Children of the Bandit


We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done.
We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.

                                                Jerry Reed, “East Bound and Down”

The title of this post could be “Procrastination.” True to the theme, I started writing this about a month ago, after Tim and I watched Smokey and the Bandit. But the holidays and other topics intervened.

I could use the same excuses for The Tremors on the PCH, the working title of the second book in the Lacey Becnel series. It’s the follow-up to The Incident Under the Overpass. In truth, I am not as far along as I hoped to be by this point. I’ve got an incomplete first draft, where I hoped to have at least a complete first draft by the time 2016 ended. While I’m not in full-on-panic-mode yet, I’m not ruling out the possibility of it striking. Soon.

Call it confirmation bias, but there are two things I read recently that made me feel a little better about my current state of incompletion.

First, Smokey and the Bandit. This is a movie I’ve only come to appreciate in recent years. Even though it is chock full of stuff I’ve long had an affinity for: big rigs, convoys, CB radios, car chases, romance, and alcohol. But it’s the song—“East Bound and Down,” by Jerry Reed—that’s pertinent to the point I’m trying to make. The lyrics at the top of this post have been in my head for the past month. (Because I have a long way to go. And a short time to get there.)

So here’s the first thing that assuaged my procrastination guilt: “East Bound and Down” was written overnight. Thank you, Mental Floss (13 Fast Facts about Smokey and the Bandit)

After promising he would come up with a song, he (Reed) didn’t have one at the end of filming. After (director Hal Needham) asked him about it, Reed promised he would have something for him the following morning. Despite being out all night, Reed managed to sing his new song “East Bound and Down” for Needham the next day. When Needham didn’t react right away, Reed said, “If you don’t like it I can change it. “If you change one damn note, I’ll f*ckin’ kill you!” the director replied.

I’m going to assume Jerry Reed didn’t compose it out of thin air—that he had been playing around with elements of the song, but just hadn’t gotten around to the actual composition. It’s probably more confirmation bias, but I could say I’ve been doing the same with Tremors on the PCH.

The second thing was a cover story on about Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 film Children of Men. (Thanks for posting that, Hosky).

This is a film I’ve only seen once, ten years ago, at the movie theater. It’s one of those films that made a big impression, and was disturbing enough, that I didn’t feel the need to own, or re-watch multiple times.

The article, by Abraham Riesman, is interesting. It draws comparisons to our current state of the world and the dystopian future (the year 2027) depicted in the film. But what really interested me was a behind-the-lens story Cuarón tells of a scene near the end of the film. It’s one long take where the main protagonist, Theo (played by Clive Owen) is racing through a refugee camp, dodging gunfire and explosions.

“I think we had 14 days to shoot the whole set piece, except by day 12, we hadn’t rolled cameras yet,” Cuarón recalls. On the afternoon of the 13th day, they were finally ready to film. But around the 90-second mark, Cuarón yelled “Cut” because, as he puts it, the take “was just wrong.” . . . The morning of the final day dawned, and they gave it another stab. The cameras rolled, the scene commenced — then camera operator George Richmond tripped and the camera fell. Five hours of reset later, Cuarón had only one chance left.

To sum up, they shoot the scene, and it seems to be going well, but Cuarón freaks out because some fake blood accidentally squirts on the camera lens. He yells “Cut,” but no one hears him because of all the explosions. He’s thinking all is lost, but his cinematographer assures him that the accident was nothing short of miraculous. In the end, it only added to the hyper-real feel of the film.

So, yes, I just wrote about Smokey and the Bandit and Children of Men in the same post. But, I guess, I find it pretty fascinating that both an enduring song, and an enduring scene, were born in the last possible moments under a looming deadline.

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