Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Just for the Hell of It -- Episode Eight

                                Quote of the Week  

What pleasure you feel when you’ve kept people happy for an hour and a half. They’ve forgotten their troubles. It’s great. There’s nothing like it in the world. When everybody’s laughing, it’s a party. And then you get a check at the end. That’s very nice.”
Joan Rivers

Maybe that should be the mantra for everybody involved in show business, be it theater, comedy, music, film, or television.  If you haven't yet seen Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, the 2010 documentary, you should check it out.  True, her refusal to grant WGA status or pay a decent wage to her writing staff on "Fashion Police" was a disgrace that's impossible for me to justify or understand, but that doesn't change the fact that she came up the hard way as a woman working in a man's world, for whom nothing ever came easy.  Whatever her faults, Joan Rivers was one extremely hard working and very funny comedienne right down to the end.

There was nobody quite like her -- and now she's gone.  
If you've got a spare twenty minutes or so, here's some very good listening -- a recent  interview with John Ridley (Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Twelve Years a Slave") and Andre Benjamin ("Andre 3000" of OutKast) talking about their new biopic of Jimi Hendrix, Jimi: All is by my Side

I'm about as far from a fan of rap music as an aging white guy can get, and thus am only vaguely familiar with OutKast and "Andre 3000," but it has not escaped my notice that rappers often make very good actors.  From Ice Cube to Ludacris, these guys can bring it to the big or small screen.  If this interview (and the preview) is any measure, Andre Benjamin worked very hard to pull this role off, and pretty much nailed it.  Although I have little use (or patience) for rap music, I'm happy to see rappers cross over into acting, where their talents are much easier to appreciate.
There's more interesting material on that episode -- a review of  Amazon's new TV show "Transparent," and an interview with Ron Perlman of "Hellboy" and "Sons of  Anarchy" fame.  Good stuff, all of it, and definitely worth a listen.

Near the end of filming on a recent shoot night, we were on the last shot of the episode.  I stood right next to the lens of “B” camera, just a few feet from our lead actress (let’s call her “Marilyn”), using a flashlight with a long snoot to shine a bit of light into her make-up darkened eyes.  That can be a tricky task -- if done wrong, it looks like someone is waving a searchlight around the set -- which is why I was concentrating hard on holding that flashlight steady on target.  All the while our O.C.D.P. in the “Bat Cave” was talking me through the shot via his walkie-talkie and my CIA-style security earphone.*  

"Steady, there you go a little more -- no, less, less okay, now you're cooking', that's it, easy now, keep 'er steady"

This was a very quiet scene for which Marilyn had to do some poignant emoting on camera.  Near the end of the scene, a fly suddenly buzzed in out of nowhere and landed on her head, clearly visible on at least two of the four cameras.  There was nothing I could do about it, so I just kept the flashlight steady.  By then, half the crew could see what was happening.

The DP's voice crackled in my ear.

"There's a fly on Marilyn's hair!" he yelled.

I couldn’t reply without ruining the take (which had already been blown by that fly, but protocol is protocol), so I kept silent, watching the fly... which is right when the Best Boy’s voice came in over the radio on the same channel.

“Do you want us to light it?” she asked.

It was all I could do to hold that damned flashlight steady and not burst out laughing.

Finally the director yelled “Cut!” -- he’d spotted the fly too -- and we reset for another take while one of the makeup girls shooed the fly off camera.

I don’t know -- I guess you had to be there and know the people involved -- but that snarky reply by the Best Boy earned her the “line of the week” award, and had the entire grip and electric crew in stitches for the next ten minutes.
And fortunately, she didn’t get fired

* The "Bat Cave" is a small darkened room where the DP sits with the digitech man (and sometimes the gaffer) watching the feed from all four cameras on a $27,000.00 high-def monitor.


A.J. said...

I really want to meet your Best Boy!

Michael Taylor said...

AJ --

That could be arranged. You know my e-mail...

McFrog said...

Post this if you dare...

As a European subjected to a daily onslaught of American entertainment output I have a few observations. While much of American output is good and ground breaking far too much of it is afflicted with some or all of the following traits: -

The voices. Predominantly young women with high, strangled voices speaking too quickly. The words get chewed up somewhere between the larynx and the nasal passages making them sound unpleasant and unintelligible. Listen to the greats like Bette Davis, Helen Hunt, Meryl Streep and learn how to speak. It’s not difficult.

The scriptwriting. Lazy, unresearched and formulaic. The word ‘need’ constantly misused. You don’t ‘need’ this or that or the other. You would like, want, desire but not ‘need’ everything. Cars do not go out of control when the brakes fail. Take the foot off the accelerator, pull on the parking brake and you will stop – not go faster. Basic physics.

The Irish Catholic. Always a favourite. Catholics make up fewer than 24% of the American population so how come in almost every film and television programme we get treated to the priest and a lot of people crossing themselves? Lazy scriptwriting.

And now for the biggy: every conflict, every situation is resolved by violence. Guns or better yet, an enormous black gun, is the problem solver. Mr. Freud might have a word or two to say on that subject. Is this how life really is in America? No. So why show it like that? Lazy scriptwriting with bad grammar, bad English and just plain old bad writing. And just so you lazy, unintelligent scriptwriters understand it, a human cannot outrun a bullet – ever. And, bullets do pass through car doors. Please stop writing this drivel.

Look at ‘House’, ‘As Good As It Gets’, ‘House of Cards’ and dozens of other products. Excellent examples of good scriptwriting, good production and great talent. It can be done.

What causes these ailments? American colleges and acting schools are failing the students of these schools. The training is poor in some areas and clearly woefully inadequate in others leaving students ill equipped to do the job. But worse, the decision makers are afraid of the money men. Whatever is fast, easy and cheap is the order of the day. Is that really how such an important part of the U.S. economy should be run?

America, before it is too late, get-your-house-in-order and stop the drivel. Please.
John Gardner
Almeria, Spain.