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, July 5, 2009

Hiatus Week Six

The show I’m currently working on is taking a one week hiatus, and so is Blood, Sweat, and Tedium. I'll be back next week to apply a magnifying glass to the underbelly of Industry life here in Hollywood. Meanwhile...

Those of us who enjoy strolling through the Industry blog-o-sphere have found the pickings rather slim of late, and for good reason: Peggy Archer (“Totally Unauthorized”) is still suffering the effects of some very painful foot surgery, Scripty (“Script Goddess”) seems to be buried under an avalanche of television commercial work when not trying to get her own mystery project off the ground, and D (“Dollygrippery”) has been tied to the ball and chain of a cable episodic for the past few months, leaving very little time for anything else. The Anonymous Production Assistant’s usual multi-post weeks resumed only recently after a fallow period thanks to his/her own full employment, and “Burbanked” -– not strictly an Industry blog, but an old favorite from way back -- remains in a sad state of suspended animation while Alan searches for a new job*.

Leetal "Final Girl") has apparently been working too hard to post much recently, which leaves Ken Levine and "Polybloggimous" as the only frequent posters left on my blogroll -- and although Nathan's tales of the East Coast film biz are excellent, they come on a very occasional basis. The situation's even worse when it comes to "Below the Line" and the "Abbey Singer Blues" -- which is a real pity, since those two blogs are terrific when they do manage to post.

Apparently most of us are working more than full time or not nearly enough, which is typical of Industry life. Although I’ve been busy on my show, it happens to be a multi-camera sit-com -- my work of choice, thanks to the relatively humane working hours in an industry that usually rewards those who serve it by sucking the blood from their veins until they drop.

Meanwhile, I’ve been keeping an eye on two interesting blogs from the "Film Industry Bloggers" website – a site I'm otherwise not overly fond of. A BST reader long ago suggested I sign up with the FIB, but I’ve never been much of a joiner -- growing up, I was the kind of kid who liked to play pick-up baseball, but had little use for the overly-intrusive organization of Little League. Playing ball with my friends on an empty field was fun. Having to put on official uniforms to play official games run by red-faced coaches under official rules imposed by official umpires in front of screaming parents wasn’t really my idea of a good time.

The whole scene was entirely too officious -- that wasn't "play," it was work.

I took a look at FIB early on, and wasn’t particularly impressed -- they had a key grip putting up some interesting posts, but the other bloggers didn’t really float my boat. The next time I stopped in, the grip was no longer listed on the blogroll. At that point, I decided that any site selling T shirts and hats hawking itself (ahem: uniforms) was kind of missing the point of an Industry blog in the first place.

But after making my usual blog rounds a few weeks ago and coming up dry, I tried again, and this time found two FIB offerings interesting enough to keep me coming back for more: The Standby Painter and The Hollywood Development Executive

A standby painter is a set painter who works with the first unit crew, usually alone, taking care of any last-minute touch ups on the set, be it location or stage. I’ve always been very impressed with the work of set painters in general –- theirs is an art as much as a craft -- with the standby painter a lonely but crucial part of the movie-making machine. The stories of this standby painter will resonate with Industry veterans (we’ve all been there...), while giving civilian readers or wannabes a feel for what the professional film making process is really like.

The Hollywood Development Executive offers a rare and fascinating peek into the mysterious world above-the-line. Since he (she?) is talking out of school, this exec must remain anonymous for obvious reasons. For all I know, the blog could be written by a 22 year old production assistant making it all up – but if so, that PA really should be a writer, because the advice he/she gives and the stories told have the ring of truth.

Both are very well-written blogs, which earns them a place on my blogroll. Take a look -- you might like what you find. Who knows, maybe you’ll love all the official Film Industry Bloggers – and if so, good for you and good for them.

Just so long as they don’t put on those uniforms...

You'll notice a new category here at BST beneath the blogroll over on the right side of the page, titled “Industry Resources.” The first two additions come from Rick Davis, a key grip I’ve known since my earliest days in commercials. Grip 411 offers a ton of useful information on grip equipment for any application, while Crew and Review is a new (and decidedly cheeky) print/on-line newsletter discussing the pros and cons of new equipment now being used on set. Crew and Review includes lots of photos showing you exactly how this stuff actually works. Check it out –- you might learn something -- and if nothing else, you’ll see photos of several grips I used to work with back in the day.

The only thing I can't figure out is how those guys all got so old since we last worked together...

*Hang tough, Alan. You'll find something soon.


Nathan said...

I reserve the right to tell you not only about adventures behind the scenes, but also about kreplach, grilled pizza, bear shit and SUV baby strollers annoying the living crap out of me.

You'll just have to keep showing up to see when I'm babbling on your chosen topic.


oliverandom said...

I'm always looking for new and good industry blogs to read. Thanks for the recommendations.

A.J. said...

Rick Davis is awesome.

So is the "Story Time" section on the Crew And Review site.

D said...

Hi Michael. Although you haven't heard from me recently, I have followed your great posts when I caught the infrequent spare hour of downtime. My show is wrapped and I'm happily out of work (hopefully not for too long). Keep up the good work. (And Rick Davis IS awesome).