Thursday, January 10, 2008

COMANCHE MOON 2008 TV Mini Series 'on set' report

COMANCHE MOON will air in the US on CBS Sunday JAN 13th 2008.

This is another really long read, so get a cup of coffee, turn on the 'Juke Box', sit back and relive a few of my days in 'Austin' during the 1860's, or come back another time when you feel pathetic, are 'Lonesome as a Dove', and have nothing else going on in your life. Yes there is contained therin a hyper link to some rare pictures. No, there is not a picture of rough looking, Val Kilmer, only the real Stars, 'The Background'. BTW We were not involved in the 'Gratuitous sex' that hollywood adds to everything these days.

Comanche Moon is the 'prequel' to Lonesome Dove, (Tommy Lee Jones) aired several years ago on TV. It is the Larry McMurtry story of the Indian raids on Austin Texas in the 1860's when the total population of Austin was only about 900 people. I have no idea how they will portray this story, due to the graphic details of the raid in the book. It surely is not politically correct, in todays methodology of News reporting. We had a memorably great time working on the 'set' town of 'Austin Texas', South of Santa Fe New Mexico, located on the Bonanza Creek Ranch.

My call to Wardrobe in Santa Fe was greeted with excitement. The time spent by the assistants picking out my suit, seemed longer than usual. The outfit I wore was very elegant. The wardrobe people told me I was to look very important. Now doesn't that sound good?.

Call time was, as we said in the military "0 Dark 30". I left home way before dawn for the 55 mile (88km) drive to 'Austin', on each long day we filmed, most times returning after dark. Security waved the flashlight for parking directions into a rutted dirt prairie near Base Camp about 1/4 mile (.4km) from the set of 'Austin' just over the hill, out of camera view. The Base Camp was a large white, tent city with many trailer coaches for the principle actors and crew supplies. Hot breakfast with everything includung lots of hot coffee, was welcome. We started shooting at dawn on many mornings to get the lighting effect desired.

The 80 or more highly enthused, athletic young Indians that were easily recruited near the Canadian border, Glacier National Park. Near the Crow reservation, (Blackfoot) in Northern Montana, were fantastic. Their face and body painting was truly artistic. Their horses 'paint jobs' looked just as in old pictures.

They were picked up by bus and brought to Santa Fe, put up in a hotel and transported daily to the set. I shared meal time with them every day while they told me their individual stories. They loved 'riding' in this movie as much as the rest of us enjoyed acting in it. Riding, for them, is equal to walking for any of us.

Many are attending college and do this sort of thing in their spare time. They were excellent riders for the most part. A few of the less agile among them, were thrown off within the first hours by the 'somewhat wild' string of authentic range horses used in this movie. A few made unexpected trips to the hospital in Santa Fe, to reset and cast broken arms, receive stitches and such.

These horses required very experienced riders, no amateurs lasted long. The scenes where the horses came over the hill at full gallop with all four feet off the ground was real. These riders were high on adrenaline and really excited by the attack.
good thing it was only a movie being filmed. I think they could have really 'gotten into it' otherwise.

As townsfolk, My first days as an 'Austin Businessman', were spent walking around 'Austin Texas', wearing a top hat, in a long black frock coat, vest and a cravat, carrying a cane, looking very important. sometimes walking around town with friends while discussing the new saloon we intended to put in on each corner while pointing with our canes to each location for the intended improvements.

Usually with an attractive young lady on my arm. Being very careful to avoid horses, horse drawn wagons and horse manure, We walked to and fro. Crossing the street, standing on the boardwalks, watching the goings on in the street, smoking little black cigars (myself not the ladies).

Being picked up by my carriage driver in front of the bank with a lady on my arm, was repeated over and over to get the desired effect on camera. Just enjoying life in Austin Texas during the 1860's. Watching the Texas Rangers ride in and out of town was one of our practiced scenes while standing on the boardwalks or sitting at a little table, or leaning against railings on porches.

All of that good life was about to come to an end.

My blog began near the end days, after I realised that this should be recorded in some way. My descriptions of each day were less than stellar. I relied on folded napkins for recording each days events. I know a little better these days, I now carry notebooks and attempt to keep the days happenings in order.

While standing by, between our 'calls', much time was spent in 'extras holding' in the smoky barn, the blacksmith working area. A small weathered buggy was parked just outside the doors. We watched the street fights and action through the cracks in the boards or through the slightly opened doors.

The wind blew dirt until our clothing turned brown or gray depending on which way the wind blew and on which day. I spent a lot of time covered up in the barn with it's wide spaces between the boards which let the dirt blow right through, under my heavy, black frock coat, to keep the dirt out of my eyes. The hoop skirted ladies hunkered down in mounds of cloth.

The kids and their 'wranglers' huddled in groups or lumps to try to keep it out of their faces or played around the pond. The temperature at times was in the 100 degree range. Other times it rained, turning the streets to mud. Many times each day the water truck sprayed water on the dirt street to keep the dust down. Therefore the streets looked wet in most scenes.

At one point it was hailing and the horses went a little ballistic. Keeping the cameras clean and functioning is a full time job for the crew. The big 'Ultra bounce' screens want to blow away. The 'grips' are busy 'gripping' the stuff with both hands. Dirt in everything, mouth's, eyes, equipment. A little reminder of what the troops are going through in the Middle East.

'Wardrobe' never stopped trying to keep us clean. They all had little brushes and endlessly swept away the dirt. 'Make up' was always coming up to us and cleaning our faces, applying sunscreen and re-arranging wind blown hair and clothing. The ladies constantly required attention from wardrobe.

Some of the dresses were used in the old film classic "Gone With the Wind". The parasols were vintage as well. We all tried to take care of our elegant clothing as well as possible. The use of the 'port-a-potties' was disdained by the ladies and their hoop skirts. I didn't much care for them either due to the ritual of the suspenders and vest and what to do with the heavy 'frock coat'.
One of the wardrobe people had dozens of large safety pins in rows like a suit of 'chain mail' across her chest. She was constantly tugging and pinning at our wardrobe.

The big barn used in the filming of Billy Bob Thornton's "Astronaut Farmer" was the 'set' for the inside of the 'Mansion' which was a shell structure. The luxurious setting with the stairway and elegant lighting fixtures, was all inside the big barn. It was positioned about 2 hundred yds (183m) South of town.

This is the ragged Re-Post of a small portion near the end of that memorable time, done day by day in comments and not in any order.

Da Flikkers"'Comanche Moon', Movie" June 1st 2006
blogengeezer said...
Early dark morning arrival; Sign in With Casting director.
The food is great at base camp, served in big tents that were covered inside and out, with dirt from the incessant wind. I enjoyed the breakfast so much I drove up in the darkness to be sure and partake in the dimly lit, pre dawn ambiance of our big chow tent. Eggs Bacon Coffee and every other conceivable snack was spread out by the catering company from California. Their big 18 wheeler, kitchen trucks were fantastic and well stocked.

The 'WAR BUS' was loaded for transport to 'the set', after we took a few pictures of ourselves and the fantastic looking Indians.

This day was slow getting started, we finished up a few scenes that needed re-shooting. As the correct sun position approached, all of a sudden it got much busier. The special effects crew was doing some last minute adjustments to the propane burners located in each window. They ran from the buildings then with the remotely lit, quick flames in the windows, Whoosh..and the 2 story, General Store bursts into flame. It did get a little hot when the huge fire got out of hand. The Santa Fe fire dept was on hand to control it, put out the fire and re-light it repeatedly for the re-shoots of the scene.

The big propane tanks fueled the flames throughout the buildings, from lines buried under the street. The fires were all around us. Most buildings were ablaze at various times. The 'alarm horn' sounded as some buildings looked unstable (General Store) and we had to run fast to get out of the way if it fell. It was really hot, the flames licked out at us as we ran past the porches. Blow horn, put out the flames, reset and action! Repeated over and over as the buildings of Austin Texas, were gradually turned into ruins.

What a great day. Over a hundred Horses with wild, war painted, whooping Indian riders galloping through 1860's Austin, Pillaging, raping and terrorising the citizens. We ran every which way to avoid them. Most of the town was still asleep. This was a total surprise for Austin Texas in the early morning hours.
Many of the citizens were slaughtered. I was a survivor. It was so much fun I am going to go back and do it again tomorrow.

Excitement, smoke, flames and burning buildings make for some great fun. I see why pyromaniacs stay in their profession for so long. I think they become 'special effects' crew in the movie industry.

The bleeding, deep cuts and head wounds were a work of art by the 'makeup' dept.
The Indians were fascinating to watch as they massacred the townsfolk. Arrows flying, gunshots firing, screaming, yelling, What fun times.

'Comanche Moon' is the production, at a set south of Santa Fe New Mexico.
What a great life on set, even if it is all an 'Illusion'
We do it out of love and friendship. May the film run be endless and enjoyable for all.

Actual Historic References;

A very rare little paperback book, 'THE OLD TIMERS of WALLACE CREEK' by Jym A. Sloan, San Saba Texas. copywrite 1958, Tells this story from first hand accounts.

Blogengeezers Wife's family were part of the historic story. Texas Rangers and all. While watching the first nights CBS series, she mentioned that Larry McMurtry must have read Mr Sloans account. If you are a reader that likes historic truth, here is another.

'SURVIVING ON THE TEXAS FRONTIER': The Journal of a Frontier Orphan Girl in San Saba County, 1852-1907' (Amazon) tells the actual story of my wifes ancestors during that period.
Her story of raising 13 orphaned children after the Indian raids destroyed their farm, is riveting.

It also is the actual history without hollywoods interpretation of values and morality.

7:56 PM

blogengeezer said...
Many really fun things occurred during the filming, Quacking ducks at inopportune, silent times, caused the director to shout "Make those Ducks Quiet down". It was funny because the ducks are wild and fly in and out of their big pond behind town. They settle in for the night with a lot of chatter. You may see them in scenes from time to time.

Running people doing "endos" while exiting the Burrick house. My young attractive friend, 'Strawberry blond' Debbie leaped over them easily. Most jumped over the falling bodies with no grace whatever, Reset! Repeat! Background Action! Dozens of Wild galloping Horses driving "aspiring actress types" (Shanni), to vault fences in hoop skirts. "Quick reflexes girls".

During stand by time, the young Cowpunchers played 'hacky-sack' for hours. At one point the 'sack' flew up onto the roof of a porch. One young Cowpuncher, with a boost from two others, climbed onto the lower roof nearby. The other roof was higher and a good leap away. With a long running jump, in his boots, he somehow made it, retrieved the 'sack' then ran and jumped to the other roof then swung down in a classic 'Parkour' display. too bad it wasn't captured on film. The directors were a little upset, fearing a lawsuit, and told the Cowpunchers not to try that anymore.

Blood and gore galore, sliced and diced corpses, dead Indians getting killed a little more. Curly and I ran down the street, Curly jumped down near a 'dead' Indian and pulled his head up, while stabbing him with an arrow. The young Indian was enthused and loved it because the camera was pointed his way and maybe someone back home would recognise him.

Blogengeezer just ran around in suspenders, looking at the dead families, "like a chicken with his head cut off". Carnage in very large amounts. A fun day was had by all. Running was the action of the day, lots of it, we all will sleep well tonight.
Maybe we will do some more in a week or so when the crew returns from an out of state shoot. We all love this wild 'Illusory' life, that's for sure.

3:22 AM

blogengeezer said...
I was again awake at yet another unreal hour due to recollections and revelations of the people on the set of COMANCHE MOON.

This entire 'career' was brought about when my wife and I saw a quick reference to Bierfest II (a really poor movie) needing extras at the Albuquerque Biopark. She, being a loving and caring wife, told me to go away to the Bierfest and make a movie.
Honestly she and I disagree on things at times, so much that she wanted time to herself, a lot of it.

A few months earlier, I had stopped shaving and a beard mysteriously appeared. Well it is now getting to the point where I am not quite the same clean cut benefit to society I had appeared to others as.
It allowed the casting people and directors a little discretion in placing 'My character' in the vicinity of some of the cameras for reasons only God knows.
Now I am hooked! I am 'obsessed' as are a lot of others I have met.

One background actor, Nick, is an aspiring screen writer. Another is an attractive young woman, who is one more day on the road to stardom. The attractive 'Shanni'.
Ex bankers, State of NM public servants, personalities from all trades and levels of society are represented on the casting lists,

Another attractive woman from Germany, is a successful European screenwriter. I shall refer to her as 'Der Fraulein'. We walked down the street from the Capitol together, many, many times. The hoop skirts and shoulder wraps are unique in the fact that they reveal very little about the women wearing them. This brings about an aura of mystery that holds the women in a position of power over the men. What's new?

Most of us cling to the dream of getting speaking parts that will one day lead to the goal of being SAG (Screen Actors Guild)card carying members.
I met a gentleman Edward. He is close to his card and counts the days.
Edward set me on this path while we were musing at Bierfest. He em'd me about the Comanche moon call. He was chosen to be the 'stand in' for 'Deets'.

A stand in is an opportunity to get a little more prestige on your resume.
I did turn down, out of ignorance, my one chance to be a stand in for Val Kilmer, due to the requirement of shaving off some of the whiskers which got me the job in WILD HOGS. John Travolta would then have fired me of course...
We even have a Baptist Minister playing the part of 'The Preacher' good idea there, don't you think?

The 'Undertaker' survived the carnage we portrayed. Now that is good, He informed me that, in the book he dies. More trivia as I think about this entire 8 day experience, later faithful readers...Please excuse my spelling and punctuation errors, I am illiterate, that is why I Blog and work Background in the movie industry, that and the fact I am a Geezer with time on my hands.

1:50 AM

blogengeezer said...
Ah that was a short break. Back to the set of COMANCHE MOON. The well dressed banker stood in front of his bank with his wife as we, my Woman of the day, Judi, and I, strolled casually by. We did that about 4 times to get it right. Judi, my woman of the day (as opposed to woman of the night) and I walked up the street, with horses all around us. We did this countless times trying to look sophisticated. I wear a Top hat and long, heavy, black frock coat with striped trousers to make me look prosperous. My lady wore one of those mysterious hoop skirts carrying a parasol (vintage) of which she was ever mindful.

We discovered the next day when 'the Screenwriter' came on set, that women seldom walked in the streets with their hoop skirts, due to the dirt and mud and horse exhaust lying about. 'Re shoot' everything of course.
The wooden board sidewalks were used for that strolling action after that reprimand.
The set is portraying Austin Texas in the mid 1800's when it was only about four blocks long on Congress st. The population was only 839 in about 1850. To say it was small is an understatement. The set looks outstanding due to the attention for detail. The capital building is big. The steps leading up to it are tedious to climb and re climb and re climb as is done each time the call is announced for 'Background Action'. 'Reset' back to one, then re climb the tall steps.

The next day or so, I had a younger 'Lady' I was escorting to my carriage waiting in front of the bank. The irony was that the former banker, Dennis, was now my carriage driver. You will have to notice that in the series, 'if we are left in'. He is an excellent carriage driver. So good in fact that he does that in his real life. He also appears in many screen shots all over the southwest, even appearing with a scene in which he fights with Liam Neeson on another film.

So many characters are multi talented, he is just one of many. My young escort on that day is Shanni' mentioned earlier (the future screen starlet) I hope my previous days wife does not see me escorting 'The other woman' into my waiting carriage. A little conflict would ensue I am sure. It would have made a good street fight though. Mud wrestling in hoop skirts?

2:20 AM

blogengeezer said...
One of the things we do while waiting and passing the time is read books that we can hide during the camera rolling period. I am getting into character for my next film job by reading 'UNDER and ALONE' by William Queen. This is about an undercover ATF officer that Patched into the Mongols (true story) motorcycle club a few years ago. I was surprised to find out a couple of other guys have read it lately.

The film I work in next is Wild Hogs. Four urban men 'Harley Riders' portrayed by John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H Macy. The four are caught by a New Mexico motorcycle Gang in Madrid, which is not far away from here. It sounds like fun, and I have ridden most of my life, so I really look forward to this coming up in a couple of weeks. My 'Lady of the day' Judi, as well as 'my other lady' are working with me. My carriage driver (town banker) may possibly be there, as well as more of my new found brothers/sisters from Comanche Moon.

Another book I noticed being read on the set was 'Bird of Prey' by Michael Crichton. 'Nick' had it almost finished. Prolific readers are evident at all times in our group.

3:14 AM

blogengeezer said...
Another talent that seems to show up during lax minutes is singing whatever song we recall from the past. Remember 'The Age of Aquarius' from 'Hair'?
Did you recall that Fire on the Mountain was in a few different versions, vastly different in context by different performers? I was informed of another while traveling in our old 6 wheel drive, ex military 'War Bus', by one of the extras. He sang his version, I sang mine. Now isn't this an interesting thing we all do? I only know one version by the Marshall Tucker band. Maybe I will post the words some time while at this keyboard with total boredom surrounding me.

While all of us were riding in the 'War Bus' one evening as the setting sun turned the swirling dust into a fantasy scene, The excellent sound system was playing the songs popularised during 'Woodstock'. I found the overall image quite surreal because of the passengers wearing Victorian apparel with our 'war painted' Indian friends sitting among us, rolling along through the dust in the fading sunlight. What a unique scene forever etched in memory.

3:26 AM

blogengeezer said...
Another Comanche Moon recollection from one of the prime filming times, was the scene as the true Star, walks out of the well equipped general store to confront her man at the back of the buckboard parked at the steps. My Young future starlet, Shanni, on my arm and I, walked directly in front of the camera as directed. MY other Lady of a day before, was on the arm of another man while approaching. (shameful).

We acknowledged each other, cordially of course. I tapped my cane to my top hat as walking toward the approaching men and women, Very proper don't you think? That is until I almost poked my eye due to the cane being held a little shorter than on the previous 'background action' segments. MY approaching lady friend, Judi, started to laugh, but choked it back.
I almost choked on my cigar as I jerked back away from the cane. Gotta watch for that when the film comes out.

Another segment had myself and my young starlet Shanni' following directly behind the true Star with long flowing red hair, (Shanni's idol) as she walked briskly out of the mansion, and up the capital steps.
The side saddle riding red head, does some interesting maneuvers around her drunken man in the middle of the street while we walk in the general area. This all was filmed before the indian raid and burning of the town. Well duh...Ah the peace and quiet do not last though, as you are aware, from previous postings.

4:04 AM

blogengeezer said...
Another 'Musing' totally out of order, as is my nature. The Horses and the way they were made up. They had lots of different prints of 'hands', stripes, colors and designs. The white legs and other parts had 'zebra' stripes. These horses not only looked special, they acted special. After an obviously long time of not being ridden, the Indian riders in a lot of cases had to 'break them' to be ridden. While I was sharing lunch with the Indian riders, this came out.

The first day several riders got thrown off. A few minor injuries resulted.
The reality factor came into play at that point. These Indian riders are good, really good. They were brought in from Montana, near the Canadian border. They were not 'Crow' but their reservation is close to them. High speed riding is always in play.

When you see a horse stretched out with the Indian rider laying out forward along the horses neck and all four feet of the horse in the air, that is real, believe me.
One of the Principal Indian riders on a big black horse thundered right by us and the ground literaly shook. We jumped in surprise, to his delight I am sure. This film 'Comanche Moon' is looking very realistic at this point.

10:01 AM

nrotic (J Nathan Simmons) said...
Great Job On This Online Diary of Comanche Moon. Definetly Check out 'New Mexico Actors' in links to see some 'Great Pictures' taken 'on set'

New Mexico Actors

  • These 'very Rare Pictures' were taken between shooting and before the directors threatened to stop unauthorised pictures. After that we left our cameras off set.

    12:44 AM

    Blogger Blogengeezer said...

    After watching each night of this series of Comanche Moon, I realise how fat the movie stars have gotten. It's not only the poor that are fat like the Media tells us. Poor Inish Scull and Charles Goodnight. They would never have been that out of shape back in the old days. Even if they did eat a piece of bacon on a biscuit. The other noted, or lack of noting. An extremely large portion was missing from the series. I wonder where it went? I suspect some of it may have been a little too graphic? The scene where Mrs Scull rode her horse sidesaddle around the young guy in the street was much more detailed and interesting. The scene where the drunk guy was dragged out of the street had more to it than that. A great scene in front of the store was completely gone along with the dialog. Maybe on there is more to the film. I suggest that anyone interested read the Book. The real true story is in there. The references to 'Old Timers of Wallace Creek and Sara Halls actual diary that I mentioned in the blog post, are true facts which the film could in no way really portray unless present times were vastly more truthful.

    11:46 AM  
    Blogger summerflu said...

    As always, I love reading your recollections, BG. I watched this last Sunday especially to see you and was quite disappointed not to find you anywhere. At least we have you here!

    8:51 PM  
    Blogger Blogengeezer said...

    Hi Summerflu, I have missed you. Now that is always a welcome greeting, "To see you with that twinkle in your eyes".
    I have to admit that I was far away in the distant background in most scenes. Usually walking with someone. Riding in my carriage at times, Watching the Rangers come into town with the kids from the first raid, (which lasted milliseconds). Usually very deep and fleeting, which is normal for background. After each day 'on set', about one second on screen is average exposure. The hoop skirts and bonnets like Judi wore, cover up all but the most brazen of 'Hussies'. The stars get most of the 'face time' time of course, followed by the rest of 'the principles'. Even my friend 'Shanni' the aspiring actress, got no more than myself. I think she may be dissapointed?

    6:56 AM  

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