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Subway Drama
June 23, 2000

Call time: 6 p.m.

Tonight we filmed Beverly's ride on the Broad Street line, from City Hall up to North Philadelphia.

Beverly's Subway scene The script indicates that she ride alone in mid-day. (We will film the scenes of her on the bus from West Philadelphia to Center City in a few weeks). As she rides, Beverly picks up a Daily News which someone left on the seat next to her. As she thumbs through it she stumbles on an article about a subway suicide (part of the another storyline).The Philadelphia Daily News generously made us a mock paper for our film. The important elements -- something on the cover about the fireworks that night, and a short article about the subway suicide -- are beautifully executed, just what we need. We will use the paper again when another character, Curt (from the story written by Bruce Graham) reads the same newspaper article in his kitchen.

DP John MacElhenny fatigued by intense shooting schedule On her way to North Philadelphia, Beverly looks at the faces around her. We have ten extras with us on this subway as we ride back and forth, from the Walnut/Locust stop up to the Fern Rock stop. In a flash she thinks she sees her daughter, Ramona, reflected in the subway window. The effect was fun to create, and is jarring, especially when the subway soars through a station stop -- Ramona's reflection disappears for a moment, then reappears when the train continues in a tunnel. I think it's going to be haunting.

Extras on SEPTA's subway We rented the subway train, which rides on the express track (after 6:30 p.m. the express trains call it a night). SEPTA prefers all filming to happen at night. The train that we used this evening had three cars. The first was for equipment, food, and extras. The second was the car we filmed the scenes on, and in the third, our sound engineer John was recording wild subway sounds. It couldn't have worked out better, this moving studio. The only surprise was that the train couldn't stop in between stations, it simply went back and forth, from Walnut/Locust to Fern Rock. I imagine we made the round trip commute about eight times.

Beverly, Nell Johnson and grandchildren Ahmad Duncan, and Daneen Wright The second scene we filmed this evening was Beverly heading back to Center City, this time she has her two grandchildren in tow. This scene takes place after the confrontation with her daughter Ramona -- an exhausting and emotional scene. Nia (who is fourteen) and Shaquille (who is much younger -- around six years old I would guess) are seated with their grandmother. It's not too late, maybe around 8 p.m., but when I ask them all to look tired, they do so briliantly.

Production Assistant Benjamin Goldstein read magazine Little Shaquille rubs his sleepy eyes with his fists, Nia, looks despondently out the window into the blackness, and Beverly is trying to shield her emotions from her grandchildren with her hand. We do a slow push in to a close up of Beverly's face. The actress, Nell Johnson, does a wonderful job of showing on her face a fusion of emotions -- exhaustion, anxiety, tension, frustration, compassion. Each of which is heightened by the sounds and motion of a moving subway car. I don't think we can get closer to accurately depicting the drama of everyday life.

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