I don’t get it. I really don’t get the big deal about independent
moviemaking. Here’s how it works: you take a weekend or two to
write a script, get a few friends together, have some companies loan
you equipment to shoot with for a couple of weeks, then boom—you’re
in Sundance. That’s how it works. So what’s the big deal?
OK—so I might be kind of a prick. I’m certainly the luckiest
guy I know. While it’s true that I wrote the script for Sleeping
Dogs Lie in a weekend and we did shoot it in 16 days, I really
didn’t think it would ever get into the dramatic competition at
Sundance, let alone see a release date in theatres. Of course I told
my cast and crew (mostly Craig’s List finds still in film school)
that we were destined for film festivals. But had I actually thought
I had a snowball’s chance in hell, I may have ponied up some money
for more luxuries on set—like chairs and monitors. Or permits.
One of our big locations in Sleeping Dogs Lie was the couple’s
apartment. Since we had no money for stages or sets, we just decided
to shoot in my friend Morgan’s apartment while she was out of
town. That sounds terrible I know, but it’s totally not the worst
thing we did on this movie—although, come to think of it, putting
a girl making out with a dog in her bed without changing her sheets
and just hoping she wouldn’t notice at the first screening may
have been. (Sorry Morgan.) Filming without permits is a drag because
it means that you really are a little jumpier than you need to be. Especially
in a small apartment complex in Hollywood where people are fairly film
savvy, and some of them are slightly bitter. One of the neighbors was
less than pleased with our being there and stormed in to talk to me
one afternoon. She had, apparently, swiped a script off the set and
after getting a few pages into it was outraged. She told me,
without any mincing of words, that this was “the most disgusting
thing” she had ever read and that “there is no reason to
bring this into the world.” While I took a second to come up with
a more political rebuttal than my instinctual “screw you, lady,”
she backed down a little, perhaps sensing that she had gone too far.
She cushioned her words by saying, “I’m sorry, I know you’re
just doing your job as director. You didn’t write this,”
at which point Morgan (just back from her trip) jumped in with, “Oh
no, he wrote it too!”—perfect.
Coincidentally, 45 minutes later, we had a Humane Society rep show up
on set and ask what the dog trainer was there for. My producer went
out and gave her a very detailed description of the dog’s scenes
for the day—walk across the room, whine up at the camera, sit
on the couch—you know, just family dog stuff. We realized just
who had tipped her off and how bad she made it sound when the Humane
Society rep listened to the whole rap and then replied, “Right.
So I heard a dog gets a blow job in this movie. When exactly are you
Goddammit. (For the record, we worked with trainers the whole time and
the Humane Society was on set for the rest of our shoot and signed off
on everything. There was never an actual act of bestiality committed
or even mimed. What kind of person do you think I am?)
Sleeping Dogs Lie is about learning to keep your mouth shut
when it’s something nobody needs to hear. I feel like I applied
that lesson well to my life that day, as I just made some jokes and
promised the neighbor lady that we’d be done at a reasonable hour
and no, we weren’t coming back tomorrow. Maybe she’ll end
up seeing it. And maybe she’ll learn to keep her trap shut.
Man, I hope we don’t have to go back there for re-shoots.