Back when I lived in Pittsburgh, there was a yearly convention of furries. It was always big news, for all the reasons you can imagine, and because not a whole lot happens in Pittsburgh that isn’t somehow related to a sporting event. The big convention center in Pittsburgh is downtown, across the river from where I used to live, so it wasn’t uncommon to stumble across a furry on the way to Starbucks or on the way out of a bar on a Friday night.
Still, I can’t say that really prepared me for the experience of working on a movie that’s partly about furries. And it certainly didn’t prepare me for making out with a tiger.
Don’t judge me. It’s partly your fault I’m here.
But before we get to that, let’s talk about casting. THE HONEY COOLER is written around this, um, “character” in Denver. He does a bunch of stuff, but mostly he’s one of those guys you meet at a bar and say to yourself, “man, I should totally put him in a movie.” No doubt he’s interesting.
He’s also unreliable.
Director Ryan Demers and I have been sitting in Ryan’s car for over an hour, waiting for this guy to come downstairs. He’s awake. He’s just doing whatever. Ryan’s not all that surprised, as apparently this has been going on for the whole shoot, only today it’s worse because it’s the final day and what’s he going to do? Fire the guy?
Obviously, it’s unacceptable. The guy should be fired. But Ryan’s right, he can’t reshoot all the guy’s scenes. He’s fucked. This is why you check references. Because if you’re repeating someone else’s headache, then you fucked up in pre-production.
Eventually, he shows up. Hooray.
We get to the bar, over an hour late, and I put on my costume. Thing is, when you volunteer to wear an animal costume, that pretty much precludes you from doing much else. You can’t really carry all that much, so once we’re loaded in, I’m limited to shuffling around in a ridiculous outfit and taking pictures.
I’m playing a panda bear (like in LOST, if LOST took place in a dive bar in Denver) who plays pool with a tiger and then, in the next shot, is making out with said tiger on the pool table.
This is why I turned down the option to join SAG.
The eye holes in the panda head make it really hard to see what the hell is going on, which is great for keeping your focus on the pool table, but makes it really hard to see any cues. Still, I do my best to repeat my actions each take–a shot in the corner, pause, survey the table, line up a shot side pocket. Then, I make out with the tiger, which essentially just involves pushing our costume heads together and rubbing our hands on each other’s backs. As far as making out on screen goes, it’s either the most or least awkward way to do it.
From there we go downstairs into what, I assume, is the green room for when bands play. There’s food variants of band names written on the walls and no one wants to sit on the furniture if they don’t have to because God knows what’s happened on them.
It’s a quick scene, then we wrap the bar and head to the next location, where Ryan explains to me what the fuck just happened.
Then, to a public park, where we’ve got to film the second half of a scene they already shot. Only now there’s a lot of fucking people where they need to shoot a bit of a stunt involving an elephant falling off a bike. We can re-block it, or we can start setting up and hope people get the hint. We do the latter and it actually works. People clear out. We get our stunt.
Really, we spend more time figuring out if we’ll be able to get the shot then we actually do filming it. Things go as smoothly as you could imagine, considering that we’ve got the following: a public park, an elephant that needs to run his bike into some rocks and flip over the handlebar, a girl in a bikini he flies over, the actor who’s eternally late chasing him, and the camera on one of those things you can ride behind a bike. Justâ€¦yeah. Controlled chaos.
And that’s a wrap. I guess. I don’t know. I’m so confused.
Filmmaker Lucas McNelly is spending a year on the road, volunteering on indie film projects around the country, documenting the process and the exploring the idea of a mobile creative professional. You can see more from A Year Without Rent at the webpage. His feature-length debut is now available to rent on VOD. Follow him on Twitter: @lmcnelly.