Director’s Journal: Day 15

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Monday, Day 15.

Day fifteen begins at my Alma mater, dear old Macalester College, in St. Paul, MN.  We set up shop in the Art Department, where I majored in Fine Arts about nine years ago.  Earlier in the year, when I called Macalester looking for suitable lecture halls for the scene where Flora projects slides onto the wall, I was already set on the particular hall in the Art Department where I had studied Art History.  I got a small tour of lecture halls, but decided on the somewhat dreary hall in Janet Wallis.  In the nine years since I graduated in 2000, three of my favorite art professors have died–Gabriele Ellertson, Don Celender, and Jerry Rudquist.  Jerry Rudquist had been my advisor.  He was a laid back man with a goatee and huge bags under his eyes from the chemicals in mixing paints over the years.  He was very friendly, but I don’t remember much else about his class, even though painting was the focus of my major.  What I do remember about him was his fascination with a girl that I dated briefly in college named Niki.  She was his assistant if memory serves, and would mix paints in his office beneath the stairs leading up to the second floor of the studio.  I remember one rainy night’s drive down to the river in my dad’s old Dodge Caravan.  The windows were fogged up a bit, and we were awkwardly kissing and fumbling around, as 20 year-olds do.  It was late spring, and past 9:30 at night.  It was dark, and I remember getting a funny feeling, almost as if… someone was watching me!  I glanced up from reclining position and saw… Jerry Rudquist, baggy eyes and all, staring at us through the car window!  I think maybe he was walking his dog, and stopped to glance through the window, but I don’t remember the details.  I don’t remember if we hunkered down and waited for him to leave us, or if we bolted.  He never mentioned it, which I’m sure I was relieved about, but I don’t remember much else about that time.

Don Celender, who also passed away after I graduated, was well known for teaching wonderful classes that were highly accessible to non-art majors.  They were also easy to get an A in, and filled up quickly for those who were less artistically inclined, but needed to satisfy the requirement for the Liberal Arts degree that Macalester provided.

Gabriele Ellertson, who taught drawing at Macalester, was my first Art professor.  She was an older, German woman with a thick accent.  She taught me about perspective, and that if I was going to draw a person, never to use a photo.  She explained that it was better to use the real thing.  She brought in nude models, who would set up shop in the middle of the class, disrobe, and pose for a few minutes, before shifting to a new pose.  A small space heater would blow hot hair on them (remember, most of the year in Minnesota is frigid), and I made a point to always attend these sessions.  I was very fond of Gabriele, and went to her memorial show at the Macalester Gallery after she died of cancer.

Today, we set up the slides of the Faiyum funeral paintings, and project them onto the white wall, facing the sloping rows of shining, black wooden chairs.  Sarah Martens reads her lines, and we get what we need.  I say adieu to Macalester, and as we leave some of the interns bump into their classmates, and chatter for a while.  Macalester had been good to me.

Around noon, we return to Kareem’s home to resume shooting, where we are scheduled to shoot day for night, with heavy cardboard taped up to the outside windows to prevent the sun from coming in.  When we arrive, we discover that a thunderstorm the previous night has soaked the cardboard and gaffer tape, causing much of it to fall down.  Guy Harrison, Gaffer, spends about an hour replacing the cardboard, and we shoot some dramatic sequences in the living room with Mohannad and Sarah.  We set up the camera in one of the few places it will fit in the room, and get the shot we are looking for.  A long and challenging shot follows, in which Sarah must balance painfully on the arches of her feet, and she kneels to close a suitcase.  We do this repeatedly, and finally get it right.

It gets late, and a scene comes up where one of the producers and I try to convince Mohannad to improvise a scene where he tells Flora a story about love.  Without quite realizing it, exhaustion as crept up on us, and Mohannad becomes very angry about the last minute change.  There is some tension between us, but I quickly decide not to push the matter.  We wrap up shooting a couple of scenes with Adam and Mohannad.  My drive home is noted with the feeling of inevitable closure just around the corner.  I park in my garage, and kill the engine.  In the quiet of the night, I turn the key the rest of the way, and the radio shuts off.  In the silence of the still garage, the windows of my car have already started to fog over, but Jerry Rudquist is nowhere to be found.  I sigh.  At some point I am going to need an audience.

avatarBy Dan on
Posted in Journal, Production