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Close, But Worlds Away
July 3, 2000

Call time: 12 p.m.
Location: Independence Mall, Kensington and Allegheny Avenues

Actor: Ramona, Matt Rochester

Today is the day in which our fictional drama is set. Our goal is to gather some documentary scenes of tourists visiting the city that will contrast with our neighborhood dramas. We film all afternoon at Independence Mall, to get scenes of tourists lining up in the heat to see Independence Hall, to see the Liberty Bell.

When we arrive there is a protest in full force -- supporters of convicted killer Mumia Abu-Jamal have surrounded the Liberty Bell and shut it down for nearly three hours.

This is the city at work. Protesters working to make their voices heard, police working to keep it peaceful, tourists working to see all they can - all mixed up in 90-something degree heat. It's this constant collision of people and ideas that makes this city so interesting. Hopefully Philadelphia Diary will tap into that same energy.

We film preparations for the Welcome America Liberty Medal award (lots of flags, lots of red white and blue bunting), horse and carriages, etc. It will work beautifully.

The second half of our shoot takes us to Kensington and Allegheny Avenues. Not so far from the show-and-tell part of town we were in just a few hours earlier. But worlds away in terms of everything else. The scene we are filming tonight is simple. Ramona is on the phone calling her mother - for what? Money? Emotional support? When her mother does not answer, Ramona hangs up, cries out to her friend who has killed himself ("Move on over Tyrone, You might just have some company tonight") then walks into the darkness. It's a dark scene. I originally wanted to film it on Broad Street (with the subway sounds rumbling underneath), but decided that under the El fit the spirit of the scene better (with the subway sounds rumbling overhead). I know I've made the right decision when Ramona (Matt Rochester) calls up to the heavens when she cries out to Tyrone. At the same time a train goes by overhead.

It's been interesting filming in different neighborhoods. West Philadelphia neighbors watch with interest. South Philadelphia neighbors are extremely enthusiastic. In Kensington, there is a bit of interest from passing cars (lots and lots of traffic), but when the homeowner in front of whose home we are filming finds a crew filming an actor in front of her house, she shrugs as if this is nothing new, then goes inside. Only her two cats in the front window watch the scene being filmed.

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