Wednesday, December 30, 2009

mobile blog

so I am in my girl friends car and using this fancy new phone to write a new update. while my time in Boston had its fair share of
moments, the truth is I was not prepared enough to be a production coordinator. so with my remaining sanity and a few more grey hairs the show told me good bye. I am very relieved, although I still need to see some historic Boston stuff! the down time wont last long though. I'll be going to the magic city of Shreveport to hang out with some of the coolest and meanest assistant directors this side of the Rockies. so cheers to new things and new possibilities! and yeah, typing a blog on a touch screen phone - not the best idea.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Year in Film


It's been a relatively good year for the film industry. Whether you aspire to work in it like me, or you just enjoy going to the theater, overall it's been a pretty good year. There's been a good mix of something for everyone. And while the woes and pains of the distribution crisis are still being felt loud in clear in the indie film world, Hollywood, it seems, is beginning to make movies again.

My personal favorites this year, in no particular order:

1. The Hurt Locker
2. Up in the Air
3. Up
4. Star Trek
5. Watchmen

"Inglorious Bastards" and "Avatar" should probably also be on that list but I don't want to crowd the plate. "Watchmen" I think probably got the worst rap out of all of these but is on my personal favorites because it's still a great movie. It won't get any awards, but it at least raised some eye brows. Critics didn't like it and it disappointed a lot of the fans leading it to become this sort of ugly duckling of a movie. I'll admit that the giant blue penis did give me penis envy, but I'm not offended by it. For someone who is not really a fan boy or into the graphic novel scene, I thought it was an excellent story about the flaws in our "super hero worship" and it leaves me with a quote that echoes around in my head, "Who watches the watchmen?" Who indeed.

Everyone is saying that the reason this has been a better year for movies is because of the recession/depression we're all going through in the economy. I think there's a little more to it than that but it sounds good. I'm glad Hollywood is taking chances and created big escapist works of art again.

In the next year it will be interesting to see how Paramount uses it's "micro-budget" studio it just created that focuses on making movies for less than 100,000. I have a feeling that is going to be a red-headed step child for a while but I'm glad they're trying to make it work.

As for the year in television, I don't really know enough about to really say anything. I'm not a big TV guy even though most of the work I've had this year has been in TV. It's hard beast to be able to tackle. I enjoyed working on BBQ Pit Masters immensely but I'm not sure of what to make out of the ratings. Seems like television audiences are getting smaller and more niche. It's becoming harder to make that one show that everyone wants to tune into. That's about all I can say.

Hopefully this next year will bring more work and more experience. Of course, it would also be nice if production companies would get out of their "crisis" modes and start paying their employees what they are worth, as well as allowing for proper timing when it comes to prep and pre-production. At the end of the day though, it will just be nice to work. Eventually we'll make it through. At least lets all hope.

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's so F***ING COLD

I liked cold weather before I came up here to Boston. It was nice to walk out of my apartment on a calm brisk day in Birmingham and walk to work or to school. Not so much here. What's out of place though is how there isn't any snow on the ground. It's like seeing a cake without the icing. The ground is very frozen, the ponds and rivers have chunks of ice in them, but no snow.

I'm excited about coming home though! There's a lot of people I want to see and things I need to do. Hope everyone has a good holiday!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Killing with Kindness

I'm having a really hard time lately. It seems the more people I meet in this business the more I'm told that I have to be assertive and demanding to get my way. But I ask this: how assertive and how demanding can you be without becoming an asshole? Where's the line? How do people get their way while making the other party involved feel good too? I want to get my way and be nice about it because in the end there's no need to be mean or degrading towards other people. There just isn't. And if that's how some people feel is the only way to act when they have to get stuff done then I don't want to be a part of it.

I'll admit, sometimes I am too much of a push over. I mean, the simple fact is there are some people in this world who will simply run over you if you let them. Yet at the same time, you don't fight fire with fire. You'll eventually get a reputation that will come around and bite you in the ass. So be nice. Play fair. Think positive.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to secure a location

I've been doing this a lot lately. Here's how I go about doing it.

1. Call.

2. Get told that the person you need to talk to is not in and that you can leave your number for them to call back. Leave number.

3. Wait for them not to call back. They don't. So call again. They probably won't answer so leave a message.

4. They finally call back but you are unable to answer because you are stuck on set and unable to answer your phone.

5. You call them back but they are miffed that you didn't answer your phone, so to prove a point, they don't answer their phone. You leave a message.

6. Two minutes later, after figuring this little game of cat and mouse has gone on a bit too long, they call back. You tell them what you want to do, by which time you are so over eager because you are finally talking to a real person, you exasperate yourself explaining the situation. A bit confused, but eager to get out of the conversation they agree to whatever it is you want, if only to get you off the phone.

7. Since everyone is agreed. You then ask them to sign a location release form. Thinking this is a last bit of trickery they then go on to play 20 questions about what, why, how, and who this location release form is supposed to entail.

8. With the tables turned and you wanting to be the one getting off the phone, you gleam over the fine print, which is really nothing but fine print, and tell them it's nothing to worry about, (just a document signing away the production company's liability should anything happen to their business.) Seriously.

9. You hang up. Take a deep breath, and realize that in 2 minutes, you just accomplished what you've been trying to accomplish for two days.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Saturday Football!

I can't believe I finally have a weekend day to watch football! Right now I'm chilling at the production apartment in Jamaica Plain watching Cincinnati play Pittsburgh in the snow. Next we're going to watch Alabama play Florida. Tonight's activities include a "family dinner" with the production team. Only problem is our cookware seems really depleted. Dunno what we'll cook on, but we have a grill so maybe some of the folks who were on pit masters will break out their grilling skills and make something awesome!?

Speaking of Pit Masters, the show aired this past wednesday and I was pretty happy with it. The ratings weren't to bad from what people are saying but I really have no clue what any of that means. Apparently we got a .9 and .97 which rounds to a 1. Basically it means that around a million people tuned in to watch it, which isn't bad. To make into the top 10 network ratings you ned to get around a 2.2. So, overall, everyone's pretty happy, which means,---maybe we'll all get to work on a season 2?!

Anyways, snow is on the way but it doesn't feel cold enough outside to stick. It's just that sort of drizzly rain at the moment. It's a been a long week and a Saturday watching football sounds like exactly what we all need.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Promotion

So, interesting happenings this week. I've only been working for a little over 2 days now and it is already starting to feel like it's been a week. The first day on the job I got promoted to production coordinator. It's a big deal on paper, big step up from being a PA, but I'm a little murky about what exactly I'm supposed to be coordinating. Right now I've been given the job of handling our equipment rentals. That's a big part of what prod. coordinators do. So, I guess I'm on the right track. Still, I'll be responsible for a lot of the same stuff I was as a PA, due to the fact that the show is so small. So, I think my title should be more like, "de facto production coordinator."

Right now I'm setting up shop at our "production office," a really nice apartment spread in Jamaica Plains, that also happens to be the home of some of the out of town people working on the show. Today is supposed to be an office day so hopefully things will go fairly smoothly. On the horizon we have our talent taking a trip to a casino in Connecticut and a possible trip down to Miami, FL. So, we do have some orchestrating to do. I guess I'll get to it then.

Friday, November 27, 2009

How to be a PA


Switch to channel 2 with me.

It's taken me a while to finally write a post about how to be a PA. Don't expect this to be expert advice or anything, but it should at least get you started. This post is so that other PAs out there who might be new to the industry can get a handle on what's going on. I'm always open to criticism or complaints if any of this info seems inaccurate or my approach is wrong so please tell me.

So lets say you've got your first PA job and are as green as green gets.


Aside from getting the coffee right, here's a list of things that will always be expected of a good PA. If you can get these right you can start doing other things. Afterall, no one wants to be a PA forever. You should look at being a PA as something more like grad school or an old fashion apprenticeship. It's where you get up to date, on the job training, prove your worth, figure out what it is you want to do, get experience and training, and move up. So here it goes:


1. NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING. This is probably the number one rule of the production business. If you're not sure about something, ask. When you find yourself making logical conclusions about things you're not not 100% sure about, stop yourself, get confirmation before you proceed. While it may seem that all the people around you are on top of their game and taking care of business, you got to remember that they are human just like you and sometimes drop things. So always look before you leap.


2. ALWAYS BE EARLY. There's a saying, "If you're early, you're on time. If you're on time you're late. If you're late you're fired." This should be forever seared into your head. Don't think that it's true for just PAs. It's true for everyone. On the first movie I worked on, a really great 1st AD got fired due to elements beyond his control that prevented him from being on time to set. It can happen to anyone. Some people are relaxed about it and some people aren't. Never assume though.


3. STAY IN CONTACT. This is particularly important if you are away from the location or set. Keep whoever sent you out on a run informed at all times of delays, problems, or complications. If you get sent out to Home Depot for a certain fuse for G&E, and Home Depot doesn't have it, call whoever sent you out. Let them know you're situation. They may then tell you to scrub the mission and return to set or go on to Lowes or do something else entirely.


4. USE PROPER RADIO ETTIQUETE. Always say "copy that" to instructions. You might be on the other side of the world and might have acknowledged and started doing whatever they told you to do but they person has no clue you're on it until you let them know. Also, keep unnessesary chatter to an absolute minimum. If you have something to explain or ask in detail - ask whoever you're talking to if they have time to switch to a private channel. Remember to ask, never order them. Lastly, whenever you do have to talk to someone, always say your name and the name of the person you need to talk to. Wait for them to acknowlegde, then proceed. Example, "This is Mark for Dan..." "Go ahead Mark." "Dan, can you jump to channel 2?" "Copy that. Switching to 2." ect. ect.

5. BE PREPARED. ALWAYS CARRY EXTRA CALL SHEETS, SIDES, PENS, PENCILS, SHARPIES, TAPE, UTILITY KNIFE, HIGH LIGHTER, and a NOTE PAD. You are a human foot locker. Suggest wearing a utility belt or a small back pack and getting used to it. One of the main functions of your job is to always be ready to assist, if an AD or producer asks for something and you have it on hand, it makes you look very good and reliable. While this list may seem like overkill to some people, it's not. It's just a basic list of things that are used by everyone while on set. Some optional things to add to it may be mints, gum, extra water, flashlight (especially if you are working in a sound stage) and a lighter. Without going on and on at the end of the day, just be prepared. You can never go wrong with that. 'Nuff said.

6. BE VIGILANT. Always be aware of what is going on around you. Keep up with what's going on according the the call sheet and what's being shot. Any crew member should be able to ask you what's going on and you should be able to tell them. This might seem strange but think about it. A lot of people on set are so wrapped into their own individual jobs they might not know what's going on with the rest of the crew around them. It's up to you to help the AD department carry on this info and be sure the rest of the crew is informed. You also need to keep tabs on the crew and let them know if they are in a spot where they can walk or talk or if they need to be quiet and respectful of the shooting.

7. CALL THE ROLLS. One of the main ways the AD department will want you're help is how they'll want you to do this is to call "the rolls" which is basically listening to the 1st AD on walkie and yelling so that everyone around can hear whenever he or she calls "Picture's up" (means camera and lights are in place and ready to go) "Standby" (which is the cue to sync sound) "Rolling" (sound is sync'd and everything is just waiting on the director to call 'action') and then "Cut" (means they've stopped). You'll also need to make other calls like, "Going around again" which means the cut wasn't good enough and they're immediately starting the scene again. Lastly, you'll have to call, "Checking the gate," which means the shot is over and it's time to move on.

8. BE THE WATER BOY OR GIRL. This is something that is an easy way to impress the crew. Pay attention to their needs, if it's hot outside go around and offer water or gatorade. Equally, if its cold, coffee or hot tea. Don't wait for someone to ask. If an AD or someone is too busy to break for food, see if there is something you can get them from the crafty table. When you can start anticipating and feeling the needs of the crew, then you are doing exactly what your job wants you to do.

9. THINK AHEAD. As crucial as it is to be vigilant and be ready to jump into action or answer a question at a moment's notice, that same kind of anticipation brings us to a broader form of it--think ahead. For example, if someone starts a dialog scene, most directors will almost always start with a wide to medium shot and move in for what's called "coverage" which are shots of the individual characters in the scene. They may then go in for "inserts" which are small cut away shots of hands and such. Always be aware of what is going on, and if at all possible try and help prep for the area the camera will change positions to each time the crew goes in to move it.

10. TRY TO HAVE FUN. Easy enough right? Well, try it after getting everyone's coffees, screwing one or two up, then getting yelled out for stepping into a sight line. Couple that on top of getting yelled at by an AD for something that is probably beyond your control and then see if at the end of the day you can still smile. If you can, good for you. If not, you might want to change jobs. But remember: if you think positively you can make it not only this industry but any industry. Having a good attitude will get you way farther than you'd ever think!

11. KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Don't be over confident. It's certainly required that you have confidence to carry out your job as a PA, but just as importantly, you must know when you've got too much on your plate. If this ever happens, you're probably in a higher PA position than most others and you must start learning how to delegate to the other PAs around you. This isn't easy at first, because as a PA, you're used to having to do everything yourself, but it's important to learn if you want to move up.

Well, that's about all I can think of for now. Hope this is helpful for whoever needs it! Best of luck!

-Switching back to channel 1.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shippin' up to Boston to find my leg


Got a job!! It's in a Boston! I'm pumped and to get in the mood I'm being a total dork and listening to some Dropkick Murphys, "Shippin' up to Boston." It's another reality show, 13 weeks. I don't really know much more than that.

In the ultimate twist of irony, I got a call for a job as a set PA on a feature film the day after I found out about the Boston thing. More than that, the job involved me getting star struck, which is something I haven't really felt in a long time. I got really excited and immediately wished I could clone myself so I could do both. Oh well, I guess it's good to have these problems.

I should probably go pack. My plane leaves the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Happy holidays! Best of luck to all of you!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why the Oscars suck and How to fix them.


Question: have you ever watched the Oscars? Followup: Have you ever watched them all the way through? Don't lie. Sure you might land on it, watched Hillary Swank cry onstage, but actually watched the whole thing? Well, I'm impressed. I too have successfully accomplished this, but barely... I'm on a hiatus from being a PA at the moment... so let me continue with why accomplishing this three hour task of willpower is such a pain in the ass for me and probably many others out there as well.

How many times have you watched an "Oscar Film" and went away scratching your head wondering: "What the hell is the big deal about that?" Now, having studied film and cinema, I could probably tell you or educate you as to "why" certain films and the people involved in them get chosen over others but even then I'll probably bore myself talking to you about it. And if that happens then I can assure you that you'll probably get bored long before I will.

Sure, Oscar buzz is one way to sell tickets and create hype over seeing movies, and I'm all about that, but it can just as easily backfire when you pay that extra dollar to see a movie you typically wouldn't see just because it's "oscar worthy" and then you see it and are like, "I could have spent that ten dollars on a cheap bottle of wine and had more fun." Well, you're not alone. So the next time someone tells you something is Oscar worthy, you'll probably roll your eyes and say, "I'll wait till it comes out on DVD."

Narrowing my irate rant, the biggest problem with the Academy Awards is the telecast. And here's why -- aside from the normal things we don't like about it, the same long speeches, the music that plays everyone on and off stage, the popular comedian host whose normal act always gets turned down a few notches for prime time viewers, and so on and so forth--but really the whole thing boils down to ratings and advertising, just like everything else on TV.

Producers of TV shows, any TV show, Oscars included, need good ratings. They need good ratings so they can sell larger ad-buys. What makes good ratings is determined by how many people tune in. So, next and obviously, a sure fire way to always get good rating is to have popular high grossing films going up against other popular high grossing films. The hope is that fans of those films will tune in to see if they're horse wins the race or goes home jilted. And in the meantime if you get persuaded to by Liberty Mutual Funds then that's pretty good too I suppose.

Now to combat complaints that the wrong movies get chosen for the wrong reasons in that ever prized "Best Picture" category, the Academy has changed the game by adding 5 more slots, making the total slots 10. This will mean that more films will have a chance to go home happy, but more importantly, it will mean more ratings. It's getting harder and harder to hit the mass market audience these days and adding a little diversity never hurt anyone.

So where will I be come January when the nominees get announced? Hopefully working, but aside from that, honestly I probably won't be paying attention. The only way I'll find out who gets the noms is when I'm looking myself up on IMDB to see what my "star meter" is currently at. The entertainment biz is very much broken and it needs a lot more than a group circle jerk on award night to fix it.

I would be a terrible complainer if I didn't offer any solutions, so here's my solution: mix award night with nickelodeon "GUTS" style competition or American Gladiators throw in a little Fear Factor and you've got a hit show. What the hell? Yeah, think about it, you get your five noms for best actress on stage, you give them boxing gloves, and padded whacking sticks, then you dangle them on platforms above a tank of Brazilian water slugs. May the Best actress win. And then, with hair and gowns completely messed up, lip bleeding, let them give a thank you speech. They've at least earned that much. Could you imagine Angelina Jolie, Hillary Swank, Glen Close, Meryl Streep, and Nicole Kidman fighting it out? Or Johnny Deep swash-buckling onstage against Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney? Better yet, have you always wanted to see Steven Spielburg and George Lucas climb to the top of the GUTS Mountain while avoiding avalanches, slime, and water spouts? Yes, you know you would tune in to watch that. In the meantime, you'll have to be satisfied with another year of same-ole-same.

Tune in next week for my new reality show pitch -- disabled convicts in wheelchairs fighting each other to death inside a cage.

It's going to absolutely blow the roof off the networks!



Friday, November 13, 2009

Turmoil in Indie Film World

Indie film is in flames. Or more accurately, the "Hollywood goes indie" film studios that have been ever popular in the mid nineties and for the past decade are disappearing. Peter Bart from Variety has an interesting take on it. You can see it at Variety.com or you can keep reading my 2 cents about it.

Basically he says that a lot of the major studios are only interested in franchises and that small budget movies are not as profitable as the over inflated big budget ones that keep getting pumped out. I don't see how this makes sense. Isn't there a saying, "don't keep all your eggs in one basket?" To add to it, I love the bit about how the Krispie Creme donut guy who turned around that franchise has been trying to turn around MGM, but to no avail. Yeah, that's because making movies ain't like glazing your donut hole num nuts!

Peter Bart is right though. The state of the industry is just bizarre. And to boot, the wrong choices keep getting made over and over with the same results. When is something going to give? A lot of the problem is with the studios themselves, but to a large extent they've always had the same problems. What's troubling is that when a studio can't make money and begins going under, then what does that mean for the rest of us. Is there a new film revolution around the corner or is the whole thing going in the toilet?

Whatever the answer is, it's way above my pay grade. With that said, I'm going to go pick up trash and serve coffee.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

PSD -- Post Show Depression


One of the producers sent an email out thanking everyone for their hard work on the show and describing his new funk about how he was feeling the pains of "Post Show Depression." It's a term I'm sure he coined or stole from someone and it pretty accurately summarizes how I feel, and probably many others feel after I get off of a long project.

More and more I attribute this feeling towards the uncertainty of when I will work next. I'm sending out my resume, making calls, and looking for opportunities online, but no matter how much I do that, I can't escape a sinking feeling in my stomach that tells me I might have to go back to waiting tables. A lot of people I've talked to have had jobs lined up, only to have them fall through at the last minute. Two in particular, an assistant director and a production supervisor had jobs locked up only to have the financing for their respective films get pulled. This is happening everywhere and it scares the hell out of me because I'm no where near as connected as these people and if they are having trouble finding work -- then what does that say about my own prospects?

I know I should think positive. It's hard but I'm trying. On the last night in the hotel in Cordele, Georgia, the sound supervisor and I got into a long discussion about how this recession is effecting those of us in the industry. He calls it a great "weeding out" of people who are perhaps in it for the wrong reasons. He's been on many shows, reality shows, scripted television, the oscars, pretty much anything you can name and his words of encouragement were very comforting. Still, it's nerve racking. Say this recession ends and those of us left standing and still working, what kind of work environment will we have left to work in? With so many corners being cut on productions, at what point does it end? Seems like working in production is becoming more and more like working in saw mill these days.

Looking onward, there's a few opportunities I've heard about and I'm going to try my best to pursue those within my means, but if not it won't be the end of the world or anything. I keep wanting to work on my own material, whether it's writing or producing. I think this break might be a good opportunity for me to do some of it. Each show makes me better and better at something and I think that's the most important aspect of why I like my work. It's ever-changing and exciting to be involved in and the fact that I feel like I'm competing against myself makes it even better.

So, long story short, lets hope work comes soon. I learned a lot about myself and my capabilities while on BBQ Pit Masters. Getting the opportunity to step up and take on more responsibilities was probably one of the best production experiences I've ever had. On top of getting to work side by side with some of the best people I've ever worked with. I'll miss them, and I'll miss the BBQ competitions and being an honorary member of the BBQ community, but who knows? Maybe there will be a season 2...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Filmmaker Magazine: Blog


Filmmaker Magazine: Blog is promoting the new film by director Jason Reitman "Up in the Air" starring George Clooney and it looks pretty phenomenal. I try to keep my blogging about films and fanfare to a minimum and will mainly focus on keeping it to projects that I personally work on. But for this I'll make an exception. That said, blogging, being a tool that companies use to see how well the buzz is going around regarding their product, I'm happy to participate and keep it going. The release date is December 25. They're obviously going for an oscar push for this film with it being so close to the end of the year. Hope it looks as good as it seems. The monologue in the trailer juxtaposed with the action on screen really sold me. Check it out. Can't wait to see it!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

DVD Special Features Film School


Almost everyone who starts out in this business wants to be a writer/director. Getting a job in the creative field is hard. Very hard. As one of our cast members would say, "it's about like watching a dog shitting a peach pit." With this in mind, I wanted to share some bits from a conversation I had with a young aspiring writer/director. He's in his early twenties like me, but unlike me, he thinks that you can learn how to make movies and TV shows just by watching the special features that get included with DVD's. How I wish it were that simple.

DVD special features are included with the purchase of a DVD with the simple aim in getting someone to buy it. Distribution companies feel that if a little bit extra gets included with the DVD it may possibly prevent someone from pirating it. And they're right. I know several people who pirate all day long, but they'll go the extra mile to run out and buy for example "Watchmen: the directors cut."

All of this is reinforced by directors, producers, and actors claiming that you can now go to film school just by watching the DVD. Maybe. At least it's a good sound bite. The only problem with this is that DVDs don't teach you how to unfold a C-stand. They don't teach you how to bargain for a higher rate on a deal memo. They don't teach you how to coordinate multiple crews in multiple time zones all moving, shooting, and prepping all across the country, nor do they teach you how to deal with the high levels of stress that comes along with it. Last for now, and perhaps most importantly, neither film school nor George Lucas on the Star Wars special features are going to tell you how to actually get a movie made because doing that requires more than just theory and knowledge of the craft, it requires diligence and charisma beyond what most people would probably ever begin to imagine or to grasp.



Thursday, October 29, 2009

doo rag awesomeness

video

Late night. (tuesday i think?)

So yeah, here's another video thing. I tried to make it a "how to be a PA" thing and what to carry and yadayada but I was too tired to really do any of that. Instead, you get what you get. Like this production - it is what it is right? video

Hard Times in Mineral Wells, Texas


One of the worst things about this job is despite all the locations you go to is that you rarely have a chance to explore. If you ask me how Kansas City or Dover was, I'd say, "looks pretty much like your typical interstate exit. Same restaurants, same hotels, same everything." I'm determined to make my last day here different. But of course, work got in the way.

Mineral Wells, Texas -- you wouldn't know it by looking at it -- holds a pretty awesome secret. Supposedly, the waters of the nearby "Brazos River" have a curing power. They call it, "Crazy Water." Travelers making their way west discovered this, probably adopting the myth from the nearby Native American population they probably helped eradicate. As cattle boomed in the 1800's and around the turn of the 20th century, Mineral Wells benefited greatly by the success of larger cities nearby like Fort Worth.

The crazy water legend exploded and all sorts of nearby Texans made their way to Mineral Wells, which at that time had become one of the earliest tourist spots in America. A great hotel was built and called, "The Crazy Water Hotel" and it soon became one of the most happening spots in the Texas social scene. When a chance fire burned the hotel to the ground in the 1920's, a big hotel man by the name of Baker, from Dallas, rebuilt it at an enormous cost and nearly triple the scale as the first one. The new Baker Hotel opened two weeks after the stock market crash of 1929 and in 1932, closed for several decades until being reopened in the early 1960's. Like the legend of the crazy water, the hotel too has its local myths of ghosts and good times that still seem to go on. Nowadays sitting vacant, abandoned, and with nothing but an empty shell; all that remains are the ghosts.

Our last day at the ranch we've been shooting at is a photo shoot. The rest of the crew has gone home and it is just me and the associate producer who're left to stay and be on hand for our cast. Everyone is very laid back and the day goes pretty much without a hitch. I'd never been on the set of a big photo shoot like this before so it was pretty impressive.

Having made a vow to participate in the local allure, needing to be cleansed, I wanted to make my way to the Brazos and dip my feet into the water. Despite our laid back schedule, I never got a chance to do that. It's a very meditative day and I feel a number of thoughts that have bubbled up which I'd never felt before. These last few weeks of non-stop work have bumped loose some clarity.

My last drive through Mineral Wells is sad. While more and more of these small towns are starting to look the same, there is some kind of past grandeur about this place, whose current decomposing state, looks particularly out of place.

On a show, this show or any show, we go into a place, get what we need and leave. We do our jobs and then get the hell out. It's seems now more than ever, the actual reality of what we're doing and what's going on behind camera is more real and more compelling than anything going on in front of it, but to tell THAT story... I'm starting to really notice the exploitation. Our own is no different from that of anything else going on here and I can't help but feel guilty.

The vagueness of this rant is probably getting pretty unbearable, particularly since I can't really disclosed many of the details, so I'm going to wrap it up. We leave to go to Dallas in a few and then I get to be on a plane, alone and unbothered by the toils and salty tears of the production.

Amen to that.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Off to Mineral Wells, TX


Last night I saw one of the scariest and most awesome displays of a thunderstorm I have ever seen in my whole life. Unfortunately, it was in a car, weighted down with tons of gear while driving down a super wet highway at ten o'clock at night in Dallas after working a fifteen hour day. Not the best of ideas.

Fortunately the associate producer didn't think it was a good idea either and when I'd only gotten about ten miles away in forty minutes he called and told me to come back to the hotel in Dallas, and stay another night. I did. I definately had no problems turning back. It was a good call. Fatigue and driving in thunderstorms don't mix well. The sleep was great, but now I have to still get out to Mineral Wells but this time it's in morning rush hour. I don't know which will be worse.

Dallas drivers are some of the scariest I've ever seen. On my way into downtown yesterday I passed a remaining hulk of some burnt out SUV sitting on the side of the road. On top of that, if you turn on the local news here, it's nothing but serious fatal accidents, one after another. It makes me wonder, "what the hell is wrong with this place?" One of our executives calls Dallas/Fort Worth "the arm pit of America." I don't agree with him, but seriously, someone tell me where all the cool stuff is? All I see is chain after chain of corporate blandness on top of this mile per mile of hellacious roadway.

-M

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Video Intro

video

A Lesson in Complaining

Everyone, in everyone job, complains at one point or another. This job is no different. I like to think of it as soldiers on the battlefield hiding behind stuff and complaining about how mean and stupid their superiors are. It's the same thing. When in fact, superiors often have very good reasons for the decisions they make. While it's often nice to think you could make better ones, the truth is, you probably couldn't. There's too many factors involved, and in many cases, only certain people are aware of what all of them are.

A grip on this show told me that he learned on another show that if the crew wasn't complaining, something was wrong. I see his point. Everyone complains, but who wants to be that guy around the crafty table on "Empire Strikes Back," going on and on about how George Lucas is a moran for wanting to do all this science fiction crap? Or who wants to be the guy in New Zealand talking about how "Lord of the Rings" is going to fail? There was probably some guy on Kevin Smith's crew for "Clerks" bitching about low budget it is they couldn't afford basic things like coffee. I'm sure there were those poeple out there. Every crew, at any time, any where, is the same in those respects.

-Mark

Friday, October 23, 2009

Let's Make Better Films: Film Independent's Filmmaker Forum's Keynote Speech

Ted Hope's got some ideas. Sounds nice. Let's Make Better Films: Film Independent's Filmmaker Forum's Keynote Speech

Another day in concrete paradise down by the airport.


Check out that sexy pic of me with my new Panavision hat!

So we woke up this morning and found we had check-out notices that had been slipped under our doors by those stealthy hotel hilton room ninjas. So, the first email of the day went out to our travel coordinator and it went something like this: "WTF? We're being evicted."

While we were waiting on the hotel to get solved, I drove the associate producer around town to run errands, most importantly of which, was to go to a western union to get cash for our per-diem. KA - CHING! Hells yeah!

With fresh cash burning a whole in my pocket and his pocket we hit our next stop at the Panavision camera rental house in Dallas and yeah, in case you're wondering, it was big. It even has a gift shop! Not being able to control myself, I bought nifty, aforementioned Panavision - Dallas hat to commemorate the toil and agony that is going on here.

Not long afterwards we found out that our hotel had been taken care and with a slew of other things accomplished, all in all, today is going to be a good day. It has been decided.

Copy that?


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Life on the Key PA front


That's me in the green jacket red hat.

It's awesome getting to travel on the road with a crew. I'm working my ass off, but it's totally, utterly awesome. Kansas City was a bit of a low point for us but the week off helped everyone get back in the swing of things. Dover, Delaware is another story. It was 40 degrees outside and it rained THE ENTIRE TIME. I've never been so cold and wet in my life. Fortunately I escaped without getting sick.

Despite the miserable conditions the crew performed very well. Network executives were there and a lot of changes were discussed that has totally changed how we will do the remainder of the season. There was about a day of panic and now, with the dust settling, our game plan is being put into place. When its all said and done this will truly be a testament to how good some of these people are at doing there jobs and getting it all done.

As the key PA on this show I'm here at the center of the this massive storm. Aside from my typical duties I'm having to do a lot more things than just Key PA. Reality shows are run and organized quite differently than films from what I'm beginning to understand. There is some overlap, but I'm having to fill a wide variety of rolls depending on the needs of the production-so my job is really like a "jack of all trades" kind of thing. Like on a film, I help find and select PAs and train them as to how we expect them to help on the show. There's no difference. While I don't do much of the finding (our coordinator in LA does that) I end up calling people on a list she sends me.

So far on this show I've helped boom, operate a camera, AC, coordinate transportation, produce, and most recently help with art/set design. As the only PA who gets to travel I am pretty friggen chill with this. Sometimes you run into people who say that I should get paid more or get more out of what I'm doing but for this sort of industry, there really isn't a premium to be put on someone showing you the ropes on how to do other people's jobs and to get that sort of "on-the-job" training.

For the moment, we are in Dallas. The show has gone through a bit of upheaval with certain last minute changes we are having to make. A very important shoot is coming up next week and the stakes are really high for us to pull this one off successfully.

Until next time, I'm switching back to channel 1.

Peace.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The BBQ reality flying circus rodeo show competition


It's always funny how three or four weeks in the production business seem to feel like three or four months worth of work. Or maybe that's about how much we age over that period of time.

I'm having fun. Reality television is a very different beast from film. The Key PA position I am trying to fill is fun but it feels different having to boss other PA's around. Sometimes I can feel the resentment and it makes me wonder if I'm doing something wrong or if there's something I can do better. It seems hard to trouble shoot this stuff on the spot. it seems the powers that be don't care how it gets done as long as it gets done.

Last week in Kansas City the production department, in reflection of how all the camera crews are named team A, team B, Team C, and so on, we named our team, "Team F" for Fudged. Team F did not enjoy Kansas City very much. Don't get me wrong, we certainly had fun--I for one should be professionally certified in the Golf Cart racing arena. I digress. I've never worked a block of production days that was that much work. This isn't supposed to sound like complaining. The reality was that we have assembled a crew to handle a certain size of event, and the Kansas City Royal was by far ten times the size we're used to dealing with. So, everyone was stretched thin. On the plus side though, everyone made it. No one has quit. There's a close bond that is forming and is really cool to be a part of. Having finished that weekend it feels like I've climbed a big hill... or something like that.

I'm looking forward to going to the sticks of GA this week and road tripping with one of the camera crews up to Dover, DE. I'm really stoked about this upcoming trip. I found out that of all the crew I am the only one who gets to stay at a casino. *gloating* of course, Karma is probably going to catch up to me and something bad is going to happen.

In the meantime, I'm going to sit here and be lazy. Enjoying it while I can.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

BBQ Heaven

So it's not every job that you get to do something you really, really enjoy.  I enjoy BBQ.  I'm from the south, and BBQ is one of those things that just seams to grow on trees here.  This show that was supposed to be a 4 day thing in Decatur, Alabama, turned into a 5 day thing with a free road trip to Carbondale, Illinois.  And from there it turned into a two week gig!

It's all happening very last minute but overall I got to say it's well worth it.  We modified the original plan a bit so I could go back up and rejoin the crew on Wednesday.  I drove back to Decatur Monday.  After eating dinner with my mom in neighboring Huntsville, I drove back to Birmingham.  From there I have a day to pack, wash clothes, and get all my loose ends tied up before the following day.  

It's pretty exciting stuff.  Next week we'll be in Kansas City.  I've never been there so I'm pretty stoked. 


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Picture Finish!

It's over!  The first feature film to shoot in Alabama since the state passed its film incentives act is done.  We wrapped production September 5th and now, as of last night, the office is done too.  However, of the 48 days I spent involved with the movie only 18 of them count towards my DGA goal. While  I was still a PA the rest of the time, no official call sheet for those other days means that they're not valid in terms of the DGA requirements.  

It sounds silly, and it's not meant to be easy, after all, a day is a day right?  Well, kinda.  A day on set is way more important than an office day in the eyes of the DGA.  Or at least that's the feeling I get.  

A really strict confidentiality agreement prevents me from spilling the beans regarding this finished project, but what I can say is that it was a lot of work, stressful, but fun.  Doing a feature film in 18 days is a bit like trying to run a marathon without stopping for water.  Despite the difficulties, meeting a ton of really awesome people who all had some really cool stories and tips to share made it well worth the effort.  

Where to next?  Just got booked for a four day reality tv show shoot in north Alabama.  We'll see how that goes.  Hopefully I'll get some more days to scratch off.

10:4.  Switching back to channel 1.

Peace.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Film Slave

I am a slave to film.  Why?  I don't really know where or why or how it all started but the course is set and here we are. What I do know is that for the next several years I have decided to dedicate myself to the goal of collecting 600 on-set call sheet days as a production assistant (PA), the lowest ranking member of the totem poll, until finally I can one day apply to the Directors Guild of America and start making the big bucks.  Before going any further though, I think we must first understand what is at stake here.

1.  No life.  First and for-most this task is going to require a ton of time.  Having already collected my first 18 days off a feature film shoot in Birmingham, Alabama, I'm now beginning to understand what that means.  It means getting to set at 5:30 AM, busting your ass for fifteen hours, going home at 9:00 at night, getting six hours of sleep, and the doing it all over again.  There's very little room in here for anything like your family, girlfriend/boyfriend, pets, friends, much less things that you probably do everyday like watch tv, go to the movies, or video games.  The only friends you'll are set friends.  And they're exactly that, set in your life for a few weeks at a time and gone when the show is over.

2.  Not much pay.  Anyone working any job could probably complain about this.  Piled on with the fact that working in the production industry means you have to stretch your check out in between jobs, it can sometimes make life really minimalistic, especially in these times.

3.  Unsteady future.  The film industry is glamourous and everyone wants a piece of it.  I mean, who doesn't want to wake up at 4 in the morning and be on set for the next 20 hours?!  I know I do!  Of course there's lots of competition over the same job, always will be, that's a no-brainer.  What's most unsettling right now is what's going on in the realm of distribution, ie: how everyone makes money so we can keep making films.   Movie theater attendance is way down and with so many fingers in the pie is getting hard to see who's to blame.  Maybe a new crew needs to take over the film industry.  The old guys seem to be running out of ideas.  That's what my generation is here to fix. 

And that's why these 582 more days are going to be worth it.