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)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Just for the Hell of It -- Episode 33

It's all bits and pieces this week. First, a Utube clip of a fellow who acts like he knows what he's talking about, then proceeds to utterly mis-splain the roles of the Key Grip, Gaffer, and Best Boys. Anybody who's worked on set for more than five minutes knows just how wrong he really is -- but you have to hear it to believe it.  For any newbies who might still be confused, here's the real explanation of how the DP and Gaffer mesh -- and just to be clear: the Key Grip is responsible for making sure the camera can go and do whatever the DP wants, and for diffusing, cutting, and shaping the lighting. When I came up, I was taught that the Key Grip is also responsible for making sure nothing really stupid happens on set. Technically, that's probably the job of the First AD, but the Key Grip has a lot of authority when it comes to set safety. If he-or-she tells the Producer, Director, or First AD that something on set isn't safe, they damned well better listen. 
He does not, however, tell the Gaffer or Set Lighting Best Boy what to do...

This is an excellent article analyzing the economics of television these days, using AMC and Breaking Bad (among others) as an example. It's a smart, thoughtful piece with a lot to say about the modern realities of the business.  Although it's easy to sneer at the suits who run television networks (which I'm guilty of doing, repeatedly -- but hey, they deserved it), there's no denying they work in a dynamic, extremely challenging environment.  This one's worth your time.


A pithy quote from Martin Landau in a recent interview with the LA Times.
“I’ll tell you something interesting: I haven’t been directed by anybody in probably 30 or 35 years, whether it be Francis Ford Coppola or Tim Burton.” said Landau.  “I come in with stuff, and I have ideas. I think if they don't like what I’m doing, they’ll say something. They don’t say anything. So I hit the mark, say the words and get the hell out of there.”
You've gotta love that.
Early in my Hollywooden career, I worked with Martin Landau on a horrendously bad low budget feature -- a fetid, steaming pile of uncinematic crap -- and he was terrific. The best thing about that experience was the old pros in the cast, including Raymond Burr, Neville Brand, and the not-so-old Cybill Shepard, all of whom soldiered through through the ordeal in a thoroughly professional manner. The movie was utterly unworthy of their talents -- and if the writers and director responsible for that mess were capable of shame, they'd have been deeply embarrassed…but they weren't.  Otherwise, they'd never have made the movie in the first place.
Jan Michael Vincent was also in the cast -- the putative "star" -- but the less said about that, the better.


Next, a short (ten minute) podcast interview with Ridley Scottwho is always worth a listen, and -- for something completely different -- a little Hollywood history from the good old/bad old days. 


Here's a story from Jesse Pogoler, a juicer-turned-musician I used to work with here in LA a long time ago.  

We were shooting a commercial at a nondescript house in the valley, where the rules were that each department was to pull up, unload their gear at curb, then park elsewhere to prevent inconvenience and annoyance to the neighbors.  Dutifully following instructions, the camera department had left their entire package on the sidewalk, then drove off to find parking by the time I arrived on foot. There I saw the crew of a garbage truck had already loaded half the camera gear into the compactor.
“Hey, that’s not trash,” I told them.
“Okay,” they said, and put it all back on the curb.
I was the only one around at the moment, and when the camera assistant showed up, I told him what happened. He didn’t believe me. Nobody did.
I immediately wished I’d stood by and let it all go to the dump.

That tale comes under the heading “No good deed goes unpunished,” a phrase I never understood when I was young. But you learn a few things over the years, and now I understand it all too well.  


Finally, more than six hundred people viewed this recent post, assuming the statistics are accurate. I don't know if any of you contributed to Scott Storm's Seed&Spark campaign to fund his new film Custodian, but the good news is he made it -- just barely, and right at the wire. If you chipped in to help Scott, thank you -- seriously, you rock -- and if not, I hope you'll think about doing so the next time an artist worthy of support passes the hat. The big boys in Hollywood don't need our help or our money, but the little guys who are working hard trying to do something special on a shoestring sure as hell do. Nothing good happens without help, and the five, twenty, or fifty dollars we as individuals contribute can make all the difference in the word.  

Art is always worth supporting, whenever and however we can.

That's it for this week. Happy Trails...

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