Working with Van Sant: “There’s a hand down there.”

From time to time I snag a few moments onscreen, for one reason or another. The other day I found myself at a Van Sant shoot with a line to say. I had spent a night in jail in place of the producer’s son, and he gave me the bit, which paid scale, as a thank you.

I was to look down into some steampunk gearworks and say, “There’s a hand down there.’

We were outdoors. I took up my position.

“Camera.”

“Speed.”

“Mark it.”

“Scene twenty-one, Hand, take one.”

“Aaaand, action,” Van Sant said.

I looked down into the gears.

“There’s a hand down there,” I said in horror.

“No,” said Van Sant. “Not like that. Do it again.”

The crew ran through the setup again. I looked down into the gears.

Take two.

“There’s a hand down there?” I said in disbelief.

“No,” said Van Sant. “You see it, you’re not horrified, you don’t doubt your eyes.”

Take three.

“There’s a hand down there,” with a hint of a chuckle.

“Are you trying to annoy me?” Van Sant said.

Take four.

“There’s a hand down there.” Flat. A statement.

“Do you know what I can do to you if you make me mad enough?” Van Sant said.

Next to me, the slate girl had fear in her eyes.

“Don’t make him  mad,” she said to me in a whisper.

Take five.

“THERE’S A HAND DOWN THERE!”

“DO THAT AGAIN AND I’LL BREAK YOUR F**KING FACE!”

Take six.

“There’s a hand down there,” with a sort of a sob.

Van Sant sighed. He came around behind me and knelt down, out of the shot. He reached between my legs and grabbed my testicles in an iron grip. Began to squeeze.

Take seven.

“There’s… nnngggh… a hand… nnnngggghh… down… there… nnnggghheeek.”

“Cut,” Van Sant said, standing up. “Print it. Next setup.”

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5 Responses

  1. Do you know the end when you give your post a title or do you work toward it, hoping you’ll pull it off, but not being sure you will? Or is that a trade secret?

    • It’s all just improv, so no, the ending is shrouded in mystery at the beginning. One hopes for serendipity. Van Sant didn’t pull it off, though.

      • Glad to hear it. About Van Sant, I mean. (One of the characters in the book I’m revising is named Van Sandt. I should check the spelling. Anyway, this title freaked me out a little because I’m having trouble getting his dialogue to work. I hadn’t thought about Gus when I named him. Maybe I need to hire you to be my dialogue coach. Maybe I should start spelling dialogue “dialog.” Maybe I should stop procrastinating.)

  2. PS: Townes Van Sandt. That’s who I was thinking of. Of whom I was thinking, I mean.

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