For anyone who hasn’t figured it out yet, today’s the last day of this story-a-day challenge (MATH!). As I have done every day of this challenge, I woke up this morning without any clue as to what story I would tell.
Before I begin, I just wanted to say thanks to those of you who have followed along, cheering and commenting–some of you even participated! And extra thanks to Brad Listi, for putting up with my daily emails and for posting a couple stories that were less than awesome on your awesome site–all for the sake of my personal writing challenge.
See you guys in 2012!
Day of the Donkey Punch
I made it all the way to the end before I had to explain the donkey punch.
Puberty: The Movie was as juvenile a script as its title suggests. It was chock full of funny, grown up, dirty words said by children (which made them even funnier). In one scene, an 11-year-old actor was asked to say the line, “Donkey punch that bitch.” Out of context that seems uncalled for, but I can assure you, it was almost completely called for.
Parents were informed during casting that the movie would require some potty-mouthing from their children. Only a few objected and passed on the project. The rest gave the material a thumbs up and issued their sons and daughters a license to swear.
A few weeks before shooting began, we gathered all the child actors together in a small theater space to read through the script together. The moms watched as their future superstars pretended their little hearts out for us. When our lil’ guy got to the “donkey punch” line, the directors and I held our breath and waited for them to continue.
“What does donkey punch mean?” he asked, nervously. He knew that whatever it was, it was dirty.
We looked back into the expectant faces of six teens and tweens, staring at us, waiting for an explanation. One of the moms chimed in from the sidelines: “Yeah, I’d like to hear what it means, too.”
As producer, one of my jobs was to keep the talent happy, and in the case of child actors, that means keeping the parents happy. There was no way I was about to explain the mythical donkey punch to a room full of children and their parents.
“It’s probably best that you don’t know.” I said, and we moved on.
I continued to dodge that bullet over the next few weeks. But as the fun of filming wore off, the moms in the green room became less accepting of the “best that you don’t know” line. When I was in the room and I heard someone–anyone–mention the dreaded donkey punch, I found somewhere else to be, quick.
I can’t say it was best for them not to know what it meant, but I am certain it was best for me.
My last day on the set was maybe my least favorite. The small Massachusetts town in which we were filming had been hit by a record-breaking blizzard. All weekend long the entire crew both began and ended our 15-hour shooting days by digging our cars and trucks out of snowbanks. When half the city lost power and parents wanted to take their kids home to safety, we said, “No,” which I’m pretty sure was illegal. And the built-up stress on set led to a pretty ugly blow-up between one of the directors and me.
Well, he blew up. I walked outside, lit a cigarette and prayed that he would get hit by a bus.
I did not wish hard enough, so we made amends and wrapped up all the producery business I had stuck around for. Then I said my goodbyes and headed to the green room to grab my coat and my keys. No amount of icy highways had kept me from the set, and none were going to keep me from getting back home to New York, either.
Our costume designer was leaving the green room as I approached it and she laughed a little when she saw me. “Have fun!” she teased.
I stopped her. “What did you do?”
“I just explained donkey punch to all the moms,” she said, smiling, and left me to manage the fallout.
So close! I almost made it! I suddenly knew exactly how those buddy cop characters felt when–just two days before retirement–they got handed some dangerous murder case! I took a deep breath and entered the room.
The moms saw me and began to circle. I was very quickly surrounded by stage moms who all of a sudden cared what garbage we had been making their kids say on camera.
“Is that a real thing that people really do?” one Mom began. She didn’t even bother saying “donkey punch”–one look at my face and she knew that I knew that they knew.
“No. It’s not a real thing,” I assured them. It’s a silly made-up expression that seventeen-year-old boys think is funny to talk about. But no one really does it.”
“Is that your target audience? Seventeen-year old boys?!” another mom asked, accusingly.
“Kind of?” I answered. “You’ve read the script, right?” (HAD SHE READ THE SCRIPT? My guess is no.) “Besides, I think it’s funny, too. I mean, your son is eleven, and his character is so sweet and innocent. And then he says something so shockingly inappropriate. That’s the joke.”
She thought about this for a second, but was still concerned. “I’m just not sure I want my son to think that this is an okay thing for a person to do to someone.”
“Right.” I said. “That’s called parenting. That’s your job. My job is to get a pre-teen to say ‘donkey punch’ on camera.”
And with that, I left the room, the set, the state of Massachusetts and the stage mothers of Puberty: The Movie speechless.