Our crack team met at the house of Figa, our sound recordist, who has an apartment in Vedado. We try to travel light, but ended up with a crew of 8, all Cuban except moi. Our newest find is Claudia, a 25-year old producer who will be working on Rapido y Furioso 8 (Fast and Furious 8) when that production blows into town next month. Claudia is amazed at the amount of money Hollywood throws around, for a location that will provide only 10% of the finished film. I responded that I wish I could pay her what they are.
Production day 1 went without incident--but for a few small snafus, it was similar to a production day back home, except it was easier to park. We had to think on our feet, solve a few problems, but we spent much of the day in the studio of our character, Ivan, well outside the sections of Havana I know. From outside one might not pay it any mind--a concrete building painted a pale yellow, off the potholed street, past a gate and a garage--but inside the place was sumptuous for a studio. A large room greeted us, side lit by windows, with a kitchen and two other spaces, where Ivan's guitars, computers (he has preserved the archaeology of his technological development, even keeping the Mac SE, which he claims still works), photographic equipment and music lives.
Ivan proved a willing subject, is a good raconteur, and speaks from a combination of head and heart. Ernesto Granado, our new cinematographer, knew exactly what to do, mounting the 5D on this handmade concoction of pipes and mounts, to create a primitive but effective shoulder mount for handheld work.
At night, Ivan and a few friends watched Obama's speech, which was an invite-only event with huge security. It was cool to hear them talk about it--they appreciated its warmth and sincerity, and expressed a mixture of optimism and concern for the changes ahead. But there seems to be a good vibe here vis-a-vis the President's speech. Not such a good vibe, however, about the Tampa Bay Rays, the baseball team visiting for a game against the Cuban national squad. Tampa Bay trounced, 4-1.
Good news though. Although I am still waiting for my press pass, A very nice woman at the Press Center gave me the wi-fi code, which only requires me to be in the vicinity of the Center. Reliable, fast wi-fi is a rarity here, and I am enjoying.
The Obama visit was odd to witness in that, there was very little to witness, unless you were in the press pool. There were no true public events—no throngs of people watching the motorcade pass, no public addresses, no posters. I scoured several neighborhoods for “Welcome, Señor Obama” signs but nary a one was to be seen. I thought that certainly the shops on Calle Obispo, the tourist street well-known for housing the Floridita Bar, would have some Obama paraphernalia—a shirt, a lighter, a Russian doll inside a doll inside a doll—but I saw none.