New Orleans The four-person “dressing” crew showed up at the house before 9 AM, though it turned out that the four of them, as well as their supervisor, the set designer, Moncia Mayorga originally from Monterrey, Mexico, but now living in New York City, had been on the job since 530 AM. It was an abnormally cold and windy day in New Orleans so the chaos of open doors, only casually shut; gates swinging wide; extra rental vans and vehicles on the street; and, the dog barking in protest of being banned to the kennel rather than being in the middle of the action, made it seem like this was the real thing rather than the first wave of the cinema troops hitting our shore. The crew was a hodgepodge of three young men and a young woman, two of whom were from New York City, one from the New Orleans area, and one unknown.
The process of turning a home into a movie set is interesting to say the least. At one level it is not as bad, as a standard issue dweller would have imagined, because only part of each room becomes the scene, rather than the whole place becoming a cinema squat. So half of the living room was disassembled and eventually only the area around the stove and sink will be the movie kitchen. Virtually all of our daughter’s long ago bedroom and now a semi-guestroom was disassembled and who knows what the future holds for the dining room yet. I don’t want to mislead. Much of the area not being dressed for the set becomes a storage dump zone of sorts, even if semi-organized and whole other rooms and the upstairs balcony become mini-warehouses where everything is stuffed out of the way.
Monica’s crew was well organized and attended. Four bookcases needed to be depopulated, so the crew walked in with scores of U-Haul boxes already assembled, taped, and stacked at attention to the task. Their journey was from shelf to box to rental van and then to a storage unit in Chalmette, a downriver suburb of the city, where they will be housed with various pieces of furniture until they return along with the dressing crew to reassemble the house after the shoot is done. The procedure is efficient and as professional as a Craigslist recruiting model can deliver, complete with bubble wrap and a half-acre of plastic sheeting for anything destined for the porch. Pictures were taken of everything being moved so it could be returned in place. The book shelves were labeled into the boxes so they could be repatriated at least in proximate locations. I’m not saying that at 530 PM when they broke for the day, I wasn’t happy to see them go, but I wasn’t left with the feeling that locusts had swarmed leaving nothing but destruction. Mainly, it all seemed something we could survive, and my companera seemed to be turning it into a mini-home improvement project with plans for me to quickly paint the bookshelves and a list building longer than hours in the day, turning lemons into lemonade.
The website, www.videomaker.com defines a “dressing,” as follows:
A set dressing is an object on the set that is not a prop. Film talent can talk about and touch set dressings. A telephone can be a dressing. However, once an actor uses the dressing in a scene, such as picking up the phone and talking on it, the dressing then becomes a prop and shouldn’t be moved again.
In this new language we’re learning that would mean that the “dressing” crew is the gang moving everything out of the way, clearing the brush so to speak, for the so-called “props” to come in that will actually create the scene they intend to film. I guess with all of our stuff being boxed, going to storage or piled on porches and rooms, we can soon await some amount of stuff coming in to fill that space as the adventure continues.
After the first day, rookie arrogance makes us believe we can handle this. Truthfully, it is more likely that it is probably more a matter of hours than days until we find ourselves unable to continue to sleep in our own bed and tightly grasp any of our normal routine. Meanwhile one piece of a bedstead that was carefully wrapped and stored on the porch it seems, if damaged in the slightest, could signal the end of my life I’ve been told, so we’ll keep watching this unfold with some bated breath.
Billy Bragg “Never Cross a Picket Line”