So, yesterday I had a shoot at the home of the very good-natured John Faratzis, which was essentially a scene for the actors' reels, and was only supposed to be good for a little experience and some pocket change on my end. That, plus it was fun to play with John's nine Emmys sitting on his mantelpiece from his producing work on the Super Bowl and the Olympics ("I'd like to thank my aromatherapist for making this possible", cue air kiss). To be honest, I wasn't really expecting much from this shoot. At least there was a fun fight scene, complete with breakaway vases, fake blood, and catty woman-on-woman combat, and that was all before lunch. Did I ever mention how much I enjoy my job? Yeehay.
Still, things took a turn for the unexpected in the afternoon, and in the best possible way. There was a scene between two characters who were estranged lovers still madly in love with each other, but also very bitter about each other, and one of them was dying from a bullet wound in her gut. Since it all promised to be wistful and arty, I decided (along with the director) to block (meaning 'to physically set up') the scene with a window glowing behind the two people, and let them be almost silhouetted against the sunlight flooding in. All very nicely atmospheric and anime-ish, but again, I wasn't expecting much.
This was just the full rehearsal -- blood was oozing, sunlight was glowing, the guy looked very dapper in his suit, they each had a gun, people were gabbing in the living room, the roar of airplanes wafted through the open windows, and the camera wasn't rolling yet. I'd seen this all before, blah de blah blah. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Until the actors looked each other in the eye and started the scene.
Have you ever been transfixed by magic? Like, to the point where you couldn't breathe, and you just couldn't believe what was unfolding before your eyes, and you were terrified something would shatter the spell, and you wouldn't trade the experience for all the world?
It was a little like that, only a thousand times more so. It was Romeo and Juliet on steroids. It was so wickedly beautiful, I thought we were all going to spontaneously combust from the cold heat in that room. It was like the whole universe had contracted to only include these two people, and somehow I was both of them at the same time, and it was gorgeously dangerous. And then, when he gave this dying, loving, gloriously hateful woman the most tender kiss I've ever witnessed in my thirty years of existence, she shot him.
The shock in his eyes was mesmerizing. His eyes never left hers as his life drained away, her arms quietly enfolding his dying flesh which settled into her body, her life slowly dripping away as well, satisfaction and regret flickering through her eyes before they closed forever.
None of this was real, of course -- after all, this IS the movies. Duh. But I almost hiccuped my heart from out of my throat, it was that powerful. And, even more amazingly, they were able to do this scene with the same intensity again and again from different camera angles, nailing it every time. When we wrapped (packed up) the set afterwards, I didn't know what to do with myself. I wanted to run screaming through the streets. I wanted to hug lampposts. I wanted to kick things and blow stuff up and cackle maniacally and explode into a million pieces and then do it all over again.
This is why I wouldn't trade being a filmmaker for anything. For ANYTHING.
These moments are so rare, but when they come, they sear your brain and mark you for life. It's a good kind of pain.
And FYI, the actors were Chad Duell and Semele...something. I don't know how to spell her last name, but I'll try to find out this week. They truly are something to behold. They almost scorched my camera lens, but it was well worth the trouble.