Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Official Shooting Diary

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Official Shooting Diary

by Charlotte Fraisse
Transcribed by Adam Harding

Tuesday, September 3, 1991

D-day minus one. Arrival of Special Agent Dale Cooper, alias Kyle MacLachlan. David Lynch, who wants this character to be as ‘clean’ and respectable as possible, runs his fingers on the back of the actor’s head to check the length of his hair and promises as a ‘hello’: “Not short enough yet…”

Thursday, September 5 – 2nd Day

Warm and relaxed atmosphere. David is calm and kindly, as heedful of the actors’ performances as of the quality of sound. He follows the shooting sitting in front of a small video monitor. He often uses two cameras and prints a lot of takes that give him a wide range of possibilities for editing.

Monday, September 9 – 5th Day

Hospital scene. For the lighting of the room, Ron Garcia, the director of photography, only uses four 5 KWA projectors. He often diffracts the light, multiplies the flags and can wisely take his time for important sequences and be faster for minor scenes.

Friday, September 13 – 9th Day

The clash between Cliff Howard the deputy and Desmond the agent is shot with three cameras, one being mounted on a Steadicam.

You can easily see that Chris Isaak (Desmond) has practiced boxing; his coordination is perfect. “The hardest part is to hold back your blows”, he confesses to me after having calmly but viciously twisted his antagonist’s nose.

Monday, September 16 – 11th Day

On the ‘Red Diamond Motel’ parking lot. David walks towards me, looking cheerful, rested and ready to go. For the first time, he kisses me. That’s nice – it makes me feel a little bit as part of the family. He is in a great mood and full of humor, joking with everybody on the set.

Thursday, September 19 – 14th Day

Location: ‘The Double R’ diner’. Before the shooting of the pilot of the series ‘Twin Peaks’, business was bad and the owner baked her own pies. Since, she has hired three persons to handle the rush of tourists. ‘Twin Peaks’ was a breath of oxygen for this underprivileged area, where the wood industry no longer provides sufficient work and income. A huge pile of sheets of paper sits on the counter: it’s a petition to obtain prolongation of the series! Across the street, a souvenir shop sells mostly ‘Twin Peaks’ subproducts: tee shirts, books, postcards, badges, etc.

We shoot the scene where a mysterious old lady, with her masked grandson, offers an engraving to Laura Palmer. The woman has an surprising silhouette. Very tiny, she wears a dark suit and has a little hat emphasizing her passé look. The little boy is just as bizarre, dressed like a first communicant of the Fifties.

The shooting goes on till the end of the afternoon, because David takes his time with the child and regularly lets him have a break. (Apparently, Americans are stricter than we are about child actors working hard).

Saturday, September 21 – 16th Day

Shooting in Laura and her friend Donna’s high school, in a clean and pretty little town, about thirty miles from Seattle. First shot: students coming out of school. To help actors and extras find the right rhythm, David puts on some music, which makes their movements more natural, lissome and fluid.

Wednesday, September 25 – 19th Day

Location: Laura’s house. This house, where the pilot was shot, is smallish, very clean, with white walls and white or pinkish beige curtains, little pink garlands painted over the windows and an unbelievable amount of knick-knacks. The floors are protected with large pieces of cardboard. The lady of the house retired graciously to her kitchen with the prop men. With David’s agreement, Mary Sweeney, the editor, shows us some rough cuts: school out, a dialog between Laura and the Log Lady and a scene with Bobby and Laura. These scenes are superb, very intense and I discover an unexpected Sheryl Lee. Enhanced, under remarkable lighting and direction, this actress with a clean-cut look, who could have seemed a bit too demure for the part, turns out to be a genuine Lynch heroine.

Monday, September 30 – 23rd Day

While we shoot a short scene with Laura and Bobby, a small team shoots landscapes with cars and a shot of Teresa Banks’ body drifting along the river. The camera had to be seen on the opposite bank of the river, so the technicians climbed into a raft led by three men in rubber suits.

Tuesday, October 1 – 24th Day

Frank Silva, who plays the part of Bob, joins in. He is very popular with the crew, who gives him a warm welcome. An occasional actor, he had originally been hired as a set dresser on the pilot of ‘Twin Peaks’. While watching Frank dress Laura Palmer’s bedroom, the dark idea of Bob appeared in David’s mind.

Friday, October 4 – 27th Day

Tough night. We are supposed to shoot the scene where Laura falls off James’ motorcycle and runs, then several shoots near Jacques’ cabin, a few miles away.

The first scene takes place at the crossing of two narrow, shoulderless roads, which makes driving the vehicles and setting up our equipment difficult. A broken-down railroad bridge adds a suitably ominous gloom to the place. The stuntwoman does four takes. It’s not easy and all the more courageous since she is only wearing black stockings and a miniskirt so short we can see her garters.

Tuesday, October 8 – 28th Day

Back to the studio and pre-lighting of Party Land – a night spot where Laura lures the naive Donna into her dark world.

According to David’s indications, the set is strikingly ugly. It’s a large place, with walls made of face wine-red logs. Worn and sleazy carpeting of the same shade covers the floor. In a raised area, some tables and wooden benches. The floor is littered with cigarette butts and scraps of paper. On the walls hang garlands of purplish light bulbs.

Wednesday, October 9 – 29th Day

Shooting at Party Land. About forty extras, mostly youths, and a small band of musicians. The wardrobe people have done a fine job. Lots of girls in more or less torn jeans and both strapless brassieres. Others wear thigh-high boots or mesh stockings like those of cheap Pigalle bar girls.

Laura’s transformation is striking. From a well-behaved school girl, she has turned into a real siren in black miniskirt, black stockings and thigh-high boots. Donna seems completely lost in her little pleated skirt and socks.

Once more, I am surprised by the sparsity of the lighting – three fixtures fitted with about fifteen, no more than 25-watt bulbs, two gelatinized projectors, six neon tubes and one stroboscopic spotlight – that’s all.

Thursday, October 10 – 30th Day

Follow-up on Party Land, shooting under a record and overpowering temperature of 42°C making the headlines of all the papers.

A heavy smoke fills the set up to its low ceiling. Some technicians wear a mask and David, unruffled, his usual favorite woolen jacket with a hole in the elbow. He dismisses all the people not absolutely indispensable on the set, keeping only the camera team, the assistant, the gaffer and the script supervisor, who says everything goes wonderfully well.

Friday, October 11 – 31st Day

The Red Room.
One of the main characters haunting that eerie set is a little person, referred to as ‘The Man From Another Place’.

Michael Anderson does not quite reach the size of an average man. He is cheerful, pleasant and smiling. A genuine grace exudes from his whole being, especially when he dances.

In that scene, the camera rolls… backwards and this is also the way the little person says his lines and moves about. (In the film, of course, picture and sound will roll forward, but a strange effect of misadjustment results.) The script supervisor shows a line to Michael, who repeats them backwards after in infinitesimal lapse. We are fascinated by his virtuosity, which has already made him famous.

Monday, October 14 – 32nd Day

Set: ‘The Roadhouse’ nightclub. A bar, tables, chairs and a small stage where a singer performs in a pale gray tulle dress with ruffles. Julee Cruise, the singer, who has made a name for herself, already appeared in the pilot. In this scene, she sings a very pretty, yearning and ingenuous song (a Badalamenti tune on David’s lyrics), which makes Laura breaks into tears.

Thursday, October 17 – 35th Day

Location: Donna Hayward’s house. Sheryl seems a little tired, but she perks up as soon as she is on. We are shooting the sequence where Donna tries to remember the nightmare of her night at Party Land, the two friends crying in each other’s arms. The scene is really moving and David, very enthusiastic, warmly congratulates the two actresses. When I also congratulate Sheryl, she answers, “It’s so easy and so wonderful to play with David.” I reply telling her that even a crack fiddler needs a good violin to make beautiful music.

Monday, October 21 – 37th Day

Jacques’ cabin – Interior. It’s a tiny set (less than 24 square yards) but nevertheless, we shoot with two cameras. The set is off limits for everybody, not only because of its exiguity, but mostly because of the nature of the scene. Now and then we hear screaming coming from within the cabin. At lunch break, the actors leave the set, their mouths smeared with lipstick.

Tuesday, October 22 – 38th Day

We are again with Mrs. Tremond and her grandson still wearing his first communicant suit. This time, the set is a big, oblong bedroom. Its three windows are partly blocked with blackened, burnt and parched cardboards and newspapers, making a very strange and beautiful collage. The room is scantily furnished: a collapsed couch, a formica table, a few chairs and three big radios in the style of the Thirties. The other inhabitants are ‘The Man From Another Place’, a second smaller gentleman in white make-up, an electrician, two woodsmen and Bob. Once more, we shoot with two cameras rolling backwards, under the stroboscopic light set at 60 pulsations per second. Michael acts as the dialog coach.

The scene, terribly dark, also reveals itself very difficult to manage. Ken Scherer, Chief Operating Officer of Lynch/Frost Productions, confesses to me he can’t figure it out but claims “I know it’s going to be a great moment.” This is the common feeling.
After the long shots, David shoots extreme close-ups of the mouths of the actors speaking and screaming. For this purpose, he uses a special lens (one generally used only in the field of medicine).

Thursday, October 31 – 45th Day

Set: Interior of railroad car. Laura Palmer’s death.

This a perfect duplicate of Seattle’s set. The painting and patina work is remarkable. The car really gives the impression of having rotten away in an old depot for the past fifty years. Laura and Ronette are striking with bloody mouths and black circles around their eyes. The scene is physically very difficult. Laura lies at a slant on her belly, over a mirror handed by Leland, in which his and Bob’s faces reflect themselves one after the other. Seeing her image in the mirror, then the two men’s faces (lit with a white intermitting light very harsh on the eyes), Laura is tormented through several takes.
Sheryl unleashes a tremendous energy in this scene. What a transformation from the nice girl player of the beginning to the great actress she has become!

Between two shots, David announces that Sheryl would like to say a word to the crew. He hands her the megaphone and Sheryl thanks all the technicians with great emotion and kindness. “I love you all. You have helped me make this movie. I’ll never forget you.” Then she offers to each of them a lighter on which is engraved ‘TWIN PEAKS – FIRE WALK WITH ME’.