Droning On

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, a large chunk of the Naked Angels community is working on a short film project.  I myself am an actor on this project; this is the week in which I’ll be doing the bulk of my preparation for it, since the shooting day for my major scenes (i.e. the ones I actually appear in and have lines) is this Saturday.  I have done some shooting on the film before now – in fact, I’m in the very first shot we got on camera.

Along with most of the rest of our cast.

It was an exterior shot, establishing the many strange denizens of the titular Pink House.  And an ambitious shot as well.  It follows a character who repels down from the roof of the pink brownstone to then pass in front of the protagonists, three stories below; as the camera tracks this daredevil, it takes in all of the other characters in this strange abode, all glimpsed in their various windows from the outside.  It’s the sort of shot that, in another time, would involve a gigantic crane sweeping about, and the closing down of the street for blocks around to accommodate it, a monumental display of moviemaking excess and grandeur.

These days, not so much.  Instead, the camera was mounted on a drone, which was then operated remotely from the street.  We actors performed with this drone – this tiny little robot, with what seemed like piercing green eyes, floating in the air – as our audience.  The aforementioned repeller made his way down the face of the building with this little guy buzzing a few feet from him.

There is a movie from the 1980s, largely forgotten today, called batteries not included.  In that film, the inhabitants of a run down apartment building are saved from ruin by cute little anthropomorphized robots from outer space, who fly about solving everybody’s problems.  (The eighties were really, really weird.)  I kept flashing back to that stable of afternoon cable programming as we got off this initial shot – which, from the footage I’ve seen, looks incredible.  But that incredible footage was obtained from a device which, objectively, looks ridiculous.  It’s got beady little green eyes staring out of its casing as it floats around on its little propellers, hiccupping its way into the sky, looking for all the world like the robot sidekick from some forgotten Saturday morning cartoon.

Ridiculous and wonderful in equal measure.  The grandiose and goofy standing side by side (or floating as the case may be).  There may be a more concise metaphor for the attempt to make art in 2024 – but if there is, it hasn’t floated in front of me as I stared out a West Village brownstone’s second floor window yet.

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