Barfly on the Wall

On location: 'Fourplay'

By James Renovitch, Fri., Aug. 14, 2009

Extra, extra!: The author (far right) tries to act natural in Kyle Henry's <i>Fourplay</i>.
Extra, extra!: The author (far right) tries to act natural in Kyle Henry's Fourplay.

I should have brought a book. Other people brought books, but clearly they've done this before. Been an extra in a local film, I mean. It's the first time for me. It's 9:45am at the Liberty on East Sixth – an unwholesome hour to be in a bar – and I'm here on assignment from my editor, who told me to "sniff out a story" or something. As a first-timer, all I brought was a change of clothes, as instructed, and now I'm bored. Luckily it's easy to tell who's an extra and who's on the books of this production, so I can find someone to talk to: The extras are the only ones not scurrying around with scrims, gels, scripts, and beer bottles filled with water and H-E-B iced tea. We're the ones doing crosswords, texting, or, in my case, eyeing the table of food littered with minibagels, minimuffins, mini-oranges, and minicups for coffee.

Things pick up when director Kyle Henry (helmsman of festival favorite Room and Austin's all-around go-to editor) addresses the group, telling us to speak in a whisper and stay out of the way – and all without sounding the slightest bit bossy. Soon after I get the inside scoop from a fellow extra that the movie centers around sex. And while I promised myself I wouldn't do full-frontal, things are looking up.

I find out after that the film, Fourplay, tells four tales of the ins and way outs of sex (the first short, set in San Francisco, has already been shot, with the last two going into production this fall/winter in Tampa, Fla., and West Haven, Conn.). Blog buzz is pegging it to be the most graphic offering hitting the festival circuit. (With word of transvestite prostitutes and a woman/dog love story, that's very likely.) Female lead Danielle Rene just finished her stint in Terrence Malick's upcoming The Tree of Life, filmed in Smithville; the script was written largely by local Carlos Treviño; and director of photography nonpareil PJ Raval is perched behind the camera: The Austin pedigree is strong with this one.

I'm told to sit at a certain table frighteningly close to the camera and talk silently to a nonexistent companion supposedly facing me off-camera. I test out a few mouthed dialogues while the crew figures out how to turn off the air conditioner for sound purposes. I arrive at something believable, until a production assistant decides to rudely sit where my imaginary friend is supposed to be. This throws a wrench into my plan, as I find speaking to a nonresponsive and generally unimpressed person much more difficult than having a conversation with a wall.

As far as I can tell, only my back will make it into this film, if it even survives the cutting-room floor, but at least I walk away – four hours and a few camera-angle changes later – with my dignity and attire intact.

Read more about Fourplay at www.fourplaythemovie.blogspot.com.

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