(You may have seen some photos I posted for my new show. I thought I'd give the backstory, including a lot of outtakes from the photo shoot. All but three of the photos were taken by Kelly Davidson Studio. I've reserved, for now, the photos I'll be using for promoting the show, but wanted to show you some of the awesome shots Kelly got along the way.)
A few weeks ago, I read a draft of my new show to Lisa. Typically, I wait until I'm at least a few drafts in before I read anything to her because I consider the stability of our marriage in these calculations.
She doesn't give a lot of notes, but the ones she does give are always extremely valuable. She gave me clear places to cut, talked me out of one really bad bit of condescension in the script, and pointed out a place where I'm doing something that's already done to death. Hugely valuable, right? But she had one more: "This shouldn't be called Designed to Fail. It should be called CLENCHED."
YES. Yes, she was right. I had the wrong title on the show, and as soon as she said it, I knew it was right.
The next day, we were chatting online, and she wrote: "What you really need for the posters is you reclining in a mud bath, looking pissed as hell."
YES. Yes, she was right. There was no doubt. That would be a great image, and right for the show. Where to do it?
Rather than worry how we'd clean a bathtub full of mud out of the second floor of our house, I wrote to Kelly, suggesting the shoot.
She wrote back immediately. "YES! maybe we can do it in a big kiddie pool outside so i can get a wider shot.... with dirt/ground beneath..."
Never one to consider my actions, I immediately went online looking for a sufficiently large kiddie pool. I ordered it, scheduled the shoot with Kelly, and drove to Lowe's to buy peat moss.
Less than two weeks later, I was inflating a pool in my kitchen and texting my director, Steve Kleinedler, in a panic. I sent him a photo of the pool, which was much, much larger than I'd anticipated. We quickly discussed my driving out to buy a smaller kiddie pool. Realizing that wasn't going to be easy to find in late October, I instead rushed out to buy more peat moss.
Then I was in the back yard, doing this:
That is an adult-size inflatable pool, containing 9 cubic feet of peat moss. Just two hours before, the yard and garden were coated in frost. My daughter had managed to make a snowball with what she took off the car.
What I'm saying is, it was cold out. And hose water ain't warm.
I'd calculated that the pool needed about 45 cubic feet of mud in it. Google was unable to tell me an optimal dirt/water ratio for making mud, so I hope this post becomes the top result for future inquiries into this matter. For SEO purposes, let me state clearly:
THE OPTIMAL RATIO FOR MAKING MUD IS APPROXIMATELY 5 PARTS WATER TO 1 PART PEAT MOSS.
The idea had evolved to me wearing a shirt and tie in some shots. Given the temperature, now in the 40s, I was glad for some clothing, and had selected a shirt and tie I never planned to wear again. As the morning developed, it became clear that I should just keep the shirt and tie throughout the shoot.
It turns out it takes a long time to make 45 cubic feet of mud. We were filling it with a garden hose, and I've since calculated that we probably used between 220 and 260 gallons of water. A few gallons had been heated on the stove to boiling in a worthless attempt to warm the mud up. We also filled a hot water bottle and sunk it under the mud with me, but it honestly made no difference.
I put on my tie, changed into gym shorts, and got in.
The escape sequence. Just as I was adapting to the temperature in the mud.
We'd planned to rinse me off with the hose, but Kelly feared I'd get hypothermia, so I instead toweled off a bunch and ran inside to the shower, creating a second scene in need of deep cleaning.
The real challenge of the day was cleaning up 45 cubic feet of mud. After Kelly and Lisa left, and I'd showered, I used a snow shovel to hurl most of the mud into the corner of the yard around the base of some trees, and behind the shed. I then deflated the pool and thought I'd drag it around to gracefully distribute hundreds of gallons of muddy water around the yard. Instead, in one large, barely-controlled wave, I created an illegal wetlands around and beneath the shed.
The photos I've got to work with for promoting CLENCHED are fantastic. This shoot was ridiculously fun, and I'm glad nobody along the way stopped to question the soundness of the idea. There are a million reasons not to fill a swimming pool with cold mud on a 40ish degree day and get in. All those reasons are stupid.
Hope you get to see the show this winter or spring.