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It's a Wrap

It is one of the first sunny days in this godforsaken town. I roll up my sleeves, glance into the empty expanse of the U-Haul, and think, Finally, I am a real filmmaker . My business partner, Jeremy, trots down the steps of his apartment, an old-style brick building in a row of identical townhouses. Each has a scrubby patch of dead lawn in front, boxed in by a wire fence. Across the way is a bus depot, a parking station for the city transit system, and, above the cement vehicle bays, a blue, blue sky.

The air is cool on my bare arms, but I like it. I pick up the cumbersome tripod case and haul it to Jeremy's door. He's got his head in the van, checking for any loose items. The hallway smells of old wood, the apartment of post-teenage boy. I drop my load in the kitchen and clatter down the dark stairs for more.

One by one, we cart our equipment -- the estimated value of which, according to Emerson's rental department manager, totals around $35,000 -- into the house, stacking it next to the refrigerator. We have camera boxes; the strange, spine-like C-stands; several cases of lights. The stack of gear sits before us. We stare at it, our breath the only sound in the room.

"Jeez, that's a lot of stuff."

Jeremy nods. "Yeah," he says.

He drops me off at a café in his neighborhood, the up-and-coming hotspot known as Davis Square. The sun streams through the windows. It's lovely, and I almost forget the ache that has spread through my joints. I settle in, order, and eat the best sandwich of my life, a vegetable wrap so simple and unpretentious I could cry.

As I eat, I think about the upcoming shoot -- worry about the upcoming shoot. We have six hours to complete all of our scenes and, though it is MOS (without sound) and under five minutes, the pressure is still on. We have 32 shots, not to mention two that involve a dolly-in. Between the two of us, Jeremy and I have been producers, directors, cinematographers, location managers, casting agents, crew recruiters, equipment renters, and, of course, full-time students. We've called insurance companies, lighting houses, potential shooting spaces, and post-production service labs. We've missed classes, sacrificed our social lives, and tapped our bank accounts. And it's painfully close to The Big Day.

I slurp down the last of my iced chai, bid the café's baristas goodbye, and, with a cone of peanut butter frozen yogurt, I hop the train home. Through last-minute security clearance debacles and crew meetings and stretching of budgets, I think about the café, about that sandwich.

I make one more trip to the café before the big day, my backpack loaded down with film cans and camera magazines -- not literature about cameras but what the film is loaded into -- and chow down. Before I leave, I notice that the place has, in addition to two pool tables, an old photo booth. Leaving my backpack outside, I grab one of the magazines and duck behind the curtain. Holding the awkward thing in my lap, I feed the machine four dollars and wait. A light goes off in my face with a poof and I'm caught off-guard, stare into the space where I assume the lens is and pose, magazine aloft. Four more poofs and I'm done.

Ten minutes later I have my photos. In the first, I look like a demented turtle, eyes bugged out, face squashed. The second two are out of focus and the last is too dark, but, all things considered, they're not heinous. I tear off the first one and rip it to pieces. The remaining photos go into my wallet.

It felt right , I think as I head down the darkening street toward the train, taking those pictures on the eve of one of the bigger moments in my life . After this shoot, I will have crossed a hurdle -- my first movie; my first REAL movie on REAL FILM. And I will be behind the camera.

Though freak outs are to come and mistakes will be made, in this moment I feel confident. My back hurts, and my head is filled with things to remember, synapses dancing in nervous anticipation, but I've got Kodak 100T in my bag and two good eyes in my head. I can do this. I can make this happen. I can make a movie.

Afterward, I'll go get another one of those sandwiches.

www.pianogoesbackwards.negimaki.com

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