Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Epic Story of How We Shot Our First Movie

Last weekend was the bomb.

I spent the first few hours of the 27th year of my life detained in a police station. I had a tackle with the Border Patrol. I spent 20 hours working on a film (God, please let it be good!) and driving from Ramat Hasharon to the Good Samaritan, to Jerusalem, to Tel Aviv, to Ramat Gan to some place that only exists in dreams, to... yes, it’s possible I fell asleep on the way a time or two. Sue me. I found an unmarked Nabataean fort in the desert. I created a new religion based on fighting the Getreur inside every one of us... and became its first apostate. I ate a hamburger the size of my head at sunrise. Why? Because it’s the breakfast of champions. That’s why!

Listen now – this is my story.

It all began with a decision to shoot a short film for Israeli Storyteller, but got much, MUCH more than what we bargained for. Since criminal charges might be involved, I will replace the names of the participants with nicknames reflective of their personalities. Our heroes are thus:

Good Guys
The Director, a director
The Bon Vivant, an actor
The Caretaker, also an actor
The Curmudgeon, a producer
The Girl with No Name, an actress
Igor, a handyman, bringer of beer, mememaster, etc...

Bad Guys
Border Patrol, limiters of free movement, free will and free enterprise
Jerusalem Police, purveyors of injustice and oppression
God, a sadistic SOB with a mean sense of humor
Getruer, an evil inclination present in all

Ugly Guys
Yo mama


This bottle is a major plot device (in film and real life)

The Preparation
It was decreed that my Levantine Fantasy project is in a dire need of a movie. Also, a movie was decreed to be a fun way to spend the weekend. Also, the weekend happened to be my birthday, which is always a good excuse to drag my friends into strange places to do strange things. Also, I have friends who never say no to anything, except to constructive and socially acceptable activities.

The Director and I created a script and a list of equipment, ignored it for two weeks, got utterly hysterical two days before the scheduled shooting, let the actors know their roles late in the night before the shooting, and got about half of the props we needed for the film, but twice the equipment, both in quality and in quantity. Seriously, the boomstick we got (a big microphone, not a comically misnamed shotgun) could hear a person breathing a few meters away and a person whispering thirty meters away. I’d never felt as alive as when it was on me. I’d never felt alive since we returned it to the warehouse.

On the morning before we left, the Director said that everything that could go wrong, would go wrong during the shooting. He was wrong. Many things that couldn’t go wrong still went wrong.

Waiting for the storm... and the latecomers!

The Trip
Since our car was stuffed to the point of looking bloated (like, cartoon level of bloated) with props, equipment, firewood and people, we were all too happy when our Igor suggested volunteering his car for the trip. We divided the people between cars and agreed to meet on a hill about 15 kilometers from Jerusalem about an hour before sunrise.

My car arrived more or less in time, without any incidents, and we immediately started breaking the firewood (by getting shirtless and hitting them with large rocks – the manly way) and setting the scene. The second car, however, started its adventure early. You see, since the people of the car (curses be upon them) didn’t find the hill I mentioned on the GPS (for a reason that will become clear later) they decided to punch in the nearest town... which was 120 kilometers away. Fortunately, I discovered their mistake only after they drove in the wrong direction for half an hour and directed them to our location manually.

En route, they entered every single Jewish or Palestinian town, not unlike a CRPG character clearing a dungeon, the dungeon in that case being my nerves. The coup de grace came when they, after spending almost three hours driving a distance of about 50 kilometers, had finally appeared over the horizon, racing the sun to make it in time. They reached our hill just as the sun kissed the mountains... and turned back.

You see, a person who will not be named, but at whom a very accusing finger will be pointed, had to pee. Being a civilized person, they needed a gas station. So they turned back and drove to a gas station about a ten minutes’ drive away.


On the plus side, when they did arrive, it looked pretty cool...

Shooting #1
Because we missed the sun, we decided to stay until sunrise and do the light scenes then. The Director lives only 20 kilometers from the hill, so we could spend the night in his place.

The shooting actually went very well. I was in charge of sound, Igor of lightning and the Director of *gasp* direction and shooting. The Bon Vivant and the Caretaker are both experienced roleplayers so they stayed in-character even between scenes and actually made some very cool additions to the story as they lived it for the night. The Girl With no Name was great sport and grudgingly agreed to stay with us until morning. Plus, she looked positively radiant in her Clint Eastwood costume (at this point you wonder WTF) and proved to be perfect for her role.

Igor brought copious amounts of beer. Happy b-day wishes started pouring in at like 00:00:01. Even my mom called and made some remarks about me being an irresponsible idiot and whatnot. I mean, the night was going swell!

At about 2 AM I was drunk like a bear, we finished shooting the night scenes, and we were ready for our break. I let the Caretaker drive because the world kept doing these funny bouncing motions. I was a responsible, law-abiding citizen... and was going to pay the price for it.

Responsible, law-abiding citizen... yeah, right.

The Break
We came to the Director’s home, hungry like wolves, and started considering how to spend four hours until sunrise. His DVD wasn’t working, we didn’t have the presence of mind to play (or make coherent sentences) the Girl With No Name fell asleep, boots, hat and all in the Director’s room, cutting us from the computer. The Caretaker was snoring in a manner reminiscent of a jet engine used to crush rocks and was generally not a pretty thing to behold.

We decided to go out. Now, Jerusalem by Night is an awesome place. What’s less awesome are its entertainment and food prospects. Let’s face it; Jerusalem is no Tel Aviv, if anything is open on the weekend it’s too expensive, it sucks, or both. Darting from one place to another, we ran into the police.

The Bon Vivant had a joint and I had a knife.


The Prison
Not really. We were only detained for questioning. While waiting for the investigator to come and investigate our sorry asses, we enjoyed the company of an utterly stoned dude who kept assaulting the police officers, at one point punching a hole through the wall with his head. There were also two black people who kept complaining about how ALL white people are racists. The irony of this statement, it seems, sadly went over their heads.

A curious thing I noticed was that most cops spoke Arabic, which probably implies that Israel is not as much an apartheid state as the Western media would like you to believe. When the cops weren’t paying attention, the Bon Vivant and I talked Russian. The Ethiopians, seeing no one listened to them, moved to Amharic. In short, it was a right proper Tower of Babel.

Eventually, the investigator graced us with his presence, asked some moronic questions, ignored our answers, gathered fingerprints, took our pictures and told us to bugger off, which we did.

On the plus side, we no longer had to worry about how to spend the time. Courtesy of the Jerusalem Police, we had a nice little detention to last us through the night.

Oh, and the pigs took my knife. They will be hearing from my (non-existent) lawyer soon.

Bloody pigs.

Good thing the cops didn't come earlier...

The Prison Break
As I said, getting arrested certainly helped us spend the night. However it did not feed us (fed us up, sure, fed on us, maybe, but not fed us.) Now, Jerusalem by Night, is the loneliest, darkest and sorriest place on the planet (consider this statement to replace the previous statement). Walking the streets, not having the faintest idea where we are, we felt like the rapture happened tonight and we and the cops were the only sinners left on earth. Oh well, at least we did some sweet, sweet sinning back in the day.

Eventually, as the sky began to brighten up, we found the car. But I was not yet ready to go back to finish shooting the film. The smell of hamburgers filled the air and I’d be damned if I wouldn’t start the first day of my 27th year chewing on an epic piece of meat.

It was a time for the breakfast of champions.

The day just begun and there was much more to go wrong, but back then, courageously taking on half a kilo of 100% beef hamburgers with freshly baked buns, a ton of vegetables, exotic sauces and a slab of cheese you could hide a murder tool inside, certainly made the morning feel brighter.

Don’t judge me. I bloody earned this epic hamburger.

Shooting #2
We returned to much jokes and laughter from the guys and drove forth to finish what we started. With the light of the day and some leisure to explore the area, we realized the hill was more than just a hill, but an ancient fort. So hooray for that. We were also almost arrested, again, this time by border patrol, because apparently we shot the film in A) Palestinian Territories (in retrospect, all the Arabic graffiti should have been a strong clue) and B) Closed military area.

However, because there is so much time God can spend tormenting a small group of generally harmless people, the Border Patrol let us go, telling us to coordinate such trips with the IDF next time. Trust me boys – there won’t be a next time.

Coincidentally, the Border Patrol were also Arabic speakers, leading me to suspect the media got this occupation story all wrong. But nevermind the politics, we have HIGH ART to discuss.

The day shooting, despite a mild hangover on some of the actors’ part, proved to be a great success. We improvised some glorious scenes, made some delightful landscape shots and even toured the ancient fort a bit, making a couple of modest archeological findings which sadly failed to release any ancient demons or antediluvian deities.
Guarding our discovery... a gateway to darkness!

The Return
I felt I was too tired to drive and so gave the steering wheel to the ever reliable Caretaker. I don’t remember much of the trip. One moment I was in Jerusalem, another in Arcadia, then I passed by Latroun, then I was a bird high in the sky, then the Caretaker told me, “get out of the car you bum, we’re home.”

Yeah, staying awake for three days has its perks.

Like after every birthday party or semi-surreal adventure, I woke up with a major headache the following day. But you know what? Despite the flint with the police, despite the loss of a valuable artifact, despite the cold, and the fatigue and the pain and constant, mind-numbing recital of memes, it was all worth it.


And what about the movie? If it comes out great, than yay, we all win. If it comes out mediocre, the experience of making it will be awesome instead.

This is it. The story of a weekend that was. Now if you feel like helping me to complete a cool book where much cooler characters experience much cooler adventures, feel free to donate a few bucks here. If not, like my man Conan says, to hell with you! :)


  1. Heh, more or less an accurate portrayal of events.
    I would just insert that waiting for their comrades, The Director and Igor were trying to outwit the guards at the police-station for an hour and a half and failing miserably.
    Also, a notable achievement was managing to piss off my roommate, at the heartfelt reunion upon your release, circa 5am, Saturday morning. One of the nicest people I've ever met.
    Chills went down my spine.

    I didn't know they took the knife... that's the fucking suck.
    You shouldn't have told them it was rare, it gave them all the more reason to confiscate it.

    1. Yeah, but on the other hand, it gives me more reasons to demand they return it.