Thursday, October 29, 2009
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?
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
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.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
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.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Ted Hope's got some ideas. Sounds nice. Let's Make Better Films: Film Independent's Filmmaker Forum's Keynote Speech
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.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
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.
Monday, October 12, 2009
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.