Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Dragoon's Life

(This is part two of my behind-the-scenes report on Lupus Pictures. You can read the first part here.)

Ladies and gentlemen, my esteemed readers. May I kindly invite you to "A Garden Party", the behind-the-scenes story. Two weeks ago, I wrote at length about the prehistory of the shoot, and if you laboured through that one, you'll appreciate what follows now all the more. I've decided to expand my Lupus report to a trilogy - I thought I could do it all in one more massive 3,000 word post, but even so, I would have to leave out too much cool stuff. Therefore, I'm splitting it up and there will be two more posts. I've already written it all down, so I can promise you that there will be no more delays. You'll definitely read the end of the trilogy on Friday.

On to the story of the shoot itself, then. I should start by saying that, in the meantime, I've watched the finished movie for the first time - and I'm very pleased with it. My fellow guest star and blogger Adele Haze summed it up nicely in her own mini-critique: "A cute little film – not ground-breaking by any extent, but nicely put together, and prettily shot." I'd call it a delightful little outdoor oddity. In terms of general look and feel, it reminds me a bit of The Fairy Tale and other "small gems" by Lupus. Obviously, this piece of comedy was never designed to become one of their "big" epic titles, but I think it stands up very well against the "small" ones. It has a palpable flair and charm of its own, the setting is certainly memorable for a spanking video, the typical Lupus humour is well in evidence, and the visuals are indeed gorgeous.

Hell, I can even live with my own contribution (barely). Adele was nice enough to describe my uniform-clad look as "splendid" and "dashing", and I agree that it is pretty much okay. Predictably, there is much room for improvement in the acting, the delivery of the lines... But it's not as horrible as I feared, I can halfway tolerate everything, and really, the look was the single most important aspect of this character, anyway. If I had to give out school marks, I'd give myself a C overall, and a B to the movie itself. Ack, just see it for yourself! Rating one's own work is always difficult, and it's not really my job, it's yours.

One thing is for sure, it's a stark contrast to my first spanking movie with Mood Pictures. You can see that right away by looking at the trailers. Whereas the Inmates "prison documentary" was claustrophobic, gritty and oppressive, A Garden Party is lush, sunny and basically a light-hearted feel-good romp. A romp with some serious canings in it - the final scene with Adele, in particular, is quite emotional and intense. But fairly light-hearted overall! Like the films themselves, the experiences of shooting them were also very different. Both great in their way, but not remotely alike.

Into the Wolves' Lair

It starts with the travelling itself. I'd been alone on my trip to Budapest, and emotionally I had approached it like a Jonathan Harker-esque journey into darkness. That's pretty much what it turned out to be, too. Also, the whole thing was incredibly quick: check into the hotel, sleep a bit, go straight to the shoot the next morning, work for 24 hours non-stop, go back to the hotel at 5 AM, then go home. By the end, I was so exhausted and over-excited at the same time, I was shuffling around like a zombie on acid.

Prague was the total opposite. I went there with my girlfriend Kaelah and we were together literally the whole time. We arrived well before the shoot for a few days holiday, so I actually saw something of the city this time - we went to Prague Castle, Dalibor's Tower, various museums, nice Czech restaurants... When the time came to do the movie, Adele and Mr. Haze were there, whom I had both met before. And we met with the Lupus guys in advance, so I got to know them a bit as well before the filming started. It felt much more like a "group thing" than my first shoot. The pace was less frantic and the vibe more familiar. The excitement was just as big, but it was a different kind - the "uncharted territory" exploration at Mood versus the strange, immensely satisfying sense of "homecoming" I felt at Lupus.

(The werewolves at work.)

Another difference was that I had a script to study in the days leading up to the shoot, because I was going to do some acting this time. I only uttered two immortal words in the entire Mood film ("Fuck you!" in Hungarian). My character in "A Garden Party" didn't have Shakespearean amounts of lines, either - but at least he had some dialogue worth the name.

The story was about a small-town family in the Bohemian countryside, sometime in the late 19th century. Two young ladies of good standing, Anna and Julie. Their despotic grandmother, Hermina Postolka. And her husband Ferdinand, a jovial man who likes to "jolly around" with other women. Especially with their Ukrainian housemaid Olena! You can probably guess who played the maid... As for me, I played Hans the dragoon, a member of the local military garrison, Anna's suitor and almost a family member. Finally, you had a local druggist and his pretty wife.

The grandmother sets up a formal garden party with everyone attending (she wants some new ointments from the druggist). And it all goes from there. I won't spoil the delightfully silly plot for you, but as you can imagine, the two Czech girls get thrashed for something or another before the movie is over, and the Ukrainian maid gets it, too. There would be one birching-followed-by-a-caning scene with the girls, featuring the grandmother and Hans as the tops. Later on, the grandmother forces her husband to punish the maid (for jollying around once too often). Adele would get her gift from Lupus, and I would get to increase my spanking victim count to eight.

I liked how the script made fun of every single character and their various weaknesses - without being condescending towards them. They were caricatures and likeable at the same time, typical of Lupus. I imagined that, with the right people in these roles, it could be a lot of fun. Who would they be? The dragoon and the maid were obvious. I had no idea about the others - Lupus never mentioned anything in our correspondence, and I never asked. I suppose I found it more enjoyable to just speculate. Whoever Anna would turn out to be, I knew that I was most nervous about the opening scene of the movie with her and Hans. Not only did it contain most of my lines, it was also supposed to be a love scene - and a comedic one at that. Well, at least I only had to seduce one of the girls, not both, as they originally told me...

(Lars Moebius teaching me "bad Czech".
He was a big help in learning the lines.)

Kaelah and I first hooked up with the Lupus team on Thursday. Producer Thomas Marco came out to meet us, accompanied by Jan Zacek. Basically, we had a drink with Sigmund Freud from The Last Case of Dr. Freud and with his younger version from Crima and Punishment. I had exchanged many mails with both of them and it was great to finally meet.

They quickly filled me in about the movie. Anna was going to be played by Ester Slaba, one of their most experienced "professional victims". She must have done a dozen films by now. I had first seen her in "From the Headmaster's Study: The Nightmare" back in 2003 and had lusted after her ever since, so the news that I was going to work with her (and cane her) were welcome indeed. Vera Vranova was the other girl. She was newer, but had also done a few videos already.

I was also pleased to find out that the druggist and his wife were going to be played by real-life couple Maximilian Schubert and Katerina Schubertova (formerly Tetova). Katerina had been one of the company's biggest stars in the old days, in films like the classic Stalin trilogy. Even though she was retired from "active duty" now, I thought that her presence added a certain extra gravitas to the film. But really, I was most happy about having Ester Slaba in the cast. I later told Kaelah that I thought it was a really nice surprise. "I noticed...!" she replied sarcastically.

After this first chat, we went to the Lupus Pictures studio for a quick costume trial. The trip over there turned out to be memorable in its own right. Thomas describes his vehicle as "a toy, not a car", and he drives it accordingly. We were in dense city traffic most of the time, so in absolute terms, we weren't going very fast. But we certainly accelerated and decelerated more than any other car on the road! As the g-loads mounted, I noticed how Kaelah was growing paler all the time and clawing deeper and deeper into the rear seat cushion next to me. My father had been a real madman at driving, so I was used to rides like this since childhood and just grinned. But truth be told, I was a bit pale myself by the time Thomas stopped at our destination (brakes glowing).

The famous Lupus Pictures studio. I had heard so much about it from friends like Niki Flynn and Adele, I sometimes felt like I had been there myself. But of course, the real place still looked totally different from my imagination. Since "A Garden Party" would be shot at another location, this was my only chance to see it. I took everything in: the main stage where they did most of the filming, the equipment, the stored props and costumes... I tried on three soldier's uniforms and we selected the one you see me wearing in the film. We also chose the cane which I'd be using on the girls - as usual, I had obsessed about the details a lot, the type of wood, the exact measurements and whatnot. So that was one of my main questions to Thomas. On the side, he showed us some still photographs from "Wild Party 3", which they had just filmed.

(A garden party, a physical examination, and the rubbing in of ointments.
Hans is snooping.)

We all met again the next day for a pre-shoot dinner. Adele and Mr. Haze had arrived in Prague by now, and Zbysek Podhajsky, the director, was there as well. Zbysek eagerly shook my hand and said how much he was looking forward to the movie. Then he said: "I think the beard should go!" Much to the amusement of Kaelah and Adele in particular. I played coy for a moment, but I was okay with the plan, really - if the Lupus girls were going to be beaten black and blue for the amusement of the audience, the least I could do on my part was shave off the damn beard. I agreed that Hans needed a more authentic 19th century-style look, with a longer (fake) moustache.

The one thing everyone was most worried about was the weather. The movie was almost entirely set outdoors and the forecast for Saturday was "mixed", which made it all a bit of a lottery. Do we have an alternative plan, I asked, an indoor location ready to go? "No, nothing!" laughed Thomas. So, not to be pessimistic, but what happens if it does rain? "Fuck it!" he declared defiantly. "Then we'll just have a garden party in the rain!"

Getting to work

The movie was shot at a country house location which fans will recognise from "Fairy Tale: The Magic Purse". First thing in the morning, I sat down with an assistant to get my hair done - and the beard shaved. I was almost looking forward to the result. I'd had the beard for ten years and I had no idea how I was going to look without it. My fellow international travellers watched the procedure with rapt fascination. Well? Adele said I looked "different". Kaelah said I looked "like Wesley Crusher" (which, from her, is supposed to be a compliment). Mr. Haze grinned and said I looked "like fifteen". But he was only jealous because he wasn't in the film, you see.

Zbysek came over and informed me that, from now on, he was only going to call me "Hans". Using our character names was his way of getting himself into directing mode! Fine, I said, whatever makes you happy. I later noticed that he didn't do it consistently, though. He called me "Hans", he called the Czech actors by their real names, and with Adele, it was fifty-fifty - half of the time, Zbysek called her "Olena" and the other half "Adella". But he sure did a fine job directing, so whatever it is he did with the names, it seems to have worked for him.

The first scene to be filmed was the love scene with Ester and me (as a matter of fact, almost the whole movie was filmed chronologically, with only a few exceptions). Well, I thought, at least we're getting the most awkward one out of the way first! In the scene, Hans the dragoon persuades Anna to a round of "horse style" sex against the manor wall. We had a few lines back and forth, "and then you lift her skirt and you have sex", explained Zbysek. He held up a finger in mock warning: "But not for real!" Ester giggled and nodded vigorously. I was in complete agreement - I'm a purist and I don't even like too much simulated sex in my CP movies.

Ester and I nailed it (if you'll pardon the pun) after three or four takes. Instead of playing the brash, impetuous military man Zbysek envisioned, I went for something more suave, what Kaelah describes as my "tomcat wants milk" routine. It came more naturally to me and I thought it would fit the character equally well. However, when I watch the finished scene today, it comes across as rather flat instead of suave. I guess wild over-acting would have been the better choice after all.

("All dress must down!" for Ester Slaba, left, and Vera Vranova.
Adele Haze is still in her maid's uniform.)

When I walked back to the others after the final take, Kaelah was teasing me: "You look a lot more enthusiastic when we do the horse style...!" I grinned back at her: "I thought you'd be glad about that!"

Humour, plus a lot of honesty, openness and trust, was our way of dealing with the situation we found ourselves in. Kaelah and I had only recently become a couple. Hell, the first time we met in person had only been half a year ago! Now we were at a video shoot with one of the biggest producers in the business. A Lupus set can be intimidating for even the most blasé kinky veteran. For Kaelah, it was only the latest stop on a very fast, very crammed journey: first time exploring one's kink, first time surfing the net for spanking erotica, first contact with like-minded people, first real-life meeting, first spanking experience, first "vanilla" sex, first relationship... Most people go through these "firsts" in a matter of several years. Kaelah did them all in less than one. Now, this would be the first time where she would see other people playing "live" - at a professional video shoot, of all places! And not just random people, but her boyfriend as well.

Add to this the fact that Kaelah isn't as much of a movie buff as me, and that she isn't keen on Lupus-style severity, either. You can imagine that she felt queasy about the trip. It came much sooner in our relationship than either of us would have liked. But the shoot had been scheduled before we met and Kaelah was adamant that she didn't want me to cancel it. Me going alone would have been even worse. So, really, the only option we had was for her to just come along. As I expected, she did it with her usual courage and determination. If she felt nervous, she didn't show much of it. Once we were on the set together, she even started enjoying the experience. Movie buff or not, she found it highly interesting to see the work process and how everything is done.

Kaelah's teasing told me that she was okay. As well as that, I had my most difficult scene out of the way, so I felt considerably more relaxed. The next, long part of the shoot was taken up by the garden party itself, and by an "examination" of the Czech girls by the druggist, behind a changing screen (also outdoors). I had little to do except sitting around, munching my cake and pretending that I was following the Czech conversation (of course, I knew what was basically going on from the script). Somewhere in the middle, I had one more line.

(Maximilian Schubert, with wife Katerina,
being his usual somber and serious self.)

In the email exchanges with Lupus, I had never been able to ascertain whether my lines would be mostly Czech or mostly German. The Czech lands were part of the Austrian Empire at the time and German was used as a lingua franca throughout much of Eastern Europe. At the same time, it made sense that a German about to marry into a Czech family would know some Czech as well (even if he was a silly bugger like Hans). We could have used either language in my interaction with the others, or a mix. Lupus left it open until the evening before the shoot, when we talked it through and decided that I should just try it all in Czech.

It wasn't a lot of dialogue, but when you are memorising everything phonetically because you don't know the language at all, simple sentences feel like paragraphs. And with many of the words, I had no idea how to pronounce them in the first place. Lars Moebius, the veteran Lupus actor who played the grandfather, was a huge help. He sat with me on the set, read the lines to me and even wrote them down in phonetic spelling - "bad Czech", as he called it. Thomas Marco said he loved my Czech. He thought it was laugh-out-loud funny: "That's exactly what we wanted, a really heavy German accent!" Well, I can't say that the heaviness was part of the act - it came rather naturally!

Lars was awesome, anyway, as was the actress who played the grandmother, Tereza Tomaskova. The two of them make for a hilarious couple and carry most of the film in my view. Maximilian and Katerina were great, too, as the druggist and his wife. There was a palpable sweetness about them. Max was also a total goofball off-camera, just like Niki had described him. At one point, he stood behind the old-fashioned changing screen, grimacing and moaning ecstatically, pretending to masturbate. That cracked me up like nothing else on that day.

When the time drew nearer for the CP scenes, I dared a joke of my own. Zbysek explained that the girls would be mostly naked, so I stole Max's legendary line from The Exchange Student and yelled: "All dress must down!" Max broke into roaring laughter and joined in: "All! Dress! Must down!" When I later walked by Kaelah, grinning, she just smiled forgivingly and shook her head: "You couldn't resist, could you?"

During the whole shoot, it only rained one single time, which forced a 20 minute break (save the cameras! save the cakes!). Apart from that, we made rapid progress. Thomas and Zbysek were in their element. The crew carried out their tasks like clockwork - calm and without hurrying, but fast. It was without a doubt the most focused, most professional shoot I've attended so far. By mid-afternoon, we only had the action scenes left to do.

The formerly clouded sky had cleared entirely and the garden was bathed in sunlight, as if to set the stage for the things to come. Near the manor wall where I had done the love scene with Ester a few hours ago, the Lupus team were now setting up a wooden bench, ropes, a birch and a cane...

To be continued in the third and final part of my behind-the-scenes report, on Friday.

("Girl, cake, cane". A still life.)


Peter said...

Ludwig - You really are a sadist to leave your readers in Part 2 just when the canings are about to start. Cane and cake indeed ! Just how cruel can you be.

Fascinating account though.


Ludwig said...

Well, Peter, I've done it before in the behind-the-scenes report on Mood Pictures. So you should know what you are letting yourself in for, and you really are a masochist if you keep coming back.

Seriously, I didn't plan it this way - as I wrote in Part 1 of the report, I originally planned to do the whole thing in two parts. I thought I could cover the entire rest of the story in one more 3,000 word post (that's getting close to the maximum which I consider "digestible" in one single post). But I was running out of space. So I thought, screw it, I'm going to make an exception this one time, I'll write 4,000 words. And I still kept running out of space. Even though I was already leaving out quite a few observations and little stories I would have liked to share.

So I eventually decided to split the rest into two posts, and give myself the space I needed - the space the story deserved. Sure the ending of Part 2 is cruel, but look on the bright side:

1) Part 3 will follow on Friday, so the waiting time isn't very long. Only two days.

2) You are getting the whole Lupus behind-the-scenes story this way, not a shortened version.

With hindsight, I should have planned it in three parts from the very beginning. I should have seen this coming.

You know, I'm usually pretty good at estimating the length of a post. When I think "Okay, this one will probably be around 1,000 words" or "This one will probably be around 1,500 words", it usually turns out that my estimate was very close. But when you sit down to write a behind-the-scenes report, it often happens that you remember all kinds of stories you had forgotten about in the meantime, stories that didn't figure into your original planning. And they are all interesting, damn it!

Ursus Lewis said...

I'm glad you didn't trim it into one post. I haven't come by on your site since Monday or Tuesday, so I didn't care about the two parts.

I'd like to congratulate you to your Lupus premiere. The result is well worth seeing..