Sunday, December 9, 2012

Katie Pukes on the Big Screen

I've talked before about reading the original script for Motivational Growth back in 2006 and how I first met The Mold long before Jeffrey Combs had signed on to play him.  In 2010, Director Don Thacker sent me a much-revised copy of the script.  The new script included between forty and fifty characters, but as I read it I knew exactly what he wanted.  I went to the bottom of the stairs and called up, "Tori?  How do you feel about vomiting on camera?"

Then I IMd Don to let him know I'd read the script and he said, "I have Tori in mind for Katie."

Yep.  Just as I thought.

Katie is mentioned exactly twice in the script.  Here's what it says about her:

Katie pukes.

And then later:

Katie pukes.

Turned out that it takes approximately eight hours to puke twice on film, and that fake vomit tastes a lot worse than the real thing, and that sitting with a maple-syrup-based concoction in your mouth for the better part of eight hours messes with your blood sugar in a very negative way.  But Tori was a trooper.

Then all of the stuff happens that typically happens with movies: you hear one is being shot or it's shot in your home town and you get all excited about it and then your children grow up and leave home and your dog dies and you've been through three cell phones and two automobiles before you hear that it's going to be released next summer.  Tori was 14 when she sat far into the night holding fake puke in her mouth and she's just shy of 17 today.

Last night, we attended the private screening of Motivational Growth. I'd seen three or four rough cuts by this point, so it was hard for me to really watch the movie like a typical theatergoer and get a sense of it.  So, I did two things.  I listened for the audience reaction (a very good rhythm of suspense, quiet attention, surprised laughter, repeat) and I watched for my kid.  She's only in the film for approximately 60 seconds, but it's broken up into pieces (she pukes more than once, after all, and then there's the altercation with the main character and the blue genie).  Turns out that when she's puking at 12 feet tall, she looks pretty much like she does when she's puking in my bathroom at home.  I guess that's a good sign, since she wasn't actually puking in the film: apparently she does a good job of ACTING like she's puking.  (Or wait...maybe that's not such a good sign. I don't think this is the niche she's going for.)

Anyway, it would be impossible to cover everything that was cool about the evening or to mention all of the amazing people involved in the production, but here are a few highlights:

  1. The Patio Theater in Chicago is billed as an old "movie palace" and it lives up to its designation.  The architecture is on a par with some of the great live theater venues in Chicago, and the ceiling mimics a starry night sky with moving clouds (hence the name, I'm guessing).  
  2. It was amazing to see my dear friend Don Thacker and his wonderful bride and producer (the former Alexis Nordling) reach this point with a film they've poured their hearts and souls and sometimes lunch money into for more than two years.
  3. I mentioned that my kid was on the big screen in a beautiful old movie house, right? And her name.  Oh, and mine, too--I was very touched to receive a wholly undeserved "special thanks" in the credits.
  4. My 16-year-old went and hung out in a bar with her co-workers.  Sure, I was there and the only thing she consumed was pizza bread, but it was still a kind of shift.  A kind of shift that already takes place in this crowd because they're the only group that Tori and I each independently relate to as peers.  She's always been comfortable with my friends and I with hers, but this is the only context in which they're the same people.  (Short version:  My kid grew up while I wasn't looking, but I'm not sure how it happened because I've never looked away.)
The only negative moment in the whole evening was when the bartender at Sabatino's on Irving Park Road in Chicago "misplaced" my change after I gave her a twenty for a $2 Coke and then accused one of our friends of having stolen it.  The piano player was excellent as was the floor server, but after the manager defended the bartender's actions and shouted at me that it wasn't the bartender's responsibility to get my change back to me, I'll never go there again.  I could have lived without the $18, but not with service staff who accuses my friends of stealing rather than admitting to a mistake.

You've probably noticed that I haven't said a whole lot about the movie itself.  In part, that's because it was a private screening and I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say.  In part, it's because the less you know walking into this movie, the better the experience is going to be.  In part, to be honest, it's because it defies description.  I can't even assign it a genre.  There's more puke and blood and fungus than I typically favor, but there are also a lot of open questions (which I very much appreciate in film) and some really standout acting.  I think we would have left the theater revisiting certain scenes and asking questions if, you know, I hadn't read multiple versions of the script, talked at length with the writer and director and seen the movie multiple times and a couple of different endings.

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