3 things about Mike Leigh’s TOPSY-TURVY

Topsy-Turvy [1999]

1. “It’s this heat, it muddles the noodles.”
2. Oysters and stout.
3. She places her hand delicately on her stomach. “How long have you known?” he asks.

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Grief, two years later.

As I work towards finishing Pause of the Clock, I have naturally thought an awful lot about the time when we were making the film. During the course of shooting, many, many people worked on the film. Cast, crew, and random classmates and acquaintances I cajoled into being drivers or grips or just plain helping out in one way or another. I’ve pored over my old camera and sound reports, the still photos we took on the set, and my own diary. To be honest I didn’t remember everyone’s name, and I really want to make sure everyone has their place in the end credits. Diving back into these documents has been invaluable.

I’ve begun to reconnect to various people I’ve fallen out of touch with, sharing my excitement about “unpausing” the film while also catching up. 20 years is, after all, a lot of time. And thus far, without exception, it’s been pretty wonderful. That is, until today.

For awhile now I’ve been trying to locate one of my classmates at Columbia College who was my assistant director in Spring 1996, during the last phase of shooting. His name was John Carmichael. Today my search ended:

John William Carmichael, a self-taught artist who emerged from Detroit as a young man with a striking, abstract vision and a mammoth musical repertoire covering more than three decades, died in his home Tuesday June 5, 2012, in Los Angeles. He was 39. John persevered for over 20 years despite a longstanding battle with epilepsy.

As an artist, his massive body of work amassed multiple eras and genres of music and film, including “Turnstyles,” a vinyl mix series from 1997-2007 with over 45 DJ mixes and over 48 hours of music, a full-length film titled “Cycles,” and the track “What It Is” on Om Record’s “Deeper Concentration.”

Born Dec. 4, 1972, at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, John was the beloved son of Robert R. and Lizabeth (Beth) Glick Carmichael. John’s survivors include his parents, Beth and Bob Carmichael of California; his sister and close friend, Katie Carmichael Catlin of Atlanta, Georgia; his grandmother, Nancy Glick, of Flat Rock; as well as many friends and extended family.

I read the obituary and then closed my office door. Immediately I thought back to the last time I saw him. It was around 2002, I believe. I was still a barista at Intelligentsia. One day he happened to come in for a cup of coffee. We spent a few minutes chatting across the counter. He told me about his life after Columbia, moving to LA and what that was like, his DJ work. He asked about the film, I’m sure, and I probably shrugged in a que sera sera way and admitted I never finished it. Then he gave me his business card, which I still have in a drawer of my desk at home, and we said goodbye.

The wistful, melancholy feeling I have right now … the clenched knot in my throat …

One of the scenes in the film called for my character to eat a donut, and the morning of the shoot John arrived with three dozen of them from Dunkin Donuts. He ran many such errands, buying batteries and supplies, keeping track of details and making continuity notes. An important part of Pause of the Clock for me is fully honoring those moments in time that the film captures, and the many people over the years who have worked on the project, by finishing it. I’m heartbroken that John isn’t here to share this achievement. But I’m so grateful he gave of himself, his time, and his talents when a semi-clueless 20-year-old came up to him after class one day and said, “Hey, I’m shooting a feature. Want to help?”

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Throwback Thursday: behind the scenes.



Cinematographer Tchavdar Georgiev (left) and assistant cameraman Chuck Gaunt prepare a shot. Tchavdar actually appears as an actor in this scene. I think you can sense his bemusement! (Note the sound blankets on the walls in addition to the “blimp” on the camera. 16mm is noisy!) Photo taken by yours truly during the last burst of shooting on the the film, Spring 1996.

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3 things about Jean Negulesco’s THE BEST OF EVERYTHING

The Best of Everything [1959]

1. “I’ve never asked for more and I won’t settle for anything less. Now you and your rabbit-faced wife, go to hell!”
2. Her new boyfriend the doctor arrives with a variety of pills that he’s swiped from the hospital, plus a bag of socks that need mending.
3. A thick dress the color of Pepto-Bismol.

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Logging the film.


This photo was taken near the end of our first burst of shooting, January 1995. You can see us all busily logging the film and sound (from L to R: cinematographer Tchavdar Georgiev, me, sound recordist Phil Jones).

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3 things about George Clooney’s THE MONUMENTS MEN

The Monuments Men [2014]

1. Historical inaccuracy: when she sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” she uses the revised lyrics to the song. Lyrics that didn’t appear until the 1950′s.
2. “If it was not for you, I might be dead. But I would still be speaking French.”
3. Bill pats Bob’s helmet.

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3 things about Ron Mann’s ALTMAN

Altman [2014]

1. Jack Warner: “That fool has all the actors talking at the same time!”
2. Altman’s grandson played Swee’pea in Popeye.
3. Lily Tomlin’s definition of Altmanesque: “Making a family.”

Attempting to capture the essence of Robert Altman in only an hour and a half is a foolhardy task, but this documentary makes a surprisingly good introduction. There’s a whole lot of compression, naturally, but his heart and soul come through. The gold standard is still Mitchell Zuckoff’s oral biography. In any case, if you see Altman you will have an instant craving to watch his movies again.

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