This morning, while reaching the end of a run, I begin to see the telltale signs of a film shoot. First, orange cones, warding off potential parkers like sentinels. Then, a crane idling at the side of the road, ready to be called on for some grand swooping Touch of Evil shot, and a cop car up the block standing watch, with the cop inside tapping away at his phone. After that, an enormous tractor trailer full of lighting supplies. Little doors open at the truck’s base, peacocking its carefully arranged elbow joints and deconstructed scaffolding.
Laminated pink notices are posted to all the stop signs and street signs. None divulge the name of the production. There’s been more than a few film shoots in the neighborhood of late. Last spring, Girls filmed here, and Nurse Jackie was a frequent visitor for a while. There are many spots over here that look like what you think Queens looks like, whether you want Industry or you want Archie Bunker.
I get close enough to see that the filming is going on outside of a factory. Fake squad cars and fake ambulances spray the street with their fake red flashers. It’s still dark, but the street is lit up like Times Square. If you want to convey that it’s the middle of the night on film, you need a hell of a lot of lighting.
Years ago, I wrote a short story about a girl who comes home from a long day at work and discovers she can’t get to her apartment because a film crew has taken over the block. She is warded off by imperious location people who are deaf to her pleas that she just wants to go home and sit on her own couch. A PA gives the peace offering of making her an extra in the scene. They tell her to come out of a building, her building, walk down the steps, and cross the street. She will be far in the background, far away from the action of the scene. She has done this a million times. But when they start shooting, the director doesn’t like the composition. It doesn’t look right to him. The girl doesn’t know what she’s doing wrong. She’s told she’s not doing anything wrong, really, but she just doesn’t look like she should be there. She’s told she is not good enough to be in the background of her own street.
I sent this story everywhere. It would be easier to tell you where I did not send this story. Nobody wanted it. The rejection notices seemed especially pointed to me then, but then they always do. It withered on a hard drive and died when that computer did.
I hadn’t thought about that story in years. I’d completely forgotten the hope I once had for it. The story came back to me on 56th Drive, as I saw fake cops and fake EMTs scramble under lamps to make their movements look more night-like, and I wondered if one day I’d have the privilege of seeing my own home on a screen somewhere.