At the conclusion of my first feature film, “Living With Uncle Ray” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMHiHQEy12s , for which I toiled as an un-credited and poorly paid production assistant, I was once again called up for duty when the film’s co-star “Rooster” was eaten by a coyote that jumped a six-foot wall for his entrée. The production team needed a matching fowl for an additional scene that was to be shot during post production. As fate would have it, roosters were very hard to come by during that period of time due to the bird flu epidemic that was plaguing many California cluckers. After a frantic two-week search I finally found a close resemblance to the original leading gamecock at an animal hatchery manned by Dr. Kerchickian where I barely escaped with Rooster’s body double and my life. I discovered Gregory Peck the day before the shoot and had to take him home with me to be sure the Mad Butcher didn’t have him sliced into lunch meat by the following morning. “Rooster II” stayed in the bathroom next to my bedroom since it was the coolest room in the house and before long I was heading out the front door and into the blistering sun with one hour of sleep and one deeply troubled bird.
We worked with a skeleton crew that day and the gentleman who replaced the original Director of Photography was much more talented behind the camera than the previous monkey who shot the first batch of material. The problem with this new DP was that he was a combination of fat Elvis meets Bob’s Big Boy and the heat was killing him. The fact that he smoked about ten cigars per hour didn’t help matters either. This in turn led to the near destruction of the owner’s property when he threw one of his half-finished cigars onto a pile of hay in the sheep’s den. Thank god an alert sound man saw the tiny flames shooting up from the ground and quickly stomped them out.
With everybody suffering from the blistering midday heat it was decided that a nice air-conditioned restaurant would be an appropriate place for a lunch break. But due to the fact that I really needed the extra twenty bucks that was offered, I remained on set while the entire crew escaped the oppressive swelter to nourish their weary bodies. All that was required of me to earn my extra twenty bonus dollars was for me to move several hundred pounds of equipment from the first filming location to the second one situated about 200 yards away. As the relentless valley sun pounded down on me while I tenaciously transferred the entire movie set singlehandedly to our next post, I began seeing mirages of beautiful woman in bikinis laying next to a swimming pool, being served tall, cool pina coladas by…Bob’s Big Boy??? I was in the process of moving the last c-stand when the gang arrived back from their lunch hiatus over an hour later. They were even gracious enough to bring me back a soda and a sandwich for my sacrifice.
The only actors needed for that afternoon shoot were “Manny” and “Rooster.” Manny was played by a very funny fat man who had a ton of talent but at the time had a renowned reputation as a party animal. I don’t know where he was previous to the shoot on that scorching August day, but when he arrived on set he was completely plastered. As we prepped the set for his big scene with “Rooster” he slept on a lawn chair in a shaded area of the yard.
It was almost time to film and there was only one remaining problem left to be solved, “How were we going to keep the actors in the frame together?” I mean we were talking about an untrained if not completely insane winged animal. And it’s not “Rooster” that I’m referring too. I was already nominated to be the one to put the grip gloves on and to hold “Rooster” in place off camera while “Manny” poured his heart out to the only one who understands him, his pet rooster. The scene was to take place over dinner and a glass of wine. We shot a couple of takes and were close to moving on to a different camera angle when I noticed a change in Rooster’s behavior at the end of a scene. He lifted up his rear end and like something out of “The Matrix” fired a stream of turds at me that I bent backwards to elude. I kept a firm grasp on “Roosters” feet while hopping up to an upright position which seemed to tick “Rooster” off even more. I don’t know if “Rooster” was upset because “Manny” was eating chicken for dinner or because there were no red M&M’s in his trailer but this temperamental co-star began throwing a hissy fit. Wings started flapping and everything at the table, including “Manny,” got sprayed with fresh rooster droppings. And “Manny”, already overheated, drunk and belligerent just stared at the producer for a good ten seconds or so before he could finally muster the words “I f@#$ing hate you!” It was a classic filmmaking moment!!!!