What happens when you have an overly excited Japanese and an extremely enthused American walk off an airplane in Munich in October?
Having left behind work, family and life, they have not yet given up on ethics and morals, since the beer has not influenced their minds.
Anyway, Doug and Jean-Luc were working on the beer-infested script for over two years. They even had a producer, but then the producer somehow decided that it would cost them too much when they saw how much alcohol Doug and Jean-Luc could possibly digest during the shoot. Doug was going to play a role and Jean-Luc,would shoot a beer movie.
When I saw this script for the first time I said to myself: Shooting a whole day in the Loewenbrau tent? Damn, that's quite a good place to be. I said OK. Then slowly it dawned on me. Do they have a shooting permit? What about the sound? Jean-Luc studied film in LA, worked as an assistant director for film and TV. I'll take my chances.
Jean-Luc's apartment. Extremely hard to find in the outskirts of Munich, among the cows and people in Lederhosen with little Heidis running around. Munich, despite its reputation as a metropolis, remains a city in Bavaria with all the affiliating images. The minute I walked into his apartment the setting changed to California. Maybe it's the bright and colorful crayon paintings on the walls, or the postcards stuck to the top corner of the walls, or maybe the Radiohead music playing, or all the framed movie posters. None of them specifically Californian, and yet you could feel somewhere the receding sunlight of a Californian day. Doug, slightly plump like the character he should play, is reclining on a couch. Jean-Luc and his daughter watch some satirical movie from the seventies with scenes where people talk backwards. I open a can of beer and it feels like home.
Morning. Doug and I run a couple of lines while drinking coffee. Chris comes in. He is a German, the only German crew member. Think of this: we are in Germany shooting a short film with Chris, the only German guy. Well, actually, he is Austrian. Chris majors in American literature. We are going to shoot our movie with four people.
In the script there are in fact many other dubious characters. For example, drunk Italians or a group of American college kids or the traditional drunken group of Bavarians in Trachten, i.e. Lederhosen. °»We'll look for them in the tent°… Jean-Luc says coolly. Heck, guerrilla style shooting, damn, what did I get myself into? Outwardly, I keep my cool, though the morning caffeine starts doing it's job. My fingers get twitchy after we shoot the arrival scene in a hotel and we take the train into the city. The hotel shoot was easy and fast: Unpacking and getting ready to attend Oktoberfest
The Loewenbrau tent is empty. Almost. We look at the time. It's only eleven. Not everyone in Munich seems to drink beer on weekdays at this time. Almost like a proof that prejudice has often somewhere it's roots, we observe a group of Italians ordering beer. Doug (Achtung: Doug plays Doug) invites them over to our table. We already found the group of Italians in the script. Easy. We wait for more people to enter the tent. First shots: Alcoholic Doug generously suggesting that Tak should drink that delicious golden liquid beer.
The band starts to perform. They play this Bavarian style of polka Wumcha, Bumcha, Wumcha, Bumcha and it is impossible to shoot. We wait for them to take a break. A five minute break begins and we start shooting some sequences, then the band starts again to perform the Bavarian interpretation of country rock. The tent starts swinging, the Italians are dancing, the Germans are swinging their beer mugs. Yes, it is shooting in hell. After we finish a few scenes the Italians decide to go away for late lunch. We keep on going with our close-up shots between Doug and Tak.
Three hours have passed. We need the Italians again. One of them left us a phone number. We try the number. At least they told us they would return after an hour. The phone number is luckily a cellular number and not their home phone somewhere in Umbria, Italy. They came back. However, they didn't look the same. At least two of them were completely wasted and two other guys show some form of over-the-border happiness. Where is the continuity? Anyway. We are lucky that they returned. I was also relieved when I saw them coming back. We shot sequences in which Tak is dancing with the Italians, the Italians drinking and the Italians chanting out their over-the-top °»Tak°… call. It is difficult for the two not-so-steadfast Italians to continue showing happiness, gaiety and so on until our waitress arrives. Sabrina an actress in German Trachten busty in style. The Italians soon made selfies with her, and Italians from other tables came over to join in. Sabrina then underwent a five minute training session by a real waitress, who showed her how to handle beer, sometimes over ten at a time, each one filled with one litre over two pints, plus the immensely heavy beer glasses.
My mind was just blown away. I like beer. I also enjoy drinking now and then with a small group of people. But spending a whole day in a beer tent is an experience by itself. The Italians left. They've finished their job. The assistant director who came by for a few hours did a great job in finding the American students. They were, however, not Americans, but rather four Australian rugby players touring Europe. They looked older than students, but were exactly the dude types that we were looking for. They were also excited about the movie and their roles, so we ended up splitting the dialogue for them, so that each one of them had a few lines. We needed to explain basic stuff like not moving too much when we do close-ups, but darn, they were the born dude characters we were looking for.
Interestingly, the four of them had totally different backgrounds. A butcher, two nutritional scientists or counselors, and one genetic scientist. But in a group they really harmonized. I guess it was their rugby team spirit. They especially loved the scene, in which they were able to tackle Doug to the ground to save him from being intoxicated by beer.
As we finish the scenes, all of us were kaput. The four Australian dudes headed off towards the Hofbrau tent, in which, it was said, the girls would pull up their shirts. We were so tired after the shoot that we didn't think of it as an incentive to visit the tent. We finished up our closing scenes and made our way back home.
Back at Jean-Luc's place we watched the tapes, got some pizza and drank some beer, of which we obviously couldn't get enough during the day.
On the second day we needed to film with a group of Bavarians in traditional Trachten and a long dialogue followed by a climaxing fight scene. Tak jumps up into the air and grabs Doug by his shoulders. Voila.
My character Tak had to pull Doug by his hair and shove him up on the bandstand, a round stage in the middle of the beer tent, pick up a microphone and scream to the audience. Hmm. Yes, we had a shooting permit. Sort of. Jean-Luc supposedly told the tent management that he would shoot a °»documentary°…. I mean our movie could be regarded as a documentary. We were repeating the scene in which I pull Doug up the stairs. Multiple suspicious looks from the people around us. I yell out my line to the crowd. But then we had to give up. We had drawn too much negative attention, and some drunk stubborn people would not let us shoot anymore. Of course the microphone I scream into is not connected to the speaker. But anyway, we did it once and had the scene in our box. When we shot a scene with security guards throwing a character out of the tent, the guards seemed to enjoy playing their roles. The security guards were positioned at the entrance to check that nobody was taking the huge beer mugs. They are a popular item to be taken home by tourists. You can't use them at all. They are too big to drink a coke and too small for a waste basket.
I wondered how Jean-Luc and Doug were able to concentrate in this loud and obnoxious environment. The occasional sip of beer helped us relax and refocus on the next scene. We did have the real surrounding.
The two shooting days were a great experience of how to make a movie in a crazy environment. Doug, Chris, Jean-Luc and I were exhausted, but Doug left for a song/band rehearsal, Jean-Luc and Chris had a different shoot the very next day. I left Munich the next morning with a feeling of certain emptiness, a slight feeling of accomplishment and happy that it was wrapped. We recorded the dialogue a few weeks later in a sound studio. We could not use a single audio track that was recorded inside the tent.