The development process for the film Everyday People
included an improvisation workshop with a group of about fifty actors
which was used to explore issues of race and to experiment with different
scenarios involving the characters. The workshop, which took place in
the winter of 2001, yielded tons of material, most of which never even
became a part of the final script. Like a beloved scene that has to
hit the edit room floor for the greater good of the film, these exchanges
were often painful to lose. Instead of putting a deleted scene on the
DVD, I thought I’d share a scene that never even got shot, but
was one of my favorites from the workshop.
The following is just a small part of a lengthy improvisation that
we did between Sol (48, Jewish), a dishwasher at the restaurant played
by actor Steven Axelrod and Rocky (44, black), a biker who Sol has just
met on the street played by actor Dante Nero.
The scene between these two characters that is now in the film is a
total of only about twelve words long—“the essence,”
as they say. But in the improv, the actors went to places that were
jaw-dropping at times. A lot of the material we were working on confronted
assumptions that people make that are based on race. When our biker
character, who stereotypically would have been jingoistic, started spewing
"anti-patriotic" conspiracies about the WTC attacks, I knew
we were swimming in some very interesting waters. Even when this dialogue
never found its way into the final film, it served as wonderful material
for the actors to have inside themselves and it helped me, as the director,
to know their worlds even better and, hopefully, make a more resonant
film. And on a whole other level, it’s just a fun scene to read,
as two strangers find themselves in a conversation that goes far beyond
talk about the weather.
Some back story to this excerpt: Their initial conversation reveals
that they are both “Friends of Bill W” (in AA) and they’ve
both done time in prison. The dialogue that follows picks up from there.
This thing affect you at all, what went on at the World Trade Center?
Yeah man, workin’, twelve hours a day, seven days a week, you
know? I work for the phone company and all the cables got destroyed,
we lost a building down there, you know. It’s pretty cool, I mean,
not what happened, but I was able to make a little extra money, you
know? One man’s misfortune is another man’s fortune, you
SOL (taken aback)
I don’t know, I wouldn’t be surprised if they ah, if they
let that happen.
Who let that happen?
Government. You figure, I don’t know….
What are you saying? You think this was like a CIA conspiracy thing,
is that what you’re saying?
You look at four thousand people dead right, what’s that, in terms
of perspective of the whole population, way less than one percent? And
because of that, less than one percent, nobody is thinking about the
fact that George W. hijacked the election. It’s not, we’re
not even talking about that no more. That’s not even an issue.
Wait a minute, wait a minute, what does him hijacking the election have
to do with the World Trade Center, man?
Let me put it to you like this. Prior to 9/11, George Bush was not getting
elected. Right or wrong, would you agree with that?
He was already president. He was president idiot, but….
He was president idiot, right. Do you think he would have gotten another
I tell you what, I can’t go there, I mean that’s like, too,
that’s too far out, you better go to a meeting man.
Let me say this….
No, you gotta go to a meeting, cause you know why, you got that committee
going on in there, I got a feeling you’re living in your head.
It’s a good thing we’re talking here.
Okay, in the scope of how we look at this emotionally, four thousand
people is a tragedy. In the scope of what is going on, you know, globally,
four thousand people is a drop in the bucket. So if they could sacrifice
four thousand people, now you got the military budget off the hook,
George W. and all the Republicans have a green light to spend all the
money they want on the military….
So wait a minute, you’re saying like, you’re saying that
this was all planned out?
What about, do you know anything about the whole pipeline that goes
No, I don’t know anything about the pipeline.
There’s an oil pipeline that goes through Afghanistan and prior
to 9/11 America could not go in and have anything to do with any oil
So now American troops have the right to just do whatever they want
to do in Afghanistan. The pipeline, money, anything that they want to
do. George W. Bush gets a second term automatically cause he’s
the hero, right? Right before this shit, people were half seriously
talking about defunding the CIA cause they haven’t done shit in
years, and now all of a sudden they’re making TV shows about them….
Listen to me man, listen to me, seriously, let’s talk square business,
alright? I don’t know you and I like talking to you, but you know,
this is a lot of crap, man. You were in the program. I don’t know
quite what you’re talking about here, I don’t know you,
it ain’t my business, but I think you got to get yourself to meeting.
Sit down in the front, take the cotton out of your ears and sit on your
hands and listen.
No, really, am I right or wrong? We’re talking about your life
here, man. It sounds like you’re setting yourself up. You’re
setting up for a fall. You haven’t touched anything?
Hey Sol, not for nothing, but I’m the one with the job and the
new life, you know what I mean? You’re the one washing dishes,
you know, so….
Nice. Yeah, you’re right. You’re right.