Chicken Of The Sea

 

Turns out Jaffe Cohen was gay. 

 

In fact, soon after shooting The Travel Agent, he was beginning a career as an openly gay stand-up comedian.  “Half Jewish, half gay” he would call himself at the beginning of his act, proclaiming that he was descended from a long line of Jewish homosexuals, beginning with his great great grandfather, “Schlomo the Homo.”

 

It was no surprise that when I approached Jaffe about working on a script for my NYU thesis film, he suggested doing a movie about a homosexual. I was not particularly interested in doing a movie about a gay character, so I demurred.  But Jaffe still wanted to do something off the beaten path.  As Jaffe used to say, “that path has been beaten to death!”

 

Jaffe mentioned to me that he had been doing some teaching at a community college, and many of his students were from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.  He suggested, what if we did a story about a Jewish college professor who falls in love with one of his students, and that student just so happens to be black?   

 

Hmmm….

 

I’m half Jewish, but had not been raised in a house that observed any of the Jewish holidays or traditions; however, I did grow up in Beverly Hills, and I definitely had a lot of friends who were Jewish.  And, I had been exposed to the Jewish religion through their families.

 

Being Jewish was also a part of my own genetic heritage, even if it was from my father’s side which means I wasn’t really a Jew as far as the Jews were concerned.  But most importantly, I was planning to use Jaffe again as my lead actor.  Jaffe’s comedy could best be described as Woody Allen-esque, so playing the Jewish college professor who falls in love with one of his students, certainly made sense.

 

I decided to take a leap of faith and try something different.

 

We started working on a script, and as soon as we began, I saw that centering the story around Jaffe’s persona (or at least half of it) was a good choice.  I already knew that Jaffe was good with dialogue, but his experience as a college professor, and growing up in a Jewish family in Long Island, added authenticity you couldn’t re-create. I quickly realized that I was going to have gold to direct, great scenes, great characters, an opportunity to cast actors who could really sink their teeth into the material.  

 

That’s a rarity in film school.  Most student films don’t ever make it as far as a good scene, because most of the filmmakers are writing their own material, and while they have lofty dreams of being successful movie directors, they haven’t put in the time to realize their chops as a writer. 

 

I always kind of wore it as a badge of honor that I was smart enough to put my ego aside and choose a collaborator who could compliment me in a way that helped improve the product. The old adage is true. “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.”

 

But, there was an even bigger advantage to writing with Jaffe. I was getting an education.  Jaffe is an exceptionally gifted comedy writer.  Working closely with him was like having Woody or Neil Simon as my teacher.  I learned a ton.

 

I also learned I have a nose for story, and I ask the right questions. 

 

One of those questions during the writing was simple enough.  “Why would this college professor bring this student home to meet his family in Long Island if he knew it was going to cause a lot of trouble?   Jaffe didn’t have an answer.  I suggested, what if his family invited him to bring a date to a special occasion?”   That was a good idea.   But what occasion?   And then the thought crossed my mind … “What if it was Passover?

 

Jaffe immediately saw the possibilities. 

 

We both knew that that occasion would probably make it even less likely that Jaffe’s character would invite this student home to meet his family; however, Jaffe taught me a valuable lesson about screenwriting. Characters who have yet to learn their lesson, do stupid things.  The blasphemy, the conflict, the humor, the whole situation begged us to go for it.  It was just too juicy to waste.  Creating motivation, would just have to be in character.

 

And so, Chicken of the Sea took on its shape.  A Jewish College Professor falls in love with a black student and brings her home to meet his family for Passover. 

 

I was excited when we got through a first pass.  The script was really funny, different, and had a lot of rich and interesting cultural infusions   that made the project extremely unique and fresh.

 

There was a problem that developed however, and it had nothing to do with the content of the writing.  It was the page count. 

 

Draft one was 48 pages. 

 

Now you might wonder why this was a problem.  

 

Let me explain. 

 

An NYU thesis film is supposed to be 20-30 minutes long. In order to achieve that time frame, we would have to cut 20 pages out of the script.

 

Jaffe immediately started talking about scenes and dialogue to lose, but I found myself hearing nothing of what he was saying.  Because a deviant thought of my own was entering the fray.  It was not a helpful thought, it was unrealistic and a pointless change of subject. Or was it?

 

I tried to swat back the musings of my mind like a bothersome fly who had buzzed in through the kitchen window, but the little fuck eluded my swatter and refused to leave the room.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything Jaffe was saying.  I was feeling like the victim of a joke or a situation or a predicament, that the great writer in the sky was imposing on my character.  I don’t blame him (or her). It was such a deliciously evil thought to throw at me, that if I were God, I would not have been able to help but inflict it on my character as well, if nothing else, just to see the sparks fly. 

 

“What if we didn’t cut,” I blurted out.  Jaffe stared at me. 

 

What if we EXPANDED?

 

Jaffe blinked. 

 

The idea was crazy on the surface, yet oddly practical just beneath it.

 

In all honesty, I don’t remember what Jaffe said.  It didn’t matter, because the infection was already streaming through my blood stream  at a million miles an hour, metastasizing its cancerous spawn into my DNA.

 

I was going to shoot a feature film in film school.

 

Rationalization, in fact, was already laying its foundation to thwart reason.  An unfamiliar, but convincing form of logic was hardening like cement in the contours of my cerebral synapses.  I already knew there was no turning back.

 

Because … 

 

The goal of any student in film school is to shoot a feature.  That’s just a fact. 

 

The ability to get a feature financed is the BIGGEST hurdle any student filmmaker faces.  Another fact.

 

But what if financing was not the issue? 

 

Shooting a feature film in film school would be NEXT TO IMPOSSIBLE, but compared to the hurdles of raising millions of dollars, “NEXT TO IMPOSSIBLE” would be a downgrade of difficulty level and an immensely reasonable problem to have in contrast.

 

The script was good.  What was to stop us from embellishing as opposed to pruning? 

 

I needed to think this out.  My brain, was overloaded with vast swings of thought alternating between the possibilities and the realities of what this would entail.  A crowd of conundrums was forming, all raising their hands, begging to have their predicaments solved.  I scanned the field, terrified, wondering which problem to address first.

 

I picked one of the conundrums, let’s call him Conundrum 1, to speak his mind. 

 

Conundrum 1 stood up, cleared his throat, and said, “You sir are a dip shit.  How will you get a crew of film school students to work for you for the kind of time it would take to shoot a feature?  What would be there incentive unless you paid them?”

 

I nodded an affirmation, “good question Conundrum 1.  Let me think a second.”  After a moment an answer came to me.  “Well, the way films get made at NYU is that everybody works on each other’s movies for FREE, the only caveat being, that if ‘I work for you, you have to work for me.’  In theory, if I were willing to put enough hours in on other projects, I could get enough crew time from other people to help me shoot a feature.” 

 

Conundrum 1 stared me down.  “That’s assuming you don’t die of physical exhaustion during the attempt.”

 

I mulled that thought, then said, “yes.  Next question.” 

 

A sea of conundrums threw up their hands. 

 

 “Yes, Conundrum 2?   Stand up so we can hear you.”  

 

Conundrum 2 stood.” 

 

“I don’t think you’re thinking this through sir.   I understand that NYU provides all your production equipment for free, but isn’t it only for a period of two weeks?  There is no way in hell you can shoot a feature script in 2 weeks given the many locations of Chicken of the Sea, the large cast, not to mention working with students as your primary crew.  Won’t you need more time? How will you address this?”

 

I thought about this one a little bit, and then something else came to me.

 

“Good question, Conundrum 2.   But there’s something at NYU we call   ‘Rain days.’  We are allowed to request ‘rain delay equipment’ beyond the two weeks of equipment we are guaranteed if inclement weather screws up our production.  In theory, there is no end to how many rain days of make up equipment I could request, assuming it was available.”

 

Conundrum 2 shot back.

 

“But Professor, isn’t it true that whatever ‘rain’ equipment is available is always the bottom of the barrel equipment, and you are last priority to receive it? “

 

“Yes that is true Conundrum 2, but in theory, as long as there isn’t a lot of rain, there will be periods where extra equipment IS available.  And, I won’t be hurting anybody by using it, as long as the weather stays nice.”  

 

Another conundrum, Conundrum 3, blurted out.  “But Professor, how do you expect to get rain equipment if there is no rain?”

 

I was starting to get a little pissed at the lack of faith these conundrums were showing me.  I turned to Conundrum 3 and fired back, “Duh, I will have to get the school to give me an OK to take out the rain equipment for a different reason other than rain!”

 

The room full of conundrums stared at me.  They weren’t expecting me to be so vehement with my retort.  I was starting to get the hang of this.

 

Conundrum 4 opened his mouth, although with less voracity than his predecessors.  “But sir, that would require bending the system to an extreme.”

 

I was now starting to feel a little more confident with my answers.

 

“Yes, this is true Conundrum 4, but considering Jaffe is bending the expectations of society by doing openly gay stand up, I think I could bend NYU into approving me taking out rain equipment to help support a feature film.”

 

The room full of Conundrum’s grew silent.

 

“Any other questions?”  

 

No other conundrum raised their hand.

 

“OK then.  You’re all dismissed.”

 

I think the conundrums were in shock.  And then … one by one, they began to leave the room.

 

Because … the truth was apparent.

 

I was going to make a fucking feature film, and an army full of conundrums was not gonna stop me.

 

And so …

 

The next day, I started taking the steps necessary to address the questions these very articulate and vocal challengers had presented. 

 

The first action I took was to make an appointment to meet with my writing instructor, Dan Klein, someone who I knew was a fan of the writing of the script.  Not surprisingly, Dan was hesitant about what I wanted to attempt, but he didn’t directly say no. 

 

I made another appointment to meet with the head of the school, Ellie Hamerow.  Ellie was even less thrilled, but interestingly, she didn’t give me a definitive “no” either. 

 

I walked out of those meetings with a growing sense of possibility.  The school was not necessarily supportive, but they didn’t appear like they were going to try to stop me either.  This was a win. 

 

And so …

 

A week later, I went to meet with them again.  I did it again the week after that.    

 

Every week it was the same.  They never really said yes, they just didn’t ever say “no.”   

 

In the end, I think my persistence wore them down.  Somehow, I got them to sign off on my script with the understanding that I would have to figure out how to finish the film without any guarantees that equipment and crew would be available beyond my two weeks.  

 

I didn’t really know if I was any further towards realizing my dream of shooting a feature, or if I was just setting myself up for utter failure and the school was being complicit with my demise.

 

Whatever it was, so began a year that I will simply call, “hell!” 

 

Hell might be too strong a word.  It was brutal, but it was also cathartic.  It was horrific, but somehow the memories weren’t as bad when I looked back on the experience. In fact, the memories almost seemed fun.   It was kind of like an exorcism that had me spewing green vomit, but being able to laugh about it with friends afterwards, the kinds of friends that could only be made by experiencing the fiery comradery of being in the trenches together. 

 

Like Linda Blair, I woke up at the end of it all with little to no memory of what happened, other than exhaustion to the point of weeping.    

 

To give an idea of just how bad it got, on one particular payback shoot in the middle of making Chicken of the Sea, I fell asleep on a New York City sidewalk.  I was unshaven, wearing dirty ripped up old clothes.  As a joke, my friends didn’t wake me for lunch, and put a paper plate out in front of me that said, “please help.”  

 

I woke up alone, bewildered, but with a plate full of dollar bills and coins!

 

From the day that I signed on to shooting Chicken of the Sea, I was either in pre-production, production, or working as a crew member for somebody else. That lasted for a year, and most often involved 18 hour days, no weekends off, and 24/7 indigestion from on set catering which was not delivered by a caterer.

 

But when you have a goal, you simply focus on the end result and all else becomes details.  I could relate to Gene Wilder in the movie Young Frankenstein. I was deluded, believing I could do the impossible, and nothing was going to stop me from breathing life into my creation.  

 

The pre-production for Chicken of the Sea began, like my second year film, The Travel Agent, began … with a hat. 

 

We all pulled out shoot dates that began in February and ended a year later.  I did better this time around.  I got a shoot date in mid April. 

 

April was a month when the weather was getting warmer.  It was far enough away that it gave me a little more time to organize.  It was also not so far away, that it would impede or make more difficult my attempt to shoot a feature.  Also, the season just so happened to be appropriate for Passover with the leaves turning green on the trees.

 

The first step in the process of pre-production involved finding a DP (Director of Photography or Cinematographer).

 

There’s a story that happened in pre-production on the The Travel Agent which I didn’t share in the previous segment.   The story involved getting my cinematographer.

 

When I started pre-production on The Travel Agent, there was a very smart kid who went to Yale who I thought would make a good DP for my shoot.  He was pretty popular at school and he was an interesting film maker.  His name was Kevin Burget.  I asked Kevin if he would shoot my movie.  Kevin said yes. 

 

That pact lasted for about 20 minutes, because 20 minutes later, Kevin approached me with another student in class, another DP named Judy Filere, and, in front of Judy, Kevin announced that he had made a trade with Judy.   Kevin was no longer going to shoot my movie.  Judy was.

 

I was speechless.

 

How could a deal have been made, involving my movie, without even  talking to me about it?  And how could Kevin come to me with Judy and announce right in front of her that she was my DP?

 

I was put on the spot completely.

 

Knowing what I know now, I should have simply said, “No.  I asked you to shoot my movie, and if you’re backing out, I’ll find somebody else of my own choosing. And by the way, thanks for putting me on the spot like this where I have to hurt Judy’s feelings.” 

 

But I didn’t do that.   I think I was so shocked that I couldn’t find my voice to say anything.  And, I DIDN’T want hurt Judy’s feelings. 

 

I managed to ask a question or two.  Kevin and Judy did a song and dance about how this made sense and would work for me.  Another classmate Juliet Aires jumped in to confidently encourage me that I was in good hands with Judy and how Judy was not even directing a movie the second year because she wanted to get her degree in cinematography (I think Juliet had some involvement with the trade).  It was 3 on one.  I was insecure.  I felt guilty.   

 

I said OK.

 

I let these people dictate to me what was going to happen on my shoot.  

 

And it cost me. 

 

All these years later, I still feel guilty writing this because I don’t want to hurt Judy’s feelings, especially because she showed up and did the work.  But suffice it to say, at that point in her life, she still had a lot to learn about photography, and it affected the quality of my movie.

 

This time around with Chicken of the Sea, especially because I was shooting a feature, I did not want to make the same mistake. 

 

I immediately went straight for the person I thought was the best DP in the class, Rick Putnam.

 

Rick was sought after …  so literally, as the thesis film schedule of shoots were announced, I leaped across the room, and I asked Rick if he would shoot my movie.  I knew that if I waited another 30 seconds, he might get booked from one of the other students who got an April time slot.

 

I was not considered one of the more promising directors in my class.  I was still a lot younger than everybody, although now at 23, I was a little more seasoned.  I had definitely made some progress with my second year film, but as far as “cool” factor and the hierarchy of elitism, I still had a long way to go.  I actually was afraid Rick would reject me outright, even if he were free. 

 

To my surprise, I think I caught Rick at the right moment, and he said, yes, he would shoot my movie.

 

I was delighted, and this time, nobody came up to me 20 minutes later and tried to pull Rick away.

 

I happily began working on, and organizing the rest of my project, my crew, cast, locations, and production schedule. Rick seemed to be going with the flow and living up to his commitment to shoot the fim. 

 

And then, it happened ...

 

Rick called and said he needed to talk to me.  Something in his voice …  Red flags were waiving, but I was hoping it was about some details of the production. 

 

Rick showed up at my dorm room and immediately I could tell something was wrong.  He could barely look me in the eye.

 

He stared at my roommate’s coffee machine as he stammered.  I remember tidbits.  My script was too long.  He didn’t think he could do a good job shooting it.  He had to rescind his offer to shoot my project.

 

The way he kept staring at that damn coffee machine, I wasn’t sure if he was dumping me or my roommate’s filters, but when he left the apartment afterwards, the words, the meaning and the target for whom they were intended began to ferret themselves out. 

 

When I had put all the pieces together into something comprehensible, there was no mistaking.  My cinematographer was history. 

 

In hindsight, I probably should have known better than to ask somebody to shoot my movie, who deep down, I knew didn’t really want to shoot it.  But I guess you live and learn.

 

Oh yeah, there was one other problem.  Rick did this to me, ONE WEEK before I was supposed to start principal photography.  ONE WEEK!!!  

 

Every good cinematographer in my class was already taken.  How was I going to find somebody on such short notice?!

 

I was numb.  I had already cast the shoot, organized the schedule and gotten commitments from a full set of crew.  This was taking out the bottom card in a house of cards I had been building that was reminiscent of the 12 deck monolith The Brady Bunch built in Episode 15 of their first season, the one where Tiger slammed into Peter sending the whole ball of wax crashing down.

 

I was one dog hair away from a five alarm, four legged catastrophe.  Keeping the card house standing was going to be no easy feat.

 

But then another thought.

 

My second year of film school, I started making friends with some of the people in the class above me.  Kind of ironic since I was still so young, but for whatever reason, I seemed to connect with that class a little more easily.

 

There was one kid in particular who I had become friends with and who was a cinematographer.  His name was Bob Learner. 

 

I called Bob immediately. Bob picked up the phone, and with my heart racing, I asked him if he was free to start shooting my film, one week from today. 

 

To my utter astonishment and relief, Bob said yes.

 

Joy!

 

And then …

 

It occurred to me, I hadn’t bothered to talk to anybody about Bob or the experiences they had had working with him. 

 

As an afterthought, I called another friend from Bob’s class, Karl Shefelman.  I asked Karl about his experience working with Bob on his second year shoot. 

 

Karl said something that made the hairs on my arm stand on end.

 

“Bob did a good job, but he was SLOW.”  

 

“How slow?” I asked.

 

“So slow it almost cost us our friendship.”    

 

OH MY FUCKING GOD!!!  WHAT DID KARL JUST SAY?!!”

 

Karl was sympathetic. He knew I was shooting a feature, but could offer no salve from the truth.  

 

I immediately called Bob back, panicked.  I relayed my conversation with Karl.  Considering what I was attempting to do, THIS was a problem. 

 

Bob, to his credit, acknowledged everything Karl said, but he told me he had learned from the experience shooting Karl’s movie. He was confident he could shoot quickly, and meet my goals. He told me he could do it and make it look great.

 

I made a decision.  “Trust Bob Learner.”

 

And it was a good choice.  Because Bob stepped up.  Big time. 

 

Not only did he move fast, he made the film look great.  And while I can’t say the two weeks of that first shoot in April were easy, it wasn’t because of my cameraman.  We shot over 40 pages of the script, got great coverage and performances, and all the actors playing students in Jaffe’s classroom, and all the actors playing Jaffe’s Long Island family, were wrapped from production. 

 

I had accomplished what I had set out to do.

 

Shooting out all the other actors, aside from Jaffe and the other lead, Shirley Jordan, minimized my risk shooting this movie piecemeal over a long period of time.  And I was really proud of what we accomplished those first two weeks.  Of course, there was a lingering pang of reality that kept my joy in check. We finished the shoot in April, but we weren’t even finished with half the movie.

 

From this point forward, I was going to have to build up more crew, and  I was going to have to rely on rain delay equipment being available to help me finish the project.  And oh yeah …

 

I was scheduled to start work on another shoot two days after wrapping the April shoot.

 

Building up IOU’s from new people and paying back the people who had just worked for me, I was already booked the remainder of April, all of May and most of June before my first break.  5 shoots in a row, 18 hour days, no weekends, eating food that would kill a cat.

 

And by the time I got through that, I was seriously reconsidering my choices about everything.

 

But there was not time to think about that because, near the end of June, I discovered there would be a small window of rain delay equipment available in late July, and I could squeeze in eight days of shooting before I was due on somebody else’s shoot. I didn’t have much time to organize.

 

I quickly pulled together the second leg of Chicken of the Sea, asking more people for their time (all of whom I would have to pay back), securing locations, getting the actors lined up. 

 

All the while I was doing this, I was following the weather.  Because if anybody had to use that rain delay equipment for legitimate rain delays, I would lose the equipment and have to drop everything I had set up.

 

Thankfully, it turned out there was no rain, and the equipment I was coveting was given to me.

 

I don’t know how I did it, but I shot those eight days in July, finished off shooting another group of supporting actors, and then literally the next day, I began payback again on more people’s projects for the next  month and a half. 

 

I worked all through August, and well into September. 

 

It was at that point I realized another problem was about to rear its ugly head.  

 

Fall was coming, and that meant the leaves were turning yellow.  I had scenes to shoot in Washington Square Park.   All the leaves had been green while shooting the other scenes in the movie.  And Passover doesn’t take place in October!

 

I checked with the equipment room and as it just so happened, there were 5 days of rain delay equipment available at the very end of September.   I secured them quickly, prayed for sunshine, organized a smaller shoot, and watched the trees closely. 

 

Trees outside the city were turning color, but trees within the interior of the city, like in the parks where it is a bit warmer from the shelter of the surrounding buildings and the heat of the traffic, tend to hold their green longer.   It was a race against the clock, but the green leaves seemed to be winning, and as it turned out, I was able to shoot the scenes in the park I needed in those five days.

 

And then yet again, literally, the next day, I was starting a string of payback shoots that took me all the way through October and well into November. 

 

This was the point where I started to question not just the choice I had made to shoot a feature, but I began to wonder whether or not I could actually finish what I started. 

 

There were some big scenes still left to shoot for Chicken of the Sea, and I was TIRED.  I almost didn’t have the heart to find my way into organizing and executing another shoot with no break, but I found out nine days of equipment were available in November during a brief hiatus in my shoot schedule.  I had a chance to come close to finishing out the movie.  But, if I didn’t catch those nine days, I was booked again through December, January AND February working on other peoples shoots. 

 

If I started organizing another shoot the day I finished in mid November, I might be able to shoot those nine days at the end of the month.  Problem was, some of the scenes were complicated, involving restaurants and extras.  Bob was also busy, so I had to bring in another DP, but by this time, word was out in the school that I was shooting a feature, and I pretty easily got another good DP to pick up where Bob had left off.

 

Still, with the intricate details of organizing this leg of the shoot and the lack of gas left in my tank, I did not know how I was going to do it.

 

I hired a friend of a friend, Christine Shank, to help be my production manager/line producer, and somehow, with her help, we pieced together a schedule, a crew, and set of locations to shoot those nine days. 

 

The only thing that kept me going was that I knew I was getting close to finishing what was left to shoot of Chicken of the Sea.   CLOSE.  But still not finished.

 

Those nine days were probably the most difficult and exhausting days of my life to date at that time.  There was a cumulative effect of all of the days in production I had been experiencing, and this shoot kept me particularly on my toes as we had some really long days trying to finish scenes when I had locations. I remember sitting with Christine in a production van I rented after a particularly brutal day, and both of us just looking at each other in shock. 

 

Finishing that November shoot, felt like finishing the movie, because there wasn’t that much left to shoot after that, mostly some scenes involving Jaffe and Shirley walking through the city at night, (although the exterior night scenes presented their own challenges).  In all, I estimated about five more days of production to finish the film.   And that felt good.

 

However, that would have to wait because I was about to start the longest stretch of payback since I started the project.

 

Now I will say, the one good thing about payback is, while exhausting, at least it’s not you on the spot 24/7 making every decision.  Sure, you have a job to do, and you have to be on it, but it is ONE job, usually in my case, being a sound recorder (my background in recording songs made people think I was good with mics).  This was relatively mindless in contrast to making your own movie.

 

By the time I finished that long stretch of payback, I was so exhausted from all the days of production, no days off, no sleep, production meals, I honestly didn’t WANT to shoot those last five days of Chicken of the Sea.  And the movie just FELT done, even though it wasn’t. I had been living with the feeling of being done with the movie for a long time, and I just wanted it to be that way.  BUT …

 

Five more days. 

 

By now, the school was not happy with me.  I was abusing the system and I didn’t have the heart to keep pushing them. 

 

With great weariness in my soul, and an ache in my step, I put one foot in front of the other, and organized the last five days of shooting Chicken of the Sea.  I was scraping the last remnants of equipment from the proverbial “rain delay” barrel, not to mention the last creativity left in my soul, AND it also involved creating five last days of payback for one more set of crew. 

 

Just the thought …

 

I’ll never forget those last five days, shooting each day, and crossing it off the "to do" check list. 

 

And finally it arrived, the last day of principal photography for Chicken of the Sea.  We finished in the evening, late because we had been shooting all night.  And I remember putting the equipment back in the van for the last time.  It was a wrap.  I had a feeling of euphoria. 

 

One of crew members dropped a light.  I didn’t even care. It almost seemed fitting.

 

Chicken of the Sea was shot over five different shoots starting in April of 1989, and ending in March of 1990. 

 

I had worked so many days of production on other peoples shoots, for both my year and the year ahead of me, that I never wanted to step on a film set again.

 

And all of this was leading up to a whole other frontier that hadn’t even begun.  Editing ...     

 

Looking back on Chicken of the Sea now, it’s all a blur.   I remember navigating the creative direction with Jaffe.  We clashed a decent amount, but we also worked well together.  Most of the clashes involved the hours and the fact that deep down he didn’t really want to play a heterosexual.   The late hours working in people’s homes and businesses caused a lot of tension, securing permits and public spaces, the pressure of finishing scenes within provided hours, keeping people believing in what we were doing, navigating different cinematographers, feeding everybody … these were all factors that made the shoot a lesson of life that could not be recreated. 

 

But it was the physical feat of living through it that was by far the biggest challenge and the thing I felt most proud of having accomplished. 

 

The editing of Chicken of the Sea took me another year.   Keep in mind, at that time I couldn’t edit on a computer.  I literally had to splice film with a razor and tape.

 

The movie wound up being about 80 minutes long at it’s full length. 

 

And then …  after all that I went through, if you can believe it, I made the sad decision to cut the movie down to under 60 minutes to make it eligible for the Student Academy Awards. 

 

And it wasn’t just because of the Academy Awards that I cut it down.  I cut it because both Jaffe and me had some things to learn as writers.  We had embellished the story to fit a feature script, without having enough story to truly warrant a feature.  Great dialogue and good acting, isn’t enough. 

 

And so I cut the film to a final length of 55 minutes. 

 

There ARE some things I cut out that in hindsight I shouldn’t have.  At film school you are constantly screening your cuts for peers who are endlessly scrutinizing your work and giving you input that comes from a million places of motivation.  The final ritual of the exorcism. 

 

It’s hard to see straight through all of that.

 

I think I cut a few things at the suggestion of fellow classmates, that were things I should not have cut.  In particular for one scene.  

 

I have put back in the raw footage of the scene I cut, to make the movie a little more what I think it should have been. This time I did it on a computer.  :)

Overall, I am very proud of the end result.  The movie won several awards at NYU, including an award for best direction.

 

Below is the movie in all it’s glory at 57 minutes.  A labor of love and an example of realized possibility.

 

Chicken Of The Sea … it’s what you get when a bird and a fish fall in love.

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©2018 by Chris Livingston Productions

Beverly Hills, CA  90210