May 2-8, 1983

Tuesday, May 3: DAY FORTY-FOUR (14 ½ hrs; 10 ½ hrs)

Apparently I didn’t miss much Sunday evening.  There were quite a few people there, but it was pretty dull.

Saturday evening, Anatol was out with Fred – linked up with a bunch of crew people and Raffaella – wound up partying at Raffaella’s suite until late.  He couldn’t figure out where I’d got to, he said.  Even though I told him I was going to the studio, he thought I’d changed my mind and just disappeared.  Logic isn’t his strongest point.

First unit call sheet, May 2, 1983

Yesterday was a long dull day.  I was woken by a driver at nine-forty-five, sent for who knows what reason.  Took a shower, called Anatol – no reply.  So I grabbed a cab to the studio.  He had taken the eight o’clock crew bus – not having slept Sunday night.  He wound up sleeping on our office floor all afternoon.  I just wandered around, talking to people (Giles and Kevin in the art department – both English, with family backgrounds in film).

No backlash about Sunday evening.  I explained what happened to Strick.  It was all informal anyway.

The night’s shooting was dull – just shots of Paul and Jessica at the rock wall.  The Fremen extras had been called; a shot was lined up, they were all positioned; but it was decided that it didn’t look right – so they were all sent home again (at what cost?) and a number of different shots set up.  We didn’t stick around.  Left at one.

Second unit call sheet, May 2, 1983

We talked to Maggie, the dialect coach (a wonderful woman, a Scot who’s lived most of her life in Rome and who’s worked on some big Italian productions), about our Paris idea.  She seemed quite taken with it.

Now if only I can find time to put together an at least functional script.

Which brings me to a sore point.

I don’t want to do this party thing on Sunday.  After six days of a heavy schedule, that one day off is desperately needed.  We’re always exhausted on weekends.  To be told to give up our day off to shoot home movies of Tony Master’s party is unacceptable.  And if they insist, it’s obvious that they’re not taking us seriously, don’t consider what we’re doing to be work.  In which case, why the fuck are they wasting money on it?

The problem is Anatol has gone all wishy-washy about it.  After being against it, he now says well, he’ll do it one time, but if they start making a habit of it, he’ll put his foot down.  Which to me is dumb.  Right now is the time to make them take us more seriously.  It’s a simple matter of establishing a professional attitude towards us.  If we set a precedent by being party photographers on Sunday, it’ll only be that much harder to straighten things out later on.

Second unit call sheet, May 3, 1983

Fred’s been having a hard time.  His all-Mexican crew presents not only a language problem – they have a very slack attitude towards their work.  For a couple of weeks he’s been doing hunter-seeker inserts in Paul’s room on Stage 4.  A lot of painstaking shots – using glass, mirrors, wires, all kinds of techniques.  Yesterday when they got to the set where a wire shot had been rigged a week ago, they found a lot of their lights removed, wires cut – a general mess.  Several hours later, Leslie (doing continuity for second unit) discovered by accident that the assistant director, Jesus Marin, hadn’t even bothered to make a report (in fact, doesn’t even file routine A.D. reports).

If this film ever actually gets completed, it’ll be something of a miracle.

Wednesday, May 4: DAY FORTYFIVE (19 hrs)

We went to the Bank of America representative yesterday to take care of some business (I want to transfer to a high interest account) before going to the studio.

Second unit call sheet, May 4, 1983

As usual, we were slower getting in than we’d planned.  Had to show some more stuff to Strick and another guy from Universal (Leonard Morpurgo).  Were then going to go shoot Fred at work.  But there was a sudden change of plans.  Strick talked to Armstrong.  He wants Morpurgo to bring back some of our material when he flies out Friday morning.  Anatol immediately went to Raffaella.  She wanted to see our stuff yesterday evening …  As it turned out, we’re going to rush out a dupe of some of the material (an hour or so) for Raffaella and David to see Thursday – and they can pass it on if they approve.

When Anatol talked to her, Raffaella said, in effect, so what? they’re paying for it.  He asked her why she was just giving this stuff away.  Maybe we’ll eventually get her over to our side.

The further we go, the more of a joke our equipment seems to be.  This stuff isn’t meant to produce anything for long-term preservation.  Anatol’s complaints get louder and longer all the time – he still hopes he can push them to approve a 16mm/Nagra system.  I really doubt it.

Thursday, May 5: DAY FORTY-SIX (4 ½ hrs)

I got to the studio about nine yesterday morning (after less than six hours sleep) and fumbled around with our duping equipment.  Impossible to do anything even resembling editing because we have no time-code readers, no time base correctors, nothing….  By the time Anatol got there at about twelve, I had seven minutes of clumsy, shapeless mess duped.

Second unit call sheet, May 5, 1983

So after lunch, we just began at the beginning and started going through the material chronologically. Since nothing has been duped yet, we had to scan everything, lifting a shot here, another there. With only one major break – about two hours to do some shooting on Stage 2 (the generator room) and eat some supper – we worked until just after four this morning, going through over fifty cassettes. I worked the machines the whole time – Anatol watched and commented, sometimes helpful, sometimes annoying. He burned out before the end – no energy, voice a slur. By the end of it all, my eyes were burning and I knew I didn’t want to do this again; if Armstrong wants samples, he can send better equipment and a person who knows how to use it. Because the almost two hours of VHS we ended up with was a shitty mess.

We got thoroughly depressed by it all.  We’ve just been pumping out a pile of dull, repetitious, generally uninformative material.  This is nothing to do with what we wanted to do on David – something personal about him and his work (which I doubt he’d let us do anyway) – and the project (Dune) doesn’t lend itself to more general coverage.  It’s very static.  In fact, I’m becoming worried; it looks like a collection of stills, tableaux (maybe it looks different in dailies – but to us, there seems to be almost no movement).  I have an awful feeling that it may simply be too big, may collapse back on David.

Both of us are at the point where we’d probably rather ship everything back to Armstrong and let him do what he wants with it – have nothing to do with the editing; I don’t even want to think of looking at this stuff again.

We got to the studio at noon, checked that Raffaella had got the tape, spoke to Strick – and bumped into Bob (forget his last name), the Patsa Productions man on the film; he’d just received an application from a woman, fluently bilingual (Argentinian, lived in New York for years), with some video experience.  Called her immediately.  Anatol spoke to her – she seems to talk a lot – and she’s interested in joining us – though, of course, not purely in a background capacity (it’s the same with everyone).  If she’s really interested in being our assistant (logging, running the machines) – not really a full-time job – maybe we can offer her the position of interviewer as a sop to the desire for greater involvement.  Mostly, I think, it depends on how much Raffaella is willing to pay (we had lunch with Bob’s secretary – a twenty-four year old Swedish-American redhead resident here for quite a few years – and she only gets twenty-five thousand pesos a week, the same as our allowance, and her rent isn’t paid either; and of course Arturo only gets two hundred dollars a month …).

Met and shook hands with Max Von Sydow this afternoon – one of the few actors I know of whom I’d feel it a genuine pleasure to meet.  A friendly, very gentlemanly man who will unfortunately only be here about three weeks.

Saturday, May 7: DAY FORTY-EIGHT (10 ½ hrs, 7 ½ hrs)

Anatol spoke to Armstrong yesterday.  He expressed some concern for our health in this place.  And also made it quite clear that we’re not here to make a film about David Lynch – that we’re to get off the set and shoot other things.  Raffaella apparently, without even having seen any of our tapes, had complained to him.  When Anatol told her this afternoon that we’d found very little on David when we went through it all on Wednesday, and that we’d be following her around for a day next week, she seemed to perk up.  As Anatol says: what kind of person would want to be followed around all day by a video crew? would actively desire it?  Christ….

We also learned this afternoon that Tony Masters was pissed off about the bit we did on Ron Miller – thought we were putting him above Masters….  So we have to placate him and stroke his ego.

This whole thing is such a pain – what’s the point of doing it?

Masters will no doubt be pissed off that we’ve managed to get out of filming his fucking party tomorrow.

We have to wait around here until we get a call from David – to go and interview him at his hotel; a priority.  Strick of course seems to think that if we only do David tomorrow, we’ll be at the studio first thing Monday morning to follow either Raffaella or Tony Masters around – never mind that the camera needs servicing.  She’s getting extremely pushy again.

We want to try to get a serious interview out of David tomorrow – the first of a series, we hope – because we’re getting the distinct impression that he’s deliberately being pushed into the background.  This whole thing about being ordered to stay away from him, plus the fact that he scarcely gets a mention in the material given out to the local press … I’m now thinking that I should do something for CFQ to boost him a little.  It’s quite likely that De Laurentiis wants to get whatever is special about David without giving away any credit.

We don’t think it was entirely accident that when Strick gave us a list of names, people we should follow about, she included hairdressers and makeup people but neglected to include David, Freddie Francis and Fred Elmes.  Minor characters, of course, on a project like this.

When we got back to Zona Rosa yesterday evening, we went to the Bellinghausen, the pseudo-German restaurant we’d been to once before – a quite pleasant, plain place.  A bottle of wine with the meal.  And afterwards a walk.

Second unit call sheet, May 7, 1983

Another slow day today.  The awful thing is that both Anatol and I are bored with what’s going on on the production – there’s really nothing much to document – unless we start concentrating on the personalities.  Things are getting very strained and there are bound to be explosions (Kuki Rodero, the A.D., seems to be nearing the breaking point – and he strikes me as the kind who might lash out in the end; there’s bad feeling amongst the crew – the long, erratic hours and a certain lack of consideration from the producers; the extras and stand-ins tend to be treated very badly, like cattle, lumps of meat – the Mexicans in positions of low power tend to be unpleasant and dictatorial towards anyone under their command …).  The atmosphere which seemed so good at the start is collapsing under the weight of poor management, the inefficiency endemic to Mexico, and the foul climate and pollution here (we’re in the midst of a heat wave with the highest temperatures in a hundred years).

Bought a record this evening – even though I have nothing to play it on (maybe I can borrow David’s system to tape it); Divine, star of John Waters’ films – called Jungle Jezebel.  Probably awful, but I couldn’t resist.  (I believe Edith Massey, “the egg lady”, has a record too.)

Another dead Saturday night.  Left it too late to make arrangements.  Asked Debbie, an English woman in wardrobe, this afternoon.  No go.  Dozed off when I got back here – when I woke, tried Bob (not in), Greg (tied up unwillingly in a party for the Apogee crew thrown by some mysterious woman), Sean Young (not in).

The applicant for the position of our assistant quickly went sour.  A pushy, overly talkative woman (actually of Peruvian parentage, born in the States), she obviously didn’t know as much as she said she did and her manner was somewhat grating.  Besides which she was turned down by the powers-that-be because she was American – they want a Mexican for paperwork reasons.

We’re supposed to be seeing three more people on Monday (two coming through Carlos, assistant to Tony Gibbs and Penny Shaw in editing; one through Eric, on the second unit).  I really doubt we’ll find anyone suitable.

Sunday, May 8: DAY FORTY-NINE (3 hrs)

The best day we’ve had since we came here.  We spent three hours with David this afternoon – just talking.  We got a lot off our chests, told him about the order not to shoot David Lynch, discussed our position – and finally got him in front of the camera, with us on either side, and just conversed with him.  He was relaxed, talkative.  And I had none of the problems I had with, say, Ron Miller – with David it isn’t interviewing, it’s just conversation.  And when he’s relaxed he talks quite freely.  Both Anatol and I were revitalized by the afternoon.

As far as David is concerned our place is primarily with first and second unit, watching the actual making of the film – all the behind the scenes stuff can be dealt with without cutting severely into that.  He was to see Raffaella this evening, so perhaps he can talk to her about all this.

Other things came out of the afternoon too.  “So,” he asked, “are we going to do this Eraserhead book?”  Using my text.  That immediately cheered me up – it looks like a real possibility.  Also, I may finally get to see the material excised from the film (none of it was included in the material selected for CFQ, but it will be in the book).  So I told him of Anatol’s idea of a book of the Art of David Lynch – paintings, drawings, and bits from the films.  He loved it.

And he’s going to let me read Blue Velvet, his ’50s script (which he says needs heavy work on the last third).

As for our “Café Universal”, he misplaced the brief outline, but seems intrigued by what we’ve told him; I’ll develop it in more detail and show it to him when it’s more presentable.

Best of all, he’s agreed to have sessions like this fairly regularly during the production, an on-going journal on video.  Perhaps we can get him together with Freddie, Fred, and others on occasion, to discuss what’s going on.  This is the sort of stuff we’ve been hoping to get.

After all this, Anatol and I had a leisurely supper, talking about how things were looking up and tossing ideas back and forth for inclusion in the script.  A good day.  Which ended with the first rain – maybe the heat wave will break.

By the way, we’re averaging over seventy hours a week (just over fourteen bucks an hour).

Rainy day, Mexico City

The rain has developed into a thunderstorm – lovely….

Among other things we talked about with David was music for the film.  He’s toying with all kinds of ideas (including rock groups – adapted to orchestra?).  He favours massed Russian strings and choir to give it a soaring, ethereal quality.  I mentioned Eno – and he said Eno is interested in the project and they’ll probably be talking to him.

Also, it looks as if Anatol and I will be allowed to see some dailies….