I just got word that my short “The Bouquet” is to have its US premiere at the Short Short Story festival in Rhode Island. The organisers have asked for a 30-60 second intro. I fly to Transylvania this weekend to sit on the features judging panel so I pretty much have tomorrow to nail this piece to camera. Considering that the entire film – including titles – is just three minutes long I have to go for the 30 second option. This is the length of a tv commercial so what can I say about The Bouquet? That the film was a last minute script I came up with as an audition for the actress Nadine Rahimtoola? That might lower the value of the film so probably not. That the lead actor was actually a family member, Simon Murphy, who normally does sound but got roped in that day? Again, probably not. Maybe I should talk about how the sound was recorded separately (because we were shooting with a DSLR and our sound guy was busy acting) and subsequently had the sound recorder stolen along with all the sound so the entire film is ADR’d? No – maybe they haven’t noticed so least said soonest mended. What about revealing that the desaturated colour which renders the film almost black and white was not an artistic nod to the feel of French cinema but the result of me being too lazy to grade the film. The truth is that “The Bouquet” is the most accidental film I’ve ever made yet it premiered in the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival and was picked out of all my films as his favourite by the actor Bernard Cribbins. I guess films are a bit like children. Despite all the screw ups that parents make, some just turn out right…
Being the month of August I should not, perhaps, have been surprised to find myself in august company on the judging panel of the Charlie Chaplin Comedy Film Festival. Joining me in the deliberations for Best Irish Comedy Short, Best International Comedy Short and Best Social Commentary Short were Jason O’Mahoney of Kerry Film Festival fame, Raelene Casey of Cork Film Festival and the Irish Film Institute and genuine Hollywood royalty in the person of Jack Garfein. Jack has rubbed shoulders with so many legends of the film industry that I’m surprised his jacket isn’t hanging in the Newbridge Silver Hollywood Memorabilia collection. When I found myself in the Fossets Circus Big Top for the Gala Award Ceremony with my three fellow judges and a glamorous gathering of Waterville, Kerry’s ‘who’s who’, I was keen to maintain a dignified aspect. I was to announce the winner of the Social Commentary award and was determined to do so without recourse to notes. I had drafted and rehearsed a little speech until I was pretty sure I could deliver it with the right balance of confidence and gravity, tinged with a smidgeon of humour. I had selected a semi formal jacket of a sombre grey with a grey shirt over a decent pair of jeans in order to give the impression, to paraphrase Kipling, that I cared – but not too much. I had been summoned a half hour before I thought I would be so I’d only managed to iron the front of my shirt and, in doing so, I’d noticed a 10cm gap where the seam had come unstitched at the side. However, being far from warm in West Kerry, I had no intention of taking my jacket off so the hole and the wrinkled shirt-back and sleeves were not an issue.
RTE’s Eileen Dunne filled the role of host and, between pauses for music and various Charlie Chaplin impersonators, the serious business of announcing the award recipients got underway. I was secretly pleased to see my fellow award announcers resorting to notes. I was going over my carefully rehearsed lines.
It came my turn to announce the Social Commentary Award recipient and, on Eileen Dunne’s introduction I stepped up and walked across the Big Top Circus ring to the podium. Under the glare of dozens of spotlights, I delivered my speech with pace and decorum. To the applause the followed I stepped back across the ring and rejoined the other judges, smiling in return to the nods of approval from all and sundry.
Some short time later, another break for entertainment came in the form of another Charlie Chaplin impersonator. He approached the crowd and a tension descended on the front rows. He was looking for a volunteer. He singled out a young man near the front who protested vigorously and, I thought, unsportingly.
“It’s only a bit of craic,” I whispered to one of my fellow judges, secure in the knowledge that we judges were immune to being singled out for ridicule. Unfortunately, someone had, apparently, forgotten to tell Charlie Chaplin that. Giving up on the protesting young man he moved in our direction. My first thought was to avoid eye contact but, believing myself untouchable, I scorned at such a sign of weakness. Seconds later I was being dragged out into the ring, aware of the hypocrisy a refusal would signify. As the initial shock wore off I assumed a purposeful stride – like one of those heroic rebel leaders walking to their doom and casting aside the blindfold. I was still desperately trying to cling on to my carefully established dignity. The very first command from Chaplin put paid to that notion. He took off his jacket and signalled that I should do the same. I protested feebly but quickly realised that a refusal would make me look like an even bigger fool so, moments later, 1000 highly amused people were taking in the sight of my wrinkled and torn shirt. That was nothing compared with what was to come.
Over the next ten minutes the Chaplin lookalike had me performing tumbles, hand stands and assuming awkward positions while he and a young woman plucked from the audience to share my shame like Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus to shoulder the cross, sat on me, stood on me and generally used me like a hobby-horse. By the time he released me from my misery and I was able to rejoin the judges I had been the highlight of the show. Not, however, in the sense of the master chef but in the sense of the roast, stuffed pork he has served up for the amusement of all. The words that my mother had drummed into my siblings and I were recalled to mind: “Pride comes before a fall”.
Those of you who have cast an occasional eye over my daily ramblings will be aware of the keen affection I have had for my tomatoes. From miniscule seeds I lovingly tended them until, a couple of days ago, the first reddenings occured and I felt fulfilled with life. You can appreciate how stricken I was, therefore, to find them in the state illustrated by the photograph. Someone had toppled them over, hastily scooped up the mess and plonked it all, higgeldy piggeldy, back into the planter. Three green tomatoes, their young lives cut short, lay in the remaining compost on the balcony floor.
I repotted as best I could and lavished care (well, water to be exact) on them but their survival is, I feel, touch and go. I compounded the damage in trying to fix it. As I lifted one branch with five promising tomatoes on it it snapped under the weight and the tomatoes dropped like Leonardo di Caprio sinking into the icy depths at the end of Titanic. In all, of my crop of 26, eight tomatoes didn’t make it and I absentmindedly ate a further two before realising what I was doing. I have to keep my chin up and soldier on for those that are left but tomorrow I’m planning to put a little monument in the planter – a kind of ‘Tomb of the Unknown Tomato”. Both director Kevin Abosch and actor Richard Wall had been in the apartment so the likelihood is that it was one of them. Abosch, however, flew back to Paris in the wee hours and Richard, when confronted, denied everything before pointing out that one can buy a whole punnet of tomatoes for 59 cents in one of the supermarkets…
Meanwhile, I’ve viewed two apartments in Drogheda and two commercial premises. The masterplan for training, short film festival and other various film industry activities in Louth is progressing well. I fly to Lithuania on Wednesday so I need to have moved by then. I’m also preparing for a video shoot on Saturday in Athboy with Irish hip hop champion crew ‘Raw Edge’. I’m looking forward to it.
I don’t know if it was the incident with the rampant boob in Bar Marmont on Sunset Strip or the catastrophe with my facial hair dying efforts which had me outdoing the weirdos on Hollywood Boulevard but something about the blog I’ve been keeping for the past few weeks on my personal website (declancassidy.com) seems to have given a whole bunch of people some reason to return. A friend suggested ‘going mainstream’ – a damning insult to the popularity of my own website, suggesting that more people are aware of WordPress, but I’ll give it a bash.
Incidentally, if anyone wants the full story behind the boob in the bar I’ve cut and pasted the main bit below:
From ‘The Great Escape’ entry at my website blog (http://url.ie/27xb) Wednesday, July 29, 2009.
… Afterwards, being out late and right beside Sunset Strip I decided to make good on the plans of the night before. I made my way to Bar Marmont – a legendary LA nightspot for celebs and whatnot. I was happily sipping a $14 Jameson when a bunch of girls who looked like they’d walked straight out of an episode of an MTV Beverly Hills show (in fact, they may well have) arrived at the bar. One bumped into me.
“OMG. The accent!”
We chatted amicably until 1.30pm when they had to go. It was a lesson in LA partylife. Everything shuts here, alcoholwise, at 2am by law so if you’re going to continue the party you need to be in a liquor store before that time to buy booze to take to your house party. With my screening taking place today house parties were off the agenda for me. The girls moved away and, in doing so, revealed the iBOM (International Blonde of Mystery – a phrase I have just coined to go with my iPhone, iPod, iTrip etc.). She was perched atop a tall barstool with heels that nearly bridged the two foot gap to the floor. Her mother of pearl coloured dress shimmered with a life of its own. It’s designer, in deference, no doubt, to the recession, had economised greatly on the amount of material employed. Her hair was a showpiece of the hair stylist’s art. With one perfectly manicured finger she beckoned. I sidled across the four foot gap, determined not to pass up on my James Bond experience.
It could not have started with more promise.
“Those gehrls,” she purred in a distinctly Russian spy sounding voice. “Pwhhh.”
She swatted their memory like a fly with an exquisite backhanded movement. “You are ffffrrom Europe. I live in Dubai. Americans are not so sophisticated.”
I played my part. When it came my turn to talk she’d sip on her Cosmo and listen attentively, then she’d offer some view on politics or fashion. The initial charm faded, however, when I started paying attention to what she was actually saying. She was repeating herself and talking about her worldly possessions in a way that made Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ song sound like communism. The magic was broken and her hithertofore mysterious Russian voice began to remind me of Borat. It was as this thought struck me that she beckoned for me, with the patent manicured finger trick, to lean in closer so that she could whisper something. I leaned. She leaned. She talked. I heard nothing. Four inches from my nose her right boob was making a bid for freedom. Her nipple was peaking from the edge of the silk to see if the way was clear. I was aghast. The mumble of her words and the warmth of her breath on my right ear were a mere backing track to the drama being played out literally beneath my nose. It was the work of a few seconds for the nipple to decide that the sentries were off duty and the boob made a break for it. It succeeded. She talked on unaware.
My parents brought me up well. I know which fork is for which dish. I know that a lady goes first unless it’s into a crowded public room where it is more polite for a man to enter and take the brunt of the idle curiosity. I always walk on the roadside. I’m groomed. However, nothing in my training or life experience had prepared me for this moment. My mind went into overdrive as I considered the options. One was to gingerly take a piece of silk, above and below, and draw it across the offending nipple – rather like tucking an errant child back to bed. I dismissed this. America, after all, is a litigious society. I ran the risk of being misunderstood. Perhaps to stop her flow of whispered conversation with a: ‘sorry to interrupt but your boob just popped out’ would have been the obvious thing to do but she had been posing so very much and this would have been an embarrassment on such a scale that I wasn’t sure she’d ever recover. I felt that if I bided my time the runaway boob might just have the decency to pop itself back in.
In the meantime, however, my parents’ good breeding did dictate that I avert my gaze. The decision of which direction to look was easier to make. Averting to the right would simply have left me staring at the other boob which was acting like a prisoner who has seen his mate escape and is waiting to see if the outbreak succeeds before following. I therefore averted my gaze to the left. My eyes met those of the barman. He was resting his chin on his crossed-arms atop the bar so that he had an eye-level view and was watching proceedings with a sort of detached interest. The Borat sounding whisper continued in my ear as the barman and I had a wordless conversation.
“What should I do?” I signed with appropriate contortions of my face.
“I’ve no clue,” he responded with a gallic shrug.
My immediate difficulty was solved as she finished whatever she was saying and I was able to straighten up. She smiled, confident, I gathered, that our relationship had moved up a notch. I returned the smile weakly and took the opportunity of her lunge towards her depleting Cosmo to check the situation vis-a-vis wandering body parts. The boob remained at large.
As she turned back towards me, however, the motion sent the errant globe scurrying towards cover but the flimsy fabric was no match for the nipple which resisted the attempt of a return to captivity.
“If only she had turned more aggressively,” I thought, “All would be right with the world.”
That’s when the idea flashed into my head like a well organised landing party beamed in by Star Trek’s Scotty. To think is to do, with me, so I put the plan into action immediately. I let my gaze wander to the extreme right then, widened my eyes and blurted out, in my best Hollywood accent: “Oh My God! It’s Robert De Niro!”
They say that in the moment before death, time is distorted and a person’s life flashes by them in slow motion. I understand that now. Her head and torso twisted with a movement that reminded me of Michael Jackson in the Thriller video. The bulging eyes added to the similarity. In that micro second, however, I watched in slow motion as the silk of her dress billowed, the boob poised, whiplashed for a moment, and then shot beneath the skimpy material. Mission accomplished. It was that ‘hi-five’ moment at the end of the movie but life, in this case, didn’t imitate art.
While the plan itself had been a masterstroke, I had not worked out such details.
“Oh… eh… actually, that’s not him at all, is it?”
I nodded towards the only person in the vicinity that I had indicated. It was a rather swarthy latin lady. The iBOM stared and then looked at me suspiciously.
“That,” she said, with marked distain, “Is a hairy woman.”
I raised my eyebrows in polite surprise. She studied her once more then returned her verdict.
My good deed done I now felt that it was time to beat a hasty retreat to the comfort of my bed. The iBOM, I soon found out, had also made up her mind to beat a hasty retreat to the comfort of my bed.
“I’m very flattered,” I said, when she had made her intentions clear “but I really can’t. I’m… er… still getting over my ex.”
“Well, you must see me back to my hotel, then,” she finally compromised after some verbal toing and froing.
Given her advanced stage of inebriation at this point I felt that that was the gentlemanly thing to do. Twenty minutes later we were pulling up outside her posh hotel on Santa Monica Boulevard. I helped her out and began walking to the hotel. The taxi man, a scowling monobrowed Armenian, bounded from the cab looking for his money.
“I’m coming back,” I explained.
“You go to her room?” he asked with a puzzled expression which turned his monobrow into the letter ‘v’.
“Absolutely not,” I returned and out of the corner of my eye was chilled to see the knowing smirk on the iBOM’s face. The taxi driver obviously saw it too. He followed us, doggedly, like Samwise Gangee, undaunted by Frodo’s attempts to dismiss him. Indeed, when the doors of the lift opened moments later the analogy couldn’t have been more apt. It was like staring into the gates of Mordor.
“What floor?” I asked as she slinked into the elevator with me half peering in at the buttons and the taxi man standing by on code red alert.
She told me and then looked into the mirror to check her make up. It was one of those ‘now or never’ moments and I recognised it as such in a flash. Faster than President Obama can swat a fly on live television, I pressed the button and stepped out. The doors started to close as she turned. I’ve never seen so many emotions flit so rapidly across a face as I did in the moment before the doors came together. Shock turned to confusion and then to rage and, just has her face disappeared from view I thought I caught a hint of dismay but I could have been wrong. The taxi man and I were running for freedom as the hotel exploded in a huge fireball behind us. Well, actually, that didn’t happen and we walked rapidly rather than running – but it felt like that movie…
The cab driver put the key in the ignition then paused. He turned and looked me in the eye.
“You’re a real gentleman,” he said.
“Why, thank you.”
He started the engine, began to pull away then glanced at me in the rear view.
“Did you notice,” he confided, his monobrow arcing softly in joyful recollection, “that her nipple was sticking out?”