Saturday, May 23, 2009

The King of the All-nighter

One of the toughest transitions to make while shooting a film is adapting to the overnight hours. Strike that—it's not necessarily the all-nighters that are the problem; it's readjusting to your normal schedule that's the real challenge.

Many of us on the set of Ghosts Don't Exist are nocturnal by nature, so arriving at 7PM and working until sunrise wasn't really as difficult as waking up super-early in the morning typically is. (Plus, there was a constant supply of coffee.)

But the real secret to staying awake and alert throughout the night is laughter. And fortunately, we had a constant supply of that, as well.

If you find yourself working a graveyard shift—regardless of the industry—try to ensure that you have colleagues who share your sense of humor. It makes a huge difference in morale. And if at all possible, try to make sure you have Donny Aros there with you.

The gaffer on Ghosts Don't Exist, Donny Aros brings a wealth of experience to the project. His reputation rightly precedes him as one of the film industry's top grip and electric specialists.

But in addition to his talent and professionalism, he brought pure fun. He could always be counted on for entertaining conversation at any hour of the day. Or night.

Donny's voice often punctuated the moment, then went on to become part of the GDE lexicon. Most notably, his enthusiastic reiteration of Gavin's "CUT!" call at the end of most takes. By Day 3, at least a dozen of us would follow suit. "KEEE-YUHHHHHHHHTTTT!!!" This lasted for the duration of the 15 days, and it will never get old. That word is going to be hovering in space over the Travis Garner House location for at least the next 50 years.

Another phrase that demanded constant repetition was "apple box." Donny recalled fondly how a former colleague would request this essential tool—by bellowing loudly, "AAAAHPPUHLBAHHCHS!!!" None of us who experienced it will say the words "apple box" any other way ever again.

But the real fun was in the personal exchanges with Donny, who easily developed a repoire with everyone on set. His observations were usually dead-on, and always hilarious. Do yourself a favor and ask him about the guy who looked like Kenny Rogers. It's one of the funniest stories you'll ever experience. It also prompted us to take a quick glance between scenes at the classic website,; which, in turn, prompted another brilliant Donny Aros observation—"Dude... Kenny Rogers doesn't even look like Kenny Rogers anymore." It's startlingly true:

My personal favorite was our joint amusement at bizarre Neil Diamond songs—most notably, "Knackelflerg." I'd never even heard of it, until Donny pointed out the fact that it includes the utterly ridiculous line, "You set my eyebrows up in flames." Without hesitation, we found the song on YouTube:

I'm man enough to admit that you'll find one or two Neil Diamond songs on my iPod, albeit hidden under multiple folders named anything but "Neil Diamond." But Knackelflerg adds a whole new dimension of badness. After hearing it, the word itself begins to infect other Neil Diamond lyrics. We frequently found ourselves singing things like:

"Knackelflerg, you're a store-bought woman..."

"Maybe tonight... Maybe tonight, by the fire, all alone, knackelflerg..."

"Sweeeeet knackelflerg... good times never seemed so good..."

Donny also noted that while we may poke fun, there are some folks who absolutely treasure Neil Diamond. "There's gotta be a name for people who really love Neil Diamond... a term for those die-hard Diamond fans out there..."

Unfortunately, he was summoned back to set that night before he could officially coin the term. Because when work called, Donny was on the spot—through the bad weather and the ungodly hours, both of which we had our fair share of. By the next project, though, I'm sure he'll have it, among other gems—and we're all looking forward to it.

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