Kubrick and Butterflies

Ernest Gallo had a reputation of being the most difficult client on the planet, but he spent a great deal of money advertising his wines. He would give ad agencies assignments and just enough money to get them in trouble. They would add their own money to his meager budgets to prove they were worthy.  The only person that did this successfully was Hal Riney, but that’s another story.

I got a script from some friends (?) of mine that had started their own agency. It was for a Gallo wine that had a butterfly on the label. The script followed a butterfly that led two lovers together to share a glass of wine. The idea was close to FREE AS A BIRD, which followed a bird through various scenes and was a single take, but this script was different in that you saw the butterfly. These guys had never had an original idea anyway, at least they asked me to rip myself off.

One of the conceits was that they wanted to film in an exotic and romantic place so I chose Ravello, an exotic and romantic place. It was also one of my favorite places on earth.

This was shortly after I filmed FREE AS A BIRD so I had production contact the fabulous Steadicam operator from that video. He was, alas, not available, but the Italian producer said that he had an operator that Kubrick had used on FULL METAL JACKET.  If he’s good enough for Kubrick he’s good enough for me.

No, we didn’t have a trained butterfly. The camera was to imitate the erratic flight of a butterfly that would be placed into the scenes afterwards, digitally.  On the shoot day I rehearsed the shot with the actress (or was it the actor?) and had the Steadicam operator do the butterfly movements. He’s terrible, and after a half hour I let him go and shoot the stuff myself with a hand held Aaton Camera. The movements aren’t as fluid as I wanted but I know I can fix that in post. I’m embarrassed about the Steadicam guy because I had sung his virtues, ‘working with Kubrick…’ and stuff like that.

The shoot goes well and I get on a plane and stop in London to transfer flights. I stop in a bookstore at the airport and there is a new Kubrick book there. I flip through the pages to the section on FULL METAL JACKET and there it is, a paragraph about Kubrick’s firing this Steadicam operator on his first day on the shoot.