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||Pigeons Stuck in Traffic
June 28, 2000
Call time: 4:00 p.m.
Location: 13th and Spring Garden Streets, South Philadelphia Row Home
Cast: Mickey Gretto, Lou Lippa, Suze Kowalski, Maggie Siff, CurtKowalski, Bill Zielinski
We spent a lot of precious time today waiting for pigeons. Our call was nice and early, so that we could begin with a shot of Mickey feeding pigeons at dawn. We traveled to 13th and Spring Garden - where, once before, I saw hundreds of pigeons. We were filming another scene in the neighborhood (it was around 9:30 a.m.), and as the pigeons swooped around us I got the bright idea to return to this location at dawn in hopes of filming a silhouetted figure - Mickey Greto - feeding pigeons in an urban streetscape.
When we arrived at the location (at 5 a.m. sunrise was approximately 5:30 a.m.) and the sun was peeking, there was not a pigeon in sight on site. Who knew that the pigeons were sleeping elsewhere? We waited a while, spread out a lot of bird seed. Two or three pigeons sniffed at our offering, then flew away. About 6:30 a.m., the Philadelphia Carriage Company (the headquarters for the tourist horse and buggies) opened up it's metal security gate. The loud noise was like a pigeon alarm clock not long after, we had all the pigeons we needed, and although the silhoutte didn't work out as planned, we have many lovely shots of Mickey feeding the birds. It wasn't quite the Mary Poppins shot I had dreamed of, but it was sweet and gentle. And I was happy.
We then moved to our South Philadelphia location, where we will be filming all week. The story we are filming is about an older neighbor who has a habit of feeding pigeons, much to the dismay of his new next door neighbors. The story is actually much richer than that brief synopsis, but today we had to film the scene which establishes the conflict. Curt steps out of his house (he's lived there a few days), slips on pigeon stuffs left on his stoop, and yells at his new neighbor through a closed door.
We spent a couple of hours setting for this scene, marking the two houses with pigeon droppings (our recipe: flour and water, with a touch of black paint). Actors were ready. Set was ready. One problem, though, no pigeons. Our forty rental pigeons were stuck in traffic on the expressway. We waited, rehearsed, and waited. Finally we filmed the scene in close up without pigeons. An hour later, the pigeons showed up, frenzied with road rage. When they were let out of their cages, they fluttered around and, much to my amazement, they were in the right place at the right time for take two of the wide shot.
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Parking in South Philadelphia is no treat, but filming is really fun. Neighbors lined up behind camera, across the street and cheered and applauded after each take. I think this really charged actor Bill Zielinski, and made for a wonderful performance.