Hah! Deal with this, Portland, you snooty we're-so-much-better neighbor city to our north.
You may have super greenness, nightlife, great restaurants, a thriving music scene, and Mt. Hood in your backyard, but as of today Salem -- yes, boring Salem -- has its own cinematic rival of the much-admired (also, reviled) "Portlandia."
Well, more accurately "Salemia" is on its way, filming having started today. (If you're not familiar with the fascinating history of Salemia, all two months of it, I've bloggishly recorded it here, here, here, and here.)
Having landed my dream role in this production, the Crusty Transient character, it was thrilling to get an email from Mike Perron a few days ago asking me if I was available for the initial shoot on Saturday.
I was excited.
My wife, markedly less so, as she'd been viewing this weekend through a finish cleaning up the garage lens. However, I assured her that My Art is totally compatible with My To-Do's -- though I wondered if Brad Pitt has to worry about whether his film career is interfering with home chores.
Today's filming was at the Capitol Mall, all festooned with beautiful flowering cherry trees. Not so beautiful was the weather, which ranged from unseasonably cold, to unseasonably wet and cold, to unseasonable windy, wet, and cold.
Cameraman Mike (on the right), though, was dressed in shorts -- typical attire for hardy Oregonians no matter what temperature it is. Here we see a rehearsal for the "save the cherry blossoms" scene, which I'm not going to further describe because I want to build up prospective audience tension for the Big Premiere.
The kids who were recruited for the scene did a great job, along with actual actress Lindsay and Mike's wife, Patty.
During today's filming the Crusty Transient (me) didn't have much to say. Mostly I wandered around, digging into a trash can, bumping into people, trying to portray the persona of an irritable outsider who looks upon the quirky lameness of Salem with fresh eyes.
In one scene I got to bust into the middle of a reporter's broadcast from the Capitol Mall. The reporter was ably and believably played by newspaper writer K. Williams Brown of the Statesman Journal.
All in all I had a lot of fun with the filming. I'd never done anything like this before, though since I visit Hollywood fairly often to visit my daughter and her family I've picked up some movie-making vibes.
Recently there's been criticism of the incentives Oregon has been giving to the film and TV industry. Some feel that those enticements to shoot here bring minimal economic benefits to our state.
I want to assure these skeptics that based on my vast three-hours of filmmaking experience with "Salemia," cinematic projects like this one are a huge boost to the local economy.
For example: during one of our periodic rain-refuges in Lindsay's van, Mike's wife asked him where the burrito was. After some hemming and hawing, Mike admitted that he'd forgotten to bring a burrito -- which turned out to be a crucial prop for a scene involving the Crusty Transient.
Becoming aware of this, I raised some creative issues that sprang from the depths of my artistic soul. "I'm a vegetarian. And I hate burritos because they have beans. Why can't the burrito be a piece of cheese pizza?"
Patty asked how I could be a vegetarian and not like beans, which is exactly what my wife has said to me countless times -- proving that while the Artist can pursue his craft away from Home, life and art are inextricably intertwined.
After this unhelpful beginning to the burrito vs. pizza debate, my suggestion met a further brick wall when Mike said "It has to be a burrito!" for reasons I never quite figured out, but probably had a lot to do with the fact that he likes burritos.
At any rate, Mike set off to buy a burrito, while I zipped off to the Beanery to get a bagel with cream cheese. My acting blood sugar was dropping and it was clear that the Crusty Transient food prop wasn't going to be anything I actually wanted to eat.
The bagel cost me a couple of bucks, which must also be what Mike spent on the pork burrito. I guess I complained so much about beans, he didn't see any need to get a vegetarian burrito; during the scene I nibbled on the tortilla and carefully left the innards alone.
So businesses in downtown Salem already have gotten an economic boost from "Salemia." As two Goodwill stores also did on Friday, when I did some shopping for my Crusty Transient attire. (Kind of weird, having to spend money to appear destitute.)
I'm looking forward to more filming.
There's a script, professionally rendered by Dave Jenkins, but as with most indie projects of this sort, improvising is a big part of the production. I'm not totally comfortable with speaking spontaneously when a camera is running (who is?).
However, I can tell that, as with most things in life, the more you do it, the more fun it is and the better it goes. Hopefully "Salemia" will help lead our semi-fair city in the same direction: towards more creativity, laughter, and spontaneity.