Twenty-Five Days

March 7, 2024
Twenty-five days. That’s how long I was on the set directing Delirious. Out of six years, twenty-five days. I’ve often wondered what my job was all the other days—the days before and all the days since. Bill collector, delivery man, inmate, prison warden, shrink, priest, pimp, dope pusher, dog catcher, coffee getter, freaker outer.
But for the twenty-five days of the shoot, I felt more alive than I ever have in my life. Shooting a low-budget movie is almost like warfare. The unexpected accidents and disasters require almost the same superhuman effort to recover from—to adapt to, to find creative solutions to. The victories are intense. The defeats are exhausting and demoralizing. So many times, my sole purpose was simply to keep everybody from quitting and going home.
Certain fragments from the battlefield stand out. The night we snuck onto the subway, just me, Michael, Frank DeMarco, and a handheld 35mm movie camera.
NYC was in the middle of a subway strike that miraculously ended the night before Michael was due to leave for Japan for six months to do another movie. We snuck onto the train at midnight and shot all night, just the three of us—on the train, on the platforms, jumping over turnstiles, leaping into cars—and not a single person stopped us. We ended up in Brooklyn when the sun came up and had breakfast: beer, tequila, and jelly donuts at Michael’s apartment.
The night we shot the fly. Toby realizes his relationship with Les has become destructive, and he must somehow find a way to leave. They’re sitting in an all-night diner, and Toby glances down to see a fly stuck in a small pool of syrup. The shot was an enormous close-up of just the fly, so we did it at the end of the night when all the actors had gone home. The prop man had three flies refrigerated in a state of semi-hibernation. The first one just stood in the syrup and didn’t move. The second one suddenly flew out the door, leaving us with one last fly.
The prop man eased it onto the table and nudged it into the syrup. We rolled camera. Suddenly, the fly began to struggle. I motioned to the operator to zoom in and keep filming. In the monitor, I could see the fly straining backward with all its might, lifting one leg out at a time until it was finally free. We all burst into spontaneous, emotional applause. The fly’s successful struggle to free itself was the perfect metaphor for Toby’s state of mind. The fly gave a performance that was as stirring as any actor in the film. I should have given it a credit. It still troubles me to know that twenty-four hours later, it was dead.
Get Delirious: The Director's Cut here.

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician