"I was saying let me out of here before I was even born,
It's such a gamble when you get a face."
In 1993, I wrote, produced and directed a short 35mm film called "Thirst." I was feeling rather ballsy, so I looked up Richard Hell, one of my punk rock heroes, in the phonebook and lo and behold, he was in there. I called him and told him I wanted him to costar in the film and was he interested. He made a date for me to meet him at his apartment to talk and drop off the script.
The film is about balance - the balance between being in a relationship and not, juxtaposed with the balance between alcohol and coffee, with water as the great equalizer. I suppose the film is about the "water' between relationships, which should be peace, but rarely is.
I met with Richard and we hit it off. He called me a couple of days later and said he wanted to do it. I couldn't believe it, but I guess Richard didn't have a lot going on right then.
I secured CBGB's Pizza, right next to the club (both RIP) and paid Hilly (also RIP) $200 for a location fee to shoot during the day on a Sunday.
The other male members of the cast were my friend Greg, who I had directed in several videos for his band, Vanilla Trainwreck and my friend Joey, who would play the bartender and be my AD, right-hand-man, voice-of-reason and savior.
We shot all day with a full 35mm crew. Richard ended up doing the whole day for two tunafish sandwiches (punk rock! thanks, Rich!) and the rest of the crew and cast ate pizza.
Two memorable moments: One of the crew members asked Richard what the film was about. He pointed at me, which caught my attention and said "him" and smiled at me.
The other was the final line of dialogue. I didn't know how to end the film and it ended with this set-up (I still had two more days of filming Greg with the two female actors). Joey did not have a line in the whole film, he just was background - cleaning glasses and serving drinks to the boys (Rolling Rock!). At one point he and I were talking and I told him that I needed a punch in the face for the end of the film and as it was it just sort of petered out. He said that his character basically listens to people bitch all the time. And he had listened to these two guys - Greg and Richard - have what they thought was this profound conversation about love and relationships, etc...and then he said what if I said this, and whispered it to me. I smiled, as usual when hearing obvious wisdom from my friend, and "re-wrote" the script without telling anyone else.
I informed Greg and Richard that when Greg delivered his last line, to hold it for a beat and then the bartender was going to say something and that they should look at him, but not respond - fade to black. Sure, James, ok, whatever...
We ran the scene - one take. Greg delivered his line (which I don't remember) and Joey said this:
"Last call, you dumb motherfuckers."
They held the scene for five seconds (all I needed for a fade to black and then the entire room burst into laughter.
Sadly, I never finished the film, which was a shame because Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth was set to do the soundtrack. To be honest, it wasn't really that good and I take full sophomoric responsibility for that.
But the ending kicks ass.
I did manage to take a roll of production stills, which I found the other day.
The trip through time continues...
Greg in character.
Greg and Richard Hell rehearsing.
Joey in character for his last line (notice the boom mike in the mirror).
Cover Star: "Thirst"
Headlining Band: Richard Fuckin' Hell and The Voidoids