Same Singer, Different Tune
I have been on a lot of sets with Michael Ninn. Over the last 15 years, I have not been on every Ninn set, but since the earliest days at that upstart VCA, I have been on the vast majority of them. If you need to put a number on it, call it “well over 100, probably closer to 150, Michael Ninn sets,” and that will do for now.
Predictably, over the years I have been fortunate to witness some very grand Michael Ninn sets. I have seen him shoot with world-famous rock stars and legendary porn stars. (I have also seen Michael be instrumental in building a few of those legends, truth be told.) I watched him drop a baby grand piano into the middle of twenty square miles of California desert, and I have seen him set up in shots so tight that just placing the cameras became a substantial physical challenge. We’ve shot in miserable heat, howling winds, horizontal rains, and cold so severe that all of us not on camera could only thank the Fates that we never decided to try and be porn stars (all the while looking for more layers of clothing to wear and wondering why we don’t own mittens anymore).
On the set of Nymphetamine I got to see something different from Michael — yet again.
Now in fairness, it had been several months since the most recent Ninn shoot, and I realized then that I had not been present for one in almost exactly one year. Still, in the small-town “Mayberry” existence that the XXX business fills in the middle of Los Angeles, everyone was aware of the tumultuous few months Michael had lived through. In that vein, call it a quiet apprehension that filled the set this early October morning.
Aware of maybe a few people less than half the number of folks Michael traditionally sets about to make a movie with, we were all glad to be there, but wondering how things would work out. But Michael was all smiles as he introduced the few new executive players in the mix. And for the first time in months, Michael was firmly back in his element. … When Michael smiles the talent generally shines, though, and then the magic begins to work, regardless of the size of the assembled work force.
The more aged among us were perhaps not surprised that much of the early shoot conversations had to do with explaining ancient concepts like “film” to the younger folks assembled on this day, most of whom openly wondered what “celluloid” means. Ah, youth. … But in this case it was happy youth, and that still ranks as the single most important element in making good movies, no matter what anyone tells you. True, a good editor can “fix” a lot in post, but you’ll get a lot better show if it doesn’t need fixing in the first place.
The “Jana Squared” event came up first, with former NW_SR exclusive “Jordan” and former Digital Playground exclusive “Cova” setting the stage. Naturally, being one of the aged ones, I felt obliged to ask Michael if he only hired Jana Cova when he used this set, as last we’d seen the lass on a Ninn set we were here shooting Faith, which ironically many of us were shooting on today. In true classic Ninn form, Michael looked at me as if I were crazy, so things fairly quickly fell in to a comfortable pace.