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Geoffrey Gould
Reports from the set/s...

Greenwald's Amazing Garden Tonic
Yale Kozinski's USC Student Film

Saturday, March 19, 2005
Audition
I had submitted for this via nowcasting.com, as with many of the student films I'd acquired at that time. I had been contacted by Leslie Hakala and we set up my audition for 11:30am. I arrived, not uncharacteristically, by 10:30'ish, and filled out the paperwork as I waited. Writer/director Yale Kozinski came out and ushered me in, amusingly apologizing for "being a little behind," not realizing right off that I was already "a 'little' early."
In our earlier communications, Leslie had indicated that it was in the style of a 1920s silent comedy, a genre I love and with which I grew up on early Saturday morning televison. I revel in the antics of Keaton, Lloyd, Chaplin and even the underrated Larry Semon and such. Not many people recall that Laurel and Hardy made numerous silent comedies before they did talkies and I love a lot of their silent films. Leslie pointed out that yes it was that style, and (as I'd added Harold Lloyd in my inquiry) that the lead character's name is Harold. A nice little nod, that.
I had been sent not only the Greenwald's Amazing Garden Tonic script but also a two page dialogue script. While the film itself will be MOS (non-sync sound: filmed silent and sound effects [if desired], are added later, as with To Steel A Kiss and Pathos), Yale understandably wanted to see Acting Ability. Neither of the two officially introduced themselves (a commonality at many student film auditions, for which I don't fault anyone), so who I (correctly) presumed to be Leslie read with me the dialogue scene, which was done two ways (one smarmy, the other sincere and nice).
Yale had me do some Harold stuff, then asked if I could do some Lawn Inspector stuff as well. I politely reminded him/them I'd submitted for three of the listed roles (Harold, Lawn Inspector and judge, as I knew I could easily do any one of them), and I would gladly accept whichever role they felt for which I'd be/do best for the project.
Still opposite Leslie, I silently offered her the mimed ticket to take, and she shook her head no. With a silent snarl I offered it with more insistance, but she shook her head again. So (without actually touching her), I mimed finger-hooking and pulling forward her t-shirt and sliding it inside, and patting it closed.
Yale said he'd get back to me by the next day; in fact he called in the early evening, offering me the role of the Lawn Inspector, which I happily accepted.

Saturday, April 02, 2005
Shoot on the Grassy Knoll
Yale and Leslie kept in contact regarding the shooting dates. Saturday the second, possibly Sunday the third; Saturday the ninth and Sunday the tenth for the courtroom, Sunday the tenth; with (if necessary) pick up shots on Saturday and Sunday the sixteen and seventeeth.
The weekend before (March 26 and 27), they filmed the marketplace sequences and such. Today and possibly tomorrow would be my scene, showing up to measure the lawn, and arrest our hero. Our leading lady had a brief time window as she had family in from out of town. This was not as bad as Moriel in Pathos, who buggered off before she was really done. Our leading lady Lisa Hammer, playing Daisy brought those family members to the shoot to watch politely from the side, which was no problem as there was no soundtrack being recorded (and they were very nice and very quiet anyway).
I had set up to arrive about 8:40am for my 9:00am calltime. My bus transfer ended up getting me there by 8am. The house was barely a hundred feet from the bus stop. In the front sat a grey tabby cat, who at first wasn't sure what to make of me. Considering his moves and blocking my path, I jokingly thought he could be a Guard Cat. I sat and Elliott (as his tag read) immediately made friends with me. Being far earlier and not a crew person in sight, I wandered but the neighbourhood only really held a McDonald's, virtually all but directly across the street from their house, so a scrambled eggs breakfast seemed out
At about 8:45am I let them know I'd arrived, and they showed me my uniform, and had me fill out the USC paperwork that generally gets overlooked. Of the seven other USC student films I've done, only one other director even bothered with it, and he called and we did the info over the phone, and that was weeks after the project was completed and I even had my DVD copy! So I filled it out as best I could so that was one thing down.
They officially introduced me to Elliott and to his more skittery sister Anna, who at the end of the day was just as affectionate towards me as Elliott was throughout the day. In fact at the end of the day, I thought I was saying goodbye to Elliott and realized it was Anna as she has a different colour collar.
When she arrived, I was introduced to our make-up artist Colletta Montgomery and shortly thereafter William Joseph Hill, who was playing Harold. He indicated being co-founder and exec producer for Four Scorpio Productions, briefly having me posit if Lincoln didn't first mention that: "Four Scor'pio and seven years ago... oh wait..."
He pointed out already having found [the original] web [site page/s], having half-jokingly entered into Google "Greenwald's Amazing Garden Tonic" (with the quotation marks) the other day and it bringing up the page's report already. By my own estimation, at the time, Google would index new pages on my old site within 48-72 hours.
Not surprisingly, I got along with William instantly not merely due to his quick wit and amusing personality, but (as the day continued I recognized) his uncanny resemblence to my friend Dave from back east, down to some facial similarities, a near identical laugh, and almost a cloned sense of humour and command of comic timing.
Watching William Hill act was as though watching Dave do the role: almost every move I could see Dave doing; any suggestion would be one Dave would make. Weird.
Colletta did up our leading lady with pale make-up similar to that used in the silent films. With her own long hair she resembled the title-role character May from that creepy indie film I'd only then-recently seen finally.
First up they shot the couple's astonished reaction to their newly grown lawn. At first I thought they either would film elsewhere for The Before look, or rip up the lawn. Leslie told me they'd filmed it the weekend before: they'd covered the grass with tarp and they'd covered that with loads of dirt. Smart move.
With our leading lady wrapped, we broke for lunch, afterwards going on to my stuff with William. The front lawn, which was allowed to grow uncut for three weeks, is flat then drops away down to the sidewalk. To work at hiding this curved effect, I stayed higher on the flat part of the lawn. As I had to handcuff William, my main problem was getting the cuffs to cooperate. One would think having had a multi-day shoot having an eight year old handcuffed to a chair, I'd have it down.
For time and a bit of story logistics, one slapstick gag was cut, so the scene now moves rather briskly. To Leslie's surprise, we were wrapped for the day "despite" having tons of daylight left, and with everything done so no shoot was required tomorrow. They reminded/warned us that next weekend's shoot would be the most grueling.
Yale and Leslie drove me home on their way to do project-related errands, Yale relating previous project anecdotes on the drive home. I politely requested when I was to receive my Greenwald's Amazing Garden Tonic DVD copy, that with it I would hope to be provided copies of two of the projects he mentioned (one featuring the two cats, the other an animated short he did with Maya computer animation software).
Leslie also told me one of the main reason I was cast (apart from their liking me), was that out of everyone else who'd auditioned, I was the only actor not to surrender to Leslie's refusal of the ticket (everyone else who auditioned gave up!).

Saturday, April 09, 2005
Witness for the prosecution
The day before, Leslie emailed us our calltimes. As William's and my calltime were the same (9am), I emailed him asking if I could hitch a ride, as he lives near me right in Hollywood. With no reply I figured he hadn't checked it (which turned out to be the case), so I took the bus out there. Having friends in Pasadena, I am quite practiced in transit there. I neglected to take into account that Very Early Saturday has far different traffic patterns than that of a late afternoon weekday into early evening. Instead of taking 90 minutes, it took 50. I'd set me pager alarm to buzz me awake at 8:00am, but I drowsed awake around 7:50am and realized I was past my stop and well onto Colorado Boulevard.
I hopped out and caught the Return Direction bus, though I probably could have walked it. I only took it as it was already arriving. I stopped at Ralphs and got a one-time use camera for the day. The walk to the courthouse was a far easier walk than the yahoo map had indicated.
It was the appellate court, not the same courthouse where Judge Mary House committed against me theft-of-labour and refused to give me the promised copy of the finished Pasadena Judge Training Film industrial I'd done as a favour (gee, a judge who lies and breaks her word... what a concept...).
It was a long but thankfully fun day. The place was only available to us to no later than 7:00pm so there were no problems there.
William's outfit was one of the classic black and white prison stripes outfit, though a bit baggy on him and he was constantly having to hike up his pants.
I was introduced to Robert DiTillio who was playing the Prosecutor and to Tom Gibis who not only was playing the judge, but two weeks earlier had played the vendor selling to Harold the garden tonic. Apparently Tom was also playing / doubling about four roles now for this project, all told. It was later reported that for this project Yale had received hundreds of submissions for each role, except for the judge. About five submissions (I wonder if that'd included my submission), out of which all but two even called back from Leslie's audition appointment call. Then only this one guy named Maurice actually showed up and was offered the role pretty much by default.
Throughout the pre-production and such, this loon kept becoming more and more of a pain, alluding, implying then outright stating he Had More Important Things than to fit himself into the project's rather flexible schedule. When he blew off the production entirely at the last-minute, Yale had already been postulating if Tom could pull it off if he were made-up as an elderly judge, so he had no problem being relieved (and well rid) of the annoying Maurice.
(Note: while by nature I can't stand unprofessional types who falsely [and/or fraudently] call themselves "actors," and [with a little characteristically resourceful Badger'y research], I learned who is The Maurice to whom they referred, and while I'd prefer to blast this guy's name here so as to warn prospective film makers of his utter unprofessional unreliability, it should be noted that I am not revealing the lamester's full name here out of respect for Yale and for Leslie and not for the moron.)
Sure enough, our talented and versatile make-up artist Colletta did up Tom as not only elderly but believably crotchety. Tom's dry sense of humour tended to belie this between takes, but in rehearsal runs and on camera he was hilariously brilliant.
William and Robert had worked together before. Robert was done up and with the pale make-up, red lips, and his hair somewhat turned up, he rather came across resembling the Joker. A Chaplin'esque moustache was added; with his three piece suit giving him a slight Hitler look as well.
A Warning To Others.... Considering how early was our calltime (what with travel to the location and all), Yale proceeded to provide us with a nice breakfast. They knew of a nearby place called Lucky Boy ("A Pasadena Landmark"...!), and they had their little menus from which to order. Right on top, within the section even bordered, it absolutely declares "Breakfast served 6:00am - 10:30am" including and apparently limited to Eggs with Bacon, Sausage or Ham (along with omelet, breakfast burrito [blech] and egg sandwich w/bacon, sausage or ham).
A yellow pad was sent around for each of us to put down our orders. I put down my regular scrambled eggs with bacon: we had lots of canned soda on hand so we were set there.
Yale went to put in the order and we were all astonished to learn that for breakfast, they don't make scrambled eggs...! And they had no reason or explanation for it! It was like the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch in which John Cleese even tries just for cheddar but obtuse cheese-seller Michael Palin casually replies, "Not much call for it, really..."
Yale tried a Five Easy Pieces routine for an egg sandwich omitting everything but the egg, but they refused that as well (as they must have realized that would involve making scrambled eggs). Deciding it was late enough in the morning anyway (it was barely 10am), I switched my order to fries along with their cheeseburger plain, despite knowing full well how messed up that easy order could be. So Yale clarified and stressed over the phone several times that Plain means meat, cheese, bun and Nothing Else.
Eventually the meals arrived. My fries came as though they'd been cooked in an Easy-Bake Oven. And what a surprise! My plain burger came with Everything Else Possible on it, rendering it (to me), inedible. The fries were nearly warmer than room temperature so I dealt with them.
Yale continually apologized but I assured him that he'd well proven it wasn't his fault (I heard Yale clearly say several times over the phone as to what comprises A Plain Cheeseburger), it was "Lucky Boy" that could not grasp the concept of making scrambled eggs, so how could they possibly even be expected to handle any kind of an easy, simple, clarified lunch order?
I suspect that they call themselves Lucky Boy as they must consider themselves lucky if they ever have a customer who deliberately goes there after having been there once.
I don't know why I didn't think to suggest they go to The Hat (over and up on Lake), which cooks the world's best fries (with what I jokingly suspect may be nuclear material as their fries stay tongue-burningly hot for well over an hour -- certainly at least the time it takes to finally eat all of their astonishingly generous portions).
Back to work
I love when over-the-top comedies deliberately contain Buster Keaton'esque shots and/or sight gags. Yake realized it would "take time" having me called and going to the witness stand, so I suggested condensing time considerably by my literally rising up already at the stand, as though coming up on an elevator-platform from under the floor. It looked laughably surreal, and Yale went with it. (Also to save time, they don't even bother to sworn me in.)
As the judge, Tom's oft dry humour came into play as, when I point accusingly at Harold, and the prosecutor heads back to his seat (in a "No further questions: your witness..." type of way), the judge politely claps as though subtly impressed with the questioning and presentation. Never over the top with it, it never mattered how often it was rehearsed or shot, the little golf-clap always got a laugh from those behind the camera.
Yale allowed me to slowly sink back into the floor when Harold is sent back to his seat after his frenetic attempt at a defense, though that was not in the final cut.
Originally (and at least one or two takes gets it), when I am asked to identify whose lawn I measured, I point at Harold and shout, "HIM! It was HIM...!" With this I pointed with each "HIM," which was a deliberate joke nod at Invader Zim (even though I can't be heard). After a take or two Yale had me do a single point but even without the first Him, I still did the Zim-like shout.
With my entrance and exit, I am not really in the gallery, so at the end of the day, it was realized I was wrapped for this location. However, some pick-up shots were still needed for next Sunday back at their place.
I hung out while they finished up some close-ups of Tom as the judge, after which I took some photos of the removal of his impressive and substantial make-up.
Lisa was wrapped and while she had a web site, she didn't have a chance to provide it to me before she left, our thinking we'd both be there the next day.
Throughout the day Tom's judge make-up reminded me of a character actor whose name I don't know and predictably as I've been working at isolating a single project from which I know this specific actor (so I can look him up), he's becoming more and more elusive. He's similar in looks to Rod Steiger but not him, just similar. And similarly to Rod Steiger, this actor frequently plays tough high-ranking military types. If I ever get as to whom I'm thinking, I'll put it here.
Due to the proximity of the courthouse, I got some photos finally of the impressively pretty [and reputedly haunted] Colorado Street Bridge which parallels the 137.
As they're still shooting tomorrow, and there is 24/7 security in the locked courthouse, they didn't have to deal with packing up a whole heckuva lot of stuff. Yale and Leslie drove me home as they told me what would be shot next Sunday, and reported how Yale's coolness (and [apart from the by-default Maurice] instinctively good casting abilities], is why he has so little trouble with those he casts. Apparently other directors in the same group were experiencing a few mega-difficulties with their casts. Leslie indicated how there were many from the numerous submission that backed out of their audition appointments as they "discovered" that it would be non-sync sound (the project's actual listing clearly stating such notwithstanding). These diva types wanted "roles with lines" for their demo reels, the narrow-minded dinks. I was stunned at such foolishness. Footage from this project would/will be awesome for a reel! Gods forbid they do a role in which they have to demonstrate they can communicate non verbally, and with a highly stylized form of acting!
Yale has been collecting a large, solid stable of actors on whom he know he can rely not only for talent but for reliability (eg, for future projects), so he has no problem with the dross eliminating themselves in advance as they did. He even helped cast project-cinematographer Kymba LeCrone's project. He added with a grin that he knows one actor he know will always be an hour early...
We all agreed Tom was infinitely better than anyone "that actual age" might have been as the judge.
We all looked forward to the following Sunday's pick up shots (Leslie indicated Elliott and Anna will be thrilled to see me again), and I reminded Yale with my DVD to include the other two shorts about which he told me.

Sunday, April 17, 2005
Pick Up Shots; Wrap
I arrived for my 9:30am call at 9:15am. Thankfully I didn't have to wait outside as Yale was outside watering their flora and Colletta was already there doing Lisa's make-up. William arrived a few minutes after I got there. As they weren't immediately ready for us, Yale mock admonished Colletta that she was Too Darn Efficient, having us all ready so quickly.
They reshot my entrance close-up, rising up from the (now much taller) grass at my feet to my face. William came in with the scissors to demonstrate he could cut the lawn so it wouldn't be so long. After a pick up shot close-up of the scissors, they did a close-up of my bemusement watching William as I continue to write out the ticket.
Then I was wrapped.
They only had a little bit with Lisa and Harold and they were done too (as was the film itself). Lisa and William and the project were wrapped.
Yale treated us to lunch and we were each out by a little past 2pm.
We stressed our thanks and appreciation being a part of this project, and insisted they think of us for future projects, which Yale clarified was not a problem. He and Leslie told us of its May 6th screening down at USC, so we marked our calendars: Leslie will send us the information as it's not in the same USC theatre I'd have expected it to be shown.

Friday, May 06, 2005
USC Screening
Tonight was the screening at USC. Instead of the smaller screening room as with To Steel A Kiss, this screening was the Eileen Norris Theatre, which was much more like a Real Theatre, with a much larger screen. It was the first USC student film of mine to screen there.
I ate at the nearby Wendy's first, there meeting Yale's mother, sitting with Yale's uncle at the very next booth. We walked down to USC and found the theatre. The family sat in the third row: I quickly espied the cast in the front row and I joined William and his wife, Tom and Robert.
Nine films were screened, between each of which the respective film makers (director and cinematographer), went to the front of the auditorium and acknowledged their casts and crews and the faculty. To our surprise, Lisa was featured in one of the other films.
Our film was screened first. It was as funny as we'd anticipated. There were a few more edits than we (the cast) expected: one of Tom's three vendor roles was removed; my sinking after my not-quite-cross-examination wasn't shown. The omissions really didn't affect the film as a whole. As Yale and Kymba thanked people, he pointed out Lisa, who we discovered was in attendance, sitting a few rows back from the rest of us.
The screenings concluded around 8:30pm. The worst part about some film projects is Really Getting it's over. Yale assured us he'd be using us again in the future.
Leslie had requested I email her with How Many Copies of the DVD I want (and Yale indicated remembering to include the two additional shorts).

Geoffrey Gould behind the scenes for ''Greenwald's Amazing Garden Tonic''
Behind the scenes with William Joseph Hill,
working on Greenwald's Amazing Garden Tonic

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