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Geoffrey Gould
Reports from the set/s...
Midnight Visitor
Joshua Hsieh's USC Student Film

Tuesday January 31, 2012
I had submitted for the USC student film Midnight Visitor and received word from the project's writer/director Joshua Hsieh, who turned out to be the same Josh who produced Yili Li's USC project How To Change The World on which I'd worked the previous March (I'd thought the name on the email/s sounded familiar...).
I auditioned opposite a dark-haired young man named Alex. The storyline is loosely adapted from the Parable of the Midnight Visitor in Luke. I checked online, though instead of just reading it, I managed to find a video version of the original story.
Apart from its comical nature, one thing I liked about Josh's version was its rather tender and sweet ending.

Monday February 06, 2012
In-Class rehearsal
We'd gotten together the day before to rehearse, where I met blonde Michael Maolucci and we ran the scene several times. The first thing that startled me was that Josh had changed the climactic conversation, from sweet to... well... my character suddenly remaining not only dark but... mean...
There's a fine line between satire/dark humour and a character being flat-out Mean Spirited. Satire and even dark humour can come across as unintentional; mean generally is flat out nasty... and rarely funny. Instead of my character being angry at being awakened and naturally cranky about it, Josh insisted my character be Normally Nasty, not only giving me new lines demonstrated a marked callousness, but clearly demonstrating my character being this way All The Time to everyone, even to insisting one very callous line be delivered with a laugh, to exentuate the nastiness.
I "joked" that Josh was Lucasizing his script (having in hand a perfectly good story, but tinkering with it until it's No Longer The Same).
Monday night we ran it a few times before going in to the class. This time Josh had Heavens Gated the script, having removed even more aspects of the script that made Michael and I want to do it, and retaining about what we were no longer sure. But as actors, we ran with it, and finally, endevouring to be Off Book (two major rewritten versions notwithstanding), and we went in to class.
We were aware in advance the teacher was veteran Russian stage actor Yevgeni Lazarev who "recently" had been in the Iron Man 2 movie playing Mickey Rourke's dying father.
Josh introduced us and explained the Biblical aspect of the story adaptation, and Michael and I ran the piece. It was well received by the class and by Yevgeni Lazarev, who gave us notes as we'd anticipated.
Gods, what a man he is.
He indicated our being fine actors, our having brought so much to the scene, and he stressed to Josh to Let Us Go with our performances, as though suspecting Josh tending to be a bit micro-managerial with directing.
His voice was so super soft, yet absolutely audible, every syllable; pleasant yet with quiet strength and authority.
He assisted Michael with some character insights, and even "deduced" my own actual sleeping habits, he and I being in the same near-age bracket. At one point he playfully improv'ed the opening of the scene with Michael, performing an aspect of the scene as my character to help Michael understand his character's own stake/s in the scene.
He asked if we could "improv" our scene; not worry about the actual lines, just go with the characters. We did so, retreiving to our performance some of the lines we'd liked that were no longer in the script. What with womens' pregnancy cravings, I had already begun consistently adding a reference to fish fingers and custard, which Josh had assimilated into the third version of the script.
Yevgeni Lazarev was awesome; I wish his powerful and uplifting words to us had been video taped.
Outside we came to terms with the schedule. Like myself, Michael was pretty much only available that coming weekend; the following weekend he'd be visiting back in New Jersey, while I would be attending an annual convention I never miss (and for which is always pre-paid: the next year's event ticket purchased during the current convention), followed immediately by a week long stay in Utah. The only date we had would be Saturday, and even then I was unavailable between 5-7pm co-hosting my radio show. This Saturday was not one I had to be on air, as the guest was one booked through me, and of the hosts, I was the only to have read even half of the guest's book.
The shoot had already been moved from Pasadena to Huntington Beach or such: Josh confirmed I could be driven down and back. I pointed out as normally the show is done through Skype, I had co-hosted via my cell phone previously, and could do my on-air co-host duties that way, and once the show is over, I could be utilized on camera. (Fortunately, Michael's single coverage shots could be handled while I was still on the phone.)

Saturday February 11, 2012
Texts flew back and forth during the night and into the day regarding the location (now in La Cañada Flintridge), and Michael set up to retrieve me. It was planned Michael would arrive around 6-6:15pm, halfway through this date's edition of The Paranormal View, and I warned him as much, so I wouldn't come across too obnoxious (e.g., I printed out directions, but most likely I would be unable to assist him in navigating).
Meanwhile, Josh emailed us links to a few YouTube videos, a semi-prank version (the set-up to which I felt easily could have been streamlined), another being more of an "animated" retelling.
Then with one of the videos he unsettlingly declared such "was his vision." Considering its "production value" (that is, extreme lack thereof), I replied my presumption [meaning, expectation], that Josh's project's photography would be more visually pleasing, and the audio based in reality, "jokingly" adding, "Why is the home owner sleeping with open helium tanks...?" I also pointed out, "And giving the guy Wonder Bread? He must really hate his neighbour..."
(When Michael picked me up he related that Josh had clarified the video links were done as jokes.)
As to my radio show that night, things went swimmingly. Mostly.
Author Thomas Fusco was an excellent guest, we held discourse on his book Behind The Cosmic Veil. Having found the Mute button on my Not-Smart phone, when Michael arrived, I'd later learn the others on the show were unaware I was in a car, as I'd gotten in with my Mute button on, made sure we knew to where we were headed, and then went back to listening to Tom and my asking clarifying questions, etc. Two things I neglected to take into account was regarding La Cañada: for one thing being north of Altadena, and even a higher altitude (throughout 2010 I'd stayed with a friend at his Altadena home), and too late I realized we were suddenly driving through a Dead Zone and I got dropped from the call, with no way to call back as it originated from Skype (the second aspect being that La Cañada could be even more bitterly cold at night in February than Altadena). I was not prepared for this level of cold; at least I was already prepared for such for the upcoming Utah project.
Michael navigated the labrynthal neighbourhood streets and we came across our destination by about 6:45pm for our 7pm calltime, to find the film makers just having arrived as well, considering nothing yet was set up, albeit exotic food (too exotic for me), was available in the kitchen of the ornate house. Josh told us how his Huntington Beach "friends" got cold feet and/or were just being complete jerks about lending their place for the shoot. This turned out to be serendipitous as his La Cañada friend's place was pretty much perfect, not only for shooting but the family being rather Extremely Christian: countless icons, statuary, antiques and such were everywhere to the point we quasi-joked that the home owner should be credited as Set Dresser.
Having done over a hundred student films, and having an eye for film making from my youth, this shoot easily should have taken from 7pm to no later than 11pm or midnight. We left the place at about 6am, though I was officially Picture Wrapped at about 5:20am, and Michael had another shot or two to do.
Instead of shooting Michael and my together stuff first, my bedroom scenes were shot first, which was a slight miscalculations on two fronts. One was Michael could have been wrapped super early, and it would not have been as cold by the time we were finished with the exterior scenes as it was by the time we started filming them: the other was as Michael had a place to which he could go apart from Straight Home, his being released early would have been substantially considerate (Josh drove me home, and understandably I had to wait for he and the crew to get the equipment packed away).
The project's Director of Photography was Alex Aguirre; poor Nick Possnack as grip and lighting gaffer spent much of the night outside making sure the lights were in the right place for the right shots. Todd Sakamoto ran sound most of the night, having to leave "early" around 2am or so, after which Josh took over sound.
Despite Yevgeni Lazarev having "suggested" to Josh that he let his actors do their work, Josh still leaned towards being a bit micro-managerial with his directing. He also had new revisions; with no one to play my in-bed sleeping wife, suddenly I was a widower and that had to make it into the dialogue. Instead of comically bringing a baseball bat to the door after threatening over the phone my visitor with violence mostly just to scare him off, now I was to bring a rifle to the door. While aghast at this latest nasty turn of my character, I was Directed so I did so. Josh came close to hinting wanting to change my specific Cravings Reference but I stuck to my position on retaining at least the Fish Fingers and Custard line (though by the end of the shoot there was a take or two in which I accidently said fish sticks and custard...).
Michael and I were understandably were rather frayed by the end of the night. He was so disappointed in the experience he seriously considered never doing another student film (this was his first). I assured him that this was not a typical shoot; that normally we would have easily been done hours earlier.
Thankfully, Michael made a powerful choice as we improv'ed the scene to include reference to my wife's death: offering to share the brownies with me at their home for Christmas. I was able to take this and as Josh had fettered my character choices to such an extent I couldn't simply Instantly Accept, I chose to reply I would think about it, hopefully in such a way to be clear that I would most likely show up at their house for breakfast.
Later as Josh drove me home he conveyed various recent synchronities that had recently come up for him. At home when I would later wake up from crashing from the all nigher, I emailed Josh my paranormal experiences page to give him an idea of my background on the paranormal (as he seemed to think I was more fixated on UFOs).
The project's deadline date was a bit sketchy, but should be well before the end of March.

Tuesday April 24, 2012
Josh contacted Mike and me with a vimeo link to the Mostly Done finished product. He apologized for the audio that his course-load prevented him from being able to perfect.
As he indicated planning to attend the following Saturday evening screening of How To Change the World, I politely reminded him to have the hardcopy DVD with him (by asking if he planned to have it). I hope he doesn't think a vimeo link (that doesn't download well) is the equivalent of a copy...

Midnight Visitor

Saturday April 28, 2012
Attending the screening of How To Change The World at USC, I was surprised to see two friends in the cast as well with whom I'd previously worked: Jenna Brighton of Jerry White's comical Greeters project as well as its spin-off, where she actually appears more than as a magazine cover photograph. Also, as the leads' landlords was Myles Cranford of Live-In Fear (neither of whom was in attendance). In attendance, for most of the evening, was Jerry White, who'd initially recommended me to Yili for this film.
How To Change The World was shown first, and predictably it was very high-end quality, with some very well done, comical misdirects.
The other three were also excellent; considering of late I had been attending actual film festival blocks of short films in which my films are shown, and usually the film on which I worked has significantly higher production values, while the others seemed made in haste. It was a refreshing relief to see some classy USC work.
I'd sat with Josh who'd produced Yili's film, as well as directing me in Midnight Visitor, I got to meet his father who was in attendence, and learned that their family (Josh is Chinese on his paternal side), had been "reluctant" actors since the 1940s, playing Japanese roles, and actual Japanese were all unlawfully incarcerated in U.S. concentration camps.
Afterward the screenings were complete, Yili provided us with our DVD copies. Josh was still working on the audio for Midnight Visitor, so I had to wait for my DVD copy of that project.

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