Copyright 2009 Anoray. All rights reserved.
 
10th & 12th December, 2009

Los Angeles, CA



 

SUDDEN DEATH! SET REPORT by ANORAY


I preface this report with a big thank you to Dougie, HM and Melanie Hall for all their help and enthusiasm in making my set visits to SUDDEN DEATH! possible.

First Visit: Thursday, December 10, 2009:

Thankfully, there was no rain falling as I drove the long distance to the Sudden Death! ("SD") set near downtown Los Angeles. I even managed to avoid the traffic backup caused by a fender bender near my exit since I exited the 110 FWY at 9th. Cutting through the skyscrapers, I gradually made my way into an ancient looking, industrial warehouse district. My destination had an enormous, bright blue water tower on the roof--hard to miss! I parked between two massive buildings near a large grip truck figuring I was in the right place. I rang Melanie Hall, the producer, to let her know I was outside. A few moments later, a fresh faced, lovely young woman let me in through a battered metal door. So this was the super nice person who'd been so helpful setting up my visit! I told her she looked way too young to be married and she laughed, saying she hears that a lot.

The inside of the warehouse reminded me of the scene in HBII where Hellboy, Abe Sapien and Johann Krauss are seeking the entrance to the Troll Market. It was as cold as a meat locker sans the meat! Melanie led me past various pre-built sets (such as a church interior and hospital rooms), only some of which were being used for SD. Melanie kindly took the time from her very busy schedule to introduce me to various friendly, youthful crew members along the way. It was Puppy Heaven! She was so pleased to get my little goody bag for her and her husband, Adam Hall, the director. Adam looked about 14 years old, yet he had the assured, unflappable demeanor of a man three times his age. I also shook hands with lead actor, Matt Lutz (playing Nathan), a real charmer with a big, perfect smile and All American good looks.

Off to the side was a separate shoebox of a room that was heated. This was called the Green Room. Melanie whisked my shivering self inside, where I found my beloved Dougie sitting and signing some paperwork. He stood up with a beaming smile, looking smart and smexy in his white lab coat. "Precious Donoray!" He greeted me by engulfing me into a major bosie, complete with his special brand of petting and sweet nothings. As always, it was a joy to feel his arms around me and hear his voice so close to my ear. Cold? What cold? Reluctantly letting Dougie go, I showed him I had a goody bag and Fan Sapien greetings to share, and his eyes lit up even more. "Oh, how precious!" He stifled a cough and gestured for me to take the seat next to him.

Seeing I was in very good hands, Melanie left me and returned to the set. I kept Dougie company while he finished filling out his paperwork during the end of the lunch break. He introduced me to the very pretty lead actress, Autumn Hurlbert (Rachel). She was petite and full of energy, with sparkling blue eyes and golden red hair to compliment her engaging personality. A few others basking in the room's warmth included Kahle McCann, the film's wild-haired, witty lyricist (plus he played lab assistant Todd); the serene and lovely Beth Castle (a singing lab assistant); Laura Hill, the friendly and funny makeup artist (who had recently worked with Doug on his Doritos Super Bowl commercial); and the very gracious production coordinator, Tish Dragonette (cool name!).

Since Dougie needed to head back to the laboratory set soon, we set aside his goody bag and letters for a later break. However, I made sure he immediately got the package of Hall's lemon and honey cough drops Michele asked me to bring. He was so grateful for her (and everyone's) TLC! He sucked on a lozenge while we chatted about how Dougie got involved with SD. Adam had heard about Doug through a friend at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center , where Doug has spoken frequently. This friend offered to make the connection and Adam sent Doug the script. Six weeks later, Doug finally had a chance to read it and found himself laughing all the way through it. He told Adam he liked the project so much he'd be happy to play "gravel on the street!" He was originally asked to play the small part of Billy (Doug prefers cameo roles when doing student films because they can be shot in a day). However, after meeting with Adam and Melanie, Doug became so enthusiastic about them and their project, he managed to fit the larger role of Jonathan (the head scientist) into his schedule.

When I asked Dougie what else he was up to lately, he told me about an interview he was scheduled to do in a few days for the FX Channel called "DVD on TV," a program similar to "Dinner and a Movie." Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was scheduled to air on January 18, 2010, so Doug would be taped December 14th and interviewed by the host about his involvement in the making of the movie.

First A.D. MaryAnn Clark called out it was time to return to the lab set. Like the delightfully curly blond hair she kept under control with a baseball hat, she made sure things ran smoothly on and off the set. I put my coat back on and Dougie donned his cozy FF: Silver Surfer coat to keep warm. As we passed Adam, Dougie took a moment to playfully spank him on the butt "for luck." Dougie happily explained to me one of the good things about getting older is being able to say goofy things whenever you want--and do things like spank the director's butt--and people don't seem to mind. Dougie shrugged his shoulders and grinned. "They probably think to themselves: 'Aww, he's just old.'"

Dougie showed me around the lab set and I noted Matt and Autumn also wore white lab coats over business clothes. Doug told me the scene involved Matt (Nathan) and Autumn (Rachel) trying to help Doug (Jonathan) find a cure for the SD disease. When Nathan and Rachel's hands accidently touch a beaker, they burst into a romantic song about tender feelings for each other ... then Nathan pulls a face and sings "her hands felt like sausage" in an attempt to save himself from falling in love and potential heartbreak. Rachel retorts angrily that his hands feel like sausage, then they wind up deserting the lab to have coffee together and work out their angst. Meanwhile, Jonathan must deal with their ridiculous musical and emotional outbursts and stay on track finding a cure. As they stalk off, he calls out in a mixture of resignation and exasperation, "Okay, cool. I'll do all the work."

I found an out of the way place to observe once filming commenced. In between takes, Melanie explained that the warehouse owners already had several pre-built hospital type sets they rent out, so the SD crew merely converted this area into the lab set. The art direction and props were very interesting: the room was chock full of test tubes, beakers and other scientific and medical equipment. An impressive digital camera was rigged onto a dolly track. Adam told me later it's the same kind of camera they used on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and other high profile films. In another area, a large console manned by the genial sound operator was set off to the side from where Adam sat. Adam watched his camera monitor intently during filming, flanked by other crew members, as the actors performed take after take.

Adam had prerecorded everyone's vocal parts so they could listen to the playback on set and sing along as they performed the actions to assure a proper lip synch. Autumn's voice was sweet and clear with an impressive range. Matt's sonorous tenor intertwined beautifully with her soprano--and contradiction between the beautiful melodies and the comedic lyrics was very amusing. It reminded me of Mel Brooks' better comedy musicals like The Producers and Young Frankenstein without being raunchy.

Autumn wore sheepskin booties to keep her feet warm, having left her bright yellow, high heel pumps (she called these her "Daisy Duck" shoes) behind in the Green Room. None of these shots showed her feet. Autumn stood on what Melanie called an apple box, but Dougie still towered over her and Matt. I felt very proud as I watched Dougie perform, his voice projecting clearly as he nailed his dialogue time after time. He also injected nuances with subtle gestures and eye movements that conveyed so much. Somehow controlling his nagging cough, Dougie provided Adam with a consistent performance from every angle.

Between takes, Dougie often smiled over at me or mimed sweet little expressions of affection that kept me feeling warm inside. From my position, I couldn't hear much of what the three actors said to each other when not filming, but they giggled frequently. At one point, Dougie and Matt spontaneously broke into a few verses of the song "Precious." They all got a major case of the sillies when Autumn accidently said "Your hands smell like sausage!" instead of "feel." And then Matt joked Autumn smelled like his grandma (taken from a previous line in the film). It took the actors and the crew awhile to settle down because everyone was feeling pretty punchy by then.

Adam had filmed the scene at least six times in master shot, then the camera and lighting had to be reset three separate times to get Doug's, Autumn's and Matt's close ups. There were at least four or five takes each on the close ups. Last, but not least, was the close up on Matt's and Autumn's hands touching (who both used their middle fingers to "wrestle" and salute each other in puppet-like jest between calls for "Action!"). Again, it required a few takes to get the shot. It never ceases to amaze me how much time, patience and effort it takes to properly capture only a few moments of even the most simple scenes on film. Which is why I've always preferred writing and editing--I guess I'm too lazy for actual production!

While the crew moved the camera for a different scene, I had a few moments here and there to talk to Matt and Autumn individually about how they got involved with the project . Matt (a veteran actor with many film, television and stage credits) was sent the script by his old friend, Nick Jones, one of the SD producers, and loved it. Matt said he'd worked with Autumn on three previous projects and felt she'd like the project, so he gave her name to the producers. Like Matt, she loved the script and especially the scratch track (the musical numbers initially performed by Kenny Wood, SD's composer) . Both actors came out from New York to do SD and said they were really enjoying the filming. Both actors love musical theater, as well as features/television, so they were delighted to be part of this project since it was a mixture of both.

Matt said he was a native of Indiana and this is his first time working with fellow Hoosier, Doug. Matt said Doug was great to work with, and admitted he totally freaked him out as the Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth! Matt was a real sweetheart to talk to, very affable and down to earth. He mentioned his wife, Christy Hall (no relation to Adam and Melanie), is a writer and he's performed in her play, Yours, Isabel, that ran in Washington, D.C. and off-Broadway. Matt said they both hoped her recent play, Trails, would be Broadway bound. I asked Matt how theater was doing in New York and he said it is still surviving, although the economy has taken its toll. For the big shows, like Wicked and The Lion King, the money is still there, but the smaller shows are having a more difficult time financially. He likes both types of stage productions for different reasons, plus he was involved with various television shows from 2002-2008 (such as the Hallmark Channel series McBride and WB's Dawson's Creek), but musical theater remains his first love. He certainly has a fantastic voice for it!

Autumn (a professional who's acted in such notable projects as Broadway's Legally Blonde: The Musical) was a delight to watch while filming and then joke around with during breaks. She was very playful, her presence a definite factor in keeping the energy level high both on and off the set. Autumn was obviously perfect for the role of Rachel, saucy but not cuttingly sarcastic, with a very expressive face that easily shifted from delight to dismay in a natural way, which reminded me a bit of actress Amy Adams. I commiserated with her over Doug being difficult to work with because he was such a prima donna and so demanding. I complimented her on her creamy skin and noted that her and Doug's eyes and hair color were quite similar. When I expressed how cute they looked together on the set. Autumn laughed and said Doug was a total love. I certainly enjoyed hearing the comic bantering between Doug, Autumn, and the rest of the cast and crew.

Doug seemed to have adopted a few more Puppies for his kennel and I witnessed lots of head petting, tummy poking, and pinching of cheeks. Adam said he was very glad to have Doug on the set. He barely had to give Doug any instruction, he just instinctively knew what to do. When talking further to Adam, Melanie and Kahle at various times about the origins of SD, I found out that Kahle and Adam were longtime friends. Kahle had the initial idea of doing a story about people dying suddenly and randomly. Adam held onto that nugget over the years, then developed the concept more specifically to be about a virus that causes its host to break into spontaneous song and dance before dying. Kahle wrote most of the lyrics and came up with some of the melodies, while Adam did most of the story writing. Kahle said Kenny Woods did all the professional composing and musical arrangements. In post-production, the musical score would be recorded with a 16 piece orchestra, very impressive for a student film.

Melanie explained that Adam had John Watson as his USC mentor on the project, but Adam decided to produce SD outside of USC's film program. The down side was they had to come up with all the financing themselves instead of receiving funding and equipment from the film school. The upside was this allowed them to hand pick the cast and crew, so Adam and Melanie brought on their professional contacts and friends. Most importantly, Adam and his producing team would own the completed film, not USC. Amazingly, they've raised over $50,000 from supportive donors so far. Adam said his long term goal is to turn SD into a feature length film. He's hoping this short version will serve as a calling card when it is screened at USC's "First Look" showcase. Adam also plans to enter it into next year's Sundance Film Festival. He'd really like to help bring back movie musicals in a good way, ones that his guy friends won't walk out on when the characters start singing! Adam said he had a football coach dad and a music teacher mom. He was able to integrate and balance these two very different aspects of himself, which he'd like to apply this to musical films.

When Dougie and I finally got to warm up in the Green Room again, he eagerly looked into his goody bag. Or, I should say, I sort of clung to it and presented things to him out of it. He probably wonders why I never just hand him the bag and leave him alone to have at it! (I promise to try and do that next time, Dougie.) He smiled with pleasure to see he had letters from Ofelia, Kate C, KateWisdom, Ethne and Lioness. "Awww, precious..." was heard frequently as he scanned each letter with sparkling eyes, then he tucked them safely away to read at length at home where the atmosphere was less chaotic.

In addition to Michele's cough drops, Lioness had sent cyber Kit-Kats (which turned into real ones since I happened to have some to share). Dougie also received the letter writers' bosies, plus many other bosies and greetings from Helen and everyone else in the Tank. Yes, it was a tough mission from my fellow Fan Sapiens, but I executed it with great zeal! Dougie was so appreciative of all the love from everyone and expressed great love for his Fan Sapiens in return. We chatted about Dragon Con and Adventure Con and Dougie said he had so much fun seeing everyone there. He was very grateful for all the love, plus the boatload of gifts he took home from AdventureCon. I told him I was envious that I missed the pajama parties and he smiled very impishly and told me I would have enjoyed those a lot. He joked about being too old for Laser tag, but actually he had quite a good time doing things like shooting KatyBacon in the back! After goody time was over, I had the privilege of his attention and support as we conversed a couple of my scripts and other matters personal to me. I was very grateful for the encouragement he showed in that loving way he has. All too soon, it was time to go back to the set.

In the next scene, Dougie had to "play dead." His character had died from the SD virus and was slumped over the table behind a series of vials and beakers . These vials would fall over, mixing their contents, then spill into a big bowl of another concoction. This created a big vapor cloud that was blown by a fan, resulting in the miraculous cure that brought everyone back to life. Over and over, the camera rolled and the liquid contents refused to cooperate properly. "Cut!" And the team would have to clean up and set it all back up again. I think the cold, cold air was affecting the liquids. And poor Dougie ... I felt so sorry for him doing take after take, holding back his cough while his head was cradled on a hard computer keyboard. He was incredibly patient as the time ticked by. Fortunately, we had the good humor of makeup artist Laura and the genial sound man, Umbe Adan, to keep us smiling between takes. Earlier in the day, Laura had us laughing over her story of saving a baby hummingbird she'd named "Pickles." Now, she and Dougie traded "what's grosser than that" and other jokes with relish to pass the time. Umbe shared some amusing industry stories about producers viciously berating their crews on the set, not realizing these infantile tantrums were getting recorded and could back to haunt them.

Laura told me she stepped in at the last minute to replace the original makeup artist, who was a no show (obviously, this was a blessing for SD!). Laura was only doing makeup for the principal actors since the budget didn't allow for any assistants. The extras were responsible for their own makeup, but she would do touch ups as needed. She said she really enjoyed working with Doug on the Doritos Super Bowl commercial. I asked Doug a few questions about that particular shoot, such as what was it like to dance around inside a mop bucket before it tipped over? He said it took three takes to get that tip over shot, which was a relief because his elbow was taking a beating. At least he didn't actually have to fall into the bucket--they did a cut away/edit, so he only had to slightly drop himself into it.

At one point, Laura very sweetly asked Dougie if he'd play matchmaker for her like he did for his niece, Jessie, recently. He agreed to this rather gleefully ... and a bit mischievously. He batted his long eyelashes and smiled when I laughed and said "I didn't know you were a matchmaker!" He said whenever he knows two single people who seem right for each other, he likes to help get them together and cut to the chase. His feeling is, why waste time when you can just get right down to it, people?

Finally, Adam got a take he could live with, but he was far from satisfied. He needed to move on to a completely different scene on another set. However, it was 8:00 p.m., the shooting day was officially over--and there were no funds to pay anyone overtime. Although Dougie and the rest of the cast and crew could have insisted on wrapping at this point, no one did. Instead, they all agreed to stay on. While the crew moved the camera and lights to Jonathan's doctor's office set, Dougie and I headed back to the Green Room for a short break. We had a final chat with the still lively Autumn while she got ready to leave. She and Matt were wrapped for the day, but Dougie and Beth Castle were still required for the last scene in Jonathan's office.

By the time the set was ready, it was 8:30 p.m. and I was feeling guilty since I should have left over an hour ago. At that time, Dougie had gazed at me with his biggest puppy eyes and asked "You aren't going to leave me, are you?" Now how could I resist that sweet plea, plus getting to hear Dougie sing just a wee bit in his final scene? It involved a dolly tracking shot while Dougie and Beth sang along to the pre-recorded track. Beth's sweet voice was a perfect complement to her angelic face. As scientist Jonathan, Doug scribbled importantly in his files and looked very pensive and thoughtful as he "buh buh buh'd" to the music. Being the consummate professional he is, Dougie delivered the performance Adam needed in only two takes, but they shot a third take for safety. This last one turned out even better, so it was a very happy "That's a wrap!"

Despite his fatigue, Dougie escorted me to my car, offering me his arm like a true gentleman. He had asked me earlier if I'd been able to find the entrance to the sound stage, joking if I'd seen a little "Princess" sign above the door so I'd know where to go. This was how he was the entire visit, my thoughtful and humorous host, always making sure I was having a good time and feeling taken care of. I couldn't believe I'd been there with him for almost six hours! I was exhausted even though I'd done nothing but watch ... and here I was getting rewarded with more Dougie hugs and cheek kisses. In comparison, Dougie and the others had been there since 8:00 a.m. and most of the crew wouldn't be leaving for a long while. In farewell, I gave Dougie the warmest, squeeziest, most grateful hug I could, very glad to know I'd be seeing him again in just a couple of days for another set visit. I wished him a safe drive home to Mrs. Laurie and nagged him to get lots of rest for that cough.

As I drove home, rain began slowly, then became very heavy. I worried about Dougie and his long drive home, but diverted my thoughts to what a great time I'd had hanging out with him and seeing him and his co-stars perform. I felt so lucky I'd had the opportunity to observe him and the SD cast and crew in action. They were all really amazing people: so kind to me, to each other, and very supportive and enthusiastic about the project--not to mention tireless workers! After that long day and dealing with technical frustrations, I couldn't remember any of them raising their voices in anger or using curse words. Clearly, Adam and Melanie Hall were a class act and their choice of cast (like our Dougie) and crew reflected their quality and ethics. I looked forward to seeing Dougie and all of them again for the musical production filming on the weekend!

 

Second Visit: Saturday, December 12, 2009:

The weather had been wet and nasty all week and today was no different. I called Melanie to find out how things were going and was surprised to find out no rain was falling on New York Street location at Manhattan Beach Studios so far. Melanie said they'd been able to shoot all morning and Doug was expected to arrive around 1:00 p.m. "I'm on my way," I told her. Nevertheless, I thought it would be prudent to touch base with Dougie himself ... after all, the studio was a loooong drive away and Dougies have been known to have a different sense of time and space! The good news continued: Dougie sounded in very good spirits and confirmed he'd be there, so I set off into the gray, murky day with a happy heart.

I encountered rain in frequent bouts as I drove, but (amazingly enough) the freeways were all clear. I made very good time getting there and arrived around 1:30 p.m.--but so did the rain clouds. The guard at the gate directed me to park on the roof of the structure. As I exited my car, I had to open up my umbrella to ward off the light raindrops now falling. This did not bode well for the shoot.

I walked past a couple of large sound stages and finally found the New York street set. A security guard stood at the end making sure no one disrupted the area whenever filming took place. I looked down the quaint street lined with typical NY storefronts and saw the camera crew on a dolly track, with a big blue striped umbrella protecting the expensive camera. About a dozen dancers were practicing their moves on the very wet street. I did not envy them a bit since they actually had to lie down and pretend to be dead as part of the dance number!

On the sidewalk, under another blue striped umbrella, stood Dougie, wearing his Silver Surfer coat. I headed for him quickly, not wanting to be in the way of the camera or dancers. The rain was very light, but the crew was apparently waiting to see if it would get worse or stop. "Precious Donoray, you made it!" Dougie managed to give me a welcome hug under his umbrella. He told me the crew had gotten a lot of footage in the morning and the rain hadn't been too much of an obstacle so far. He showed me where it would be safe to stand and be out of the camera's sight line when they started up filming.

He was still coughing occasionally and I asked him how he was feeling. He showed me he still had the Hall's cough drops in his coat pocket ... plus he felt better because he'd been able to get some rest since he'd had a day off from filming on Friday the 11th. He said he was really enjoying the choreography of the dance number they were working on and he knew it was going to look really great on film. Sadly, the rain was only getting heavier, so Maryann Clark called a break.

Dougie led me to the sound stage where the cast and crew hung out to keep warm and dry. Along one area was Laura Hill and her makeup table and mirror, plus a large array of food and drinks. The entire place was filled with various equipment. Chairs were scattered about, mostly empty as the dancers continued to rehearse in a clear space in the back.

I stood with Dougie and he introduced me to a very handsome Hungarian actor named Ivan Kamaras. Dougie explained Ivan was in Hellboy II as Agent Steel, the poor agent that gets devoured by tooth fairies as he helps get Abe Sapien to the big safe. Doug said Ivan is a huge star in Hungary and he squeezed Ivan's shoulder. "Just look at this face, these eyes!" I was in total agreement Ivan was yummy, but I felt compelled to assure Dougie he was gorgeous, too. "Awww, you precious, no I'm not." He ducked his head and I put my hands on my hips. "Dougie, I just drove almost two hours in the rain to see you. Do you really think I'd do that if it weren't true?" He laughed, no longer protesting. I told the smiling Ivan he reminded me of Marlon Brando (he did!) and his bright blue eyes really lit up at that. Ivan told me he would be in the U.S. for about six months as he was involved in a directing program through UCLA. I wished him lots of success, and I will be very interested to see what becomes of his stay in America. Dougie said Ivan would be spending Christmas at the Jones' house since he was alone in our country--how sweet!

While Dougie and Ivan chit-chatted a bit, I spoke with Tish Dragonette (amazingly calm and amiable for a production coordinator!) again and got to know her a little better. She said she'd moved out from Florida a couple of years ago and had been working on various productions to gain experience. She was going through the Act I screenwriting program, the same one Kahle McCann told me he'd been part of. I also spoke with Melanie and Laura off and on while I watched the dancers rehearse. I noticed Matt Lutz and Autumn Hurlbert practicing their movements as well.

Dougie now joined in as the energetic choreographer (who I never had a chance to meet) explained to him how he'd be carrying a beaker filled with a vaporous liquid as he walked among the dancers "dead" on the street. Meanwhile, Kahle would be right next to him, blowing on the vapor with a tiny little fan. This was the miraculous cure that would bring all the dancers back to life. Throughout, Matt, Autumn, Dougie and Kahle would be singing the lyrics to the playback of the "Sudden Life!" song, gradually joined by more and more of the dancers as they were rejuvenated. It was fascinating to watch the complicated maneuvers they all had to do. This was Doug's first time learning the moves, but he got it down quite well after only a couple of passes. He did his dance/walk pretending to hold his beaker as he sang, flanked by Kahle, then one of the revived "dead" people became his partner as they commenced their own special little dance. She was a vivacious young woman wearing a bright yellow rain slicker over shiny black tights. Dougie still had on his Silver Surfer coat, so it was easy to keep track of them in the group. They twirled around each other with Dougie kicking out his long legs in a spry way--he was having lots of fun!

What a shame that, just when the dancers were getting it down smoothly, Adam and Melanie had to call it a wrap. The rain was not letting up, so it was decided they'd send everyone home with instructions to return tomorrow (Sunday). They had a big crane scheduled for Sunday's shoot to get all the overhead footage of the big dance numbers. However, if the weather prevented Adam from getting all the footage he needed, everyone was committed to return the following Friday. I felt bad the rain had cut short today's filming, but at least the morning had been productive for them.

I rejoined Dougie and Ivan, and Dougie told me that he knew Ivan was his kind of person when they met on the HB:II set and Dougie (in full Abe Sapien costume) absentmindedly started petting Ivan on his burly chest while talking to him. Ivan just stood there without batting an eye. Ivan said he didn't even see Dougie's real face for several days. Ivan said it was amazing to see how completely different the Abe Sapien makeup looked on Doug's stunt double, the young Brazilian martial artist who did the fight scenes in the Troll Market. "There was no expression, nothing," said Ivan. He gestured at Dougie. "This man, what he has is a gift." I couldn't have agreed more!

One upside of the shorter day was I got to talk to the crew more and get a decent number of pictures. Everyone wanted their own picture with Doug, Matt and Autumn, so I juggled cameras, taking photos with my camera, then the other person's. Then, several people, including Melanie, had cameras out at once, with cries of "Where do I look?" "Over here!" "Now this way!" Plenty of group photos were captured, complete with lots of giggles and camaraderie. I took others of just Dougie with Nick Jones (a very jovial and enthusiastic producer of SD), with Ivan and then Ben, the sweet wardrobe guy. Dougie turned to me and said, "Look at this little Puppy face! And this is the best part!" Dougie poked Ben gently on his face where two adorable dimples appeared when he smiled. The very genial Ivan was kind enough to take a photo of me and Dougie. Dougie grabbed me against him and said to Ivan, "There's Love here--can you feel the Love?" and Ivan took the picture while I beamed mutely, happy to be cheek to cheek with the man we've dubbed "The Delicious One" on his message boards.

The dancers were gone, but everyone seemed reluctant to leave, and clusters of people remained engrossed in lively discussions here and there. Kahle told me how he dresses up as a zombie and sings songs as a character called Jeff of the Living Dead, who appears on N.A.S.A.L.net. He said the idea for Jeff came from an audition he did for Halloween Horror Nights and he's become a sort of alter ego of Kahle's. I asked him how it felt to hear his lyrics being sung by Matt, Autumn and Doug, and he said he was thrilled. When he was writing the words, he figured the songs would be sung by some young theater students, so having these professional actors not only singing them, but saying how much they liked the songs, was wonderful validation of his work.

Nick Jones called the cast and crew together and thanked everyone for all the hard word they had done so far and their dedication to the project. As a little token of appreciation, he passed out t-shirts, baseball hats and coffee mugs, all with the Manhattan Beach Studios logo on them. Everyone looked very pleased to get their goodies ... and Nick very kindly gave me a huge coffee mug of my own. Nick chatted with me awhile about SD and how he'll be showing the finished project to people he knows and admires. He's been mentored by, and developed friendships with, notable professionals who have worked with A-list actors such as Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

Nick reconfirmed that their goal is to make SD into a feature film and they want to bring back Matt, Autumn and Doug to do the roles. Nick smiled when he talked about Doug, saying he was "normal, sweet and sincere." Nick mentioned they were also able to get John Larroquette to perform the cameo role of Commander Jenkins thanks to Matt's relationship with the actor. Matt worked with Larroquette on the Hallmark Channel series McBride. Nick told me his goal working in the entertainment industry is to help others and be good to them. I could see he was sincere and of the same caliber as Adam and Melanie. I was not surprised to learn that he, Matt, Kahle, Melanie and Dave Selle (their tireless, talented cinematographer), plus MaryAnn Clark, all knew each other from attending Regent University in Virginia. Even Adam went there for a couple of semesters--and met his future wife!

While I'd been standing gabbing with Nick, Dougie was sitting as he talked with various SD crew members. He caught my eye and I could see he was fading fast. "I'm sorry folks, but I've got to get home," he said as he stood up. He smiled at me and gestured around. "You can stay here as long as you want, Donoray ..." "Oh, no, I want to walk out with you, Dougie." So I bid Melanie and the others farewell, thanking them all for such a great time, plus Nick again for my keepsake coffee mug. Melanie made sure Dougie had all his goodies, plus returned his man purse from safekeeping. We headed out into the rain and toward the parking structure. I was worried because Dougie said he was feeling a little funny, not quite dizzy, but sort of. We talked about some of his other filming experiences and how draining it can be on him, especially things like the life casting process. He mentioned standing for long periods of time tends to cause a problem with flow of blood back up his legs--not surprising to me since he's so tall. This led to a matter of fact discussion on bodily functions that was brief but quite informative (may I say it amazes me how Dougie can make just about any subject matter fascinating, LOL). I told him I hoped he'd be getting more and more non-prosthetic roles so his body wouldn't have to undergo such a beating. "From your lips to God's ears," he said softly to me.

We'd reached the rooftop of the structure and it was time to part. No more set visits to look forward to this time to make it an easier, but perhaps Dougie would be attending the upcoming Santa Clarita Film Festival for the screening of My Name is Jerry. Once again, I wished him a safe drive home to Mrs. Laurie. I wanted to safely deposit him at home myself, but I knew that wasn't feasible. Instead, I thanked him for the opportunity I'd had to see him perform and I hope I conveyed how much it meant to me. He told me I was precious and I'm pretty sure he called me "sweet pea." I admit things got a little fuzzy when he held me in that last embrace and gently kissed both of my cheeks, then my forehead. I do know I held him tight as I said, "I'm so glad I met you, Dougie."

Then he was gone, waving back at me with a big smile, saying, "Love!" I sat in my car for a moment, just absorbing the whole SD experience, then called my hubby to let him know I was on my way back and I'd pick up some dinner to bring home along the way. As I drove the long way back, the rain thickened and darkness fell, but I didn't mind. I'd been blessed to share this special time with Dougie, to see his joy as he worked on a project he really believed in. The cast and crew of SD had been so inspirational to him--and to me. I thought about one of my scripts (currently at a major agency and being considered by a rising star), and hoped more than ever the deal would fall into place. Maybe one day, I'd be lucky enough to walk on the set of one of my projects ... and there would be my sweet Dougie ... smiling at me between the takes of the camera.

(P.S. Dougie later let me know all went well on Sunday's shoot, Adam got all the footage he needed, so no one had to return on Friday to finish up. The dance sequences went extremely well, the cast had a lot of fun performing them ... and Dougie said the crane shots of the dancers spiraling into toward Matt (as Nathan) during the "Sudden Death" number were especially fantastic. Who knew a little film about dying suddenly could be so artistic?

Anoray
Los Angeles, 27th December, 2009


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