Archive for the ‘Park Street’ tag
The date was, I think, 1983, at about this time of year, and pretty much everything was right with the world. The Carter years were over, I was at USC and had, after a bit of flailing around, found something I liked and was was good at that I figured I could spend the forseeable future doing. It was springtime and I was taking a fun elective, "Introduction to Cinema", or some such course title.
I can't now recall the professor's name, but he was quite entertaining and well versed in the material. I remember in particular one of his theories, probably not 100% serious, that people in the first few decades of the 20th century lived their lives much more dramatically than we do now. This would explain, he said, why silent movies look so over-acted to us, but yet when he went back to the original period newspaper reviews of the features, he invariably found praise for the naturalness of the performances. At any rate, we screened many of those silent classics as well as more modern flicks into the French New Wave period and beyond. The kicker for the course was that for the final project, we would split into groups and make our own short films.
Well, as it happened, one of my Computer Science friends was in the course with me, so we formed a group of two for the project. I had, from somewhere, a Super-8 camera with an attached flood, so we were good on the technical side -- all we needed was an idea and script.
Now, one of the films we had screened was Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. I don't know what I would think of it now, but at the time, I believe we both thought it a bit pretentious, and more importantly, a good subject for parody (which could only be helped by the fact that everybody in the audience would have seen the film recently too). I recall very few of the details, but the key fact is that a robed avatar of DEATH was going around taking lives with visual metaphor of a candle going out. We figured that with modern medical technology and life support, HIS job might be a bit less easy. We kicked it around a bit and figured we could get a usable 10 minutes from the idea easily.
Since I had the camera, and there were only two of us, it was obvious that my friend was going to have to be DEATH. It was a bit of a problem that she didn't look at all spooky or dangerous, but she had some ideas for that. Now, she was from North Augusta, so I have no idea how she knew more about this piece of Columbiana than I did (other than I rarely paid attention to anything outside of a book in those days), but she walked us down to the Vista (which was not called that at the time) and into Bluestein's Dry Goods. I had only a vague idea what a "dry goods" store was and certainly would not have automatically included sheets in that category, but she easily found a good sized, inexpensive sheet, and we were out the door. Next we stopped at the grocery for some black Rit dye, and mixing that up in my mother's washer (I have no idea how the next load of clothes came out), we dyed the sheet black.
Wound in black sheets, and with a bit of white makeup, my friend was a perfect DEATH. Next we made some cardboard signs saying "Life Support", and got some trick birthday candles. We put the signs up over the end of hall double doors in LeConte College (the CSCI building at the time), and our tracking shots had DEATH wafting through the corridors of that building and through the doors into the "Life Support" ward. At that point, the idea is that we would cut to the trick candles, and that everytime DEATH would snuff one out, it would re-light. Finally, he would be so frustrated he would break the 7th Seal (on a bottle of Seagrams 7..) We planned the shoot for well after hours (there was no building security in those days) and everything went perfectly without a soul present to ask what in the world we were doing. We got enough footage that we figured we were golden and wrapped up.
Next, I had the film developed, and it was time to edit the movie together. At that point I was suddenly stricken with pollen season allergies like never before and never since. It was non-stop sneezing, and my eyes were watering so badly I literally could not see to use the Moviola. In the end, my friend had to take it and set it up in the downstairs computer remote in the (as we called it at the time, Physical Sciences building) and she edited the movie together completely on her own during her late night shifts as the computer operator there. She did a great job of it, and the film was a hit with the class, we got good grades and moved on to the next semester. As far as I know, she still has the reel somewhere, but I'm sure it's better in memory that it would be watching it again now...
And that's my Bluestein's story!