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, February 27, 2011

The Oscars, again...

Klaatu, barada, nikto*

Gort, is that you? Dude, what happened...

Yeah, I know – I more or less promised to have something new and fresh ready to post today.... but just couldn’t make it happen. I tried hard, spending way too much time working on the post that was supposed to be up right now, but it’s not ready, and I haven’t yet sunk to the level where I’m willing to post half-baked drivel simply because noon on Sunday happens to roll around a little too soon. Besides, it’s much too nice a day to spend all afternoon staring into a computer screen beating that thing into shape.

Maybe next week.

Meanwhile, it’s Oscar Day here in Hollywood, our annual orgy of bling-laden self-congratulation, when this town looks lovingly into the mirror, then leans forward to give itself a big wet kiss. This is a banner day for limo services, hair stylists, makeup and wardrobe people, and the entire crew charged with putting on the show down at the Kodak Theater tonight. Catering companies too, because once the Oscars are dispensed -- and after the agents, managers, and other assorted professional parasites have been dutifully and publicly thanked -- the serious partying will begin.

Having seen none of the contending films, I can’t comment on that aspect of tonight’s bacchanal. And since I’ve already given the account of my own slightly jaundiced brush with Oscar, there’s no point in driving back down that deeply rutted memory lane. Follow the link if you want to read it.

I'll probably tune in for a few minutes, at least, but not for long -- I'm still trying to de-tox from the hour I squandered trying to watch the gawd-awful Grammys a few weeks ago. But I cast no stones or pass judgments today. We each like what we like, and owe neither explanations nor apologies to anybody else for our viewing choices.

So if you watch all seven hours of tonight's Oscars broadcast, enjoy the show.

* From the original The Day the Earth Stood Still

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Life in LA: The Death of Subtlety

I wonder how the clerks in this place answer the phone?

First came the infamous FCUK advertising campaign, then the silly-but-popular song “Fuck You”, and now this retail store down on Melrose Avenue here in LA. Or maybe it was the other way around – first the store, then the song. I really don’t know and don’t suppose it matters, because the message is the same either way: the art of subtlety -- on life support for the last couple of decades -- has now flatlined and can be officially declared dead.


If I'm beginning to sound like a broken record in these Wednesday posts, so be it: last week's "The Business" featured a terrific interview with Darren Aronofsky, director of "The Black Swan." I haven't seen the movie, and thus can't say whether it's any good (I'm not one to take the Oscar committee's recommendations as the Word of God), but the 20 minute (+/-) interview is fascinating, and well worth your time.

Among other things, Aronofsky discusses the difficulties he's had raising money and support for every one of his feature films, most of which have been successful. I should know better by now, but am still amazed at how hard it is to get a good, interesting, adult (read: non-fanboy) movie made in this town. My first reaction to Aronofsky's bleat was that this is terrible news: corporate Hollywood ignoring quality in favor of an endless string of instantly forgettable sequels featuring comic book superheros or giant robots hell-bent on trashing the world's cities just as Godzilla and Ghidorah once destroyed Tokyo.

The more he talked, though, the more I understood that a lack of studio support might not be such a bad thing. Left to their own penny-pinching devices, producers and directors are finding creative ways to get their films made without a crowd of studio suits breathing down their necks. Since they don't enjoy the benefits of the studio's financial torque, they don't have to bow and scrape to every over-caffeinated studio bean-counter who pulls up to the set in his eighty thousand dollar Beemer. The struggle to fund their projects forces the film makers to draw deeply from the creative well, stripping those bare-bones productions of any lingering fat or narrative indulgences. The result is often a leaner, better film.*

Such quality can pay off at the box office. As Patrick Goldstein pointed out in the LA Times last week, several of this year’s Oscar contenders were made on extremely modest budgets, but have done very well. The current favorite to win it all, “The King’s Speech,” cost all of $12 million, and has grossed close to $100 million thus far. “The Fighter” cost $18 million -- not one penny of that budget studio money -- but continues to sell tickets. Both movies figure to make a lot more by the time the Oscar frenzy -- and post-Oscar bump -- die down.

It's always been hard to make a good movie -- it was true in the 40's and 50's, 60's and 70's, 80's and 90's, and is just as true now. That good films still manage to emerge from all that lower-budget sturm und drang to find their way to the big screen -- and connect with a substantial paying audience -- is a good thing. In an otherwise gloomy media world, this provides a badly needed ray of hope.


It has now been three months since The Anonymous Production Assistant put up a new post. Just as I was thinking about sending out another APB, I happened to run into TAPA on one of the major studio lots recently. TAPA was alive, well, and working, but not posting for the time being. We talked about the reasons why, but that's TAPA's story to tell, not mine. This is just to let those of TAPA's fans who stop by here know that he -- or she (I'll never tell) -- is okay.

Personally, I hope TAPA resumes posting. I really enjoy that blog's smart, snarky take on life and work in this crazy town.

* One of the producers of "Battlestar Gallactica" admitted that his show wouldn't have been nearly as good if they'd had a million dollars more to spend on each episode. That money, he maintained, would have gone into more and fancier special effects, thus shifting the emphasis from the human dramas in the series to something flashier, but considerably more shallow -- and thus less interesting.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Grammys, again...

Sorry, mom...

This was a long week at work that left very little time to prepare a suitable post, so I'm calling a hiatus week. I’ll try to have something worth reading next time. Meanwhile, a brief rant on the Grammys...

My mom always used to caution "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," and although this is excellent advice for maintaining good social relations, it's not really possible when discussing the abomination that is the Grammys.

If the Grammys are any indication of the state of modern culture, Western Civilization is indeed doomed. Once again I tried to watch this annual exercise in bloated excess, and once again failed to make it through. By the time The Beiber and Will Smith’s kid started bouncing around the stage like couple of children doing a really bad karaoke duet, I’d had enough.* It might have been nice to see the weathered, leathery presence of Dylan and Jagger -- at least those old dinosaurs know something about actual music -- but the potential reward simply wasn’t worth enduring the very real pain. This show was Busby Berkeley on crack, blowing off any attempt at class or style in favor of endlessly frenetic arm-and-elbow flapping by armies of dancers under the dazzling lights. Again, the appeal of Lady Gaga eluded me, but she was hardly the worst offender. Until this show, I’d assumed Christine Aguilera’s embarrassingly lame performance at the Super Bowl was an aberration, but extreme and utterly pointless vocal gymnastics seem to be her stock in trade, and what define her as a performer these days. Her on-stage act says just one thing: “Look at me!”

She’s got one hell of a voice – everybody knows that by now – but she really ought to apply a modicum of restraint. Quantity is not the same thing as quality. Dial it down, sweet-cheeks, and give the audience a break.

Lucky for him, Shakespeare never had to sit through the Grammys, but his quote from “Macbeth” seems a perfect fit for last week’s show: “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

But don’t take it from me – read Tim Goodman’s flame-throwing review in the Hollywood Reporter. Tim strapped on his rusty barbed-wire cranky-pants for this one, and came loaded for bear.

Check it out...

* Forgive the redundancy. All karaoke is really bad...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Life in LA: Do-It-Ur-Self

While taking a walk one unemployed afternoon a while back, I came upon a Russian man -- white-haired and bare-chested -- working on a car. He was old, but had the stolid, sinewy, don't-fuck-with-me glare of a veteran who'd survived the Battle of Stalingrad.

Rather than the usual shade-tree mechanical chores, he wasn't changing a tire, replenishing the oil, or installing a new water pump, but building a new hood and front quarter panels for the car in the Really Old School mode, with a handsaw and lumber -- using what he had to make the necessary repairs. Working steadily in the summer heat, he finished the job in two days. If the resulting bodywork doesn't exactly match the factory specs (nor pass muster with the California Highway Patrol, I suspect), the car once again had a hood, bumper, and front quarter panels to keep out the rain.

Who knows what the story here really was, but this little two-door doesn't look like the sort of car an old Russian would buy for himself and his big fat wife. My guess is it belonged to a nephew, niece, or grandson who tore up the sheet metal in a traffic mishap. Rather than shell out three or four grand for repairs in a real body shop -- far more than the car was worth -- Grandpa Ivan volunteered to fix it for fifty bucks worth of materials.

Given that scenario, I'm trying to imagine the look on the kid's face when he came to pick up his "good as new" car... but hey, the price was right.


Last week’s “The Business” (on KCRW) featured an interview with Shawn Ryan, who rose to prominence on the small screen in his role as showrunner of FX’s ground breaking good-cops-gone-bad drama “The Shield.” Ryan doesn't always hit a commercial home run (his excellent but ill-fated show "Terriers" died after one season) but his shows are always interesting. The latest effort is a big budget Fox episodic called “The Chicago Code,” which looks good and tries hard... but maybe a bit too hard. Personally, I find the pretty and petite Jennifer Beals a hard sell as the top cop in the rough-tough "city of big shoulders." The setup feels very contrived, and this sense of manufactured drama taints the rest of the proceedings. More money and a much bigger production don't always make a better show.

It’s early, though – only two episodes in – and maybe the show will find a more natural pace and rhythm in telling the story of good people forced to work in a bad system.

“The Shield” was something else. Although I’m no fan of the “shakey-cam” shooting style, and found much of the show over the top, it was undeniably fascinating – once I started watching an episode, I could not turn it off. With a gritty, sweaty feel and excellent acting all around, “The Shield” was not a comfortable show to watch, but it was compelling. As the showrunner, Shawn Ryan deserves the credit -- and the story of how he made the pilot and survived the winnowing process to get a series pick-up is an object lesson in the value of taking risks and swinging for the fences in this town. That was a drama in itself. You can hear all that and more right here.

It’s a good one. Check it out...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Directors: Part Three

Do you want to do something, or be something?

All is vanity

Book of Ecclesiastes

(Anyone interested in the two previous posts in this series can find them here and here.)

A couple of months after my arrival in Hollywood, I was driving up Highland Avenue one miserably hot and sweaty afternoon when a brand new red Ferrari blew past me into the smoggy haze of the Cahuenga Pass. I caught him at a stoplight a few minutes later, where a close look at the personalized license plate revealed the word “AUTEUR” in big, bold letters.

As callow, uninformed, and utterly unemployed as I was at the time (having yet to break the ice in Hollywood with my first paid job), the sheer hubris of putting such a plate on a car like that – or any car, really – utterly blew my mind.

Thirty-some years later, while day-playing at one of the major studios, I spotted another shiny new Ferrari (this one a beautiful metallic gray) with a plate that read: “CRE8TOR.”

My first thought was that it must be the same clown -- or maybe his son – but then I remembered just how many shamelessly onanistic jerks there are in this town, growing like toadstools in the dark shadows beneath that big white Hollywood sign.

And more coming every day...


Every now and then I’ll spot a production assistant on a job who stands apart from the rest. Where most PAs (male or female) tend to act their very young age, a select few project an aura of maturity, humility, and confidence beyond their years. They go about their work in a business-like manner, unburdened by nervousness, reticence, or the false bravado and inflated sense of self-importance typical of so many not-ready-for-primetime PAs. These kids are going to make it in Hollywood – that much is abundantly clear. Smart and ambitious, they have a realistic grasp of what the Industry has to offer, and know exactly what they want to do.

And most of them want to be directors.*

It’s only natural. When I was in college, Auteur Theory and the primacy of the director as artistic master of the medium had captured the imagination of film critics and teachers alike. I don’t know whether this still holds in schools today, but even if he-or-she is not exactly an “auteur,” the director on a feature film set remains the boss.** Barring a clash with the executive producer over money,  directors usually gets what they want, so it’s no wonder that so many young people enthralled by the magic of film see their future selves issuing orders to a professional film crew ready to breathe life into their directorial vision.

They sure as hell don’t fantasize about carrying hundred-pound coils of 4/0 on their shoulders... but I too was once blissfully ignorant of such harsh Hollywood realities.

When I talk with one of these uber-production assistants -- once he or she has confessed the desire to direct -- I wait for the right moment to ask a particular question: “Do you want to direct, or be a director?”

This might sound like a meaningless chicken-or-egg parsing of words at best (or at worst, a truly stupid question -- after all, you can’t be a director until you have the chance to direct), but the aim is to probe a little deeper by rephrasing a more philosophical query: do you want to do something, or be something? Deep down, is your goal to put meaningful, heartfelt stories up on the screen, or simply to ride the magic carpet of power, prestige, and money that comes with success as a film or television director in Hollywood?

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Like every other serious human endeavor, directing is a skill requiring considerable time, effort, and ambition to learn. Ambition can be a squirrelly thing -- a boiling stew of complex emotions pushing up from the dark recesses of one’s inner self – but you've got to have it to succeed as a director. Even a hack director (and there are plenty of those around) must acquire a reasonable level of competence on set to make a living. Although modern digital technology has made it easier and cheaper to direct a film these days (so long as the would-be director can come up with a script, assemble a cast and crew, then beg, borrow, or steal sufficient financing), breaking into the ranks of Industry professionals as a working member of the DGA presents a formidably high hurdle.

When you’re playing with someone else's money, they tend to be very choosy about who sits in the director’s chair.

Given sufficient drive and effort, I suppose anyone can absorb the basics of the craft, but learning to be good will take a little longer. “Good” isn't the same thing as gifted, nor does brilliance always lead to a successful, happy conclusion (see: Orson Welles), but it’s a lot better for everyone involved when a director knows what he's doing. I’ve been putting my shoulder to the Hollywood wheel long enough to know what a difference a good director makes on set, be it a feature film, television show, or even a music video.

I've also learned what a long and miserable day it can be with a bad director at the helm.

I have to believe that those with a compelling desire to tell stories their own way are more likely to succeed in Hollywood than the kind of person whose large but wobbly ego needs to be stroked by having the power to yell at a film crew all day. When push comes to shove (and sooner or later, it always does), a deep passion for what you’re trying to do can be of immense help when slogging through the metaphorical mud. Those who possess such passion often have the right stuff to succeed, and a select few might even go on to break new ground in the art of film.

At this point you may be wondering what the hell a humble juicer (a neck-down workbot who toils on those incredibly irritating laugh-track sit-coms) is doing prattling on about the “art of film?” Good question. I don’t claim any artistic expertise in the cinema, but you can’t spend a life in the front-line trenches of Hollywood without learning a little about the medium, however unstructured and informal that knowledge may be. Although I’m many light years away from the giant brains of Pauline Kael or Andrew Sarris (the critics I grew up on) -- much less Manhola Dargis, David Denby, Anthony Lane, or Mick LaSalle (modern critics I read and respect) -– I know a good director when I see one on set.

Every Industry veteran does, and unfortunately, we don’t see enough of them.

And that’s why I ask the question of those promising young Production Assistants; I want them to think about what they’re really trying to do. If you’re a young person dreaming of becoming a director, I hope it’s because you want to tell great stories on screen. Being human, our motives for doing pretty much anything are impure at best, so if you want to tell compelling stories and wallow in the power of being Mr. Big Shot Director, fine – just make sure you know what you’re doing on set.***

Just as important, don’t turn into an asshole the process.

But whatever you do, do not be that clown admiring himself in the rear-view mirror of a ridiculously expensive car sporting such utterly lame vanity plates...

*  I’ve met a few of these uber-PA’s who want to be writers, and some on the road to becoming producers. I find that refreshing.

** Film is still a director’s medium, while television has long been the arena of writers and producers.

*** If you are an aspiring director, you might want to read this roundtable discussion with several prominent, successful young directors that appeared recently in the LA Times. It offers an eye-opening view of what it takes – and means – to be a director.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Life in LA: The Cigarette Woman

As one who was once addicted to cigarettes, but finally managed to quit, I understand the lure and appeal of smoking. And as a then-new ex-smoker (this was 30 years ago), I swore on the proverbial stack of bibles that I'd never become one of those well-meaning but incredibly irritating born-again non-smokers determined to convert all their lost soul (read: still-smoking) friends to the joys of a smoke-free life. Nor do I ever want to turn into a sour old crank like Andy Rooney, whose professional-curmudgeon act on CBS's "60 Minutes" was tiresome twenty years ago, and is even worse today.

So I won't.

Still, I don't quite understand the actions of this young woman, who I spotted on the way to work one recent morning. With a burning cigarette between her fingers, she's clearly a smoker, yet she insisted on keeping the smoldering weed outside the car (so other motorists can experience the pleasures of second-hand smoke?) until her lungs were ready for the next infusion of toxic burning chemicals.

Presumably she enjoys breathing smoke -- after all, she's a smoker -- so why not keep the cigarette inside until all but the filter had turned to ashes? Why assume this very awkward and possibly painful posture?

Back in the day, I kept my cigarette inside the car until I'd smoked it down to the nub -- then I put it out in the ashtray. Maybe her car doesn't have an ashtray, or perhaps she was afraid she might burn a hole in her blouse, or stink up her outfit with the stale reek of smoke.

I really don't know.

This didn't bother me -- I couldn't even detect the smoke from her cigarette through the famously noxious LA air. Besides, although the Health Nazi Goon Squad would pummel me with tough-love clubs made from organic, free-range hemp for admitting such heresy, I kind of like the scent of second-hand smoke. Maybe it reminds me of my youth.

This just seemed odd to me, but then life in LA is nothing if not odd.


If you’ve read this post, you know exactly how I feel about stunts and why. Still, although I haven’t enjoyed watching truly dangerous stunts since that ugly day, I have tremendous respect for the people who perform them, and love to hear their stories. So it’s no surprise that I was riveted by a “Fresh Air” broadcast this week featuring a long interview with Hal Needham, the acknowledged king of modern stuntmen – who by his own reckoning, remains the highest-paid stuntman in Hollywood history. Whether that’s really true or not, I don’t know, but this is a fascinating and highly entertaining interview. Whatever your feelings about stunts or stunt-people, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Patrick Goldstein had an interesting column in the LA Times last week, on the kind of people who make it big in Hollywood, where a degree from Harvard or Yale might help get you in the writer’s room of a sit-com, but won’t necessarily propel you to the top. That level of success requires something a considerably more basic than a fancy academic pedigree.

Needless to say, working below-the-line requires no such credentials. I'm trying hard to imagine some guy with an Ivy League degree hauling sandbags and mombo-combos or a cable cart full of 4/0 -- but no image is getting through the static. A fancy degree is just about the last thing anybody needs (or would want) when working in the trenches. But if you do happen to have such a degree hanging on your bedroom wall -- and have somehow fallen through the looking glass all the way down to the Hell-Hole of below-the-line toil -- I wouldn't recommend broadcasting the fact.

Believe me, you'll never hear the end of it...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Writers

“God is in the details.”

Mies van der Rohe

Writing is a mysterious art at best – a solitary pursuit of something so ephemeral that it seems to remain eternally out of reach, like a shimmering mirage dancing in the heat waves on the road up ahead. Given that one’s internal voice can be hard to hear over any kind of chatter, poets, short story writers, and novelists (as well as the humble blogger) generally work alone. Many feature screenwriters do as well, although some partner in tag-teams to avoid the vapor-lock of writer’s block that can leave a solitary writer stranded in the creative boondocks.

Writing for television is a very different animal. When a pilot for an episodic drama, dramedy, or comedy (single camera or multi-cam) wins the lottery of pilot season and gets picked up, anywhere from six to twelve scripts need to be churned out fast – and such an all-consuming task requires a group effort. Thus was born the Writer’s Room, where the scripts are “broken” and shaped in rough form before being re-written, fine-tuned, and delivered to the actors.*

I don’t know any of this through personal experience, mind you – while the writers of my show are sequestered in the Writer’s Room mainlining Starbucks to jam their brains into overdrive, I’m out on the set sweating and straining to hang lamps from the pipe grid. Much of what I’ve learned about the process of writing for television came from a blog called "Seriocity" (which has since vanished from the wilds of cyberspace, unfortunately), and Kurt Sutter's blog, while it was still active. As the showrunner of FX’s Hamlet-on-wheels biker drama “Sons of Anarchy,” Sutter is legendary for speaking his mind in an unfiltered manner, which made SutterInk many things – a bridge from the show’s creator to its many fans, a platform for Kurt to expose and rip the behind-the-scenes bullshit that makes it so hard to create anything truly good in Hollywood, and an occasional forum to discuss the hard lessons he has learned in life and the biz. In this post, Sutter talks about what it takes to make it as a writer in Hollywood – or anywhere, really. If his advice isn’t exactly ground-breaking (I read the same ideas twenty years ago in this terrific column by the always-entertaining Joe Bob Briggs), it comes from the heart and rings true.

I’ve been impressed with the writing staff of my show. Some fresh faces arrived with the 15 episode pickup a few weeks ago, bringing an infusion of energy that will be needed to carry us deep into April, and -- with any luck -- make it easy for the network to green light another season. Some among the crew are confident of our shared future, quietly nodding that “we’re good for a three year run, minimum,” but the hard truth remains that nothing is a given in this business. It’s a crapshoot all the way, but our chances of getting that second season would be nil without a really good writing staff. And for anyone tempted to dismiss the traditional multi-camera, laugh-track sit-com as the stepchild of some lesser writing god -- you don’t have to be a fan of the genre to appreciate the effort required to do it well. Crafting a 22 minute script with two intertwining plots, both of which come to an organically satisfying conclusion while providing lots of laughs along the way – and all the while suffering through a shit-rain of network notes – might not be quite the same as writing the script for “Chinatown” or “Citizen Kane, but it’s no easy task.***

We have good writers, and they deserve some respect.

Still, every week during rehearsals there’s a line or two of dialogue that just sounds all wrong. Clunky and awkward, these lines bang off the rim like a brick-shot on the basketball court. Such clunkers can be a redundant sentence that’s simply filling up space – and thus fails to further the comedic narrative -- or just a single poorly chosen word that curdles the tone of the entire scene. At best, these unfortunate choices leave only a brief dent in the viewer’s brain that’s forgotten with next good laugh line, but the worst-case examples can derail the momentum of a scene and interfere with the flow of the show itself. There were two such lines in a recent show that grated at me all during the blocking and pre-shoot day. I kept waiting for the writers to make the simple, seemingly obvious fixes to these lines, but nothing happened – and suddenly there we were shooting the scenes in front of the live audience, take after painful take...

There was nothing I could do. Under most circumstances, the unwritten protocols of on-set behavior preclude a member of the technical crew from going up to the director (especially not that director), producers, or writing staff during a show to explain exactly why and how this or that line should be changed. Violating these protocols once might be forgiven, but a second breach would likely send the offender out the stage door and into the gulag of unemployment -- so I just stood there trying to be stoic about the whole thing. Out of sheer frustration, I finally leaned over to our on-set decorator and whispered my own solution to a particularly egregious line. She thought about it for a second, then looked up at me and nodded. So I turned to one of the assistant camera guys and whispered the same thing. He nodded too. So did the other AC. As it turned out, we’d all been thinking pretty much the same thing – which is when I realized that the whole technical crew was aware of the problem with that line, but like me, remained silent. There are invisible lines in the sand that cannot be crossed without disrupting the established order of the universe –- so we stick to our jobs and keep our mouths shut.

There’s no winning in this kind of situation. Even if you happen to be dead right about a bad line, suggestions from below decks concerning anything other than your own department are rarely welcomed above the line -- and in that case, those ideas should be presented by the department head. Although it's seldom an accurate representation of reality, there’s an undeniable Upstairs, Downstairs class dynamic at work on set -- above-the-line is the brains, below-the-line is the brawn -- so unless you happen to have a very special relationship with one of the Brahmins on high, you’d better keep your bright ideas to yourself. This goes both ways, of course - a writer would never dream of approaching me with advice about how to hang, power, or adjust a particular lamp - but such an unlikely scenario recalls the tongue-in-cheek wisdom of Anatole France's famous quote: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread."

So what to do? Nothing, that’s what. The rules of the set dictate that you concentrate on your job and let everybody else do theirs.

Just as we were about to move on to the next scene, our two executive producers (the head writers) suddenly converged on the actors, scripts and pencils in hand – and lo and behold, the offending dialog was fixed just as we'd all hoped. The on-set decorator jabbed an elbow into my ribs and grinned. We shot the scene again, then went on to finish the show.

I can’t tell you how many times something like this has happened on a shoot night, and even though those awkward lines/poor word choices very rarely make it to broadcast, it always amazes me how long such clunkers can linger in the script - but nine times out of ten, they get fixed before it’s too late.

So the system worked again. Apparently I’ll have to re-learn this lesson every single week, but sometimes you really do just have to relax, let other people do their jobs, and watch the process unfold.

And that means trusting the writers to get it right in the end.

*Even then, the process never stops. New lines are delivered to the actors right on through shoot night.

** She’s also a fervent and eloquent fan of horse racing, the sport of kings, and (I must confess), a very attractive woman.

*** That is, both plots resolved in a manner consistent with the overall tone of the show and the characters – their strengths, weaknesses, and human flaws.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Life in LA: The Jet Man

And other items of interest...

LA is the land of cars, cars, and more cars. Where the car rules supreme, it's hardly surprising to see so many drivers who really are defined by their vehicles -- the well-heeled twits piloting monster Ranger Rovers (expensive, famously unreliable gas hogs extremely popular with a certain class of Angelenos), legions of harried, oblivious soccer moms yakking on cellphones as they careen through traffic in Volvos, mini-vans, and Chevy Suburbans, the occasional rich jerk preening for all the world in his half-million dollar Ferrari or Lamborghini (just the thing for a quick jaunt to Beverly Fucking Hills), and -- worst-of-the-worst -- those complete fucktards in new BMWs, driven with extreme prejudice by hyper-aggressive young lawyers and other overpaid societal leeches.

Then there's the man in the photo above, who I can only assume is a jet pilot when not driving his Lincoln LS V8. How do I know this? Well, there's the license plate, baseball cap, web site URL decal, and other items too small to see in this photo -- all proclaiming his allegiance to the "L 39 Jet" -- along with the pièce de résistance, a scale model of the airplane mounted in the back window.

You have to give him credit -- rather than allowing his car to define him, he turned the car into a mobile billboard to advertise the ultimate L 39 jet guy.

I have no idea what an L 39 jet is, or why anybody would want to fly one -- but hey, at least he drove up and over Laurel Canyon in a sane, controlled manner, unlike most of the other over-caffeinated idiots I'm forced to joust with every working day.

So L 39 Jet Guy -- whoever you are -- you're okay with me.


I stumbled across a couple of interesting blogs recently, very different, but both worthy of inclusion on this site’s blogroll.

The Black and Blue is dedicated to camera assistants and their craft. Evan Luzi is a young camera assistant -- fresh out of school, according to his bio -- on the east coast. Despite his youth and slim professional resume, he seems to know what he’s talking about.* His blog has lots of practical tips on assisting, along with interviews, film clips, and technical information about the latest digital cameras. The site doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, and looks like a good resource for any film student who wants to learn more about the camera department, or ex-students trying to break into the professional ranks of the Industry.

And speaking of cars, Do You Come With the Car? is something completely different. Offering an insiders view of the auto industry from a unique perspective – that of a model who works the car show circuit -- this is the kind of blog the Internet was made for: smart, opinionated, funny, and well-spiced with snark. Although there are no pictures of her (for obvious reasons), it’s a given that she’s great looking. Auto companies don’t hire average-looking females to adorn their shiny new cars in public. She seems to know a lot about cars and human behavior, painting a vivid picture of what it’s like to be a well-coiffed and oh-so-sexy piece of meat working in a role designed to attract the leering attention of hordes of young and not-so-young men. The results may be predictable, but as described in her crisp, articulate, and often scalding prose, they’re never boring.

This blog has nothing to do with the film/television biz, but whether you like cars or couldn’t care less, it's definitely worth checking out.

* Remember, I’m a juicer, not a camera-person, so it’s possible I’m wrong on this...