You normally don’t associate the movie making industry and those who are in it with, well, anything remotely normal. Honestly, wouldn’t you expect even the guy who plays a janitor in a movie, once the cameras stop rolling, to slip back to his set trailer and drink champagne from a fluted glass? Perhaps even doing so while discussing the day’s filming with the person who played a street thug, both in a decidedly New England accent? After all, even the dirt in Hollywood sparkles, doesn’t it?
Producer Mike Downey recently connected me with the director of the movie “The Big Ugly,” a movie filmed right here in eastern Kentucky. Now I have written before about my brief brush with “Hollerwood,” but now that I have seen the movie (and myself in all my mountain man glory) I have developed a whole new appreciation of it. It was a good movie, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes action movies and redemption stories. And it also has the added bonus of a redneck reporter in a sleeveless flannel shirt ... you’re welcome.
All of this started with writer, director and producer Scott Wiper. I had the pleasure of an extended telephone conversation with Mr. Wiper, and there was not a single cliched Hollywood quote at all. Rather, what I found was a man who was hard working and good at what he does. He juggles hundreds of people, multiple “job sites” and a supply chain that stretches across the country to do what he does. The fact that he is extremely insightful and creative is an added bonus that comes through in his work.
So, after about 30 minutes of discussing music (he likes The Eagles and Billy Joel as well as I do) and just the general rewards and challenges of dealing with people, I actually got around to asking some questions. Overall, the answer was that you simply have to put in the work long before the champagne arrives.
“It isn’t always glamorous,” Wiper told me, then laughed. “It isn’t even usually glamorous.”
This “work” thing seems to be a recurring subject with people who produce, I have discovered. And though I suppose that we all believe everyone else’s life is either easier or better, I don’t think that’s it at all. When someone is doing something they really enjoy doing, they make their lives better. And easier, well, that’s just a qualifier.
My job, for instance, is easier than shoveling concrete (I have done both) but probably isn’t easier than sleeping. Which I have also done, by the way. So, what do you see when you pull back the curtain and get a good look into someone else’s world? Surprise! Almost everyone works for a living, regardless of what they are doing.
My few weeks on the set of “The Big Ugly” did not show me any lazy people. Quite the opposite, actually. I saw a lot of hard-working people who had a very big job to do in a very short amount of time. And this included everyone from the stars down to the people who wrangled the background people. After speaking to Wiper — in addition to seeing him on the set — I found this to be universal from the top down, so to speak. Not a single “diva” in the bunch.
Except maybe me, of course. I personally have went a little bonkers. Mike Downey sent me a still from the movie with me in it, and I blew it up to hang on my office wall at home. I have that still as a screen saver on my work laptop as well, and I haven’t ruled out maybe putting it on a coffee cup. Why? Because it is just cool. Almost as cool as watching myself walk out of the weeds on film with a shotgun. But it’s okay, because even though I do have a little of what you might call “shutter shock,” I realize that the only Oscar I might see in the near future is the stray cat who wandered in the other day.
Still, it was gratifying to see that talented people can be normal. Both Downey and Wiper are great guys who you could sit down with and have a cup of coffee or watch sports. That is if either of them ever slowed down.