Along the East River
Written and directed by Martin Cohen

I play a happily married woman. From the car key chain, stuck in the ignition of my Volvo, a photo of my husband, son, daughter and myself dangles. We are frozen in a moment of ecstatic joy, sitting on a couch, trying to pose, but having too much fun to sit still. This is the best family photo I have ever seen. The models were my cousin Jeff, two kids who live in my building and me. Wish I had that photo now. It was great. This woman obviously has everything, a comfortable lifestyle and the love of a great family in the beautiful surroundings of theNorthern California countryside.

But there's an accident. She collides her car with a pickup truck driven by "a drifter," played by Dan Belzer. He is frantic and runs to her to see how she is. More than the superficial wounds causing a nose bleed, she has suffered a deeper, more startling injury. She has forgotten who she is and only wants to run away with the drifter.

Susan touches up my makeup al fresco

But, maybe this was only the precipitating cause of an escape she has always subconsciously wanted. How can you otherwise run away from an ideal life? I found that interpretation very interesting and ran with it.

The country roads of Pleasanton were our first locations and the rest of the film was shot at an outdoor miniature golf court in Guerneville.

The glorious windmills outside of Pleasanton
where we shot the driving and crash scenes.

Dan Belzer and I clown around with
the miniature golf rabbit between shots.

She won't allow the drifter to take her to the hospital. Instead she convinces him they should go to a miniature golf course and play. He is an unwilling companion, but is motivated by guilt and maybe even a little fascination and curiosity. She tries to convince him they should go on adventures throughout Europe and live a romantic, carefree life. She's got lots of money and they will have nothing to worry about. He feels he is getting in deeper and deeper and can't see how to extricate himself. The climax of the film comes when she sees a man across the golf park. She becomes enraged, runs wildly to him and beats him to death with a golf club. The 30 some-odd extras didn't know what was happening and were truly frightened when they saw me go at him in a mad fury. It turns out, this was the man who fixed the woman's car, ineptly, causing the accident. I scream as I beat him, "It could have been my children. You could have killed my children. You monster." As a crowd gathers around me, and the police sirens gain decibels in the background, the drifter simply drifts off, knowing the woman will be taken care of by the police, medics and my family.

I can't tell you how the cold seeps through to the bones when you're outdoors all night with nothing but a cotton dress during takes and just a jacket and some sweat pants between shots. It was torture. We shot from sunset to sunrise for 2 weekends. I made sure I knew my lines so we did as few takes as possible.

Between takes, my greatest acting
achievement was not looking cold.

Well, that was the story in the script, and over a couple of months of rehearsals Dan, I and Martin developed an improv script that was even better.

Yet, by the time Martin edited it and added a voice over that told another story, it was unrecognizable. Almost all the dialogue was taken out, mine and Dan's, and the film was cut to a fraction of the length.

The drifter and the housewife ponder their futures while they dance. Great camera technique: attach camera by rope to a cross rope for steadiness.

Martin Cohen contemplates...

I guess it's bound to happen in the career of every actor. You're asked to do a film, you love the script, you work for months in some very rough conditions, and the product is unrecognizable from what you originally read. It wouldn't be so bad if the end product weren't such an embarrassment. I should have asked Martin to credit me as John Smithee, but he might have wanted to save that moniker for himself. So it goes.

By the way, in the script my character was supposed to shoot a hole in one. I did and showed the appropriate excitement. He cut it. Unforgiveable.

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