Friday, August 24, 2007

gone but not forgotten

So I'm in LA working on a movie being 1rst AC ( Assistant Camera ) DA ( Digital Acquisition ) and a whole bunch of other stuff like clacker guy and fix electronic computer stuff when it breaks guy. The shoot is bigger than I thought it would be. The movie is co-written and directed by a couple of friends of mine and is considered a "micro-budget" by SAG ( Screen Actors Guild.)Somehow they managed to score a 40 person crew, not including actors / actresses and catering. They also swung camera goodies like a jib, dolly and things I usually associate with bigger shoots.

It's turned out to be more work than everyone planned for. We knew 12 hour days six days a week for a little over three weeks would be tough but forgot about baking in the so-Cal sun, hauling heavy gear, interpersonal meltdowns, technical failures and on and on. Since it's usually an hour to and from set and I end up setting up and tearing down in addition to the daily grind then loading footage onto hard drives and setting up batteries and laptops to charge at the end of the day I usually end up flying out of bed around 6:00 AM, quick shower and off to set, getting home to the 600 square foot studio apartment I'm sharing with a couple other guys, loading footage, maybe go for a quick walk for alone time and asleep by eleven or midnight to get up and start all over again. That explains the lack of posting on the blog...

Here's a couple pictures I snapped for the blog to show an example of a typical scene. Everyone will get hauled with all their gear to a scene location, the DP ( Director of Photography - my boss in my AC role ) will jump around with the directors and frame shots by looking through their boxed in fingers with squinty eyeballs like in the movies about making movies. Then I prep the camera with my assistant Theo who I've taken to calling Thor. When the shot angles are worked out then I set up all my computer stuff while gaffers come in and set up lights, a generator, scrims, flags, beadboard and all kinds of lighting mish mash. I'm usually up and running and sharing my space with the video assist guy in "video village" where a cable is run straight out of the camera and into a monitor so the director can see what's being framed up and shot on a monitor out of the way of the actual action.

Next to me when I'm wearing my DA hat is the guy running the video assist, the director, the script supervisor who makes sure there's continuity between shots and people are in the right scenes with the right lines, there's also wardrobe, hair, makeup and other pertinent people, often crowded into a tent to protect equipment. Inbetween downloading footage and caring for the camera with different lenses, settings, etc. I'm running in front of the talent ( actors and actresses ) themselves and hitting the slate or "claker" when the AD ( assistant director ) says action. So far I've gotten to get up close and personal with Vanessa Branch our leading lady who has been in several movies including most recently Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 but you might know her best as the Orbitz gum girl in te commercials ( dirty mouth? Fabulous! ) also Carlo Roha who was has a steady TV show in Canada and was in Boondock Saints, a movie I enjoyed but not for the faint of heart and other productions. In fact, I've actually gotten to spend some time with lots of great talent who I haven't recognized of gotten pictures with until it was too late.

My biggest role is to collect, analyze, sort and check all our footage. We're shooting with my camera in HD so it's my butt if something breaks, gets lost r deleted from the camera or back up hard drives. Sounds easy but it's harder than you'd think and I've already had to tell the whole cast and crew we lost a scene and had to set up and reshoot it. Not a popular occurance, especially when we were pushing to get all our scenes shot at a mansion in Malibu that costs $5,000 a day to rent for a location. Well, off to bed before a shoot tomorrow in a set made to look like a jumbo jet. I'll take lots of pictures.

Monday, August 13, 2007

High and Dry

One of the main highlights of this bike trip was going through Monument Valley in Arizona but after a hot day of driving through Utah we hit rain outside of Moab. What a site to see the lightning and thunderheads roll in over the red rocks and dust. We ended up in a thunderstorm that slowed our pace down to a crawl with no cover available. By the time we finally hit Monument Valley it was pitch black, we were in the middle of nowhere, hadn't seen a car or light in site and were in a full on high wind monster doing 30 mph with bleak visibility, pounded by rain, bursts of red dust clouds flying by horizontally with hours to go to the next town. Seeing Monument Valley wasn't quite what I expected. We didn't get any pictures. :0)

Stopping for breakfast was a hoot. Connie had tomato slices, cottage cheese and healthy things, I had the grandmother of all pancakes, eggs, hashbrowns and everything on the menu you could put ketchup on. I was also pleasantly surprised to see you could order gravy as a side dish. My kind of place.

On to the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree... Over 117 degrees. 120 in some places, even 106 in the shade. I decided to take a "short cut" right through the middle of the desert on a two lane highway that cut back considerably on miles but not on time. One road ended up turning to a dirt road about 20 miles into the bypass, backtracking and finding another route brought us through storm washouts that were hidden until you came right up on them at about 65 mph. Dips in the road could be a mirage or a potential mud / sand trap that would hit the front tire and send it swerving. The road less traveled did make a difference.

As hot as everything was,it still had rugged beauty and the actual Joshua trees themselves were no exception but rolling in to Palm Springs was like spring had erupted and the colors, concrete and available water made everything feel a little more hospitable.

It was that night that we heard about the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. It was surreal watching a hispanic TV station with a latino reporter talking in spanish about something so common from home. Connie and I used that bridge all the time so it was odd to feel homesick for such a tragic reason.

Finally rolled into LA and secured the trip from the top middle of the US to the ocean near the bottom. Over 2,000 miles and a great time. Connie's trip back home would be four hours and $150. Much more convenient but a little different view of our countryside here in America.

We had lunch at the Getty and took in all the artwork before two dinners with two sets of friends and kissing my wife goodbye at the airport then starting work the next day. Lunch reminded me about what LA can be like. Aspiring actors waiting on us, beautiful people everywhere and when you get bread with your meal it looks like artistic fusion on a plate. Menu's label all the locations of the ingredients and hamburgers are $18 because the patty is Kobe beef from Japan. I'll be sticking to In and Out burger for the rest of the trip. :0)

Sunday, August 12, 2007


The bike trip out to LA didn't begin in my mind until we got past Denver. Iowa and Nebraska pale in comparison of roadside beauty to me because I've seen them a million times and I know I'm going through the rockies, southwest and eventually the ocean once I get past the prairie and plains.

It was an interesting trip because there was hight heat across a broad swath of our course with intermittent thunderstorms. Sometimes it felt like you wanted to get back on the bike just to get some wind blowing and cool down.

I thought I'd conserve space and fight the heat by bringing a half helmet but about three days into blowing dust, high winds and sun my eyeballs reminded me the benefits of full facial coverage. he tightest sunglasses I could find still let the elements in. I felt fine but they looks like a horror show every night.

One of our stops was the grand canyon. I've flown through it once in a small plane tour when Connie and I first got married but didn't really get the shocking scale of it all until this trip. 277 miles long, ten miles across and 5,000 feet from the rim to the river at the bottom. Awe inspiring and unbelievable. All I could do is stand there and stare for almost an hour.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Just a quick post to answer a group of emails.

Got in to LA fine, great bike ride. Haven't gotten the box I shipped with my laptop, clean clothes, etc. so I'm using an online kiosk to post we were out of town when the bridge dropped in Minneapolis. We use it often and had several friends who missed it by 5 - 20 minutes. Fortunate for us and our friends, tragic for others.

Thanks for your emails! I'll post pictures and more when I get my computer and online access.