I’m sitting with my back against the truth door. It’s a wooden green door without a handle and the Mexican that sold it to us parted with it easily. The U-Haul truck shakes at sixty and we’re doing sixty-five through eight lanes of traffic. I’m in the back on black rubber with the green door and the filing cabinets and discount drawers, holding the wire cage with one hand and wiping sweat from my eyes with the other. Through the cage – and it’s the kind a cage doomed puppies beg through – the Director is giving me a refresher on the Old Testament.
“The Bible is dirty, man. Genesis is dirty, Leviticus is dirty. Have you ever actually read through that thing? Yeah, of course you have. It isn’t Sodom and Gomorrah either, it’s the whole thing. It’s in the language and the obsessions. Circumcision and sister-fucking. Slaving. Two-dimensional characters. The stereotypes are true.”
“Are you religious?” That’s Production Design. She’s driving. The Director wanted a white truth door and she wanted a green one.
“No.” I’m loud and concise through the bouncing cage.
“You seem to know a lot about it. I mean, you’d have to.”
“It’s all interesting. I just never drank the cool-aid.”
“I’d be pretty surprised if he was religious.”
“Well you never know.”
The Director picks up where he left off, somewhere in Joshua maybe, and I close my eyes and lie down.
The Writer. It has a different meaning out here. There’s a wild and desperate energy in it, almost hopeless. Everybody is trying to get made. I think, Marketability is the god of all scripts in a city with nothing left to say – and I wonder what that means and whether it’s worth writing down.
Production Design swerves and the truth door bangs my shoulder. The cabinets rattle. She’s going to paint the cabinets black for the final scene.
“Are you okay back there?”
The Director is on his phone. There’s a problem with a dolly.
“I really like the door,” I say.
“I like the door. The green.”
“Jim’s color is blue.”
“Your character, his color is blue. He’s a really blue character. That’s why the door has to be green.”
She either doesn’t hear me or it’s a trade secret. I sit back down. The dolly problem is getting worse. I drink the last of my water.
We’re on the side of LA where it’s 5 am and the buildings are old. I’m shaking hands with DPs and PAs, the AD and the DIT, and accidentally somebody just walking through. The gate to the lot is closed and the Director has to climb it and push it open from the inside. The building looks like a loading dock.
Somebody asks me what we do for fun in Minnesota and I tell them about the airport.
Production Design pulls up in the U-Haul and parks it by the metal stairs. She’s the exhausted kind of pretty, I think, the kind that only eats not to die and only sleeps not to go insane. Maybe I should write that one down too.
“Are you excited?” she asks.
“Yeah. I mean, here we are. 1 Truth Road.”
“Is it how you imagined it?”
I look at the building that looks like a loading dock. It’s gray bricks and covered windows and smells like asphalt and farts. A black stair leading to the roof is barred by a gate and a sign that says NO HIGH HEELS.
“It’s perfect,” I say.
I help her unload the black cabinets and the table and some chairs, a lamp, scraps of wood. And finally the truth door, dirty and cracked and green, laying in the emptiness. I grab the bottom, she takes the top, and we carry it through the lot and up some stairs and into the gray building.
I’m shaking another hand.
“We’re glad you made it. I really love your story.”
The Producer is taller than he looks. He sounds like he just went to the mattresses and somebody big is about to die.
“You liking what you see?”
The set is a white floor and two white walls. The crew is taping windows and plugging in cords and setting up work stations. The DIT is on a dark stage above us with headphones and a laptop. The guy on the ladder hanging lights is a Gaffer.
“I don’t really know what I’m seeing.”
“It will make sense when it’s all set up and Talent gets here.” The Producer gestures at the whiteness. “I’m not sure, but I think a few shots for the Matrix were actually filmed here.”
“If you need anything, get it from me or the AD. Have you met the Assistant to the Director?”
“Great. Have some coffee, man. Settle in. We’re making your movie.”
There’s a problem with the door. Production Design is standing with a fist on her hip. She’s looking at the ceiling in frustration and I notice that it’s the same pale green as the door.
“Need a hand?”
“The door is too heavy,” she says.
I get a little chill up my back. The truth door is too heavy.
“Maybe – could you just hold this while I screw these in?”
We need a free standing frame and all we have is wood scraps. I hold the door flush and she drills in some hinges. When I let go the contraption leans with a strange gravity. The angles aren’t Euclidean.
“We just need something to hold it up,” she says. “Something on the bottom here. The corner. A block or something.”
I see what she means. The door is suspended and it’s falling away from the hinges. We find a suitable piece of wood and I hold the door up with my foot as she screws it in. We both take a step back. The truth door is standing.
The last shot of the day. They call it martini. We’re fourteen hours deep and a haggard excitement is going around. The Director, I can’t tell if he’s surfing or directing or just passing the time, and I get the feeling he could do all three simultaneously and everything would come out alright. The Gaffer and the Grippers work like dogs under the hot lights and they’re ready for the wrap. The PA’s and the 2nd AD are half dead and sweating on a couch and the beautiful girls responsible for Make-up and Costume are whispering in a corner. The DP rides the dolly and when X marks the spot Talent lopes in with his ancient threads and moldy beard.
What looks like one white floor and two white walls is really an infinite white space. I’m looking at it through the Script Supervisor’s iPad. The pale green door and the tired and ragged Talent are etched stark and surreal. Talent opens the door and walks through and the camera rides the dolly out, fading out, pulling away and getting small. Smaller. It’s quiet now. Momentous.
A sad knock from the other side.
“I fucked up.” The deadpan is so funny it hurts. “I fucked up real bad. How do I get back in? Is there a side entrance?”
“Cut! That’s a wrap!”
Jon Benjamin on the first day of shooting. Just a super cool guy. Low key and funny as hell.
Me and Katie Wallack in the smoky loft. She was perfect as Angel.
Me and Dan Mintz in the writer’s pen waiting to get fed.
On the left is Kate, and Aella on the right. They played Cherry and Blueberry. I think the whole cast and crew fell in love with them. Me too. Some of you redditors might know them from /r/gonewild.
A panorama of some of the crew, getting drunk after the wrap. I’m going to get some of this wrong but from left to right is: Producer, Director of Photography, Assistant to Director, Camera, DIT, Writer, Script Supervisor, Director, Random Guy in Background, PA, Camera/DP, 2nd AD.
Thanks to everyone involved. I can’t wait to see what Limbo looks like!