Published May 01, 2003It's back to our location on Karl Marx Allee in East Berlin, not to be confused with KarlMarxstrasse, which is the street where I'm staying. Either way, Marx seems to be the order of the day. After our rain-soaked shoot this afternoon, it's nice to be in this dry, spacious apartment where we're taping the gang's ransom video for use in a later scene. Patrick from Leipsig has worked hard to learn all the big words in the ransom note, which he pronounces phonetically, like Abba. It's a shame considering that I'm going to have to dub his entire performance anyway. Hopefully I can make it all look and sound like bad Polish television. At any rate, the ransom tape looks quite authentic, with two members of the gang in black ski masks holding guns to Patrick's head in front of those huge blow-ups of Gudrun Ensselin and Angela Davis. Kind of makes you want to run out and buy a Rashkolnikov.
Jurgen has hired a well-known hair and make-up person named Andreas, whom I met while on tour with Hustler White. I'm considering having him bleach Gudrun's hair blond when she arrives on the set, but he says, with unmistakable German hauteur, that he wouldn't advise it unless I want to make her look like "the worst Polish hooker." "The worst one?" I ask incredulously. "That sounds kind of hot, the very worst Polish hooker. Do you promise?" He suggests a wig, so I bow to his expertise.
We begin to shoot a few scenes with the ski-masked, gun-toting terrorists running in and out of the huge apartment building and riding up and down in the elevators, but none of the tenants seem to care. Little do we know that our brazen behaviour will soon have dire consequences for the production.
At the end of the day we shoot a scene between the two senior terrorists, Horst and Helmut, who are lovers in real life. They're cute as buttons, but their line readings are beyond hopeless. It's a chore even to get them to say their lines correctly one sentence at a time so that I will have the option in post-production of dubbing in other people's voices to the movement of their lips. Oh well, sound has always cursed me in movie-making, so I guess there's some poetic justice in it somewhere.
Jurgen has once again assembled a motley crew for me, a ragtag team of masochists willing to work for peanuts under the most atrocious conditions. There is, of course, James "Haskell Wexler" Carman, my cameraman, who is such a gentle soul, and so calm in the midst of chaos. He hardly ever loses his temper, just like my father, and, come to think of it, my boyfriend. How Oedipal of me. Then there's my inexperienced First A.D., Volkmar, a tall, solicitous, and slightly annoying man in his early 30s. His slates take forever, and he's always making not very helpful suggestions on every aspect of production, but he does mean well, and he tends to keep everyone's spirits up. The interns are all gay with shaved heads and tattoos, the most popular look for German fags. They may look intimidating and neo-fascistic, but underneath they're soft as pussycats. There seems to be two sides of the German homosexual psyche the sour, haughty bitter tears of Petra Von Kant side, and the sweet, idealistic Fox-but-not-his-friends side. Both sides, like all Germans, are infused with a healthy dose of guilt for the past indiscretions of the empire, such as the Holocaust. It's so cute.
Tonight the crew is gamely trying to set up lights on high stands on the balcony to approximate daylight inside the apartment, but the hurricane keeps knocking them over. Apparently the winds are reaching speeds of up to 130 km per hour.
Monday, October 28
Now I remember why I only make a movie once every three years or so. Because each time, it almost kills you. Low budget movies are, I suspect, much harder to make than huge-budgeted studio productions. Anyone who has seen American Movie, during which I cried, will know what I'm talking about. With no- to low-budgets, everything is more tenuous no official permits to smooth things over, being forced to rely on favours that invariably fall through, and everyone sharing tasks to the point of seriously over-extending themselves beyond their capabilities. Plus there are no trailers.
This morning I wake up to discover that the cold that I thought I'd successfully willed away has returned, probably owing to the fact that I had to stand in the rain for over two hours yesterday with a broken umbrella. This morning Luis and Kiki pick me up at the appointed time, but we get stuck in a traffic jam en route to the set. All we can do is sit and listen to the radio, including news of an end to the Moscow hostage crisis, with the police storming the theatre held by Chechnyan terrorists, killing 130 hostages in the process. We've come a long way since the days of the RAF, baby. Apparently the Russian special forces broke through the wall of an adjacent gay bar called Central Station to gain access to the theatre, leaving homophobic graffiti in their wake. Which somehow reminds me of how American marines were reported to have written "Hijack this, fags" on bombs dropped on Afghanistan. I suppose to the military, all terrorists are just a bunch of fags. Precisely my thesis in The Raspberry Reich: Join the homosexual intifada!
We finally arrive at the Karl Marx Allee location almost an hour late. Jurgen comes scurrying out of the building and walks right past us without saying a word, so I figure he's pissed off at our tardiness. When I enter the apartment I'm met by a very nervous looking cast and crew. My Gudrun has arrived, the east German theatre actress Susanne Sachsse, direct from the Krackow stage. I've cast Ms. Sachsse on the recommendation of my brilliant drag queen contemporary Vaginal Davis, who worked with her in the Berlin theatrical production of the Andy Warhol film The Life of Juanita Castro scripted by Ronald Tavel. Ms. Sachsse, of course, played Castro to Vaginal's Juanita. Also on set is Ulrike S., the infamous Lothar Lambert star (Fraulein Berlin), whom I've cast in a cameo as an uptight neighbour of the terrorists.
Speaking of uptight neighbours, I soon discover that the reason the crew is so nervous is that people in the building have complained to the management about our shoot apparently some of them got a little agitated when they ran into armed men in ski masks on the premises and that we're being unceremoniously tossed out of our location. This would entail reshooting certain scenes, finding a new location to match the one we've been shooting in, or shutting down the production altogether. It's funny, three days ago I was hoping and praying that some miracle or disaster would shut us down because of the disastrous casting, and now that it's possible that we will be shut down, I feel sick.
Jurgen has gone to meet with the guys who've let us shoot in their apartment, the building manager, and his lawyer to see what our options are. A pall hangs over the set, yet we try to soldier on as if nothing has happened. We go ahead and shoot the kitchen scene with Ulrike S. It's a textbook Ulrike scenario, wherein after complaining bitterly about having seen Gudrun and Holger fucking in the elevator, she returns to her apartment, gets sexually excited, and fucks her husband on the kitchen counter. Her timing is amazing, and she makes me laugh really hard during the take. Jurgen returns to inform us that we can finish the rest of the day's shooting, but then we will have to vacate our painstakingly decorated set. It looks like we'll lose a full day of shooting. It's so nice to be making a movie again.