I was back in NY last week to watch Mark Russell direct a short film that I wrote called Stain Removal, and to say it was a thrill doesn’t do the experience justice. “Is this weird for you?” one or two people asked — meaning I just wrote this stuff and now people are standing over there, saying my lines… Maybe the vets take it in stride; while I’ve written my share of screenplays (and other stuff), this is the first time something has actually gone before the camera and I have Mark to thank for that.
Without giving the slender plot away, Stain Removal is a sort of neo noir with a few laughs (we hope) thrown in, the product of having read too much James Cain, and taken too much acid, in my youth. It’s got a femme fatale (played by the wonderful Leslie Hendrix), a hapless hero (played by Jim McCaffrey, who in real life has plenty of hap and hip) and a mysterious stranger (Daniel Raymont, who when I saw him tried the character every which way, including with a sort of Peter Sellers Indian accent).
Most of the film was shot in a beautiful house in New Rochelle but there were a few crowd scenes, one at the Salamagundi Club in Greenwich Village, and the other on a rooftop at a post-production facility in Chelsea. At each I wanted to yell at the assembled extras, “Go home! It’s all been a terrible mistake!”
But I didn’t. After years of rejection and sometimes wondering if I actually existed when I sent stories out, having Stain Removal both selected and embraced by all the actors and crew made me feel sort of…validated. I knew it was a good story, damn it. I recalled asking a guy I once worked with what it was like to host Saturday Night Live. “It was like the birthday party I never had,” he said, and that was kind of how this felt about the movie. Time to blow out the candles.