Sunday, August 27, 2006

In Which: We Learn that the Law Does Not Appreciate Art

The other day my friends and I were in the midst of creating the first true masterpiece to come out of the amateur film world when the police came and destroyed our chances for an Oscar by interrupting us with the woefully camp line, "Tell me you don't have anyone tied to train tracks."

Let me establish the following facts before going any further:
(1) No one was in any danger.
(2) We were only trespassing a little.
(3) We did not actually have anyone tied to train tracks, and if that's what it looked like to passing cars, then (a) good! that's what it was supposed to look like, and (b) the people in the cars are the same sort of people who will believe you if you tell them gullible isn't in the dictionary. To speak more plainly, they are stupid, and here is why: The phenomenon of people being tied to train tracks by nefarious evildoers must have gone out of style, by necessity, when trains did. This probably occurred around the time when Wilbur and Orville were testing the airplane -- almost exactly one hundred years ago. Therefore we would have had to have been time-travelers if it were to be at all likely that we were really tying someone up in front of a train. As much as I hate to say this, our costumes simply were not good enough to convince anyone less than an utter fool. We had cameras, we had scripts, and most importantly, the kid on the train tracks was not screaming and crying, like you'd expect. He was complaining of back pain, but in no way was he carrying on like a person in such a position would if he were really in danger. Moreover, none of us were dressed as goths.

This was a scene far, far removed from the kind of backroads version of human sacrifice ritual that someone must have thought they were seeing, and had this person applied any reason to the puzzling tableau, they would have realize that, first of all, the railroad gods wouldn't want Kevin on Station Olympus. He is much more entertaining on Earth complaining about being repeatedly made to lie on railroad tracks. Secondly, if we had really wanted to kill someone, why would we tie him up on Friday when the train isn't coming til Sunday? It isn't practical!

But some idiot did not stop to apply reason, and called the police, probably on their cell phone while driving which is a worse crime, I truly believe. The police, when they arrived, came screeching up to us like we'd shot the President and at last they had tracked us down and now they intended to commit police brutality all over the place. It was intimidating, but it also had the air of trying to be intimidating, which was slightly self-defeating. No violence ensued at all. In fact, I don't think they anticipated much of a threat if any, thereby lending credence to my theory that nobody has tied anybody else to train tracks in so long that the police don't even believe it when they see it.

It is important to note at this stage that it has been difficult for me to take the police seriously since the experience I had a couple of weeks ago when I called 911 and waited three hours before someone called me and said, "I drove by and didn't see a problem." This example of total incompetence greatly diminished the respect for law enforcement that Officer Tom from D.A.R.E. worked so hard to instill ten years ago.

It was in honor of Officer Tom that I resisted rolling my eyes when one of the officers proceeded to behave like our collective mom, and lectured us on how we should use our brains. Then the other officer stepped in and said, "So what's your movie about??" (I add the second question mark there because he definitely said it with two.) It so happened that I had written this very scenario into the script, mainly to avoid saving myself the trouble of resolving the plot: the police were simply going to come and make us leave before we finished. It probably occurred to us all that we should ask them to be in it, but nobody was brave enough to actually do it, which I think was for the best, because it was when we were talking about the movie that I felt the situation had the potential to spiral out of control. These police officers were not kindred spirits, creatively-speaking. They were not going to appreciate the finer nuances of our clever production, especially after Matt's attempt the relate the plot included this: "And he's in the fifties, so he's all 'mee-eeee-eeeeeh!'" It struck me then how easily we could have crossed the line into the territory where you deserve to be arrested because you're clearly deranged.

Let me explain. This is the sort of movie where we have to periodically stop and ask each other, "Now, at this moment, am I playing myself, or am I playing myself playing my character playing a character, and if I am, do I show that I know it, and does this other person know it, and do they know that I know it? And after I say my line, does all of that change?" Sometimes we also have to stop and think about what level of reality we are in, and usually we are not all in the same one. It isn't the kind of thing you can quickly describe without saying, "Well, officers, how familiar are you with metafiction?" which is a potentially awkward question because not only will they say, "Not at all familiar," but they will follow that with, "Where did you escape from?" and then probably, "I think you'd better come with us."

Fortunately they were immediately bored once Matt said "metafiction" and went away, but not without the gift of a last chastisement from Officer Mom, who again implored that we use our brains. This annoyed me very much. Even though it's last-minute and severely underfunded and makes no sense and some of the lines were dubbed when one of our actors was very, very drunk, we have to take it seriously, and do what it asks even if it asks for train tracks, and I felt affronted by the implication that we should have been at home watching television.

Actually, when two police officers have just yelled at you, you do rather feel like going home and watching TV is your worthwhile and noble duty. But still, you have to ask yourself, what kind of policing policy allows perfectly innocent trespassers to have their Oscar chances ruined while a rabid raccoon gets to have free reign of western New York even if you call 911 on it. If that raccoon's death scene beats out our exploration of the difficulties inherent in creating a metafictional film in a nation with trains and laws, then I will cast myself as the Dictionary on Film's definition of frivolous lawsuit.


Ivan said...

I was trying to explain to my mother why I wanted to come home. I don't think she took too kindly to me saying "Well, Simon almost got arrested, and I want to be a part of that!"

Katie P. said...

I'm with Ivan (or Ivn). Getting acosted by police for making movies and lying on train tracks sounds WAY more fun than Grad School.

Matthew said...

One day, I will tell this to your children, but in that version there will be guns and you will kick people. Maybe even a dragon for good measure.