Wednesday, March 16, 2005

first rule about blogging...

Don't blog about work. Or so I've read. That being said, let me tell you about this gig I've been working. But excuse me if I leave out details.

I walk up to the craft services table just in time to see the Director of Photography (DP) smash a banana into the orange juicer. He lifts the lever of the manually operated machine, the machine situated right next to a large basket of oranges. He lifts the lever and stares at the banana mash, then quietly, "It doesn't work for the bananas." God I love working on a set.

This job came about at the last minute. I am currently in between gigs (and by in between gigs I mean I am unemployed), so it was a welcome call. I knew that I had to disable all my critical faculties while on the set so that I would not make any enemies, but this industry of entertainment is just that - highly entertaining. As long as you don't disable your critical faculties, that is.

Friends of mine who work outside the industry often speculate as to why films and television suck so much. Because the people who make things that suck, often suck themselves. Of the many people on the set, the ones who got it, who had a great sense of humor, who knew of things such as Aristotle's examination of tragedy, or had a firm grip on reality were often the ones who didn't have any creative control -the location manager, the guys driving the trucks, the medic, and the documentarian filming the "behind the scenes" extras for the DVD. I lovingly refer to it as, "The Making of the Crap We Are Making".

I couldn't swing a dead cat over my head without hitting a stock character. Stock characters, stilted dialogue, hackneyed derivative plots - you name it, it was rooted in reality on this set. There was a British director working a very thick accent. Never mind that he's been living in Encino for the past 20 years, he sounded like he was fresh off the boat. Then there was the producer clad exclusively in black, greasy hair pulled back into a ponytail, pock-marked face leering openly at the blissfully ignorant Barbie-ish production assistant (PA). Don't forget the sexually ambigious and openly ambitious (and critical) Assistant Director (AD), the beefcake grip who will do anything short of porn, or the timid but friendly 2nd 2nd AD. My personal favorite was the recent film school grad, perpetually running to Starbucks, squiring the Eurotrash investors to Disneyland, referencing French existentialist Marxist film directors or French new wave directors/critics whenever he could in a futile attempt to impress ANYONE who will listen, offering up with his flabby chick-arms his script - a commercial-yet-socially-redeeming character-driven action-adventure mismatched-buddy fish-out-of-water martial arts film. Yup, check, everyone is here.

I'm told that I also fit the stereotype very well. "Which stereotype?" I asked "It's okay, I don't have any juice to squash your burgeoning career, you can tell me."

"You are, like, so the writer."

I encourage him, "Like Barton Fink? Or more like Dorothy Parker?" He doesn't get the references, he is still a zygote and doesn't know anything of the Algonquin Round Table. But he claims to be a writer, how does he not know Barton Fink?

"You know, funny and sarcastic. Like Carrie Fisher."

Too bad I'm not. The writer, I mean. Or at least that wasn't what I was being paid to do on this set. Funny and sarcastic writer, yes. Or at least I like to think so. But let's get back to that swinging dead cat.

I'm in the production office and I am determined to win over the AD. I vow to kill her with kindness and blow sunshine up any exposed orifice. Not for any other reason except I AM BORED OUT OF MY FUCKING SKULL. All this and it's not even noon. I'm shameless, absolutely shameless. Blowing all those rays of sunshine up the AD's ass. But it's working, now she digs me. It's only 12:30, now what?

Meanwhile, all the PA's are discussing their screenplays, their recently established production companies, their plans, man. Their big fucking plans, man. I'm sitting on the fence here. Is it inspiring? To hear the fresh-faced youths speak dreamily of their big plans? Or is it disheartening? Is this the heart of darkness, where hope springs eternal, even though there is no fucking hope that the producer will ever give them a chance, a fair shake? Hey kid, just swing my dead cat over your head and you will hit someone just like you, man. Just like you. Recent film school grad? Just like you. Worked for fourteen hours on a low-budget genre film going straight to video for no benefits and deferred pay? Just like you. Got a great script, remarkable for your first effort? Don't make me say it.

Now swing Fluffy in the other direction and see what you'll hit. Just like you. Only his dad works for Fox or Dreamworks. Or he knows of a dentist who will invest $100,000. Or his mom is a reader for the studios and doesn't understand things like full disclosure and/or ethics. Not like you.

Stock characters abound. I wonder where the director cribbed his ideas from? All the grips are in rock bands. Half have their heads shaved and sport goatees, the others have long hair and sport goatees. They give me flyers for their upcoming shows. They ask if I'm going to the wrap party. They give me their digits. They are cute. I love this town.

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