On Wednesday, July 27th, scores of hot young guys filed into Eastern Bloc, the popular Soviet-Union themed East Village gay bar, to dance, drink, and party. If it were nighttime, nobody passing by would have batted an eye. But outside the bar the mid-day summer sun was drilling through layers of SPF-30 on skin all over the city. Director Ira Sachs had picked this day to film a pivotal moment in Keep The Lights On in which the characters played by Thure Lindhardt and Miguel Del Toro first meet in a crowded bar. Extras casting coordinator Jason Klorfein had been working for months to ensure that the place was packed with an authentic group of bar patrons, and when the day finally came it was a roaring success. Keep The Lights On‘s videographer Onur Karoaglu captured the behind-the-scenes action amongst the extras and other crew in this terrific video.
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A funny day. Paprika Steen was with us for her two scenes and she is a brilliant rush of humor, intelligence, and great acting. Working with her and Thure in the middle of Central Park was silly fun and also very difficult. Not because of them, but because shooting in a public park—not unlike shooting sex—is full of surprising challenges. From the director’s perspective it was almost like a thriller because there are all these potential “hits” that might get you (a.k.a., stop the scene) at any moment. Some of the things you have to look out for: the flute player, the Mexican combo, the Church of the World gathering at the band shell, the intermittent downfalls, the group of French tourists who stop to watch. Not to mention that we were working with a dolly and the scene kept being too long to fit into the number of tracks. So editing down on location (thank you, Thure and Paprika). We shoot for several hours, break for lunch—turns out Paprika worked selling t-shirts at what is now Le Pain Quotidien, back in 1983—and then in the last half hour I realize I’ve perhaps staged the whole thing wrong. Instead of two short scenes timed to dollies, I realize I can do the whole scene in one if I use a long lens and the paths of Central Park, from a distance to the camera. We are running out of time before the storm. And the drummer at the band shell will only delay his sound check for another fifteen minutes. The last take is the best. It pours.
Heading out to shoot the last scene in the movie. I will walk the 19 blocks up to the set, which is, by some coincidence (some not) in front of the same building where my ex used to work. I remember taking this walk in harder, tougher times, sometimes in the middle of the night, alone. My sister asked me if filming scenes that were reminiscent of very painful times in my past was very difficult, and I have to admit, they aren’t. This movie comes out of some sort of catharsis that happened in the wake of what was the hardest time in my life. I feel on the other side of a lot of what hurt. It starts by not holding on to anything that’s shameful. Even my mother reads these production diaries and she’s fine. Hi, Mom.
Last night, the Keep the Lights On cast and crew gathered at The Delancey bar on New York’s Lower East Side to celebrate the end of production. After the hard-working team was appropriately intoxicated, extras casting director Jason Klorfein took things to the next level by displaying his unexpectedly impressive breakdancing skills.
We want to send a very special thank you to our talented cast and crew who did such an amazing job over the past five weeks, as well as to our friends, our donors and supporters on Kickstarter and everyone else who helped make this happen. We made a movie!