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Holding for Sound: Field Notes From the Filming of “Zeus” – Part V

The following is a continuing account from the filming of “Zeus”, an independent screenplay written by Jeremy H. and me. It being my first foray into DIY filmmaking, I was proud to have been apart of the process, to incorporate aspects of home into the story and to do so with a number of great friends and family.

Bona bathroom. Hunter to Morgan (green vest): "Get me a granola bar NOW or I'm heading back to my trailer!" I lie.

Saturday, hours 144 through 168. Marc was leaving by the afternoon, and we needed Jeremy and Marc’s interior truck scene, which involved driving around Olean, Hunter and I crammed in the back seats with our equipment, and a simple shot of Marc pulling into a parking spot to pick up Jeremy. We had to improvise on this last bit. Jeremy’s character is coming home, so what’s a spot around Olean that could look like a bus or train stop? JCC, we thought. Nah. The old Poppy’s plaza across the street from Beef n’ Barrel would do. It helped that the seating area facing Union Street has one of those squirrel statues, the ones Jeremy despises for no good reason. The plump, monolithic nut-biter made it into the movie. Poetic justice for the squirrels, I guess.

Anyway, to wrap this up because this is getting long-winded, we get all the truck scenes in time for Marc to get to work and not get fired. After he takes off, we take over Jeremy’s neighbor’s house, who were so kind to not only welcome us into their home but to play themselves in the movie. The husband took no issue with his brief cameo in the film, a part that called for very minimal wardrobe. In fact, he was quite ecstatic about donning tighty whities, exclusively.

By 3ish, we were chowing on one of Morgan’s insane lunches and primed for our last shot of the day. We had yet to have a schedule like Saturday’s – a handful of shots and more than enough time to nap and relax.

A bathroom in St. Bonaventure’s Reilly Center was our last stop of the day. Part of the Funeral Home scene early in the movie requires a bathroom conversation between Jeremy and the Funeral Director, played by Dennis Casey, an actual funeral home director in Allegany. Problem is the bathroom at Casey Funeral Home is tiny. We needed something bigger, and for whatever reason, we were dead set on shooting inside a bathroom at Bona’s.

Just around the corner from “The Buzz” campus radio station, Morgan, myself, Jeremy, Hunter and Dennis took over the bathroom, filling up once-empty floor space with equipment bags. During my time at school, this was the unofficial DJ’s bathroom, with the most quiet stalls on campus, especially during my old 9 to 11 p.m. radio show time slot, when I used to just throw on one of Coheed and Cambria’s 8-minute epics, grab the BV campus paper … and you get the idea. Anyway, this wasn’t exactly the most dignified scene for brave Dennis, but he remained excited about the project and willing to help out wherever. Dennis would be required to enter a stall, take a seat and then carry on a conversation with a confused Jeremy, who essentially carries on with Dennis’s feet. To top it off, the scene ends with a super-awkward and completely unsanitary handshake over the stall. Like I said, not the most dignified.

Leftovers from the Party scene.

Part of crew and our pet bobcat, who does well in photographs

Dennis didn’t seem to mind, though. In fact, he did wonderfully. He’s got one of those calming, audiobook-reader voices, and his lines picked up nicely in the boom mic I held over the stall door.

I couldn’t help but to think again of our growing list of Olean folks who were so willing and eager to help out a couple schmucks. The growing list now included: Jeremy’s Uncle (playing the school principal); Senneca’s aunt (Zeus’s sister); Jeremy’s neighbors (themselves); Gary, owner of AJ’s (as himself); Liz, Lindsey and Justyne (the Three Fates); Senneca’s dad, Al (as the snobby arcade clerk) and now Dennis the funeral home director as himself.

These were some of the real-life folks we imagined while we wrote the script, and here they were, during the course of the week, putting in their time, eager to contribute. It was staggering just how welcoming and excited everyone was to be apart. It was an awesome feeling.

“That’s a wrap for Dennis,” Jeremy said.

Thing was, Dennis wasn’t done helping us out. Sunday morning, he would welcome Jeremy and Hunter, along with Jeremy’s parents and a number of extras to film the “Zeus’s Wake” scene in his funeral home. He offered to set up chairs and let us use some leftover flowers and an urn to make it look like a legit wake. Couldn’t believe his generosity.

With the bathroom scene wiped out, our day was done by 10 p.m. We headed back to Emily’s house to dump all the video and audio files onto computers and spent the rest of the night talking rock n’ roll. It would be my last night “on set”. My plane left out of Buffalo at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Out of the bullpen, Jeremy's Dad earned the save, holding for sound.

As for Sunday’s final scene, someone else would have to man the audio at the funeral home. Keeping with the DIY theme of the entire week, Jeremy wouldn’t find any problem roping in a fill-in. His dad was more than willing.

What I figured to be a sluggish week was anything but. Six days flew by, and I was shocked at how quickly time passed while putting in those long hours. Getting dropped off at my family’s house, I felt that something special was coming to a close. Sure, the days were long and stressful at times, but the project had turned out to be a memorable experience, a testament to investing time, energy, everything, into a single vision. “Zeus” had started as two guys, writing down ideas and eventually snowballed into a full-length feature film coming alive over one week. That reality was and still is both exciting and addicting (Can’t wait to do it again).

Each of us had contributed in some form or another. Some put on their green acting hats while others held a clipboard and catalogued audio files. There were no small tasks. Without those contributions from friends and family, “Zeus” wouldn’t have been made. No way. And when the final cut shows to an audience outside of those involved, we’ll all be content knowing that, at the very least, we nobodies (and a couple soon-to-be somebodies) got together in sleepy towns and made some art on their own terms. Just how art should be made.

"Would the four grizzled dudes creeping kids out in the HCS cafeteria please report back to your day jobs? Thank you."

Face stretches during Day One.