We arrive at the club early so we can give the women working tonight a general heads-up and explanation and hopefully avoid the tension of the previous night. When we get there, Jimmy asks to talk with me in the storage room. I brace myself for the worst.
"Okay, Andy, here's how it's gonna be. I'm not gonna back out on my promise to you and your people. You finish your movie and we'll make it work."
"Yeah, I think we can, Jimmy."
"You need the stage, you tell me. You need the dressing room, you let me know and I'll tell the girls. Anything you need, you let me know. We're gonna have your girls get dressed here, makes my girls more comfortable."
"Okay, that works."
"We're gonna work together, Andy. People gotta work together in harmony. There's gotta be harmony everywhere. It's beautiful."
"I agree completely, Jimmy."
And the night is indeed more harmonious. Knowing that we're not there to fuck them over, the dancers are more friendly and accomodating, and they even offer a few script notes. And the cast uses their real-life counterparts as a resource, particularly Sheena Shaw - an actor after my own heart - who spends the night observing and grilling dancers for her relatively small role (a wide-eyed innocent named Gwen). The entire cast is as prepared as Sheena; in the past, to direct was a constant struggle to get people to remember their lines and being resented for it, so it's no small thing that my cast has shown up prepared and ready to play. It's easy to get through any challenges this and every night brings, because they've taken care of the biggest one.
This is not to say that there aren't difficult-bordering-on-absurd moments. In one of Sheena's scenes, Dusty gives Gwen a breakdown of the financial details of working at the club. The numbers in the script are taken straight from my ex-dancer friends, but according to Bella, they're implausible. Perhaps it's a difference between clubs in Maine and Massachusetts, and honestly, it doesn't make a lot of difference to me. But it does to Bella, and if it's taking her out of the scene, it's worth tweaking. The problem is, Danielle has memorized her lines so completely that she can't get the new numbers out, and when she does, she loses her place in the scene. We're trying to come up with a mnemonic device to remember the new line when Jimmy, who has been observing, chimes in.
"Forget all this ten percent, twenty percent - you just tell her she'll make five hundred dollars!"
Now that Jimmy's doing rewrites, everyone in the room starts offering suggestions at once, a cacaphony of script notes. Ignoring my impulse to pull a Barry Egan, I ask for silence, and we work through it. I make a point of remembering that, despite my ideals of collaborative art, filmmaking by committe quickly becomes filmmaking by mob if the director doesn't know when to say "wait."
But honestly, that's about all I have for stories of creative conflict - for the most part, everyone works together wonderfully. I spend one break chatting with a couple of guys who are working on Edge of Darkness, the Mel Gibson movie shooting at the same time in Northampton. It's the movie that Robert DeNiro left after a day's shooting; according to these guys, "creative differences" in this case meant that DeNiro didn't know his lines and was asked to leave. So when your cast works harder than DeNiro (bloated 21st-century DeNiro, at least), it's hard to complain.
We're also able to use more club patrons in scenes tonight. I ask a guy who looks just like Ernest Borgnine if he'll sit opposite KT for a scene where Nadja is using her "vampire routine" on a customer. I tell the Borg, basically, to smile and nod, but from the first take, he decides to improvise - talking back to Nadja in bastardized French and making kissy-faces. By the third take, he's groping her in a way that's just wrong, but they're perfect for KT's performance and the scene. KT's a trouper, especially in a scene that involves her being discovered in a bathroom stall with a john who is literally caught with his pants down. The guy playing the john, Mike Affleck, responded to my ads looking for actors for a non-porn, adult-oriented film asking if there was any part for him to get naked. Mike likes to expose himself, and he's driven three hours to drop his pants for my movie. It's a credit to KT's commitment to her craft that she's willing to be upstaged by an erection. I'm happy that the film will have equal-opportunity nudity, and incidentally, it was huge. So huge, in fact, that I discover later while watching footage with some of the cast that it's not completely in the frame. I'm proud to be working with a group of people that will audibly express disappointment at not being able to see all of a 50-year-old man's penis.
Before we shoot a scene of Nadja onstage, KT asks me whether I expect nudity. We'd discussed it a bit during the casting process, so I reiterate that, while nudity seems logical, the emphasis will be more on movement and performance. When KT gets onstage, she dances quite well, but does not disrobe. Since it's not important to my concept of the movie that the nudity be comprehensive, and since I can't ever see myself standing off-camera yelling "Take off your top," I shrug it off. But before I start the next scene, Bella protests.
"Is this really the way you want to do this? I feel like I'm the only one taking my clothes off, and I don't want it to be, 'Oh, Bella Vendetta the famous porn star is naked the whole time, and everyone else keeps their clothes on.'"
I want to point out that several cast members, male and female, have been nude in the film. I want to say that it has nothing to do with fame, that I'd never heard of her before she wrote me, and that her work in porn, while very interesting, is not the reason she got this part. But I don't, because she's taken my request to challenge my thinking on this film seriously, and taken ownership of Black Light, and she's protecting the movie we agreed to make. So - as I'm learning to do - I bite my lip and simply say that not everyone did exactly what I'd anticipated. And KT says "Alright, let's do it again." It turns out I was so polite before that she thought I didn't want her to be nude. And she'd been looking forward to it. Lesson learned.
We're running extremely low on time, and we still have a fight scene to shoot. I start to edit in my head, doing each take only as long as I'll use that angle, and thanks to the cast, I'm able to move on after two takes of each shot. The same is true for a scene between Danielle and Bella, and then between Bella and Michael. It's been another long day and night, but I'm proud to have shot about 25 pages in a day and wrap on time. Now it's eight days down, one - the ending both of the movie and production - to go.