A few years back, a group of students arrived at The Royale for an overnight shoot, including director Jordan Bowlin, who’d created a few memorable videos for my Intro to Media Writing class, used for years later as example. Bowlin and his large crew brought with them an arsenal of cameras, microphones, lights and everything else needed to support a pro-quality, nighttime shoot. At the time, I was teaching at Webster University and a good chunk of the now-junior-and-senior students taking part in the shoot had been in classes of mine as freshmen or sophs. As they poured into the place, just before close, they began to set up gear, even with customers still in the place and prior to the nightly cleaning. It wasn’t a little bit awkward, then, to kick all of them out of the patio to chill for a bit, as we finished the night’s operation; adding to the moment, I somehow managed to snag the mop bucket, spilling gallons of mop water all over the exterior entry. Nice.
The situation was probably a bit of unusual for them, too. After all, a year, or two, before I’d been grading their papers, trying to educate them to the world of mass communications to the degree that I could as an adjunct. As time on and more students turned 21, I ran into more of them in that bar setting, as I idled outside the building checking IDs, or ran to the cold boxes in the garage, schlepping beer boxes. I imagine a few of them wondered what the hell this was all about; had they asked, I’d have told them about the racket that is academia, how most adjuncts work second gigs to support themselves. All those nights mopping and stocking and checking on cars eventually allowed me to save enough money (just enough) to buy into my own space, the Tick Tock. It worked out, though awkward moments of my various jobs colliding were becoming more common.
(The other component, of course: students working on these projects are usually pretty certain that the world will be theirs and that the shoots they’re on will lead to future, full-time employment in the industry of their choice; for some, that works out exactly and life it good. More likely, folks wind up doing what I’ve done, which is: piecing together a life in media by doing lots of different things, with the final prize a bit elusive. That’s the kind of message you can say in class a million times, a million different ways, but it doesn’t always stick, no matter how well-intentioned or passionately-delivered. Anyway, I wish them all success and fat paychecks, too. Back to our story.)
Another shoot took place about a year back; it was during winter, that’s for sure, with the brutal cold a really memorable aspect of the night. I was asked if I wanted to stay after shift and make a nice piece of coin for watching the store as a film crew set-up and shot another short film; guess word had gotten around the Webster undergrad community that The Royale had a good nocturnal look and reasonable rates. As with the first film, this one was also helmed by another of my former students, Zach Nuernberger, who I think took two classes with me in the years prior. And now I was accepting a five-pack of $20 bills from him to watch a bar on my weekend job, as he and his crew soldiered through a long night, a seven-hour experience that took us all the way into morning drive time, the sun peeking through all those glass block windows.
As with any shoot, there were rehearsed moments, then the shoot of the scene itself, followed by countless reshoots. Cameras were moved, mics adjusted, bodies placed an inch to the left or right. At some point around 4 a.m., the dynamics changed and I was asked if I would take part in the shoot. Though I didn’t have a script or know about the storyline, really, I was given a couple of lines; amusingly, I was given a couple of obscenities and I kept thinking about more former students, watching this in campus settings, a former prof of theirs dropping f-bombs onscreen. It was fun enough and broke up the evening for me.
After asking Zach a couple weeks back if the film was online anywhere, he sent along the following clip. I scanned it on my phone, seeing myself behind the bar, without really watching or listening to “Wish You Were Here.”
I’ll post it here, watching it here.
For a long time, this is the kind of story I’d wax on about in front of a group. Don’t have that option right now, so here you go.