Man in Car is one shining star

Last year, I extolled the virtues of that stalwart movie character known as Man in Car, who graces the credits of thousands of films on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Shortly after, I launched a nationwide contest to extend my personal legacy into film.

Film producers could star me in their own production, ultimately enshrining me as Man in Car on the IMDb.

After having extended the contest deadline an unprecedented nine times, I received an intriguing offer from the studios of Substance Productions, the Toronto-based home of independent film auteurs Jason Butler and Brett Butler, aka the Butler Brothers.

I was naturally circumspect about the sudden flurry of entries, but a quick visit to the IMDb soon quelled my concerns. The Butler Brothers have garnered dozens of IMDb credits, and numerous awards, for a string of productions including Alive and Lubricated, Bums, Confessions of an Unmarried Couple and, most recently, The Notorious Newman Brothers.

I’ve been asked to star in the latest installment of the team’s current avant-garde production, Larry & Burt’s Gut Rot, “a dark comedic tale of two guys who have had the stink of the world dumped on them but refuse to give up their belief in personal freedom, the fight of the underdog and good beer.” With segments currently available on YouTube, the series finale will be screened at Toronto’s ReelHeART International Film Festival in September.

I arrive on the open-air set to meet the crew. I’ll be working with director and cinematographer Jason Butler, boom operator and sound recordist Colin Mac-Donald and still photographer Joseph Kim. Brett will be suffering an extreme case of gut rot as Larry, a delivery guy for Upper Crust Pizza, who is stuck in traffic behind Man in Car (me), an irritating driver glued to his cellphone who simply will not budge. My car stars as itself.

It’s street filmmaking in its rawest form. We’re stationed on a small, dead-end street bordering Lake Ontario. Jason marks the locations of the two cars, which we move into place. He hands me a cellphone and tells me to “pretend to talk to someone.” I’ve rarely pretended to talk to anyone and certainly never to nobody. I draw phrases from the recesses of my experiences. Have I made the grade?

Jason tells me: “That’s fine.”

I’m trying for stark realism here, so I leave the engine running. Sharp-eared viewers would certainly notice the absence of engine noise, thus confounding my efforts to present a natural style.

“Kill the engine,” says Jason. “You’re stinking up the air. If we need engine rumble, we’ll add it in post production.”

Jason explains to me that I’ll be featured in a special sequence depicting an escalation in Larry’s ill temper. A “montage” of anger, if you will. I suspect this means that nobody will hear me speak; perhaps a good thing.

In the first take, I’m asked to play it by ear. I blab away on the phone until I’m beset by Larry, who gets out of his car, marches up to the driver’s window, tears the phone from my hands and tosses it into the driver’s seat. Although this is a “montage,” Brett actually singes my ear with purple prose of the most colourful sort.

Jason says it went well. So well, in fact, that he’s extending the sequence. After Larry tosses the phone into the front seat, I’ll wait until the coast is clear, grab the phone again and resume the conversation. In order to evoke a natural reaction, I haven’t been briefed on Brett’s response.

Lights, camera, action! Larry returns with a bad passion, this time placing the phone inside his pants and bouncing it around his shorts in unspeakable fashion. I try to look aghast, but I’m afraid I cracked a smile.

Cut! Print! Jason assures me the shoot went “fine.” A minute later, a police officer arrives on the set. More Gut Rot? Nope. Concerned residents have reported a kidnapping taking place at our location. I flash my newspaper credentials and the police officer assures us we haven’t broken any laws — but he takes down our names and addresses to be on the safe side.

“That’s guerilla filmmaking,” Jason assures me, as we “break set.” A week later, I receive notice that I have been “seamlessly cut into the montage.”

My name has not yet been seamlessly entered into the IMDb, but I’m assured that takes a little more time. More on this as the premiere approaches.

Photograph by: Joseph Kim, handout