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There Goes the Hood

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Cess Silvera might be the visionary, but it's Frankel, a 28-year-old assistant director from Boca Raton, who does the dirty work. Armed with a bachelor's degree in film theory from Florida Atlantic University, she's worked on eight feature films and "countless music videos" and has a recurring gig with Miami Ink.

Frankel says that, although fewer films are shot in Florida (about 70 per year) than in New York or L.A., work exists for anyone who builds a good reputation and hustles. The weather holds year-round, so there are no delays while snow melts. And because it's a right-to-work state, Florida appeals to moviemakers who've been financially drained elsewhere by unions. Though production workers won't get rich, Frankel says, "there's a camaraderie that you can't replicate. I'm surrounded by amazing, creative people. When you're together 18 hours a day, you become like family."

Turning back to the job at hand, she says peremptorily into her headpiece, "Let me know when the cameras are set."

Silvera pipes up to admonish Stringbean, Lunch Money, and Chadd when they don't muster the energy for the umpteenth take of a scene. "Stop partying and staying up late!" he commands. "No alcohol. No drugs. Plus, stop jacking off!" He laughs at himself, then gets serious again as he channels all the directorly wisdom he's soaked up over the years. "Either drive the scene or get out of the scene. A scene is only as strong as its weakest fucking actor!" Then he softens up: "OK, that's my little pep talk."

A whole day of shooting might translate to five minutes on the screen. The crew must wait for a cloud to pass. A take has to be redone when a train whistles in the background. And again when Lunch Money holds an apple in his right hand instead of his left. Silvera whines, "I want to go ho-o-o-ome. I want this torture to end."

Frankel overrides him: "All set... Roll sound... Roll cameras... Lock it up!"

One of the producers had said that today would be a good day to come check out the filming, considering that it would be an exciting scene with cops.

Two white police officers sit in their car on Sistrunk, near the Bashful Arms apartments, around the corner from the Blue Goose Beer Saloon. Their lights are flashing, and they wear thick bulletproof vests that pop out from under their uniforms like life preservers. Behind black sunglasses, they look like overinflated Terminators.

But no, they are not in the movie. They just finished a real-live bust and are overseeing the confiscation of a car that is being reeled onto a tow truck.

"What is the movie about anyway?" they ask humorlessly.

Told that it is a comedy in the style of Friday, one officer says dryly, "Well, they picked the right neighborhood, because this is a comedy."

Film set or not, this is still the hood, they warn. "Be careful," they say. "Hold your bag tight to your chest. Even in daylight." They have failed to get caught up in the neighborhood zeitgeist.

Some of Sistrunk's tougher real-life personalities are a hard sell as well. One muumuued lady on a balcony isn't going to let some uppity Hollywood people boss her around, no matter how nicely they ask her to get out of the shot.

"Hey, beautiful! I'm beggin' you!" Silvera yells to her. When she doesn't budge, he expertly dispatches a crew member to strike up a conversation with her, so even if she's in the frame, at least she won't be staring at the camera.

Local kids and families gather around the steps of a housing complex. One man takes advantage of these invaders from L.A. and peddles mangoes for $1 apiece. A 13-year-old girl watches from the hood of a car. She can't wait to see the movie — but she breaks the news that in real life, there aren't really any skaters in Sistrunk.

Then comes a voice: "Bloodclaaaaat!"

Anyone familiar with Jamaican curse words knows that bloodclaat — or its cousin, bumbaclaat — is an insult you utter only when you want to get your ass beat or your mouth washed out with soap. (For literal meaning, refer to a used tampon.)

"Bloodclaaaaat!" a skinny Rasta dude yells as he zooms down the street on an old-school silver moped, chasing Stringbean, Lunch Money, and Chadd on their skateboards. Spectators laugh at the sight — ridiculous and awesome at the same time. The man on the moped sports a crocheted red, yellow, and green hat on his head, his crinkly hair puffing out the back in a ponytail. He wears silly red boots, a bright green shirt, and — the kicker — a neckerchief.

A girl watching the scene drops her jaw and says of his outfit: "Are you serious?"

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Deirdra Funcheon

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