Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Cold Trap

Please forgive my absence these last weeks, but I have been traveling and working! See where below...

I don't know how I was awake, but I did it.

After my flight left before it was supposed to (it was supposed to leave at midnight but instead left at 9pm without telling me), I caught the next possible flight out of Florida, where I was visiting my family, at 6am. We left my house at 4:30am. This flight would take me to New York, where I was supposed to catch a 9:30am train to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Ultimately, I had to change the train times, but luckily Amtrak lets you do that for free if you do it far enough in advance (and luckily less than 12 hours was far enough in advance). But I had to get to Lancaster that day because that's when I promised I would be there. And I don't break my promises.

I tried to sleep on the plane, but to no avail. It was more of a process of just having my eyes closed and perpetually shoving my dress around my feet to keep them warm. My nerves jittered. When the plane landed, I was simultaneously groggy and wide awake. It was time to move. I went to retrieve my bag, which was supposed to have come in on the flight the night before. Instead, the airline lost it. All out of anger, I went home and just started laughing because on top of it all, a banana I had brought to eat on the plane exploded in my purse. You can't make this stuff up.

I smiled and shook my head, showered, shoved a few essential items in my bag, went to the bagel joint near my house and grabbed a bacon, egg, and cheese on a whole wheat flat bagel and a black tea with milk and Splenda and headed to Penn Station, where I got my train (and a window seat!) with no problem. Praise be to our Lordess and Savior RuPaul.

I was excited to be back in Lancaster. I loved the clean air, the endless cornfields, the Amish buggies that occasionally pass you by; I love all the greenery, the bright blue sky, and that it's still a land where you can get a bottle of soda for $1.50. And I was excited to be there for the actual reason I was there--to do production stills on the set of the forthcoming feature film The Cold Trap.

The Cold Trap is the story of George and Rebecca, a couple who refuse to recognize each other's toxicity. Their relationship unfolds in a Paradise, PA motel room which we learn, to use the production's phrase, becomes both their haven and their penitentiary. My friend, actor Peter Ferraiolo, plays George, and his partner Bianca Puorto plays Rebecca. Their friends made up the cast and crew of the film, many from The Actor's Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York where they, along with Peter and Bianca, study. The rest, like screenwriter Benjamin Spirk, reside in Lancaster. The project came about after Peter and Ben first staged a version of the work in play form in 2012 at Millersville University's Four Corners Festival. They had been talking about making it a movie ever since, and now, after raising all of the funds they needed on Indiegogo, they and the team have done it.

I remember a few months ago sitting with Peter at a bar and listening to him talk about the project. While he's an excellent actor, he's not a bullshit artist, so when he really believes in something his enthusiasm is catching. And he's not a person who ever asks for help, so when he does I know it really means something to him. I wanted to help, but we needed to figure out how--could I write about it? Could I do something else? I wondered if they needed production stills...and it turns out they did.

The fact that they were filming in Lancaster was part of the draw for me. Lancaster gets pegged often as some quiet, little Amish cow town, but it actually has a thriving arts scene--rows of galleries, scads of music venues, a bustling downtown area with great bars and restaurants; it's a city enough that even a sworn Manhattanite like me never feels far from home. If anything, I feel more at home around the friendly people who love their city. It's a shame more films don't get made out there, that it's not more of a destination.

Shooting took place at the Amish Lanterns Motel, designated with a sign out front that must be from the 1970s, with its stagecoach-style lettering and the word 'MOTEL' in giant, blaring red letters that glow on a white rectangle when it gets dark. The walls were scratched and scraped with paint, doors in disrepair with punch-holes in their centers, peeling wallpaper, and a host of other details that made this the perfect set where George and Rebecca, in their throes of frustration and misery, could be brought to life.

As soon as I arrived I set down my luggage and started taking pictures. People quickly became aware of my signature camera snap and I was grateful that they began to ignore it--I like it better that way, when people stop seeing you and just become themselves (a little bit more, anyway). I watched as they shot take after take speaking Ben's beautifully tangled and mysterious prose, setting up the different scenes from a variety of angles. It was so interesting to see talented people doing their work up so close--because really, how often do you get to see something like that? Not only that, but to be able to interact with people I know in their line of work while I was doing my own work. It felt like one of those times in your life you're fully conscious will never be duplicated (unless they bring me out to photograph their next film! Wink wink...). I chugged a Diet Mountain Dew in the early evening to keep going, which I hadn't done since college or since I swore off soda in January. It was important to me to stay true to my word for the people who had brought me out there and not pass out as soon as I arrived.

I knew how a movie was made, of course, but I had never been on an actual set of one before. I shot their rehearsals before takes, I shot Chelsea Lockie, the director, applying makeup to different cast members, I shot everyone's smoke breaks in between takes. I shot their down time before shooting began when Jesse Stone, the sound engineer, would play the guitar and talk to Shashwat Gupta, the DP; and their down time at the end of the day when everyone would sit outside and drink Red Stripe beer and eat Twizzlers and listen to a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack playlist from Spotify. Shoutout to actresses Leah Kreitz and Olivia Hardin who, in their full-on hooker garb, were both terrifying and amazing to photograph, too. I loved absorbing everyone's energy, their nervousness, how important this was to them not just to churn something out but to really create something they were proud of because they had already invested so much. Wrapping for the day felt like a huge accomplishment even for me, so I can imagine what it felt like for them. And when I left, maybe even like George and Rebecca, part of me stayed.

As of yesterday, the film has wrapped in totality. I'm excited to see The Cold Trap in all of its stages to come, and I'm so happy I could have contributed in some way to the work of such passionate, talented, motivated people. Below are a few pictures from the set, and more will come in the not-too-distant future.

Shot on location
Bianca Puorto and Peter Ferraiolo as Rebecca and George
Leah Kreitz, in costume
Jesse Stone, sound engineer, with
Mike Texter, production assistant
Peter assists, with Chelsea, Shash, and Bianca
Leah and Ben (as character Bertie) in costume
Shash and Chelsea
Olivia in costume as character Heaven