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Geoffrey Gould
Reports from the set/s...

"Happy Birthday, Johnny"
Emre Korkmaz's USC student film project

Wednesday Febuary 04, 2009
Saturday afternoon January 31st I got a call from Ian Kay at USC, requesting I audition for a student film project he was producing. They were still working on an audition location, but it'd be Wednesday in the late morning. Ian emailed me the sides as well as the script (written by Sawer Perry, who at the audition was on hand), which turned out to be set on a March 17th of an unspecified year (though clearly before 1978), the short scene involving John Wayne Gacy preparing to entertain as Pogo at a children's hospital or hospital wing, during which time he has a vision or visitation from his late father who chastices him.
The evening before the audition, I received the location information, at the new Lucas Building.
I arrived early, as always, and managed my way through the rather elaborate new building. I met Ian and we chatted while the equipment was being set up on the balcony. When everything was ready I went out and read for the role of the father, considering how unlike John Wayne Gacy I am physically.
The director Emre Korkmaz suggested another take on the reading, which I did, and to my surprise, I was requested to read John's lines. I'd not really studied those lines, but they are actually few: most of his acting in the piece is reacting, and I did my best.
I gave Ian a copy of my demo reel for his perusal, and I scooted back to work.

Saturday February 07, 2009
"I'm John Wayne Gacy for Slim-Fast..."
Ian called to offer me the role, strangely enough, of Johnny for the short (apparently after my reading it was "pretty much unanimous" that I should play Johnny). At the audition, he and I had already joked about how much I don't resemble John Wayne Gacy, and we joked how this is simply another film about true events Not Quite Historically Accurate and/or inaccurate portrayals of actual historical figures.
While thankfully the shoot wasn't the following Presidents Day Saturday and/or Sunday, considering that weekend is annually reserved for another event, the project would be taking place over the course of the next two Wednesday... mornings. There would be an in-class rehearsal (where the teacher will work with the students about blocking and such), then shooting would be the next Wednesday morning.

Sunday February 08, 2009
Pre-rehearsal meeting set
I got a call from the film's director Emre, and we arranged to get together Tuesday evening to discuss the script, etc., so that he and I are already on the same page and as such may facilitate the in-class rehearsal process. I printed out to bring with me the two Gacy photos I'd found online (and placed below), to clarify whether the Pogo costume would be as accurate as possible, but that at least that certainly the Pogo make-up would be accurate. The script calls for a tie to be tied, and Pogo's outfit does not have a tie... if the line cannot be changed, I guess a little dramatic license may have to be accepted on my part.

Tuesday Febuary 10, 2009
Director dinner meeting
As it's right by the Red Line, director Emre and I met at the McDonalds at Hollywood/Highland (at which he bought me dinner). He and I discussed the script, the costume and make-up, as well as his feature film The Last Musketeer (currently in post production), and the role of writers in the film making process.
Being from Turkey, Emre also indicated near surprise regarding the sharp distinction between the European view of clowns, that they are viewed as funny and entertaining, while here in America, not so much. Turns out this is a script-writing class, not as much a "production class," so it's fortunate Emre has had considerable experience with the production side.
I provided Emre with the profiles for my two written shorts Man Away and Daddy's Girl that were produced, and my own MySpace profile, albeit Emre indicating using Facebook over MySpace.
So the next morning would entail the in-class rehearsal and script discussion, the following Wednesday morning would be the shoot itself.

Wednesday February 11, 2009
In-class rehearsal
The bus schedule implying I'd get there about on time notwithstanding, I ended up arriving a bit earlier than even I'd anticipated. Emre and Ian showed up and headed into the class while I waited in the small waiting area off the balcony. Jack Seal, who was to play my ghostly father, showed up a while later. Emre had me come in to the class where I met the class's facilitator Everett Lewis, a [very] tall, and affably pleasant fellow, who gave valuable suggestions not only for Emre but for me and Jack as well.
We read through the scene a few times, and at least characterwise it's shaping up. I mimed putting on the make-up, which apparently the whole if not majority of the class liked seeing (as well as the teacher), feeling it gave some depth to introducing/setting up the scene; Everett Lewis even concurred with my thought that if done in some of the extreme close-ups the teacher was suggesting, that it could double as the opening title sequence.
After our bit we went back out to the waiting area; I provided Ian with the full-size Pogo photo, though we surmised it is unlikely that the costume will be as accurate as I'll endevour to do with the make-up. As he took down my sizes, Ian did indicate he would actually look to see if such a similar red outfit might be rentable. He also took my make-up materials suggestions, including but limited to obtaining some Karo syrup and red food colouring. Ian even remembered that usually with such stage-blood a little blue food colouring cuts the Overly Redness of it. My main concern is a fake knife looking terribly fake. While any film maker can audio-dub the sound of a metallic knife being dropped into a porcelein sink, it's tough on film (and even more so on hi-def video), to make a dull-grey plastic knife look like metal.
Calltime for the following Wednesday was 9am, from where we would head over to Kaprellian (to use, amusingly enough, a women's bathroom).

Wednesday February 18, 2009
Even taking my time I arrived early (around 8:40am), for my 9am calltime. Ian was already waiting for me and for Jack. We joked about how for a building named (designed by?) George Lucas, it's probably not surprising my cell phone has no signal, and Ian's laptop could not receive an Internet signal. Ian also pointed out that (for the project), they didn't actually get... a knife. What was to be used was a white plastic cake server. We joked over my having to really hold down whoever I'd be killing, verbally having to request they sit still ("Oh c'mon; you're ruining it for me...!"), et al.
Around 9:30 or so we gave up waiting for Jack and headed over to the building in which a womens restroom had been acquired for the shoot. If it came down to it, one of the students would play the father.
I was given my "wardrobe," and changed in the mens room around the hallway corner. The costume consisted of (female Valentine's Day-themed) pajama bottoms, overly small suspenders, and a white v-neck t-shirt. The suspenders tightly pulled the pajama pants well up into my buttocks crack. There were also very ill-fitting and uncomfortable clown shoes that were designed for shoes to be worn inside, but the clown shoes themselves were for children or such. I had to wear them without shoes inside, making them almost impossible in which to walk without seemingly wearing swimming flippers.
The clown make-up consisted of two sets of inexpensive amateur Halloween make-up kits. To my relief, thankfully a tube of what at first I thought would be make-up remover was in fact clown white. Instead of being home made, stage blood had been bought (Zesty Mint Flavour!), but fortunately it was very water soluble.
A master shot was done; first filmed was my applying the make-up. Ian had warned me of the possibility of my having do the make-up "three or four times," according to Emre, but thankfully I only had to do it twice. Considering I am not a professional clown, I'm not sure how closely consistent the two versions of the same make-up will look. At least we filmed as much as we could with the first application before it was removed for close-up versions of the second application.
A tardy and deeply apologetic Jack arrived moments before actually needing him. After lots of coverage and such, we were ready to move on to the second scene. To my inner amusement, the clap-board indicated each new angle/set-up shot as though it was a different scene, as opposed to the same scene, different shot. I didn't offer to correct this, as their class is screenwriting, not production.
For the second scene I remembered to have a photo taken of me, albeit already bloodied up (which was fine in and of itself), so until I get the DVD copy I won't have a shot of the first scene look. Ian was right about the plastic cake cutter; it was hilariously non-lethal looking. They had obtained actual cakes to give the impression the cake had been cut first, before the cutter had been wielded as a weapon.
Eventually Jack was wrapped. As he did different variations on his delivery, he understandably requested that footage be included with his DVD copy. This is not unprecedented. For my first USC film, "bonus material" was included of the individual dancers for their reels.
Similar to The Immigrants (when the director almost moved on after his leading lady's big speech, when the only coverage had been my reaction/s, and no coverage of her actually giving her speech), I gently reminded the occasional shot/angle Emre earlier indicated having wanted to include, but almost overlooked doing. As for Emre, this wasn't an error, barely an oversight (and Emre was very appreciative). As it was we had a very limited time window, and we did run over our allotted time as it was. We had the bathroom to about 12:50, but I think we were actually out by about 1:40 or later. Thankfully no one from staff or faculty ever came to try and chase us out.
Despite the stage blood on and in the sinks and on my hands, it washed off instantly. Ian provided some Ponds with which the make-up also came off quite quickly.
The short will be screened in class, not the Norris Theatre, which is fine. Most likely I'll get my copy within a month. I realized I should gently light a fire under the directors for recently previous USC projects Murmur, Curious and still for Tell-Tale Heart (while trying again for the 2004 NY Film Academy short Clocks [in which I was the lead], would be an ongoing exercise in futility as the director deliberately refuses all contact from me or the film's other two co-stars, I guess another try for my copy of the USC 2006-filmed First Kiss wouldn't hurt...)
Jack had left the moment he was wrapped, having forgotten that SAG actors' remuneration for student film work is credit, DVD copy, and generally a meal. Emre took me up to Wendy's for my meal; ironically I had to chip in a little over a buck as the place's credit/debit card wasn't working so it was cash only. I didn't mind, half-jokingly pointing out to Emre that he remember to hire me for role/s when he's making multi-million dollar movies...
Currently Emre is working on a feature screenplay, as is Sawyer, so I requested of him also to remind her to think of me should any characters be able to be slanted towards being Written For Me...
Based on the time, it would have been pointless to head back to my day job, and they were already aware that most likely I would not be in. Emre was headed downtown so he offered me a ride, dropping me at the MacArthur Park station, where with scant seconds to spare I caught the just-arriving Red Line to home (to Vine at any rate so as to catch the 217 bus with which to circumvent the Hollywood/Highland nightmare preparations for the following Sunday's Academy Awards).

Monday March 23, 2009
Subsequent project
I was contacted to play a high school teacher for the group's next project, Womanhandling.
For the Womanhandling project Emre was running sound. Matt Golad had run sound for Happy Birthday, Johnny, and for Womanhandling he was the producer. They reported that Happy Birthday, Johnny turned out really well, and that somehow along the line during editing, the choice was made to omit my co-star Jack Seal (leaving only his voice, I presume). I wondered how that visually played out, and they assured me I'd get the DVD copy soon; it'd not yet been burned. When the Womanhandling shoot was complete, well, my scenes anyway, they reported that their teacher was extremely impressed with my performance carrying the film, considering now one only sees me: going from a two-man film to a one-man film.
The Womanhandling script's writer Dave Cowen apparently was in charge of the burning of the Happy Birthday, Johnny DVD, and Emre reminded him to do that; Ian still had my hard copy address from my website, so I was told I should receive the DVD in a week or so.

April 2009
I neglected to note the date it arrived, but I received the DVD, and found that apparently Jack Seal was really really cut out. Even only one of his lines remains, that was one delivered by a crew member. Had I know what was in my head was really going to be in my head, I'd have probably played it differently.
More amusingly and ironically, not only did Jack Seal go unthanked in the credits... my name is nowhere to be seen in the credits either...

John Wayne Gacy mug shot
Chicago serial killer
John Wayne Gacy's mug shot
John Wayne Gacy as Pogo'
Chicago serial killer
John Wayne Gacy as
birthday party clown Pogo
Geoffrey Gould in ''Happy Birthday, Johnny'' [with co-star Jack Seal]
Behind the scenes with co-star
Jack Seal in the USC student film
Happy Birthday, Johnny

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