Myanmar Diary – Part 13

17 November 15 – Tuesday – DAY ELEVEN

It’s another day in the marketplace. This time we follow Gilbert doing the same things that Tinmar Aung did. It’s another eight minute shot following someone as he goes around buying things. The path is slightly different (it’s supposed to be years earlier) and now we’re doing it with an actor who is notoriously not as focused and not as dedicated as Tinmar Aung.

Early morning start with Gilbert

Nevertheless, the crew is seasoned now, and I believe it goes smoother. By the time we’re done here, we will be a crack unit of seasoned veterans. Just in time to be not making a movie.

Gilbert walks by this local temple as well

Completely predictably, I run into that same goofy girl I ran into the other day. She is still telling funny stories, still cracking her friend up, and still laughs long and hard when she turns around to see me there. I’ll miss this girl.

The marketplace is also a good place to be confronted with the poverty of this nation. 19th century ragamuffins with skinny arms and legs – where are they going and where can they possibly end up? What appear to be really underage girls carrying infants – who knows where they sleep? As I walk my fat ass soft Western rich self down the street admiring the weather, these people are cheerful about fighting the dogs for dinner.

Especially this one, who has been eating more than his share

And considering the relative cheer of the Burmese, it seem that the traditional Burmese greeting is merely to lock eyes and smile. Part of that is reacting to a big goofy white guy with equipment, I do realize. Except that I watch others do it, too. Women and girls, especially, all look and smile. They are big, beautiful smiles, too. Men, not so much, but certainly young boys will give you a grin. No head nod like Americans do – none of the bro chin jerk maneuver. So even these doubtlessly disease-ravaged Dickensian orphans give you big, open, generous smiles. It is a weirdly tolerant and accommodating place, Myanmar.

I could be making this all up. We can never forget that I’m a big fat white guy with funny equipment. So I’m not likely to get honest reactions from people. I’m certainly aware that much of my presence here is akin to seeing the clown escaping the circus.

The market scenes go quick, but the morning is gone. When Tinmar Aung shows up at noon it seems like the day begins all over again. We are so lucky she turned out to be delightful and not a total nightmare. As anyone who has ever been involved in production can tell you, employing a child actor is sometimes the quickest way to destroy morale and ruin everyone’s lives for the duration of the shoot. In fact, that happens more often than not. And it’s usually because there’s a parent involved, but just as likely because the child is an egomaniac monster.

Our actress definitely thrives on attention, there’s no splitting hairs on that. But she is pleasant and fun while she vies for attention, and she has never been underfoot or in the way.

Tinmar Aung plans for world domnation

It’s Thiha’s big scene today. He’s worked his way into our confidence so completely that now we’re giving him a bit part – this one is an angry customer. One look at tiny cute Tinmar Aung and he just can’t do it. He’s not an actor and the idea that he could be angry or mean to her – despite her reassurances – just isn’t going to work. Pity, too, because onscreen he could be quite terrifying, and this would add some energy to the scene.

We decide that one of the obviously gay hairdressers from across the street can be the angry customer. Thiha will simply be a regular customer looking for brown thread. Gavin buys him a smart shirt at the market to wear for the show that he ends up taking home, and the scene goes by quick as a wink.

It begins to get dark when Gilbert shows up again for Ghost Scene Number Three. Tinmar Aung is required to be defiant in this encounter – we’re hoping to see some of her usual fire on screen instead of between takes. Our translator, John, has been an invaluable resource for Gavin, going over scenes and dialogue to make sure they sound right in Burmese. There are certain kinds of behavior and some kinds of dialogue that would be different for cultural reasons. Though Gilbert is supposed to be a ghost there are nuances to the way that Tinmar Aung should speak to him that we cannot know.

All of this is also slightly troubling. How much is John now the actual author of the screenplay? How much is he changing, and can he be trusted as a dramaturge? An interesting question, perhaps one that no one will ever be able to answer. Our actors come up with their own lines, for the most part, prodded on by Gavin’s general outline of the film. It seems as though there is no writer, the source of many of our woes.

Tonight Gavin and Sean plan well into the night. They have arranged to go to the school again tomorrow, for another day of shooting. Gavin is not pleased with his pan move the first time out and he feels we can all do better. We are all enthusiastic about this. Gavin and Sean are kind of arguing about how to do things. Sean is somewhat upset; Gavin is not the greatest of communicators, and Sean feels like he has only a vague notion of what Gavin wants. It’s true, Gavin is sort of setting him up to fail – hoping he gets the shots he wants without ever describing them to him.

I’m still glad we did not let Gavin operate and direct at the same time, as he originally wanted to do. The film would never be done. Maybe if everything were in English he could work that out, but in Burmese it’s a different story.

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