Gary has been hounding me to write a piece on the short film we made, “Strangers in the Night”. I think, for better or for worse, a film, long or short, should stand on it’s own without an explanation from the filmmakers. With that in mind, I won’t talk about the story itself. But I will talk a little about the making of the film and how it all came about.
Gary and I had been working on a full length screenplay called “Bar Stories”. The premise of this script was quite simple: We would follow different stories that all originated from the same place, the “Bar” of the title. While this script was, at best, uneven, it did have a lot of heart.
When I decided to attend the Motion Picture Pro Course in New York City, I needed an idea for a six minute short. Gary and I plucked part of one of these “Bar Stories”. We did quite a few rewrites, getting the script down to about ten pages. Unfortunately, real life interfered with “reel” life and Gary could not be present for the actual shooting.
My instructor at the school was Ralph Toporoff. He has been in the business for many years and had made his own full length feature, “American Blue Note”. Ralph and I did more rewrites on the script. We cut a few things here and there, trimmed some dialogue, and finally got the script down to a mere six pages. (For some of you who might not know, one page of a screenplay equals about one minute of screen time.) I then started to storyboard and get my shot list in order.
We started the casting process, auditioning real New York actors. I met a lot of talented people in this process. So many in fact that it became tough to make a decision about who to cast! But, in the end, I’m happy with the choices I made.
Shooting went smoothly. We shot about four pages before lunch. The remaing two pages were shot that afternoon. We had to lay down dolly tracks, so it took a little longer to shoot. The cast and crew were all true professionals. It was a joy to work with them.
The film was cut over the next few days. As you now can see, "Strangers in the Night" really has three fathers: Ralph Toporoff, Gary and myself. And so, to make a long story short (pun intended) that’s about it. It was a great experience. What are my feelings now? I’d like to leave off with a quote from Orson Welles from his 1979 documenty “Filming Othello”.
“I leave you with a confession. This hasn’t been as easy as I could have wished. There are too many regrets. Too many things I wish I could have done over again. If it wasn’t a memory…If it was a project for the future, talking about Othello would have been nothing but delight. Promises are more fun than explanations…With all my heart I wish that I wasn’t looking back at Othello but looking forward to it…That Othello would be one hell of a picture…”
My shooting script of "Strangers in the Night". The straight lines with arrows at the ends are the shots. The numbers next to these lines refer to the shot number. The scribbled lines mean the shot has been completed.