Op-ed: What the Camera Doesn’t Show
It was months ago when our cast and crew arrived in Provincetown to recreate BearWeek, which is now, officially, yet another of my “if you haven’t — you must” life experiences.
It was a tumultuous, non-stop ride. We faced the post Irene downpour that took two days from our 11-day Provincetown shoot and forced us to cut more than 12 pages from the script on our first days of shooting. A bat flew into our main location house on our first big day of production — the first time all the key cast and crew were together — and a herd of burly men screamed and ducked like school girls from the darting critter. So we lost more and more hours to the ticking clock.
There were sleepless nights rolling into sleepless days and tense times when we thought we might not make it through to the end of principle photography without going grossly over budget — an option we didn’t have.
Our cast and crew arrived just as the beach town was beginning to close down for the season, and there were times when needed supplies were next to impossible to locate. Production vehicles got stuck in the sand as the tide came rushing in. There were missed airport connections and replaced department heads and lost luggage.
As the rainy days brought with it a September cold front like no other, we shot scenes in bathing suits with chattering teeth and froliced for hours in the intensely icy waters of the Cape Cod Bay, pretending that it was the height of summer. We shot a bonfire scene with no bonfire due to undisclosed fire codes on the beach where we were filming.
(Above: Arriving in town. Below: Chilling between takes.)
Conversely, our band bonded with Provincetown in our own unrepeatable way as large white production trucks and passenger vans replaced the flocks of pedestrians and bicylces on Commercial Street. We attended the season’s closing performance of Ryan Landry’s Showgirls— the Provincetown must-see townie talent competition where one of our stars ended up butt naked on stage. Literally.
We fraternized with local cross-dressing celebs Dina Martina and Varla Jean Merman, who is one of our many cameos, and took a company whale watching tour into waters infamous for some of the best whale watching in the world. We celebrated our producer Tracy Utley’s 30th birthday, and I re-enacted every Michelle Pfeiffer moment from Grease 2with one of our new cast members, the handsome Aaron Tone – the two-time hubby of the awe-inspiring Andrew Sullivan.
There were moments of absolute serendipity. On our last day of filming in P’Town, Richard Riehle had to catch his ferry back to Boston before we wrapped. We were shooting the wedding scene between me and my young love, Tyler (the rockingly talented Joe Conti) and amongst the wedding guests were two legendary Provincetown male celebrities – “The Hat Sisters.” Richard portrayed one of the Hat Sisters in one of his many previous films. And as Richard ran off to catch his ferry, one of the Hat Sisters replaced his dress and hat with Richard’s wardrobe and played Richard Riehle. If that ain’t full circle I don’t know what is. And on that same day that we shot our wedding scene, “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed.
(Above: Whale watching with the gang. Below: Rehearsing with Aaron Tone)
Although many people’s journey’s with BearCity 2: The Proposal ended once they departed Provincetown, the core cast along with the crew returned to New York City for our final six days of filming. And similar to our Massachusetts experience, we were met with kismet and conflict. While filming a foam party scene in a Brooklyn bar that doubled as Provincetown’s A House, a fire broke out next door and filled the Brooklyn block with dark smoke causing us to close all windows and doors. For those that have not been to a foam party, the foam is amonia based. After doing our best to shut out the impeding dark smoke, people’s eyes began to tear up, other’s broke out in rashes and we lost yet another day of filming.
The universe also blessed us in unexpected ways. We were filming on one of our executive producers’ rooftop terrace overlooking NYC’s above-ground park, the High Line. In the scene, Tyler and I don’t quite see eye to eye on my proposal to him and our reasons to move forward with marriage, now that it is legal in the state of New York. In the background, a local mini-storage company had posted a gigantic billboard on the building towering in the distance. The massive billboard read, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get get married.” How many syllables in serendipitous?
We wrapped principle photography and then engaged in 10 months of dire fundraising. Doug Langway, our writer/director, worked endlessly on editing the film and for whatever footage he didn’t have to make the edit work, re-shoots all over New York City as well as Provincetown occurred. I flew back and forth between coasts for these “pick up” shoots and was honored to film a short opening credits scene with my “real life” boyfriend on my “aging life’s” 45th birthday: laying in the foreground is the red birthday rose my man had given me hours prior.
On another instance, we illegally, and as quietly as possible, filmed more pick ups with my boyfriend, and a handful of scruffy middle aged men, in my actual NYC apartment’s shower, made infamous in the first film. We added cameos by Dan Choi (pictured), Kevin Smith, my fellow OUT 100’er Mike Ruiz and Frank DeCaro – who I’m priveledged to not only have brought on board but also to have become aquainted with he and his hubby Jim over these past months after appearing on Frank’s Sirius Radio Show a few times.
Sound was mixed and designed, Doug listened endlessly to myriad of submitted songs for the film’s soundtrack, and color was corrected so that the footage from the three different cameras we used, matched.
Those 10 months, and the many preceeding, culminated this month with BearWeek 2012.
BearCity 2: The Proposal appropriately ran in previews in Provincetown during its legendary BearWeek. This world renowned event is the setting for the movie, so it’s been a seredipitous experience to have the partakers of BearWeek as the film’s first audience.
After a few minor fixes with sound and editing and titles, the film would screen at this year’s Outfest in Los Angeles at the magnificant Ford Amphitheatre nestled into the Hollywood Hills just below the iconic Hollywood sign. It’s an honor to bring the distinctive beach town, referred to as “Problems Town” by its seasonal residents, to the west coast to celebrate the film’s world premier.
While watching the film with its first audiences, I looked back on the journey with complete gratitude: the droves of extras that came to Provincetown and NYC from all over the U.S. and Canada to be part of the film, the bond I’ve formed with Doug, and every other infinitisimal aspect of the production. I really think we’ve created a beautifully funny and touching film that will far exceed the impact of the first film.
Hearing the uproarious laughter and watching tears fall from the eyes of strapping and full figured men made the journey even more special. Just as special as “Problems Town” itself and the many memories and people that unique beach town and this film have brought into my life.
GERALD McCULLOUCH is an award-winning filmmaker best known for playing Bobby Dawson on CSI for 10 seasons and for his starring role in the hit gay indie BearCity. Last year he was honored by Out magazine as one of the Out 100. His production company, Hard G Productions, currently has a spectrum of projects including All Male All Nude (a feature documentary and series on one of America's all-male, all-nude gay strip clubs), an animated feature titled Froggot, a stage adaptation of Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, and the film version of the hit play Daddy. Follow Gerald on Twitter @ItsAHardG. BearCity 2 is on Twitter at @BearCity and online at http://www.bearcity2.com.
The movie plays at The Castro in San Francisco on Sunday at11:30, 2:00, 4:30, 7:00 and 9:25. And it will also screen on September 15 in Oslo, Norway in the Oslo LGBT International Film Festival, where the first film, BearCity, won the Audience Award for best feature film.