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, February 8, 2012

Voices from the Other World

Words to live by, on set or off...

It's been a while since I had the time or motivation to put up a mid-week post, but the manic pace of the past few months seems to be on the wane. The coming calm won't last long, of course -- pilot season will tie us all to the whipping post in Hollywood and beyond soon enough -- but even a brief respite will be welcome.

The vast majority of industry blogs I follow deal with some aspect of life below-the-line, but I recently came across a blog focusing on life and work in that Other World above-the-line -- not the lofty stratosphere of megabuck studio films, but the gritty realm of low budget features. As a writer, teacher, producer, and director (among other things), John J. Bruno has worked in the low budget world for the past 25 years, with the war stories and battle scars to prove it. Some of those stories can be found at Living in My Oblivion – a Life in Low Budget Films, an industry blog he’s been writing since 2008.*

From what I've read thus far, Living in My Oblivion doesn’t wallow in the snarky mud of lampooning the contradictions, absurdities and frustrations that provide the meat-and-potatoes grist for so many industry blogs, including mine. That's impressive. After so many years toiling in this business, it’s all too easy to slide into the stance of a bitter old grump -- indeed, I struggle every week to avoid becoming another angry Internet ape hurling verbal shit at the zoo keepers. Although I enjoy a good juicy tale of ego-driven insanity on set as much as anybody, there's a lot more to life in the industry than snarky stories, and in that light, John Bruno's positive (but realistic) attitude towards the biz comes as a breath of fresh air. With no particular axe to grind, his posts are the work of a true story teller, and as such, demand that the reader settle in and pay attention to fully absorb the lessons he offers. For anyone interested in the reality of working above-the-line in the low budget world, John's blog is a gold mine. Newbies, film students and industry wannabes can learn a lot from his experiences, while those of us who have done our time on low budget productions gain a further appreciation of what the producers were -- and still are -- up against when trying to make a decent movie on a limited budget.

A good place to start is a post titled Truth, Lies, and 35 mm Film, the introduction to an ongoing series detailing John's experience working as First Assistant Director on a comedy called Lucky Stiffs.

Living in My Oblivion is a terrific blog. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

* The title is a riff on the 1995 indie classic Living in Oblivion, a film the IMDB describes as the “Ultimate tribute to all independent filmmakers.”


And from a more familiar voice above-the-line -- in another of his weekly podcast commentaries on KCRW, veteran writer-producer Rob Long draws a surprising apt comparison between the experience of using a high-tech toilet in Tokyo and certain movies up for Oscars this year.

That's all I'm saying. It's a good one, well worth your three and a half minutes.


John the Scientist said...

Not the main topic of your article, but I lived in Japan for 2 years, and I can say thta Japanese toilets are awesome. Just be careful if you have animals.

My cat used to sit on the controler and inadvertently press the buttons. If you didn't check before you sat down, you never knew if the seat was going to be warm or blazing hot (they have seat warmers just like modern car seats) or if the bidet was going to freeze your butt off or give you third degree burns in an embarrasing place. Say, maybe the cat was an analogy for studio interference?

Michael Taylor said...

John --

Your cat-driven bathroom misadventures sound like a good B plot for a sit-com.

But you're right, the studio notes from the suits would probably ruin it...