Thursday, September 24, 2015

esther and the dirty brown towel

WHEN I SAT DOWN to write the screenplay for the commercial one afternoon in late June, the little gravel road that crosses over the levee near Red’s sprang to mind. It’s the area of Catahoula that struck me as having the most cinematic potential. It’s the only elevated landscape in Catahoula, and in the right light, I imagined, with a vehicle driving down it, the little gravel road would generate a cool cloud of glittering dust. I could see it so clearly in my mind’s eye — an old pickup truck driving on the levee road. I wrote The Golden Age of Catahoula at the top of a blank page.
     OPENING SHOT: The levee road on a sunny blue summer day. An old pickup truck enters the frame and takes a left down the little gravel road, a cloud of glittering dust being kicked up in its wake. It hangs a left at Red’s Levee Bar and heads toward Catahoula.

     Two months later, on the last Saturday of August, we established our location in the dusty parking lot across from Red’s just before sunrise and filmed exactly that shot. It was odd how different the levee was in real life and up close. It wasn’t as high as it was in my imagination. The little gravel road crossing wasnt as steep, and it was farther down from Red’s Levee Bar than I’d have guessed — far enough of a walk from the filming location that it made more sense to drive Steven there in the back of the old blue Chevy pickup I’d secured for the filming, a truck by the name of Esther.
     Steven hopped out — he was going to be flying his drone camera above me as I drove Esther down the little gravel road, hopefully kicking up some impressive dust along the way. It was a beautiful blue day, and the sun had just risen above the line of trees on the horizon, so the odds were pretty good. The moment felt right. I could see the glittering dust so clearly in my minds eye. But the big brown blob I noticed several yards ahead of Steven on the levee road, right at the spot where he’d be launching the drone, would have to be moved. No way I’d let that blob spoil the shot.

     I was hoping it wasn’t a dead something. From where I was in the driver’s seat it looked like it could be. Or some soggy crawfish sack. Even if it was a bloated beaver it would have to go. “What is it?” I shouted to Steven. He picked it up with as few fingers as possible. Looked like a nasty brown towel. He threw it in the grass.
     The next time I saw the towel we were wrapping up the shoot. The small crowd of friends and family who had gathered in the dusty shoulder of the levee road to watch me drive Esther up and down the little gravel road were getting into cars and carts and making their way to the next location, the bridge over Bayou Mercier. I was turning Esther around when I passed my mom and Harriet in Harriet’s golf cart.
     A good Girl Scout, my mom had taken it upon herself to tidy up the location, and she’d lain the nasty brown bath towel delicately across her lap. I said, “You know where that towel’s been, don’t you?” “No, where?”  She perked up in her seat. I said, “I picked it up off the levee. Who knows where that thing has been!” She threw the dirty brown towel on the ground in disgust, and we all died laughing.