*Advance Warning: Sorry this entry is so long. I’ll make sure this never happens again.*
I guess Fridays are quickly becoming a sort of “Getting to Know Michael Ferraro” day in the blog. The following story is yet another true account of my life that I’d love to forget but will probably never afford to be able to. It begins in 1999, when I entered film school. It was one of those quick jobs where you’d get done in a year but you’d be able to use all of this sweet equipment.
Back then, my goals consisted of writing and directing, like every other kid in film school these days. In the middle of that year, I quickly realized that this might not be the direction I want to take after all. But by then it was too late – I was already into the school for the full price of tuition. So I decided to ride it out and got my degree. In August of 2000, I got my first internship.
Let me digress for a second. Would you like to know the dumbest thing ever invented by a human being? The so-called “internship” job title in the entertainment industry. They say it teaches you life skills but getting some sweaty director a coffee is hardly a life skill. Sweeping an empty sound stage is hardly a life skill. It’s work, and one should be paid for work, especially when one considers how much the production costs. Internships should be abolished from the Earth and the industry. Get your own coffee.
So I got this internship cutting together this pointless high school football show that aired on an NBC affiliate on Saturday mornings. I cut together the entire show, it aired on television how I put it together, my name was in the credits as “assistant editor” yet, I assisted only myself. And I got no paycheck for that barrel of fun. That job lasted 6 months. After that, I did what I call an “internship tour.” You name it, I probably did it. I cleaned toilets one time for this crappy production house, for free, just so I could slap it on my resume. Life experiences my asshole. Cleaning toilets never taught me a thing about holding a boom mic or cutting footy together.
I did this for a few more months before I got my shit together to make a short film. The title of it was Head. It wasn’t a porno, instead, it was a tragic story about an alcoholic who fell in love with a doll head. Then, a mentally challenged neighbor comes over, falls in love with the head too, and steals it. Hey, I never said I was a great writer. Nevertheless, shooting this simple-minded romance was disastrous. I actually shot it twice. The first time, I actually became quite drunk (as I was playing the alcoholic character as if he were real). My photographer wasn’t that great either. The next time, which was the very next day, my friend became my photographer and it was shot without a fluke. Sadly, the story was worse on screen than it was on paper, so it never saw the light of day, outside of a pretty humorous trailer I cut together for it, using Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide.
For the next year, I worked on other people’s short films as a script supervisor, boom op, director of photography, assistant director, you name it and I probably did it. In 2001, I decided to something on my own for real. I wanted to make something worth sending around and I also wanted to dabble in the world of documentary.
In 1994, I met someone who would become one of my best friends. We were practically brothers in eighth grade. When we were high school though, he fell into some hard times. He dropped out of ninth grade, drank heavily, took pills, drank cough syrup like no one’s business, and finally, made his way into smoking crack. The first time I ever saw anyone over dose, was when I was fifteen. It was my good friend – he drank a six-pack of beer and took an entire box of PM flu pills. He was only fifteen.
Later in 2001, I decided to catch up with my friend. He didn’t smoke crack anymore, but he did tell me that, “smoking crack is the best 15 minutes of your life.” How could I not make something about him. In February of 2001, I decided to get serious about it. I would go to his house, document his life one weekend every month, for an entire year. I even had a title – Come and Get It.
I found a cameraman too. I tried to tell him every story I possibly could about my friend but when you don’t actually witness something for yourself, everything sounds exaggerated.
We arrived on a Friday night, in March of 2001, for the first of twelve shoots. As soon as my car pulled into his driveway, he stumbled out of his front door with a backpack full of beer, already wasted, and said, “”Dude”¦ let’s go, you got to take me to this place.” We ended up at a party and the lighting was awful. I couldn’t hook up my production lights because not everyone there was down with the idea of being in a documentary. But my fellow cameraman and I shot anyway. The footy looked terrible but it worked anyway.
We got back to his house six or seven hours later. He was anxious to show his artwork (that was to be another angle of the film). We stayed up all night. He drank all night and took sleeping pills the entire time, but he still never fell asleep. My cameraman started to get a touch weary, so I told him to go to sleep for a few hours while I stayed up with my friend.
The next day was awful. A fight with his girlfriend exploded in front of our eyes and I almost lost a camera. My friend was up for over 40 hours, drinking the entire time, and it was starting to take a toll on him. Sunday we packed up the car and took off. On the way home, my friend tells me, “”I don’t think I could do that again.” Who could blame him? I didn’t want to either. But I had to.
In April of 2001, I called my friend to set up the next weekend. His mother answers the phone. “”Hey Mike, he moved to Memphis.” Memphis? What the hell is he doing in Memphis? Apparently he grew frustrated with that crappy little Florida town where I grew up and packed his bags and moved.
Come and Get It officially stopped production and I was sad, frustrated, angry and depressed. It was the umpteenth film I attempted to make on my own only to have it crumble before my very eyes. I felt like Joe Hallenbeck looking in the mirror, saying to myself, “”Nobody like you. Everybody hates you. You’re gonna lose. Smile you fuck.”
I sold my camera, my editing gear, everything. I wanted no part of it. I did, however, continue to work on other people’s project before finally calling it quits for good in 2002, after being a cinematographer on a short film. That was the last thing I ever did, aside from a school project I was forced to do for a production class this past November but even that had its problems.
Some people just aren’t meant to direct or write or even be involved in such industry. I am one of those people. It used to make me real sad but I’m over it now, all these years later. I can’t even imagine what my cinematic contributions would have been like or if they would have mattered to anyone outside of myself.
I did you guys a favor. Instead of being subjected to my wretched filmmaking skills, you are instead exposed to my writing and illustrating abilities. I guess I saved myself some amount of degradation too.
Posted on July 28, 2006 in Blogs by Michael Ferraro
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