gear, coolers, tables and other assorted festival props onto a stakebed and drove back toward the production office to put that equipment in storage.

The night’s work was going to be easy: Reese making a phone call from the police station followed by driving shots of she and Fred Ward as they had a good Father/Daughter talk riding in his old pickup. At crew call we worked to get the police gear moved into the Crawfordville courthouse while the electrics were busy outside stringing lights up and down a sleepy road on the north end of town for the driving shots later that evening/morning.

Shooting nights is something that you never really get used to doing… it’s simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. Starting out slowly helps, and on this night we were really taking our time. As we were setting up video village someone pulled me aside and said that Director Andy Tennant’s father was close to passing away and that Andy would probably be leaving set at some point that night to fly home. That Andy was working across the country from a dying parent made our work seem trivial.

I think the fact that we were shooting a romantic comedy provided a little emotional cushion for Andy and the crew right around video were giving him a little space. Reese played her scene opposite a payphone and I can’t remember if Andy or Alicia, our script supervisor, read against her. Most of the crew was crowded into the doorway of the eastern entrance and Andy sat just outside, watching on monitor.

What you never really saw though was our steadicam operator, ‘Buzz’ Moyer, playing the part of an arrested redneck being escorted into the station in the background of the shot. Buzz was decked out in a worn wifebeater T-shirt and had his stomach poked out as far as he could manage. At a certain point late in Reese’s dialogue Buzz would squirm loose from his police escort and sprint down the hallway like a cartoon character, legs pumping and arms wheeling. The guys playing cops chased him like Keystone Cops.
drew in a lineup
After that scene we moved outside to shoot something else, but during the first few minutes of bedlam after the phone scene was printed Peter Iovino, the stills photographer, pushed in to get somebody to shoot him standing in front of a floating set wall with police lineup marks on it. After he got his photo he snapped a couple of us standing in front of the lineup. I promptly forgot all about that photo session until near the end of the show when Peter came by the prop truck and dropped off a copy of my mugshot. Looking at it now I can see that I could make it as a bad-ass looking criminal.

It was sometime near or after lunch that night in Crawfordville that word spread that Andy’s Dad had indeed passed away. I remember seeing Andy’s car leaving Crawfordville, headed back toward Atlanta. I only recently learned a little about Andy’s Dad, Don Tennant, a man whose influence on American pop culture was enormous; he’s the guy who brought us Tony the Tiger, the Marlboro Man, the saying “Nothin’ says Lovin’ like Somethin’ from the Oven” and “Fly the Friendly Skies of United”. (found on everything2.com)

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