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  • George Young

The Medieval Catapult and Frito-Lay "Try Not to Annoy the Kangaroo"


24 hours after starting the practical EFX part of the Frito-Lay job, found Mark Krumper, my fellow P.A. and me back at my apartment. Lee, my girlfriend, a McKinsey & Company consultant, had already left for the day. Mark and I took turns showering. I donated a fresh pair of socks to the cause, but for some odd reason my fellow P.A. demurred on the offer of underwear.


Mark: “Thank you, but I’ll pass.”


Me: “Just trying to help.”


Mark: “Let’s go. Gotta be a Central Park by 7am.”


Me: “Is the producer, Roy, a Sadist?”


Mark: “We signed up for today.”


Me: “Not my point. It’s a whole new crew, except for the P.A.s? Really?”


Mark: “Roy fought on Peleliu.”


Me: “Say no more.”


Mark and I jumped, okay, crawled into the cargo van and drove over to the location in Central Park. Several cups of coffee, and the knowledge that the producer survived one of the deadliest assaults of World War II gave me a second wind.


Mark: “Can’t shoot past sunset. Should be finished by 8pm.”


Me: “Let me tell you about cigarette butts and Dodge Trucks.”


Mark: “Not again, please.”


Me: “At least there are no effects.”


Mark: “You do know we’re flying the male lead over a row of park benches?”


Me: “Is that what that storyboard frame was? It looked like the Archangel Michael looking for a toy sailboat at the Loeb Boathouse. So I thought it might be stock footage.”


Mark: “No you didn’t.”

Me: “Yes I did.”


Mark: “No you didn’t.”

Me: “Yes I did.”


Mark: “No you didn’t.”

Me: “Yes I did.”


Mark: “No you didn’t.”

Me: “Yes I did.”


Mark: “No you didn’t.”

Me: “Yes I did.”


Mark: “We’re here.”


We parked, and crawled out of the van. The usual chaos unfolded in front of us as the equivalent of a Sak’s Fifth Avenue Christmas Sale took place around the Craft Service table. The latest chubby agency and the Frito-Lay clients laid siege to the spread with unbridled enthusiasm since they had left set last night in plenty of time to:


A. Miss the actual shooting. B. Make their dinner reservation at Smith and Wollensky. C. Get eight hours of sleep.


The shoot, which consisted of 361 shots of two exquisitely beautiful people, one male and one female, walking through pastoral rolling meadows with one hand on each other, and the other wrapped around a bag of BRAND NEW FRITO-LAY APPLE CHIPS!.


And you don’t want to know how that product got to set. The abridged version is the sales rep from Levinson, Israelson & Bell, an Energizer Bunny named Maribeth found herself last night at a shipping dock on the Hudson just about the same time we finally ran film through a camera on the set at Midtown Studios.


All 361 shots ran on schedule. The exquisitely beautiful couple could actually act, and the BRAND NEW FRITO-LAY APPLE CHIPS! bags passed muster with the latest chubby agency and the client who got easily distracted when the craft service person passed among them distributing yogurt parfaits on an hourly basis.


And then the flying rig moved into place for the Martini, a film colloquialism for The Last Shot of the Day.


Bigfoot and Burgess, late of the product effects shot of the previous 24 hour day, fortunately, did not receive the contract for the flying rig. The company that did get hired showed up on time; constructed the rig in advance of the shoot; and appeared to be humanoids of normal shape and size. All of those facts should have set off alarm bells, but Mark and I were too exhausted to even consider an epic fail especially since Mister Sun approached the horizon line as the effects team squeezed the exquisitely beautiful male actor into a contraption that looked like the top half of a suit of armor.


Me: “Uh, I think we’ll see that suit of armor in frame.”


Mark: “The storyboard was incorrect.”


Me: “Oh come on. That never happens.”


Mark: “No, really. We’re just showing his feet lifting off the ground several feet.”


Me: “Due to eating Apple Chips?”


Mark: “Just shut up. We’re almost out of here.”


Me: “Didn’t you hear? We’re reshooting the Apple Accordion tomorrow. I got you on the gig! You owe me.”


Mark: “You can kiss my—”


Roy: “Mark! George! Shut up!”


Me and Mark: “Yes sir!”


Roy stood on the edge of the set and barked out the instructions to the camera department and then to the effects department. The camera rolled. The medieval catapult that doubled as the flying rig went through its Newtonian sequence of events and the exquisitely beautiful male actor, now unconscious from suffocation, lifted up off the ground.


Six inches.


The latest chubby agency’s mouths dropped open in unison, which caused their early evening snack of Caesar Salads to not make it to their stomachs. The client sycophants did spit takes with their double espressos. And the Scapegoat Salsa music began to play.


Director: “That’s it? Who built this piece of—”


Effects Person #1: “It appears that our calculations of counterweighting might have been slightly off. However, these were the specifications given to us by the, uh, well, someone other than somebody who works at ACME EFF-X.”


Director: “Slightly off? Did someone tell you we were working with Herve’ Villechaize?”

Effects Person #2: “Uh . . . “


Helpful DP: “I’d say we have about ten minutes of workable light.”


Me: “You should say that louder. I don’t think everyone back at Frito-Lay’s corporate headquarters heard you.”


Helpful DP: “Who the Hell—”


ACME EFF-X hit the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon and loaded every counterweight, including the company’s intern, onto the back end of the catapult; moved it into place (Which would have gone faster, had they loaded it AFTER moving it into place.); and someone slapped the exquisitely beautiful male actor in the helmet to start his breathing again.


Roy: “Roll camera. Dolly. Effects! Background!”


This time the exquisitely beautiful male actor’s legs took off like the Saturn V and slung the poor guy into right into The Loeb Boathouse Lake after bouncing him off the blacktop that surrounded the water two or three times.


Director: “Cut! Perfect! That’s a wrap!”


The latest chubby agency, the clients, the Director and his mistress, and the Helpful DP all vacated the area faster than the residents of Prague did in 1968 when Brezhnev stopped by for dinner with a tank escort.


They missed the almost funny next two minutes where the exquisitely beautiful male actor thrashed about in The Loeb Boathouse Lake while the catapult went into reverse in order to drag him out to dry land. Effects Person #2 cut the guy out of the iron maiden, dented by the excursion across the blacktop and into the lake, with the use of an acetylene torch. As he leaned over to calm the actor, he said the following words of encouragement.


Effects Person #2: “Don’t worry. The flame cuts out when it hits human flesh.”


****


This Hal Roach Studios moment precipitated the arrival of the male actor’s agent and a visit to the Emergency Room to check the guy for internal injuries with said agent in tow. That is how Mark and I remained on the job until 5am. This particular agent exhibited all the fine qualities that I admired by almost all the people who obtained that lofty title of talent agent or manager in the entertainment industry.


Lou Wassermann: “I’ll sue the pants off anyone with anything to do with this job.”


Me: “Okay. You do know you and Robert Redford over there signed off on the flying rig and have received the requisite hazard pay.”


Lou Wasserman: “Who the F are you? You’re just some P.A. Where’s the producer?”


Me: “He’s undergoing electro-shock therapy for the time he spent in Peleliu in the Autumn of 1944.”


Lou Wasserman: “He was in Peleliu? Make sure the check gets to my agency on time.”


****


Mark Krumper, one of the good guys in the business, offered to drop me off and return the van. I later found out he needed to use it to pick up some stereo equipment from Crazy Eddies, but he did return the van. After 48 hours straight, I appreciated any gesture.

I walked into the apartment just as my beautiful girlfriend, Lee, was heading out to start her day for McKinsey.


Beautiful Girlfriend: “Want to walk me to the subway?”


Me: “Lee, there is nothing I would rather do then spend the next 15 minutes and six blocks walking with you.”


We headed for the 6 Train.




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© 2018 by George W Young