III. OVER THE EDGE
Friday, August 26 – Sunday, September 25
Although I’m gone to Oregon for a month’s visit with my mother, I’m kept abreast of the activities on the film via long distance phone reports:
Tom and editor Bob Lambert deliver the final cut on schedule, the first week in September. After the first two cust of 89 and 86 minutes, they’ve ended up actually cutting footage back in, for a running time of 92 minutes (excluding end credits). Tom promises that not only does it move like a bullet (tube), they’ve also solved the major problems inherent in the previous cuts.
New sound effects men have finally been signed, in the persons of Frank Serafine and sound effects editor Bruce Richardson. They’ve already temped in sounds for the fight scene, and are hard at work on the creation of new sounds.
Foley work – the process whereby the sound of footsteps are added any time you see someone walk in the film – is already being conducted, and our composer, Glenn Jordan, has come up with the basic theme for the film, which everyone is nuts about.
Our first major promotion is given over Labor Day weekend at the famed World Science Fiction convention, held this year in New Orleans. Our publicist, Paul Sammon, has set up a table where he runs a trailer Linden has especially prepared, and when he presents a slide show it’s to a standing-room-only crowd of 500. Response is wildly enthusiastic.
The second week in September, Pippa calls me, gives me a rundown of lines that need to be added or changed in ADR (either Automated Dialogue Replacement or Additional Dialogue Recording, depending on who you talk to). I begin thinking over some of her suggestions.
Three days before I leave for the long drive back to L.A. (I can’t afford to fly on my Life on the Edge wages), the first mention of our film appears in the trades: Linden has taken out a two-page ad in The Hollywood Reporter congratulating the cast and crew on completion of principal photography. I later hear from a producer on another potential project of mine that just that spread alone gave my name a considerably better credibility on his project, so obviously it does pay to advertise.3
I return late on the evening of Sunday, September 25, so anxious to get back into it I can hardly sleep.
Monday, September 26
Tom and I spend much of today in a muddle over the ADR session, scheduled for tomorrow. Not only has Tom not been given a list of lines to loop (we’ve got only the notes Pippa gave me over the phone), he doesn’t even have a copy of the current edit on tape, which obviously I need to see before I can write any new lines. By 4 in the afternoon we have both list and tape, which we obtained only after learning that said items had already been sent to Stanley Mieses in New York, for the purposes of writing new lines. Prior to that, we’d spent the day listening to Glenn Jordan’s basic theme, played simply on piano at this point (and I adore it), and seeing the trailer that had been prepared for the convention (which is awful – Glenn’s music is the only good thing about it, aside from the fact that it’s no longer being used).
Tom and I watch the tape twice, once for me to absorb the new cut, and once for us to stop frame and go over where we need ADR. The new cut is actually something of a mixed bag for me. Although a number of scenes have been vastly improved, especially the dinner scene and the cops (additional use of master shots has really opened these scenes up), the trade-off is we’ve lost several of my favorite shots (including the best shot of Joey leering at Miriam, and a particularly funny shot of the stoned Cindy). On the plus, though, they were actually able to use nearly all of our re-shoots, including the infamous "rolling-the-tube-down-over-the-camera" shot. Overall, the new version differs from the earlier ones by about 70%, and mostly for the better.
By 9 p.m., we have our lines ready, including 7 variations on a line for Miriam. Over the close-up of Crabneck falling into the food, Pippa has suggested a funny "there goes my dessert"-kind of line, and we’ve come up with the following, all of which begin with, "Oh, Henry, my..."
We decide to let the winner be chosen by popular vote tomorrow.
Tuesday, September 27
Almost 12 solid hours of ADR work starts at 10 this morning with Richard Portnow, who is there largely to add rumblings and orgiastic moans to the bathroom scene. We also are treated to an hour-and-a-half of Juliette Lewis giggling drunkenly (for the scene with the cops), Lightfield screaming (when he discovers Crabneck in the kitchen), and Matt Shakman whimpering (during the leech and fight scenes). Donovan Scott is on hand to loop one line, and although Nancy is scheduled for a lengthy session, all she provides today is narration for a new trailer (better than the last but still not great).
The ADR is yet another new learning experience for me, both technically and artistically. Technically, I never realized how often it’s required for scenes where on-set noises bump up against the actors’ dialogue, and artistically I realize that looping styles are as different as acting styles: Portnow is very matter-of-fact, Nancy needs a few moments to tune back in to Miriam, and Matt compounds the realism of his new lines by actually strangling himself (much to his mom’s discomfort).
It’s also nice to hear, over and over, that Life on the Edge was the happiest production most of our cast have ever experienced, and Tom the best director.
For his part, Tom likes to say that Life on the Edge is now his favorite movie, a sentiment that I can certainly second.
Wednesday, September 28
The day begins with a visit to Glenn Jordan’s studio, a converted guest house behind his valley home. It’s a musical wonderland, with synthesizers, mixers, computers, and a VCR hooked to a monitor, upon which Glenn watches a tape of the film to work from. Glenn plays us several almost-compiled cues, including an absolutely brilliant piece for the edge walk. Glenn, who spent a day down at the cannery hitting everything conceivable with drumsticks and recording the resulting noises, has even created whole musical passages composed of pipe noises; by playing the cannery recordings at half-speed and running them through a digital sampler, he can have an entire scale of, say, a PVC pipe being hit while one end is covered.
When we leave Glenn’s, Tom and I are both flying high, feeling that now we really are moving into a rarified upper atmosphere with our little labor of love.
We also discuss something I hit Tom with on Monday, and which he’s starting to like more and more: Dispensing with the narration altogether. I feel it would unnecessarily clutter up the beginning (while providing no new information), and the end is funny enough without it. When Tom had mentioned this idea to Glenn, he’d had an interesting reaction: He said that he’d miss it mainly because he was hoping Tom would actually provide the voice himself!4
At 2 p.m., we have what amounts to our first preview screening. Three British gentlemen, the chief officers of our foreign sales reps, United Media Film Sales, are in town, and in order to present as good a viewing of the movie as possible, Linden has asked us to pack the screening room with enthusiastic friends. The film, though still lacking music, sound effects and finished opticals, is still surprisingly well-received: The assembled guests tell us (with a few exceptions, notably an outraged vegetarian) that they think it’s great, and the Brits seem genuinely impressed. In terms of the film’s ability to transcend international boundaries, they compare it to Crocodile Dundee, predicting a monster hit in foreign territories. My favorite comment, though, is that Mr. Crabneck will be a big favorite in Britain – apparently he perfectly embodies the attributes of a certain type of sleazy character called there a ‘spiv’.
After the screening, we accompany the Brits to a company called Rubber Dubbers, where our sound effects are being worked on. We’re shown a demonstration reel which includes the tick and Splat Spray noises, and I learn that Foley artists no longer simply walk on different surfaces to provide the sound of footsteps; they also provide many of the more unusual sounds (and boy do we have plenty of those).
We also learn that the British reps have started to create poster concepts, including one favorite that shows five pairs of Hollowhead feet poised at the edge of a bottomless drop.
Now we just hope we can impress American distributors as well.
Two strange notes for the day: First, although Linden seems to want to show me off to our visitors (who do indeed compliment me on the script), they somehow completely miss John Chavez5, who has to introduce himself. Secondly, even though the screening was judged hugely successful, it puts Tom in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Upon questioning him about this, he tells me that although he loves the film gigantically when he watches it either alone or with small groups, when he sees it in a real screening it drives him crazy because he notices every minor imperfection, seeing them magnified beyond proportion.
I can only assume this is a reaction common to directors, although oddly enough it’s not one I share – I enjoy the film even more when surrounded by an audience who respond to it.
Thursday, September 19
A day of rest, notable mainly for the discovery of the first mention of Life on the Edge in a national publication: John Glover talka about us briefly in a small interview in Playboy.
It’s still enough to make me a little dizzy.
Friday, September 30
Linden calls early this morning, asking if I have any suggestions for ad lines.
Boy, do I have suggestions for ad lines:
"A story of love, devotion and tubes."
"Meet the Hollowheads. They’re not just ordinary people."6
"Just when you thought it was safe to bring the boss home for dinner."
"A long time ago in a tube far, far away..."
"Mom said Henry should never have brought his new boss home for dinner, but Father knows best. This time, Mother was right."
"Son Bud sings with chickens. Daughter Cindy’s had too much softening jelly. Little Billy’s destroyed his room with his Splat Spray game. Mom’s tubes are blocked again. And dad’s just killed his boss. For the Hollowheads, it’s another day of life on the Edge."
"Remember the first time you choked your chicken?" (OK, just kidding about that one.)
Far and away everyone’s favorite, though, is:
"A new film from the creators of Life on the Edge."
3. Apparently it doesn't pay that much - this project never went anywhere.
4. Tom's got a great voice, deep and friendly, and has done narration for other projects.
5."...somehow completely miss..." Wasn't I just adorably naive?
6. It chills me now to look back and realize that, with this sentence, I may have inadvertantly provided the film's (horrid) final title.
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