One of my favorite short poems, its author long forgotten and its early date unknown, goes like this:
“Oh wild west wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down may rain.
Oh God that I was in my bed
And my love in my arms again.”
A wild wind, perhaps not from the west, blew into my life over this past weekend, jostling my preconceptions and scattering them like leaves.
This was the shooting in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, of a low budget independent film, written by a brilliant young man, just out of the North Carolina School of the Arts, and his friends.
They have worked together on many other projects and know how to get things done, with long days and a lot of planning and organization.
I had a bit part as a naïve member of a fundamentalist Christian Church (these church goers have given the filmmakers a lot of grief because of what they see as slurs—but all jokes, all irony, are seen by someone as slurs.)
This apparently dim-witted woman, whom I played dressed in a 1930’s flowered sack with the kind of scooped neck, lace bordered, that carries no hint of sexiness—after all, it is hot in the south—delivered a short monologue in a flat tone about her father’s instruction on not wasting time. The director told me it was intended to put the star of the film, a beautiful young woman known as X, to sleep, and it did.
Then came hours and hours of shooting and reshooting, the incredible energy of this group of twenty-somethings never diminishing. Mine, of course, did. But I was delighted to be included as one of the extras in a crazy culminating scene when a basketball team charged across the floor, a marching band of clowns came tootling through, and all I had to do was scream.
Two of my sons have been or are in the independent film business where I thought it only grew—New York and Los Angeles. The cost there is prohibitive and finding money is nearly impossible; the star system makes casting a low budget film impossible. But here, in this small southern town and doubtless in small and larger towns all over the country, creativity reigns.
I didn’t like to see that X, who shares a house with some of the crew, slither on her stomach under the production board that had taken the place of her door, but I began to wonder if what we found so demeaning no longer bears that poison; one of the young men slithered under, too. And, most remarkably for me, the house was orderly to a degree and a list prohibited the use of drugs. Have we really come this far? And if so, what brought about the change?