July 15, 2009

I wake up early but later than I’m supposed to to get to the first day of shooting for our “Mystery Team” short. I have some new socks I’m excited about. They’re white and from Target.


I am going to take our magical Cahuenga route to Burbank and I try to get cute and drive very far east assuming the road I am on will eventually hit Cahuenga, which runs north-south. The road never hits Cahuenga when I think it will. It turns out L.A. is not the foolproof grid system I want it to be, not at all. I quickly realize my error and soon I am on set after street-parking my Jetta.


I get an automated telephone call from my bank. They think my card has been stolen and the computerized voice reads me some recent transactions and asks me to confirm that I made them. I did. I knew all along that my card had not been stolen but it was a nice way to relive the past three days.


Do you enjoy sitting on the curb with your girlfriend and lighting her cigarette while she talks on her phone? Well now try it shirtless! A message from the Depressing Motel Patrons Association.


The first set-up is in one of the motel rooms. On our location scout we noticed that the room had a distinct pee smell. Now that there is a film crew inside of it the hot lights have fried the pee smell into something particularly evil. Everyone comments on it individually. It binds us together, this pee smell. We are a community of humans packed into a crappy motel room that is becoming hotter and worse-smelling by the second. We handle it.


I would say I like drinking sodas when I’m on a set, but that isn’t it exactly. I just like getting the soda out of the cooler and opening it and taking two sips and holding it for a while then setting it down somewhere and forgetting about it. It’s like a talisman. It’s an achievable goal. You can think “I want a soda” and then when you have a minute that you aren’t needed you can go grab it. It isn’t about the caffeine or sweetener so much as it is about having something to do, or about wanting something and then getting it.


The manager of the motel has warned us that if we get three complaints from guests we will be shut down. It is tough for us to imagine that we won’t be on some sort of thin ice. Shoots by their nature are sprawling and obtrusive and we anticipate people being annoyed with us. But for the most part, the guests seem to be getting a kick out of it. We are near Hollywood. If you are on vacation here a movie shooting in the parking lot of your motel is probably a neat bonus. Hopefully you will not realize it’s just a short film that stars unfamous people. Hopefully you will not have too tough of a time making it to the ice machine and you won’t complain about us.


At one point we are shooting outside and a little kid in a tank-top wanders into frame. He is very skinny and has a great bewildered-wandering-kid face. If we were shooting a movie about war it would be great to have him wander across a bombed-out concrete wasteland, or if we were shooting a movie about Dickensian England it would be great to have him wander out of a dirty smoke-filled alley. But since we are not shooting either of those things, our assistant director Cassandra has to beckon him sweetly to leave the shot. Even if we were shooting one of those things, she would have to ask him to leave the shot so he could go to hair and makeup and get covered in soot.


I am in holding and we are talking about a news story. There has just been an earthquake in San Diego that caused a bunch of giant squid to wash up on shore, and a recent study says the tectonic plates under California are locking up, causing a recent rash of tremors and implying that The Big One that will probably turn the state into a lake of fire is going to happen soon. Alexis our line producer calms me down by saying there has been a similar story every month of every year she has lived here, and she’s lived here for twenty-seven years. If I told you I was additionally calmed by the fact that twenty-seven is my lucky number, you would realize that I am not a good barometer of things to be worried about.

Towards the end of the day there is a shot where I am supposed to walk out of frame, leaving Dominic and Donald on camera. In the notebook I keep in my pocket I write “DICKS” with an arrow underneath it and after the next take I plan to put this little sign back in frame so everyone by the monitor will know that Dominic and Donald are DICKS. I do it after “cut” is called and I can see on the onboard monitor on the camera that the sign stays fuzzy and out of focus so no one can read it and know how hilarious I am. “Sorry,” the first assistant camera man says to me. “I tried to pull to it but it was too close!” (meaning he tried to focus on it but it was too close to the lens to be seen clearly). The fact that he is good enough at his job to do his job correctly and then apologize when he cannot help make my stupid little joke work speaks volumes about his superprofessionalism.


The night is almost over. We are a little behind but for the most part everything has gone smoothly. I am standing in the parking lot with Dan and Meggie and I look up and see the elaborate vintage red neon motel sign framed by three palm trees and behind it, stars. Califuckingfornia!

Posted by DC at July 15, 2009 11:11 PM
Comments

Califuckingfornia, indeed. This makes me want to go to L.A. and have some sort of burrito that is superior to what we have here.

Posted by: Sara Benincasa

Sounds like it must have been fun, minus the pee smell. haha.

Is it for the Comic-con Panel? And if you're allowed to answer this, are you guys still shooting with the RED camera?

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Posted by: CRYSTAL MORGAN

Don't forget the sauna that came along with the pee smell. It was cooler in the 90 degree sun than in the room.

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