Lives Like Ours #5 - Night Shift
For years, I tried to dodge explaining to my friends and even my family that I’m the worst sort of habit-creature-thing when it comes to sleeping. I’ve used every trick in the book, everything from last minute diseases to insisting that sometimes I just like staying in hotels, which is kind of true but beside the point. It’s not that I don’t want to visit or that your kids bother me or that I don’t like you or even love you. It’s just that the idea of sleeping in your home creeps the bejeezus out of me.
Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
These days I don’t bother with excuses.
I don’t like crashing.
Wanna be friends?
Learn to deal with the fact that it will take an extraordinary amount of alcohol to make me sleep on your couch and that won’t happen because I don’t drink much anymore. I like my bedrooms cold and dark and occupied by enough memory-foam to swallow a sumo wrestler and I’m not the least bit sorry about it.
This might seem a random thing to bring up during a story about making a movie but the truth of it is, this was what worried me the most about shooting “Sphere”.
How the hell was I going to sleep?
‘Where’ wasn’t the issue. Hotels were out of the question. We barely had enough money to feed everybody so I knew damn well I’d be sleeping at Jon’s parents’ place and that was likely to involve a couch or maybe even the dreaded floor. Trouble was afoot, I just knew it. I’d roll around on the ground for an hour or so every night, give up, go outside, hork down a couple cigarettes, dick around on my phone, maybe try again for another thirty minutes before surrendering and hitting the coffee pot. With any luck, not everyone on set would hate me by the time it was all over.
It’s possible I was overthinking things. As it turned out, Jon’s folks had carved out a spot in their basement for us, complete with air mattresses and an alarm clock. A nearby door led to the back porch where I could easily sneak away without bothering anyone. It was quiet and cozy but, in the end, none of it mattered much because I’d forgotten that falling asleep is rarely an issue when it comes to film sets. The problem is finding the time to do it.
When that first night at Amanda’s wound down, we made our way back Jon’s. I don’t remember what time it was but I’m sure it was well after midnight. Call was at eight the next morning and we still had a shit-pile of work ahead of us. I had call sheets and sides to prepare for the next day, with aspirations of working another day or two in advance. Jon had to dump the day’s footage and Shane was still tinkering with the script. As I recall, we found time to have at least one argument. I don’t remember what it was about but it seemed terribly important at the time.
I only slept for about thirty minutes. I don’t think I even bothered with taking my jeans off. The fact that I’m lousy at crashing never once crossed my mind. I was just grateful to be closing my eyes. I woke up to Shane stumbling around the basement and a few minutes later, Jon’s mother greeted us with coffee. I could have kissed her.
One of the reasons I was so invested in making “Sphere” is that I was dying to be in the game again. I hadn’t worked on a set in almost five years. My life had been overtaken with pedestrian things like cutting grass and paying bills, not all of which are bad but they don’t excite me the way sets do.
Point is, I’d forgotten what it was like, the ins and outs of it. On every set there is energy, great bursts of creativity followed sometimes by mind-numbing tedium. Each day is the worst kind of emotional roller-coaster and it’s absolutely exhausting. It seems ridiculous that the issue of sleeping even occurred to me but looking back on it, I know that it was purely because I’d been riding the bench for so long.
My last night in Jackson, I sent Shane and Jon off to the main campus of a nearby college to shoot while I prepped Amanda to take over for me as the assistant director. I was only able to procure a week off work and the shoot was scheduled for ten days. We were sitting at her dining room table when a wave of exhaustion swept over me. At first I thought it was just the lack of sleep catching up with me but when I stepped outside to head home, I felt my skin prickle and I knew something wasn’t right.
I found my way back to the house, did a quick post-mortem with the guys and then caved. We had a full day of shooting ahead of us, with call at eight and then a company move at four. I had planned to stick around for the move, have dinner and then hit the road for a hotel somewhere outside of Nashville. It was already after midnight but I figured a good six hours of sleep would do the trick. I climbed into bed, not just fully clothed, still wearing my coat.
It turned out that six hours didn’t cut it and those prickles I felt outside Amanda’s were actually the opening salvos in a battle with strep throat but that’s another story, one I’m too tired to tell you. All this writing is making me sleepy.
PS - Yep, that's a koala.