One of the many mistakes I made in drafting contracts was a deletion rather than an omission. Angel told me, “We will never have the money to do ADR [additional dialog recording], so take that out of the actors’ contracts.”
I understood that ADR was done when the voices recorded lacked necessary clarity, but I didn’t have a solid appreciation of what caused the problem. Well, it turned out to be any number of things, including a hum of a refrigerator in the background, mistakes by the sound man, an inoperable boom, or a problematic microphone. But I learned all of that in retrospect, after the film was shot. Not knowing it in advance, I listened to Angel and took it out of the contract that actors would have to do ADR. That was a mistake.
As it turned out, we had very substantial problems with sound. There was an entire sequence shot in a car that took the better part of a day to film. The camera work wasn’t very good, but it was useable. The audio was so awful it was unusable. I really wanted to use the scene because the dialog was important, but not integral, to the plot and the banter between the characters helped develop their relationship. To boot, the imagery out the windows revealed Dallas and had good production value.
There were other sound issues as well, including a humming refrigerator that couldn’t be turned off in a bar where we shot an essential scene, a dysfunctional microphone in a murder scene, voices drowned by passing vehicles, and absence of key human noises in a host of scenes such as the victim praying, a dying man choking, a woman pleading, and a voice over the telephone. These turned out to be so crucial that they required ADR.
I tried to do as much of the ADR as I could myself. I made the choking noises for the dying, the whispers of prayer, and recorded the telephone voice. My masterful sound engineer, Johnny Marshall, was able to manipulate these recordings to make them fit the circumstance. For example, he lowered the tone of my voice so that it sounds like a male speaking on the phone.
The way it works is that the relevant scene is played on a screen and the speaker stands in front of a microphone with a headset on. You hear three clicks and then the film rolls. You watch the lips of the person onscreen to synch your speech with their movement. For some people, this is as easy as bouncing a ball; for others, it takes many repetitions.
I toyed with the idea of getting some friends to come in and ADR some of the isolated voices that we needed. But then it occurred to me that the extras who played the roles might enjoy the ADR process and learn from it as well. I decided to forthrightly ask them if they’d like to do it for free, with the understanding that there was no obligation or pressure. They all jumped at the chance. After all, having not only your visage, but your voice, in a movie is great fun.
A rather humorous thing happened in regard to the extras. A very tall, hefty man played the medical examiner. The trouble was that there were two extras’ names by the role in the log. So I called the first guy and asked him if he played the medical examiner and he replied yes.
When we opened the studio door to let him in, it was not the big man who played the medical examiner at all; it was a small, slim fellow with a decidedly “wrong” voice for the role. Not wanting to offend him since he’d shown up, I let him do the ADR. But I resolved to call in the person who’d really played the role. The second name was the right one and he came gladly to do the ADR as well.
In cases where a known voice was needed, we had to bring in the relevant actors. But I was willing to do this for only a short amount of time, not the lengthy sessions that would be required to re-do the entire in-auto scene.
Budget woes were a pervasive presence in my head throughout the movie-making process, almost like a fug of fear clouding my judgment. I expected some unforeseen expense cropping up that would end the whole enterprise because there were no deep pockets and no financier to turn to. So, I watched every expenditure every day, checking it against the budget. But it wasn’t the sudden big-ticket item that pounced unexpectedly on me; it was the pile up of little stuff. For the most part, all of the big-ticket items had been planned and accounted for, but the unexpected smaller things were adding up.
One of the problems was that others on the team had the sense that this was a well-financed movie—like a studio production—so they tended to be cavalier about spending. I knew, for example, that some of the people whose gasoline I had to pay for in order for them to do their jobs were cheating. And the wastefulness in the meals, drinks and snacks thrown away was unnerving. But I couldn’t afford the time and energy to solve these little problems in real time. I had to watch for difficulties with more costly issues. An example was muscle cars.
I noticed one day during production that one of the management team was spending a lot of time looking at images of cars on the computer. I had no idea what he was doing and was irritated at his wasting time this way. Before I could say anything to him, I was called away to handle some problem and forgot about it.
Later in the day, he came to me with some printouts of photos of three cars. He explained that he and a couple of other members of the team had selected these cars as “picture cars”—cars to rent for use in the movie. These flashy vehicles would cost several hundred dollars a day and would be required for multiple days. They definitely were not in the budget. I took him aside and told him that under no circumstances were we going to rent muscle cars. I was really surprised when he pushed back, saying that we needed to have cars that matched the personalities of the two cops and the woman who was stalked.
I decided that discussion was pointless. For some reason, he just didn’t have a true grip on budgetary constraints. I told him very firmly (resisting anger that wanted to creep into my voice) that there would be absolutely no more discussion of the issue. I had arranged to borrow friends’ cars and that was that.
Over and over money was an issue. It was lonely sometimes making the calls on where to spend. I wished I could have done a better job not only keeping waste down, but also conveying the limits of my finances to the management team.