Live From The Saint!!
Written by Sarah Borufka
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 08:25
Hanging out in front of the Saint, the notorious dive bar of the Lower Garden District, is usually not a prelude to anything productive. Maybe that’s why it feels weird to be standing outside in front of the Saint in broad daylight, studying a shooting schedule and eating bananas.
We are all waiting on resident bartender Sqrwrl (that’s really how she spells it), who has agreed to let us into the bar, which will be the location of a TV pilot today. Sipping coffee from Mojo Coffeehouse, and patiently waiting for the doors to the bar to be opened (this is New Orleans after all, and nothing ever happens on time), the crew discusses where to set up lights, monitor, and cameras, what jokes the host should crack, and who will be interviewed when.
When Sqrwrl shows up an hour late, she explains that she’s operating on two hours of sleep after bartending all night. It seems only appropriate. The pilot that will be shot today is for a variety show titled “Live from the Saint”. Usually live action doesn’t get going in here at 11 am.
As we walk into the bar, I can’t help but be surprised by how different it looks when it’s not dark and smoky and lit by Christmas lights. It makes the dust more noticeable, and somehow the bar looks more fragile. Maybe the places we hold so dear, where we socialize and make friends, really do boil down to some dust and dirt, a few shabby couches and rickety tables and chairs.
But once the doors are shut and the crew starts setting up a couch for the host to sit on, decorating it with a blow-up alligator and several inflatable crawfish, the old familiar Saint feel comes back.
With “Live from the Saint,” producers Minor Strachan, Jack Currie of Defend New Orleans , Wesley Swinnen, and Drew Stubbs want to showcase the bar and its stories, real New Orleans characters, local musicians and the kind of anecdotes that fall into the “bizarre but true” category.
Drew and Jac started talking about producing a variety show set in New Orleans about a year ago, when they watched clips of the 1978 variety show “TV Party” on the internet.
“Bunny Matthews was a huge inspiration. We would go out and then go home, and Jude (Note: Jude Matthews is Bunny’s son and will be co-hosting “Life at the Saint”) would show us all these VHS copies of old shows,” explains Jac, who wants to revive local and independently produced programming as opposed to the syndicated and mainstream TV shows that have become commonplace.
All of them agree that there is a need for fresh, original programming from New Orleans and how sad the lack thereof is. “I mean, it is crazy, this is where Morgus came from, you could go on for days listing the amount of programming that has come out of New Orleans that was fantastic. I grew up on Morgus,” says Wesley Swinnen.
Even though the idea was tossed around for a while, once all of them got together, it took about three days to figure out the what, where and who of the show.
Associate producer Minor Strachan explains: “Jac called me one night and said 'Minor, I want you to host this variety show.' Originally we were going to do it from the Spellcaster, but it morphed into Live from the Saint.”
Jac was glad to have him on board. “Minor has amazing production experience. He’s worked for the Sundance Channel, VH1, all these big projects out of New York City, so it didn’t take him much time to make the right phone calls and organize things.”
As we get going, some of the organization falls through, and things become familiarly chaotic.
The first guest on the show is Rod Pyat, a paranormal expert who is supposed to scan the Saint for ghost activity. You can tell he’s growing impatient by the second take, and he fails to be scared when Jude, dressed as a ghost, busts out of the men’s room in the middle of the interview. Somehow, his indifferent reaction is even funnier than what the script intended. Later, I watch Chrispin make a grilled cheese sandwich prison style, which involves toilet paper, pens and aluminum. His delivery is charming and professional, despite the fact that he is talking about a grilled cheese grilled on top of a toilet. Jude agrees to taste test the sandwich, then we move on to a performance by MC Tracheotomy. By 7pm, despite some accidents and the challenge of trying to organize unorganized individuals, the shoot wraps and everybody seems pleased with what was taped. Sqwrl has been pouring drinks well before the Martini, which is film jargon for the last shot of the day. After all, we’re filming a variety show in a bar, with a group of people who are either friends or friends of friends. Those are the perks of producing independently, with no faceless production company telling you when you can drink or goof of.
Before we leave, Drew collects the tapes and puts them away safely. He is going to edit the material. The producers hope to pitch the finished pilot to Vice Magazine . If it gets picked up, Live from the Saint might air as a regular TV show.
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