The Mailer Review/Volume 3, 2009/A Course in Film Making

From Project Mailer
« The Mailer ReviewVolume 3 Number 1 • 2009 • Beyond Fiction »
Written by
Norman Mailer
Note: This essay appeared in Existential Errands (Boston, Little Brown, 1972.) It was first published in Esquire, December 1967, under the title “Some Dirt in the Talk: A Candid History of an Existential Movie Called Wild 90.” Reprinted with the permission of The Norman Mailer Estate.

I. On the Theory

The company, jaded and exhausted, happily or unhappily sexed-out after five days and nights of movie-making and balling in midnight beds and pools, had been converted to a bunch of enforced existentialists by the making of the film. There is no other philosophical word which will apply to the condition of being an actor who has never acted before, finding himself in a strange place with a thoroughgoing swap of strangers and familiars for bedfellows, no script, and a story which suggests that the leading man is a fit and appropriate target for assassination. Since many of the actors were not without their freaks, their kinks, or old clarion calls to violence, and since the word of the Collective Rumor was that more than one of the men was packing a piece, a real piece with bullets, these five days and nights had been the advanced course in existentialism. Nobody knew what was going to happen, but for one hundred and twenty hours the conviction had been growing that if the warning system of one’s senses had been worth anything in the past, something was most certainly going to happen before the film was out. Indeed on several separate occasions, it seemed nearly to happen. A dwarf almost drowned in a pool, a fight had taken place, then a bad fight, and on the night before at a climactic party two hours of the most intense potential for violence had been filmed, yet nothing commensurate had happened. The company was now in that state of hangover, breath foul with swallowed curses and congestions of the instincts, which comes to prize-fight fans when a big night, long awaited, ends as a lackluster and lumbering waltz. Not that the party had been a failure while it was being filmed. The tension of the party was memorable in the experience of many. But, finally, nothing happened.

. . .