Friday, February 29, 2008

Garlic or Cloves.

I just learned a writing trick. Its one I'm certain I've been subjected to many times without ever noticing. And that's why it works.

Most books tell you over and over again what things look like. Very few ever describe a smell.

When you say something smells like steak cooking, everyone knows what you're talking about. They may not get the exact same thing as everyone else, but they get something.

I'll be using this. Probably sooner rather than later.

Like a Sailor!

Yesterday, a bunch of people were answering a really long quiz about themselves on their blogs. I didn't take part in that but I read all of yours with interest. Eric, who is apparently pathological chose to misunderstand the whole concept with wonderful results.

I thought one of the most interesting questions was, "Do you swear a lot". My first reaction was, "In its time and place." I mean that seems like the most obvious answer for most people. But I saw answers ranging from "Almost never" to "Yeah, but I'm trying to watch that."

I really like language. I love seeing people make really good use of it...and that includes swearing in its time and place. I hate it when I see an adult swearing in the company of a child, or even worse, at a child. I think that's a form of abuse. I hate it when someone is in public and swearing loudly, just because that's the way they talk all the time. (If you've just been in an accident or had your wallet stolen, you get a pass.)

I'm always keenly aware of my language when I'm working. My job calls for me to speak to a lot of people, usually introducing myself to them for the first time. I wouldn't consider swearing in the presence of these people until I get to know them better. Likewise, online, I like to think I take my cue from the host of any blogs I visit. If I don't know the host's preference, I err on the side of caution. I may be wrong, but I don't think I've ever even used "hell" or "damn" on Shawn's site. It would just seem unforgivably rude not to watch my language there.

Polybloggimous, is obviously a free-fire zone. Swearing here is just fine by me...especially if its creative. If anyone were to ever start getting personal here, especially swearing at other guests, I'd probably just delete their comments. Once again, its all about being aware of your surroundings.

Like I said, this all seems so obvious to me. And for those who don't behave with this basic obvious bit of civility? Well, they're just cretinous Fucktards!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

On Books. Mine and Others.

Part One:

You will recall (I command it!) that Janiece asked me a while back how well Jeffry Deaver's Location Scout Mysteries represented the reality of the film business. In a fit of pique, I stomped on the first 53 pages of Hell's Kitchen. I've now finished the thing, and it was a slog.

The book only makes a few oblique mentions of film. What there is is mostly wrong. He makes reference to the "off-duty gaffers" on a film. Well, there's only one Gaffer on a film. By definition, its the "Chief Electrician or Lighting Technician" so having a gaggle of gaffers on one movie might be a little awkward. He refers to a Post-Production House as a "Post-Pro House". Never heard that one before. Its a "Post House", plain and simple. And I don't know where Mr. Deaver buys videotapes, but I've never seen two cassettes that would hold "20 or so hours" of material.

Anyway, the book continued to make mistakes about NYC; we don't have any "day-glo yellow-green" fire trucks that I've ever seen; grimy subway cars were mostly a thing of the past by the time this book was published in 2001. And I won't give it away, but the plot hinges on some of the most ludicrous swings I've ever read.

Did. Not. Like. (I will read Shallow Graves when I get around to it. I'm interested to see how he does when he's writing one that seems to be more firmly set in a Film Biz setting.)

Part Two:

I haven't posted a new chapter for "There's No Crying in the War Room" for about a week. Some of you have even chastised me which I totally take as a compliment, since it means you want more. This makes me happy. The reason I haven't posted is that I've been stuck. There's a new character who will be introduced in Chapter 35 and I didn't know enough about him to write him. All I knew about him was that he was going to be brought into the campaign by Darrell, who had known him when they served together in the Marines. I didn't know his rank or specialty or much of anything else about him. And a few days ago, I slapped myself in the forehead and said, "Schmuck. You have military advisers."

So, today, I had a really enjoyable phone conversation with Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station fame. (You could just change it to Kitchen to make my life easier ya'know.) Anyway, I now know a whole lot more about Senior Chief Warrant Officer Gil Shefflin and I think I can write him. And Jim earns a slot on the Acknowledgments page as military consultant...all errors are the author's yada, yada, yada.

And for those of you keeping score, in the last three days, I've had lunch with John the Scientist, gotten a prank call from Shawn Powers, received a shout out from Vince on live streaming radio and gotten advice from Jim. That's a pretty UCF-full week, if I do say so myself.

Watch the sidebar for news about Chapter 35 in the next couple of days

The Maine Thing

Some of you guys (and you know who you are), were just talking about Maine, which got me thinking about the last time I was there. I've talked (even recently) about shooting Iron Will in Northern Minnesota. I'm don't think I've discussed the fact that the winter we shot there, it didn't snow in Minnesota which is kind of a problem when you're making a movie about an epic dog sled race. OK, it snowed, but not after the first day of filming. So, for weeks, we would plow snow up from wherever we could find it, load it into trucks and have it dumped where we were shooting. Now on any normal movie, they'd have hired a "Greensman" to deal with this, but somehow it became my job.

Anyway, we needed some frozen rivers and waterfalls, and some really impressive vistas to finish the movie and we knew we weren't going to find those in Minnesota that year. So, a few weeks before we were scheduled to finish, I hired one guy to look in the Dakotas and Wyoming and Western Canada for some great locations and I went east to scout Maine and New Brunswick and Newfoundland. I won't go into detail, but its not only about finding something that looks great; it has to be shootable, too. If you can't get 150 people and four or five tractor-trailers worth of equipment to the location, it isn't going to do you much good. Needless to say, there are a lot of places that look great, but get rejected for some other reason.

So anyway my guy out west wasn't finding anything good and I'd spent a bunch of time looking at crap and time was running out for finding a location. Two days before the end of shooting the scenes they could do in Minnesota, I found two perfect locations in N.W. Maine, about 50 miles south of the Canadian border. If any of you have ever heard of Moxie Falls, that was one of the two locations.

Bear in mind, I could have FedExed pictures to the Producer and Director, but they had a charter plane booked and the trucks had to get on the road. If I'd FedExed pictures, they'd have arrived in Duluth about an hour after the production had to leave. So I'm sitting in the middle of nowhere in Maine, on one of the first movies where I was really a full-fledged Location Manager and the entire company (at great expense) is moving half-way across the country on my say-so alone. Sight unseen. To say that I was scared shitless would be a gross understatement.

While they were traveling to Maine, I still had some permits to line up. I had to go sign some paperwork for one of the locations and I got myself completely lost trying to find some guy's office, (which is a pretty neat trick in a part of the country that only has three roads). So I pulled into a gas station to ask for directions. I might as well have stopped in to "The Andy Griffith Show". This one guy in a pair of dirty Carhartts rubs his chin for a minute and then says, "Ya see that road yer on raht there"?

He won't say another word until I acknowledge that "I can see that road Ahm on raht there", so I say "Yes".

"Well, ya wanna go raht back out onta that road and keepa goin' the same way you were goin' when ya pulled in here."

"O.K.," I say.

"Yer gonna go 5 mebbe 10 miles til ya come to a barn on the left side o the road. Well, it ain't so much of a barn enymore, not since it burned back in '87, but there's still a bunch o burned timbers still stickin up. Ya can't miss it.

"O.K.," I say.

"So, when ya see the barn, you wanna just keepa goin' straight. Now another 5 or 10 miles and yer gonna come to a flashing yellow light. Just keep a goin straight on through there."

(Here, I'll truncate the directions just a little, ok?)

He continues, "So after ya pass that diner, there, yer gonna keepa goin' straight another 5 or 10 miles. Then yer gonna come to a "T" intersection where ya gotta turn either right or left. The buildin' yer goin to is the one that you'd hit if ya kept goin' straight.

It took him fifteen minutes to tell me "Go straight until you can't any more."

One of the other things I remember from our brief sojourn in Maine was driving an awful lot and sleeping awfully little. The nearest place with a hotel big enough for the whole crew was in Waterville, about an hour and a half south. On the last of four days of filming, we were supposed to shoot at a frozen lake. When we got there, it was snowing its balls off and the visibility was about 100 yards. Since the shot was all about a vast horizon, we had a little meeting and decided to go back to the frozen waterfall and shoot there instead.

Most of the crew were having breakfast at a place we had rented a few miles south, so I told one of my assistants to drive back there and tell everyone about the change of plan. Did I mention that cell phones were as useful as bricks in that part of Maine in the early 90's? So, Bob gets in his car and pulls out, headed north. That didn't trouble me because the road was so narrow that you sometimes had to go a little bit out of your way to find somewhere you could turn around.

Long story short, I didn't see Bob until about 2:00 that afternoon. It turns out he just completely spaced out and didn't remember he was supposed to be headed south until he got to the Customs booth at the Canadian Border. He said, "I really hate all the curves in the road. They make it hard to sleep."

Its Steal Janiece's Ideas Day.

In honor of Steal Janiece's Ideas Day...I like monkeys.

Well, Jim already used the good idea.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Continuing the Pimpage!

I now feel the overwhelming need to tell you how much Steger Mukluks RAWK! If you don't know what mukluks are, they're like moccasins, only they come in ankle-high, calf-high or knee-high. For all I know, they come in other highs that I'm not aware of. Mine have lasted something like 15-16 years which goes on the RAWK list.

Once again, things may have changed in 15 years, but mine have a felt insert and the sole is rubberized, but otherwise, its just me and dead elk hide. I love the elk I wear. Really. As I've said, I bought them in anticipation of spending the winter in Northern Minnesota shooting Iron Will. For you Philistines who haven't seen it, Iron Will is a Disney picture about a kid who enters an endurance dogsled race in the opening days of WWI. Its a good movie. Really.

Most of the crew ordered footwear from some clueless company in Northern California. They were called "moon boots". These folks were 5" above the ice and walked as if they had concrete on their feet. The fell a lot. I had mukluks and I could feel the world under me.

So, on Day 8 of shooting, we moved to the set we created on Munger Landing in Duluth. We were there because of a closed down section of railroad track where we could create a little town and station. (If you watch the movie, pay close attention to the piles of hay bales in most scenes that block the view of "Gina's Coffee Emporium" and other similar stuff. Trust me, we hid a lotta shit behind hay.)

Half way through the morning, we're about to overcome all of our PROBLEMS WITH WINTER and get our first shot of the day. I notice an old pickup truck driving out onto the frozen lake that's in the background of our shot. (O.K. its not a lake, its the St. Louis River, but its frozen.) They're headed toward an ice-fishing hut that the director has deemed acceptable for 1914, but the rusty 1975 pickup truck is definitely not O.K.)

So, I, Mr. Location Manager Extraordinaire hop on the nearest snowmobile to go intercept the locals and ask them to move the truck out of our shot. I get about 30 yds. out onto the ice when I notice I'm shooting rooster tails of water. Apparently, rivers don't freeze in a uniform fashion. The ice is thinner where the current is stronger. Next thing I know I'm up to my thighs in water. This is bad. I managed to coax the snowmobile back onto solid ice, but now, I'm soaked.

I figured going fast and getting the whole thing over with was the advisable course. Very soon, I discovered that I couldn't move from the thighs down. Frozen solid. And legs were freezing cold down to my knees. But the neat thing (and getting back to the subject), was, that even though my mukluks were wet through to my socks and even though they'd frozen to the consistency of steel, my feet were still warm.

This is an unsolicited testimonial to how ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL Steger Mukluks are and there is no expectation whatsoever that Patty Steger might want to grace me with a new pair.

Pimpage At Work For You and For Me!

Hey! Vince just pimped Stonekettle Kitchen Station (see comments, oops) and Polybloggimous on his radio show. The show is on every Wednesday night, live streaming on the intertoobs. Vince will tell you what time it starts (in comments, I'm sure), but it ends at 9:00pm CST. I don't know about Jim, but my readership in Minnesota instantly doubled. Yowzah!

I'm not sure if any of you read it in the comments thread a week or so back. but its appropriate that the station is called End of the Road. Ely, MN is literally the end of the road. If you want to go further north, you pretty much need a pair of sturdy hiking boots and a canoe. And I was there in the early 90's when we were shooting Iron Will in Duluth and on the Range. (That part of Norther MN is the Iron Range for the many many mines that were there. Not as much anymore.) Among other things, its an excellent place to buy winter gear when you're about to make a movie in Northern Minnesota. I've still got my Steger Mukluks (Knee-high Elk Hide, thank you very much) and they're the warmest most comfortable things I've ever owned. I'm pretty sure Steger has a website and you can order on-line. All things Ely, have my recommendation.

Oh, and BTW its pronounce EEEEE-LLEEE. They gets miffed if you get it wrong!

The Comedy Gold! Its Out There If You Just Know Where To Steal It.

I saw this in the comment thread on Ken Levine's Blog.

Do a Google Search for French Military Victories. Press "I'm feeling lucky".

Apologies to...nobody!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lunch With Science Guy, Pizza From Hell And Unrelated Things I Don't Know Enough About.

Yesterday certainly turned into an interesting day. For me, at least. As you all know, John The Scientist and I had lunch. We met at Dong Hai Restaurant on West 39th Street. The picture above is one that I took after lunch, aiming the camera at us and shooting blindly. I think it came out pretty good. John looks especially suave, don't you think. (John didn't ask me to conceal his identity, but if he wants his pictures out on the web, he'll have to post them first, himself.) (Also, if you can't see shit in the picture, the fault is all mine. Jeff and Michelle were both absolute heroes trying to teach me how to Photoshop.)

I promised to blog about how honest John has been with all of us. Answer?: Not so much. First of all, he gets no Redneck Cred in my book. No hint of an accent. No cute regional colloquialisms. Hell, he didn't even ask if there was squirrel on the menu. Also, I wouldn't go so far as to say that John's ever played dumb online, but I'm pretty sure he's a lot smarter than he's let on. Scary smart. We spent an hour together and I'm still not sure exactly what it is he does for a living. He's in charge of a bunch of people at a Major pharmaceutical company, and he gets to talk to the CEO about some new drug they've been working on for about 11 years. After listening to him tell me about testing procedures, let me just say I'm glad I'm not taking anything stronger than Tylenol at the moment. (Hey, John, you never told me which analgesic I can take if I feel the need to wash it down with liquor.)

John's past is every bit as interesting as he's hinted at and he promises to post some real stories of the KGB some time in the future. (I want the link to your other missing blog in my comment thread, BTW.) It sounds like he's got a terrific family and a terrific job, and he is, indeed a most interesting guy. I tried to goad him on politics, but unfortunately, he agreed with me on the one topic I floated. Next time I'll ply him with beer and see if I can't provoke an argument. Its almost certain I won't have the ammunition for such an argument, but it'll be fun anyway. He comes into Manhattan pretty regularly, so I'll get my chance.

What else happened yesterday? Oh, the Dominos-Pizza-may-be-the-AntiChrist Pizza Debacle. If you only saw the beginning, go back and read the updates I posted as the evening went on.

The absolute best part of the Pizza Debacle was when Shawn Powers, posing as Dominos Pizza Guy called and asked when I was coming to get my pizza. After I exploded all over the place, I could hear him wondering if the call had been such a great idea after all. (It was!)

Lastly, my lunch with John, (have I mentioned he knows stuff?), got me thinking of my education, such as it is. I graduated from a 4-year college. Got a degree. I've mentioned before that I basically scammed credits for working at an actual job and paid as little attention to the curriculum as I could get away with. I can't say I exactly regret that. If I'd paid attention, I'd have gotten a dubious education preparing me to be a film director. Since I never wanted to direct, I'm certain that would have been useless. Even if I'd wanted to be a director, I think that education would have been, at the very best, pretty narrow. So, now, I work on movies and learn about new subjects all of the time.

Work on Paradise for a few months? I'm now an expert on the shrimping industry. Work on State of Grace? I'm your man for history of the Westies. Work on Iron Will? I can tell you all about turn of the century railroading, dogsleds and working in extreme cold. The point is that I immerse myself in a subject for a relatively short period of time and learn just enough to be dangerous.

I'm pretty sure Amtrak needs me.

Dominos Pizza Needs to Rot in Hell

So, a few months ago, GF and I decide we're lazy and want pizza for dinner. And we're tired of, ya'know, the authentic pizzas we can order from any of the 6 pizza joints in the immediate neighborhood. So we ordered Dominos...on line. That's kinda fun. Well, I don't remember all the details, but the pizza was taking forever to get here and we kept getting their fucking call-center in Mumbai and they were either lying to us about when the pizza had left the store, or our pizza had been driving around Brooklyn for about an hour and 45 minutes, neither of which was acceptable. The kid finally arrived and I told them to shove their pizza and I ordered from one of the places I should have called in the first place.

Then I fired of the time-honored strongly worded email to Dominos customer support folks, who promptly sent back the time-honored, "We'll look into it" response. A few weeks go by and we want pizza again and I called one of the good neighborhood joints. For the fun of it, I found the "response" email from Domonos and zapped it back to them with a note saying, "We're having pizza again tonight, but not yours because you're still apparently looking into why your stores aren't capable of delivering delivery-pizza."

They sent me a nice note (yeah, right) with three $5.00 coupons (which will buy you about 3/4 of a pizza. Yay!

So, this afternoon, I decide I want pizza for dinner. I've got coupons. I'll get Dominos. Go onto their nifty website. Order pizza. Tell them I'd like dinner at 7:00pm. I receive the confirming email at 4:20pm. Nifty. I don't have to think about this again til the doorbell rings.

At about ten minutes after 7:00, I go back to the email confirmation. Click on the link to the "Pizza Tracker". See that my pizza was placed in a box at 6:41 p.m. There's nothing about it leaving the store. I figure maybe the Tracker doesn't update like every freakin' minute, so have a little patience.

7:30 rolls around. Call the number that's supposed to be in the store. Talk to the friendly guy in Mumbai. Get put on hold for 10 minutes. Talk to the guy who is in the store. He puts me on hold. While I'm on hold, the "Pizza Tracker" clicks over and says, "Your pizza expert Mahmoud, left to store with your pizza at 7:48 p.m." So, when the guy comes back on the phone to proudly tell me that the pizza is on the way, I tell him I don't want a pizza that's been sitting around for over an hour. Make me a new one and get it over here, puhleeeeze.

It's 8:30 now. I'm hungry.

Update: 8:45 pm. Still no pizza. Still hungry!

Update: 8:47. Phone rings. I answer. Guy with accent says, "Your pizza's been sitting here for like an hour. Are you coming for it or not." I holler, "Its a fucking delivery. You were supposed to have it here at 7:00. You're supposed to be a fucking delivery place." Pizza Guy laughs at me. Says, "This is really Shawn Powers, I read your post and just wanted to prank you."

Shawn is out of the family.

8:50: Still no pizza.

8:51: I realize I'm live-blogging a pizza delivery.

9:03: Still. No. Pizza. And Shawn, I notice their headquarters is in your neck of the woods. Would you go yell at them tomorrow?

9:10pm: Losing strength. Must hang on!

Update: 9:20. I call again! Where's my pizza. Tell the guy to call the kid and find out. He tells me the customer before me is paying with a credit card when he said he'd be paying cash. I say, "There's customers before me for my pizza at 7:00pm?????
Barely have the strength left to press "Enter"

Update: 9:31pm. Still nothing to eat, but I can console myself with this.

Update: 9:50 Call again. Where's my pizza? Its coming. When? Soon. Well, where is the kid now? Are you delivering to anyone else before me? Yeah one more customer before you. I hang up. Call Liberty Pizza. I'll send the Dominos kid back when (if) he gets here. I'll be sending Dominos their coupons back tomorrow. I won't have any use for them.

I'll also send them a link to this post.

Fuck Dominos. Really. Idiots.

Update, the last: It is now 11:05. Liberty Pizza brought a delicious pizza at 10:25 (less than a half-hour after calling them.) I am fed. I am calmed. I have Irish whiskey.

To clear up a couple of things. I like variety in all things including pizza. There are times where, what I want is a Dominos thin crust pizza. I like them. But since they don't seem to be able to get them to me, I won't be calling them in the future. (They never showed up.)

I never used any profanity with the real Dominos guy. (And Shawn totally baited me. Excellent work, young man.) The worst language I used with the real guy was when he told me that there was still one pizza being delivered before mine. I said, "Well after you screwed up delivering the first pizza, I'd think you might make this one a priority." He put me on hold again and I hung up at that point.

Like I said, when I send a real paper letter with their coupons back to them, I'm going to send them the link to this post. Could you guys act like you're a lot more people than you actually are? I need them to tremble at the scope of my reach.

I'll post about Science Guy tomorrow. Getting pizza is exhausting.

I'm Alive!

As I mentioned in the comments, lunch was successfully had and I've returned to Brooklyn with all my bodily parts intact. I will be filing the complete report shortly (hopefully). I am currently involved in a deathmatch with Photoshop. When I ask "How dense can I be?", the answer, apparently is...Very!

Chinese Food, Rednecks and Mysterious Personages.

Shortly, I'll be off to have lunch with John The Scientist, who has many aliases, many job descriptions and many mysteries surrounding him. This will be my first experience with meeting anyone I "met" online. Presumably, I'll be able to report back with all the info and with both my kidneys still in place. Just sayin'.

If by any chance you don't hear from me later today, please notify the proper authorities. :-)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Brachiosaur Wankbottom

NOTE: Today's post is patently offensive. Please don't tell me you're offended. Its offensive; I get that. If you're easily offended, this post is sure to raise your blood pressure. Don't read it.

I don't know if any of you have noticed, but one of the links I have posted over on the right side banner is the Random Name Generator. Its kind of neat and really useful if you're writing. It will give you male names or female names or both and you can set the obscurity on a range of 1 to 100 (one being common as dirt and 100 being Venusian).

So, then, over the weekend, I was introduced to The Insulting Name Generator. Now here's the thing. Most of these "random" whatever generators really are totally random. Works great for the Random Name Generator, but you'd like to think that Insulting Names would be, ya'know...personal. And they are! No matter how many times you ask it, "Wendy" will always come back "Herpesmonkey." I like that.

So anyway, what happens when you attack the Random Name Generator with The Insulting Name Generator. Let me show you.

Set the obscurity level at 15. You get:

Jannette Lannon
Derrick Calzada
Bette McCutcheon
Maurice Guntrum
Trudy Nishimoto
Elisabeth Halloran
Keri Lacoste
Jillian Sack
and
Herman Grear

Feed these folks to the Insult Name Generator and you get:

Odious and unpleasant child Klanlover
Mankdick Cheap lazy faggot
Bucket-o-piles Puppymuncher
Paraplegickicker Endometrium
Fucktard Humungousbottom
Penisbreath Onewhoswallows
Momfucker Extra-chromosome-special
Republican Slapfuck
and
Herpesmonkey Horsefather

Now granted, some of these are better than others, and the fact that Herman and Wendy get the exact same treatment is a little disappointing, but taken as a whole, I think the mashup of these two generators provides a highly valuable service. Is there anything the internet can't do?


P.S. A few days ago, I ran across this listing. To quote, it says, "An international film school is seeking a blogger to make regular entries on the school website. The blog would focus on the film, television and acting industries. Interesting news, current events, happenings and issues would be addressed in the blogs. Blogging experience or similar writing experience is a must."

So I says to myself, "I'm in the film business. I know stuff. I even blog." (well, not for long, but enthusiastically.) So I responded to the listing and included links to this site and to "No Crying in the War Room.", thinking that would let them get a look at my writing.

Something tells me that if anyone wanders over from there today, I won't be hearing from them.


Oh, and one more thing. Remember that site that gives you a film rating for your blog. I just went there after posting this and got a rating of PG-13. I guess if the swearing is really juvenile, they make allowances for that.

And The Winner is...

Chris! That's right Chris, you got 11 right and that makes you the winner. Jeff and Tania tied for 2nd with 9 correct. Kim had 8 and Shawn had 7. Tom came up with 6 correct predictions. Natalie, Janiece and Michelle brought up the rear with 4 (count 'em...4) correct answers.

Chris. Click on my profile and use the email button to send me your mailing info so I can send you your prize item of movie memorabilia.


And...The Results are in!

...But I don't know them.

Yeah, folks, I fell asleep before the last three awards were given. I'm on my 2nd cup of coffee and I swear, I'll look up the results soon and figure out the winner.

After the third cup. :D

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Legend of Al, John, Jack and Nathan

I got my first job working in the film business in 1980. I was a sophomore at Emerson College and I used to walk by this place on the way to my apartment in the South End. It was an equipment rental company and I'd stop in about 3 times a month and ask if they might need anybody. Usually, they'd just say, 'no', they were fully staffed. Once, one of the guys who worked there asked if I had any 'P.A. experience'. (P.A. I later discovered stands for Production Assistant.) I piped up, quite honestly that I didn't have any experience with public address systems.

They were suitably impressed.

How did I eventually get hired? I had stopped in again and gotten the standard response and was half way down the block when the owner hollered, "Hey kid. C'mere." It turned out that one of his employees had called in sick. He needed someone to drive a truck-mounted camera crane to New Hampshire for a commercial and wanted to know if I knew how to drive a stick shift. Well, I knew the principle behind the idea but had never actually driven a stick. I lied and said yes.

So, I managed to get the thing off the block without stalling and then proceeded to drive 80 miles in second gear. I worked there for 6 years.

This long intro is my way of acknowledging that I've got 28 years in the film business under my belt. With 28 years, I should have a bunch of stories about my experiences. Well, I do have a bunch of stories. I'm just not going to tell you most of them because, I'd like to continue working for a few more years if its all the same to you.

That said, here's a little story I can tell you. In 2002, I worked on a movie called La Leggenda, di Al, John, e Jack (The Legend of Al, John & Jack). Its an Italian movie, shot mostly in Italy, starring people who are really famous in Italy, speaking Italian. The movie is set in New York City in 1959, so they came to shoot the last three weeks in New York.

I'm letting myself talk about this one because 1.) I don't expect to see the Italian Director or Producer ever again, 2.) if I miss out on the 2nd time they show up in the States in 20 years, I can live with that, and 3.) I despised all of the Italians who showed up and refer you back to reason #2.

I've worked with people who's primary language is not English before. I've worked on commercials being shot by Mexican companies, Japanese companies, French companies and German companies. They've always gone out of their way to make sure that one or two of their people spoke English and kept the American crew informed of what was going on. The Italians didn't give a shit if we were up to speed or not. They'd babble away at each other in Italian for 20 minutes and then announce, "We now shoot John falling off the Brooklyn Bridge." They weren't the least bit moved by the fact that this wasn't in the script, had never been mentioned before and even if it had, there was no way I was going to be able to get a permit for the shot with anything less than a month's notice.

So we'd argue about the shot for another 1/2 hour until finally, I'd get one of the cops to tell them they'd be arrested if they went anywhere near the bridge without a permit.

Another fun thing was that they had, of course already shot most of their interior scenes in Italy. We were shooting exterior scenes to match what they had already shot. Now, its not at all uncommon to shoot an interior in one place, either a studio or a real location, and then "cheat" the exterior somewhere else. We do that all the time. When you're doing this, you need to 'match' some architectural features. When you shoot a lobby interior and see two large arched windows on the front wall of the set, you need those two large arched windows on the exterior front of the building. If the door opens 'in' to the room, it needs to do the same thing when you see it from outside. The way we usually do this is to choose the "real" locations first and then build the studio sets to match the features that need to match.

These guys didn't like doing things the usual way. For three weeks I had been sending them photos of building exteriors to stand in for the "Exterior Hotel" where the climactic scene would take place. They rejected everything I sent them without providing any reasons or guidance. Finally, when they arrived in New York, they showed me a photograph of the set they had shot in Italy. They pointed to the wood and glass revolving door in the picture. "Hotel must have this revolving door," they said. Ooookay!

Short resolution to the story? I found an appropriate looking building with a very close match to their 1959 period revolving door 5 days before we needed to shoot the scene. I got the permits to shut down a very busy block on the Upper West Side on a Friday night. I got the permits to make rain on the block and to have 30 1959 period cars driving back and forth in the shots. I got the permits for all of the gunshots that would be going on until 3:00 a.m. in a very residential area. I got the permits to use all of the BFL's (big fucking lights) that would be shining into everyone's windows when they all would rather be sleeping.

On the night of the shoot, while setting up the master shot on the busy NYC street that I'd transformed into a Hollywood backlot for them, the producer informed me that the director wasn't happy with the fact that there was a scaffolding in front of a building half-way down the block. He'd make it work because he was a professional, but he thought I should know how disappointed he was.

Yeah, you're welcome.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Still Time to Enter the Oscar Pool.

I said I'd run the Oscar Pool if we got up to 5 entrants. We currently have 7, so its on!

Anyone who still wants to enter, the deadline is Noon EST, tomorrow. (Yeah, Sunday, doofus).

I've also held out on telling you what the prize would be. Holding out no more!

About half-way through shooting Private Parts Howard Stern had just gotten over a persistent flu and had T-Shirts made up for the crew.

I'll post a picture tomorrow, but, in a bow to Winston Churchill, it says, "Day 45...This is not the end. It's not even the beginning of the end.. But I pray it's the end of the beginning."

Its "signed", Lance Eluction, New York 1996. This was the name Howard was using to register at his hotel.

C'mon guys. Genuine movie swag. Can you do better than that?

I Just Give and Give and Give and Give.

I ran across this last night and I find it entertaining on so many levels. The video portion is funny both intentionally and not. And check out that banner that says "Not Available in Stores"...right under the link telling you which stores you can buy it from.

Sheer Genius.

A Recap...With Updates...And Some Other Stuff!

Yesterday, the UCF and other invited guests chose mob names. This is the most disorganized organization I've ever belonged to. Excellent!

So, your Capo di Tutti is "Babycheeks". "The Consigliere" deems it so.



The other mob members are:

"Dima the Vodka Smuggler" (a useful guy to have around)
"Murph the Mick" (muscle disguised as a Hot Chick)
"The Bowl Carver" or "The Bowel Carver" depending on his mood.
One moll - GF
One Tong girl (Dima will provide the proper nomenclature)
"Mishka the Something or Another" (very high strung and armed)
"The Cryptic" (inscrutable)
"Tiny Tom" (liar!)
"La Argentina" (I got nothing)
and....wait for it...

"TaTas"

Update: "F-Disk, The Deleter" has put in an appearance. I'm fairly certain he's carried out some 'hits' for us, but he leaves little or no evidence. A valuable man to have in our corner.

We also had "Nat the Gnat, Jr." but she renounced that title possibly in favor of "Brainzzzz". All of this was done, incomprehensibly enough, on a thread about...snow. In the finest traditions of Polybloggimous, that means she wins! (No prize, but Monster cred!)

Update again: "Da Brainz" is officially enrolled. I need someone to volunteer for the first Zombie Watch. And Tom keeps muttering something about French Dip. Perhaps someone can offer him a sandwich?

Now, let us never speak of this again. (Shhhhh! The Feds might be listening.)

In other news:

I took a look this morning and its been more that 12 hours since there was a new post or comment on the 'e'. Jim has, apparently turned out the lights!

And what was that other thing tickling at the back of my mind?

Oh yeah....

Happy Birthday to meeeeeeee!
Happy Birthday to meeeeeeee!
Happy Birthday dear Naaaaaathan!
Happy Birthday to meeeeeeee!

Older and Shamelesser! That's me!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Gnat in the Hat.

Yesterday, over on Stonekettle Station, Mr. Wright posted his dainty thoughts about the scourge of internet trollery. As usual, a fine post. But then in the comment thread, things got ugly. People started claiming military titles to back up their future opinions. Others pointed out that they were already in possession of military titles and that their opinions trumped those of the other lesser ranks. Things were turning nasty in a hurry.

(O.K., it didn't happen like that at all, but its my blog and I get to make shit up if I want to.)

So anyway, I said I wanted a rank and Janiece had the temerity to say I could be TBFTL (Third bullshitter from the left), to which, in my usual measured and articulate manner, I responded, PPPBBFFBBBFFFTTTT!

Then, Mr. Senior Chief of the World, Wright, questioned why I'd want a military rank in the first place and suggested I might prefer something with a more "underworld" flavor to it. This thought has some merit.

Now, I won't claim any Sopranos-esque acquaintances, but I have, on occasion encountered grown men with names like Jimmy in the Kitchen, Bobby No-nose, and a personal favorite, Freddy Fish-face. I can now get behind the idea of Polybloggimous mobbing up. I will be your Capo di Tutti and positions are open for underbosses and other made-men (and women).

Use the comment thread to suggest my mob-name and to tell me what to call youse guyz!

Eric is free to choose a name, if he'd like, but we're going to have to keep his association strictly on the QT so he's available to be our mouthpiece if any legal difficulties should arise.

First Snow Worth Talking About.

Yes, I took these pictures through the front window because it warm and dry inside.




Local news is, of course, predicting the end of the world!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rate This MoFo!

Yesterday, I posted that I'd achieved an NC-17 rating here. BooYah!

This led to some other UCF members checking their ratings and posting them. (And subsequently, cursing themselves blue so they wouldn't be stuck with a G.)

Eric wrote a far ranging piece that exemplifies his fine writing in the brief time I've been visiting his blog. (He was probably writing terrific stuff before I knew about his blog, but hey, I haven't read the whole archive. Gimme a break.)

All of this led me to think about something I just noticed a couple of days ago. IMDB has a Parents' Guide I never noticed before. Like much of IMDB's content, its dependant on people contributing.

To IMDB's defense, they specifically ask contributors to stick to the bare facts and not to inject opinions. They're exact wording is:

Since the beliefs that parents want to instill in their children can vary greatly, we ask that instead of adding your personal opinions about what is right or wrong in a film, that you instead use this new feature to help parents make informed viewing decisions by describing the facts of relevant scenes in the title for each one of the different categories: Sex and Nudity, Violence and Gore, Profanity, Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking, and Frightening/Intense Scenes .

That's really about all you can ask of them when trying to set up a new feature.

Is it working?

Here's a comment about Bambi (1942):

"There's a scene where this other deer tries to steal Faline from Bambi so they fight. Bambi wins as usual because we all know that the hero always wins."

I don't have any decided opinion about this new feature, but I bet there are going to be some hysterical entries if you just figure out where to look.


I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the sky tumbling down.

Just in case you thought Fundamentalists Christians had a monopoly on nutso! TaDa!

Another Gift For You!

I got nothing at the moment, so go blow up some shit!

Crap! Really, I mean Crap.

A few weeks ago, I posted that I'd been an extra on a British TV show. I said there was "behind the scenes" footage with me portraying a character who wants to be a famous actor. I said I'd post the video (which I still haven't seen), no matter how embarrassing. Big Fucking mistake. (still working on solidifying my NC-17 rating).

Anyway, the producer, who is back in London, and still hasn't got a clue how to post video, ( I still love you Chris), sent me a couple of stills today. Here is one.

Disclaimers:

-It was really cold that day.
-Those glasses are new.
-I had to smoke the cigar for the scene.
-I am, apparently, an ambulatory nose.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Nathan.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Blog is Rated



My blog is rated R, based (I'm told) on the presence of the following words:

  • hell (8x)
  • fucking (4x)
  • hurt (3x)
  • shoot (2x)
  • ass (1x)
Two thoughts. The "shoot" thing amuses me. And I wonder if by doubling the incidence of these words with this post, I've knocked myself into the NC-17 range. I shall try harder.

Update: The answer is a resounding Yessssssss!


I Find Stuff So You Don't Have To. You're Welcome.

Two things kiddies:

There's still time to submit your Oscar Picks. The contest is now official with 7 (count'em) entries. Once again, hats off to defective yeti for supplying the entry form.

Also, I thought about blogging about American Idol, but there's just too many damned people in it at the moment. Maybe I'll talk about it later when they're easier to keep track of. In the meantime, I'll refer you to Ken Levine's Blog for your American Idol fix. He's a TV/Film writer who's been around forever and he's usually pretty hysterical.

The Location Scout Series: An Early Report

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked my opinion about Jeffrey Deaver's "Location Scout" series. I think it was Janiece who asked how near they came to reflecting reality. I wasn't familiar with the books, but said I'd check them out and report back. The series, as far as I can tell, follows John Pellam as he solves crimes. Pellam, also as far as I can tell, was at one time a Hollywood stuntman who became a Location Scout (or manager; I don't know yet.) which put him in situations where he'd encounter said crimes to solve. (Sidenote: I've scouted and managed locations all over the U.S. and in Canada for almost 20 years and I've yet to encounter a crime that needed my intervention but that's a minor quibble. I did once notice a small town about to burn to the ground and helped prevent it, but that's another story for another day. Neener Neener.)

So, anyway in my usual ass-backwards manner, this is what I did.

1. Go to Amazon.com
2. Do enough research to find out that Shallow Graves is book 1 in the series.
3. Order Shallow Graves.
4. Look for something else to order so my purchase will qualify for free shipping.
5. Pre-order Elizabeth Moon's Victory Conditions (Vatta's War #5) due out Feburary 19th.
6. Figure, 'Oh, I can wait'.
7. Stop into a bookstore a week later.
8. Buy Jeffrey Deaver's Hell's Kitchen, the most recent book in the Location Scout series.
9. Figure, 'What the hell', I'll read the last one first and figure it all out later.

I have problems with delayed gratification. I want it now.

So, anyway, I started Hell's Kitchen last night. I'm 53 pages into the thing and I've got a few problems. I'll start by saying that apparently, the hero, Mr. Pellam has now graduated from being a Location Scout or Manager to being a documentary filmmaker. (It could happen.) (Sidenote #2: I've also never met a stuntman who moved into locations, but since I haven't read the first book I'll withhold judgment.)

Mr. Deaver's bio says he was born in Chicago, attended the University of Missouri, and received a law degree from Fordham University (which is in The Bronx). He now maintains residences in California and Virginia. Reading this makes me think he should have a glancing familiarity with NYC since 1.) he went to school here and 2.) he can probably afford airline tickets.

I'd be wrong. Here are the things I've found annoying so far.

1. The story is set in Hell's Kitchen and centers around a documentary he's shooting about the lives of several people who live in a particular building on West 36th Street. Now, I'll admit that NYC neighborhoods don't have distinct boundaries. The edges are a little blurry. That being said, (and regardless of what Wikipedia says), I think most New Yorkers would agree that the southern boundary of Hell's Kitchen is around 40th Street, 38th if you want to be generous. I certainly don't think of 36th Street as part of Hell's Kitchen. So, O.K. I'm starting by being annoyed about stretching a boundary that isn't really drawn on any map, but why didn't he play it safe and base his story on a building on, say, 44th Street and remove any doubt about the neighborhood.

2. In the first chapter, he's in the building when an arsonist strikes. So, the Fire Department becomes part of the story. C'mon Jeffery. Everyone knows its FDNY, not NYFD. That's just fucking lazy.

3. He has his character walking through Hell's Kitchen taking in the local color. He refers to various stores, bodegas and delis in the neighborhood. He refers to "Managro's Deli". I don't know if he was making this up as a completely fictional place or talking about a place he vaguely remembers. The fact is, there's a famous inter-family feud that's gone on since the 60's over whether Manganaro's Heroboy or its next-door neighbor Manganaro's Grosseria Italiano, owns the rights to the "Heroboy" name. (Scroll down to item 28 on the link for the story.) If he was referring to the real place, he blew it. If he was making it up off the top of his head, he was too close to a real place-name for comfort.

4. At one point, he has a character explaining how you stay safe in NYC. He says, "You stay away from alleys". How many times must I tell you, there are six fucking alleys in Manhattan. We don't have alleys here. How about I rephrase that. Alleys, pretty much don't exist in Manhattan. (Yeah! I'm talking to you, you idiots who produced Look Who's Talking, in which John Travolta drives Kirstie Alley through a series of alleys to get to the hospital.) Get a clue. No alleys.

O.K. so far, I'm complaining about Mr. Deaver's lack of familiarity with NYC, not his familiarity with the business of scouting locations for a living. But I do think its relevant that his lead character doesn't know what neighborhood he's in. Anyway, on to the first doesn't know the business quibble. On page 33, Mr. Deaver writes:

"In his years doing location work Pellam had scouted in Manhattan only a few times. The local companies (my emphasis) largely had the business locked up and, besides, because of the high cost of shooting here the Manhattan you saw in most movies was usually Toronto, Cleveland or a set. The films actually shot in the city had little appeal to him - wierd little Jim Jarmusch student-quality independents and dull mainstreams. EXT. PLAZA HOTEL - DAY, EXT WALL STREET - NIGHT. The scouting assignments had less to do with being the director's third eye than filling out the proper forms in the Mayor's Film Office and making sure cash went where it was supposed to go, both above and below the table. (BTW, the punctuation is copied directly from the text. I could be wrong, but it seems a little weird in places.)

Fuck you, Mr. Deaver. First of all, the local companies never get any feature work. They do commercials that are too lazy or hurried to hire a scout. Features are handled almost exclusively by freelance independent Location Managers and the scouts we hire. Feature directors don't want to shoot the same place that was in somebody else's movie. They want you to go out, start from scratch and find them new stuff. They don't want to see any fucking files. Second, yes, as I've mentioned, some pictures shoot in Toronto (or Cleveland?) and then come to NY for a week of exteriors. More often than not, however, the whole fucking movie shoots here. Ever heard of Law and Order (all of them), Midnight Cowboy, Vanilla Sky, Serpico, French Connection, or Spiderman, just to mention a few student - quality independents?

So far, I'm not blown away. I'll file a final report when I've finished it and assuming I'm not too pissed off, I'll read Shallow Graves and report back on that, too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Stupid Things That Bug Me #3

Bookstore Discount Cards

Before I begin, let me assure you that I understand why bookstores offer discount cards in the manner they do. I just don't like it. I'd rather whine about it. Feel free to refrain from injecting logic into the conversation.

Years ago, I had a Waldenbooks in my neighborhood. I was something of a regular and every time I went to the counter, they'd give me the hard sell on getting one of their discount cards. For a long time, I was resistant, nearly to the point of belligerence. The deal was that you'd buy the card for $10.00 and start saving 10% today! Well, no, not really. If I was buying, say, $30.00 worth of books that day, what I was saving would be $3.00 off the price of the card. I was still giving them $37.00 for my $30.00 worth of books. My attitude (which I manfully kept to myself), was, 'Hey, if you want to give me a discount, fine. Give me the card for free and then track my purchases with your mighty databanks and then start giving me a discount after I've spent $100.00.' That shouldn't be too hard.

Eventually, I knuckled under and bought the damned thing. My neighborhood Waldenbooks closed shop 3 months later. I don't remember if I ever fully recouped the price of the card.

Now, I have a Barnes & Noble in my neighborhood. (Actually its only in my neighborhood if you consider a 1/2 hour walk or a 15 minute bus ride in the neighborhood.) But it is the closest bookstore, so I go there. They have the same deal that Waldenbooks used to have except that now, I think, its $25.00 for the card and I'm not sure what the discount is. I have resisted!

I did accept the Border's discount card because they give it to you for free! It turns out that its a useless piece of shit. Regardless of what you spend, you get...wait for it...no discount at all. What you do get is a coupon. The coupons are always different. Once it was a coupon for a discount on your next order from flowers.com. Once it was a coupon for a discount off of list price for any hardcover purchase made at a Border's outlet (not good on Borders.com). The one thing these lovely coupons have in common is that they all expire in 15-20 days. So, thanks Borders. In exchange for spending money in your store, you'll offer me a discount if I buy more books before I've had a chance to finish the books I bought today!

I'll remind you that appeals to logic in this thread will be met with a serious FOOMing from the Gas Grill of Retribution. You've been warned!

Monday, February 18, 2008

This is a Liza-Free Zone



Yesterday, in a comment thread, Mr. Nelson said,

"Really? An Oscar Pool? Never heard of such a thing. I am so freaking Republican. I have
really got to branch out and find my "Inner Liza"."


I responded,

"I'll tolerate your right wing leanings, but don't go spouting Liza crap here. She's not
permitted here unless you've got disturbing photos. Liza freaks me out."

I feel the need to expand on this policy (since y'know, I've never mentioned it before).

There are certain people I consider too creepy for words. In much the same way that I'll turn away from the TV when they're showing a liposuction wand being rammed in an out of a thigh, I get squeamish when certain faces show up. They include, but are not limited to:

This Guy


And This Guy


Remember Her?


She Gets A Lot Of Press!


These Two Have Been Haunting Us Way Too Long!

So, please. If you feel the need to talk about, refer to, allude to, cite, quote, or otherwise speak about anything related to these people, please do it elsewhere. This is a Liza-Free Zone.


These Lovable Guys, However, Are Totally Welcome Here!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Brain is Giving Me the Silent Treatment.

I've been trying to write the next chapters of "There's No Crying in the War Room" and my brain is not cooperating. Those of you who have been reading are aware that the odd chapters are all told in the First Person while the even chapters are told in the Third Person. Every once in a while, I've started the next chapter and said to myself, this part of the story needs to wait for a "Third Person" chapter to work well.

This is my current problem. Chapter 34 is practically writing itself. Chapter 33 refuses to tell me a lot. So let me ask the writing pros out there this question:

Is is considered poor form to have a chapter that says, "Nothing happened here. Move along."?

Does Anybody Care?

I was sitting here this morning thinking I should just cancel my Oscar Pool due to lack of interest, when my email dinged. Wow! The second entry. And its from a lurker. I haven't got a clue who this person is.

So, anyway, you've got until Noon EST, next Sunday, February 24th to enter. I still don't know what the winner is going to win, but I promise to make it something that doesn't suck. The only thing is...if I don't get at least five entries, I'm gonna cancel the thing.

Once again, thanks to defective yeti for providing the wherewithal to run the pool.

FYI, Why, you may ask does this post get a PB tag? Simply because I've decided that PB is now the GMT of movies. Henceforth, when contemplating any motion picture, its place on a scale that compares it to PB shall be de rigueur. Go ahead. Find the flaw in that logic.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reason #37 My GF Rawks!

GF: Wanna watch a Netflix tonight?

Me: Sure, what have we got?

GF: ::looks in envelopes:: We have Bobby and Snakes on a Plane.

Me: Your choice.

GF: Snakes on a Plane!

Lunacy. Round II

So, I've had and rejected a few different ideas for the next Lunatic Challenge to throw out at you guys. And really, we all deserve some more lunacy sometime within the next few weeks.

One idea that I keep coming back to is an Internet Scavenger Hunt. Now, I'm not talking some pansy-assed educational thing where you do searches and answer questions. Fie on that.

Now, I haven't figured out exactly how this should work yet, so I'm open to suggestions Here's what I've (kinda) got so far.

The idea will be to collect something from a list we'll all be working from.
-comments from strangers?
-pictures of items you get from non-participants?
-??

Whatever is being collected, it only counts if you get it from people who are not linked on your blog. (poaching from other people's links would be permitted.)

If it's pictures (or something like that) being collected, we'd produce a list of, say 20 things? The game would go on for one week and whoever collects the most items would be the winner.
(Just getting stuff off the net wouldn't count, you have to actually communicate with a person who provides whatever it is we're looking for. I think the honor system might need to be in play).

As a side idea, each participant could throw Ten Bucks into a pot, winner take all.

As always, I thought this through in a thoroughly half-assed fashion. I think there's a good idea in there somewhere, but I haven't really rooted it out yet. I hereby through the suggestion box open for contributions.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Have you Loured today?

Its not at all unusual for me to look up a word I see in a book I'm reading even if I get the gist from the context. Its almost unheard of that I see a word and say, "thats a word?"

p. 274 of Undertow by Elizabeth Bear: "The sky was already louring, the moon-glow only permeating a few threadbare places in the overcast."

Louring. Never seen the word before.

Go ahead, look it up yourself. (Or, feel free to let me know that you've known that word since the age of three and use it in conversation on a regular basis.)

Could we be doing this wrong? The abridged version.

Sooner or later, I'll post a more comprehensive version of this, but I've got a bug up my ass today for some odd reason. So, here's the quick "pull it out of my ass" version.

The object of Terrorism is to...terrify; to make your victims react to the fear that it will happen again by changing how they go about their daily lives. I'm not sure if the Terrorists have achieved their goals, but if not, our own government sure did pick up the ball and run it into the end zone.

Here in NY, every bridge and tunnel has multiple police cars parked on the approaches watching traffic 24 hours every day. Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal all have National Guard troops patrolling. NYPD has spent millions to run ads saying "If you see something, Say something." (Have they actually ever found something?)

Air travel today makes you long for the days when complaining about tiny bags of pretzels was the big complaint.

Civil Liberties become more eroded on a seemingly daily basis.

We're bogged down in a war in Iraq that was sold as a response to terrorism and is pretty much established in everyone's mind as never having been about terrorism at all.

We're mostly ignoring the conflict in Afghanistan that should have remained the first priority all along. And things continue to be pretty messy over there.

Remember daily anthrax scares? God forbid someone spills any sugar in the breakroom.

The thing is, are any of these measures actually achieving anything? What's preventing a terrorist from boarding the train in some suburb and then riding it into Manhattan? Will the guy patrolling Penn Station have any effect on that? Why the hell should I get used to seeing soldiers and police patrolling civilian spaces with M-16's?

The Administration likes to preen about the fact that there hasn't been another attack on US soil since 9/11. Maybe I don't know because its all a big secret, but can anybody tell me of one attack all this money, effort and fear has prevented? If I recall, Richard Reed failed because he wasn't a very good bomb builder and his fellow passengers didn't take kindly to a guy trying to light his shoes on fire at 30,000 feet.

When I lived in Israel in 1978, the reaction to a bombing at a movie theater would have been...to go see a movie. You defeated terrorism by refusing to be terrified.

I'm not saying we should be doing nothing, but I think there's a serious case to be made that we've reacted in a knee jerk fashion that doesn't serve us or anyone else well. Like I said, this is the "pull it out of my ass" version, so its probably got some holes in it. But then again, I think this Administration's version of Homeland Security may be their "pull it out of their asses" version.

Might be some holes in there too.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

How To Make Your Murderous Rampage With A Meat Cleaver Stand Out From All Of The Other Murderous Rampages With A Meat Cleaver

On Tuesday, evening, some guy showed up at a psychologist's office on the Upper East Side and killed her with a meat cleaver. He also stabbed a neighboring doctor who showed up to investigate the noises he was hearing. There's videotape of the killer arriving and leaving the building.

He was apparently well prepared for the killing, having arrived with duct tape, the cleaver and nine different knives. This story says,

"The suspect left behind a roller suitcase filled with adult diapers and women's clothing - including blouses and slippers - and a smaller second bag containing eight knives, rope and duct tape that were not apparently used in the attack..."

Frankly, I wasn't following this story very closely, 'cause hey, meat cleaver attacks just ain't what they used to be, outragewise. Even the adult diaper angle wasn't getting me. C'mon, loonies out to avenge themselves seem to involve adult diapers every other day. Big Whoop!

But, now, I'm all over this case. Listening to the news just now, I heard that they're questioning a man in Pennsylvania in the case. And how did they track this guy down? It seems that this particular brand of adult diaper is only sold in this one small town in PA. Who know there was a market for boutique adult diapers? Micro-diaperies?

GF's theory is that they're special Amish diapers.

I'll update you as I hear more.

Another Boring Post About Working Waaaay Behind The Camera

I've mentioned that I got my start in the Film biz working at an equipment rental house. In Feature Films, its almost unheard of for a production company to own its own equipment. Paramount and some of the other studios, have trucks full of gear, but usually that stuff is already working in their studios, so when there's a Paramount picture shooting somewhere else, they'll rent equipment locally. Most productions are being done by a company that's formed to make the one movie they've got in production and then one of the major studios is only involved as a distributor. So, in most cases it wouldn't make any sense for a production company to actually buy a few tons of expensive equipment that they'll only need for a couple of months.

Hence...equipment rental houses. To further complicate this system, some equipment manufacturers won't sell their equipment. They choose a few rental houses spread around the country to be their licensed distributors and then lease the gear to only those rental houses. A couple of examples of that arrangement are Fisher and Chapman camera dollies.

So, anyway, years ago, a friend of mine went to India to shoot a film. He's a cameraman and also owns a Camera Rental House. Arriflex is one of the camera brands that you can actually buy and his rental house owned a number of them. Logical man that he is, he figured, I'll take my own camera to India and save a bundle.

So, he and a few other people packed up and flew to India. Their schedule had them arriving in time to do a week worth of scouting and other prep before they'd actually start shooting. They thought that would be plenty of time for their camera to clear Customs.

Now, here's the thing. India has a thriving film industry. You've heard of Bollywood, right? It turns out (at least back then), that because there's 15 - 20 official languages and hundreds of distinct dialects, they'd shoot the same movies over and over again in a variety of dialects. So, there's plenty of equipment already in Indian rental houses. And India wants you to rent your stuff from them.

Two days from starting filming, their camera was still stuck in Customs so they rented a camera locally. They called the guy in customs once a day during their two week shooting schedule. The camera cleared Customs late on their last day of filming.

When they went to pick up the camera (to ship it back to the U.S. unused), they met the lovely Customs Officials who had been inspecting the camera. It turns out that Indian Customs has a few employees who are technicians, trained by Arriflex, MovieCam and Panavision. They had completely disassembled the camera and catalogued every nut, bolt, screw, spring and other component of the camera. Then they put it back together in the best condition it had been since leaving the factory.

The lesson? If you want to know how long it takes for a camera to clear Indian Customs, the answer is "three hours less than your shooting schedule". On the bright side, its a great way to get a free overhaul.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Update on "There's No Crying in The War Room". And A Cat!

Update on the Update: I've just put up Chapters 27, 28 and 29. While revising them, I realized they really hang together and it wouldn't be good to post them one at a time. I hope you'll like them.

When I first started posting chapters of "There's No Crying in The War Room", the feedback I got was that there was way too much exposition in the first chapter. I was told that the pacing improved in Chapter Two, but I'd need to fix Chapter One to get the average reader that far.

I was...resistant. Maybe stubborn. Possibly just a tad hard-headed. O.K., an obstinate jerk.

Well, I've seen the light. Its my intention in the next week or so, to revise Chapter One. I'll be pulling a lot out of it. Since I like a lot of the things I'm cutting, I hope I can find other places in the story to drop some of the snipped snippets. If not, I'll mourn their passing, but I won't shove them in somewhere they don't belong.

As I've said before, I'm more interested in getting to the point where I'm writing new chapters (we're getting close), but I'm now resigned to the importance of getting Chapter One squared away. I wouldn't want to think that people are dropping in and then never returning because Chapter One put them off.

So anyway, those of you who tried talking sense to me, Thanks. A tiny bore-hole has opened up in my rock-hard head and the message has wormed its way to my frontal lobe.

And now for your entertainment, I present Oliver Henry (or just plain Ollie).

He's the one I mentioned was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Until a few days ago, we were having to force-feed him a smelly gruel. He was pretty resistant to the whole experience but apparently we were getting enough into him because on his last vet visit, he had gained some weight.

Well, a few days ago, he started doing this thing where he comes and finds us and gives us a look that says, "Yo, I've got a reservation. Is my table ready?" Now, he's eating on his own. Yay! There's a catch though. He won't eat straight from the can, it has to be from that little tupperware bowl. And he won't eat if you put the bowl on the floor. When you do that, he sniffs at it and make pawing motions as if he's prepping the litter box for a deposit. But if you pick him up and put him on the counter with the bowl, he goes to town on it.

We repeat this process 5 or 6 times a day. Its a huge improvement.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And I just shoveled the first snow of this winter.

It took Ten Minutes.

:D)))

Shameful Secrets. Let Me Tell You Mine.

(And I just can't wait to see what kind of hits that title gets me.)

My shameful secret is...drumroll...I love American Idol. Yes, dammit, I said it. I totally love this show. I have no idea how many seasons it's actually been on and I missed the first bunch of seasons 'cause obviously, I was too cool for American Idol. I don't know what got me to watch my first episode, but I've been hooked ever since. I haven't decided whether or not I'll be blogging about the show. I mean I'm sure I'll say something every now and then, but I don't know if blogging about it will be a regular deal here. I'm certainly not going to start blogging about it at this point, because there's still like Seven-Thousand contestants in the thing.

But, hey, Simon's been mean, Paula's been vapid and Randy's said "Dawg" like Five-Hundred times already. What's not to love.

The upside to blogging about it would be...I have no idea. A cheap subject once or twice a week? That's worth considering, isn't it? There actually are a few stand-out voices this year. I mean, hey, there could actually be some hot-shit performances. I like hot-shit performances. Also, with the types of voices some of these kids have, they might actually choose some songs that don't suck.

The downside to blogging about it...could be myriad. My massive audience might not give a shit about American Idol. In fact, my massive audience might be totally alienated by blog posts about American Idol. Hey, I know that as a Technorati "C-List" Blogger, I've got responsibilities. And I take my responsibilities seriously.

I also have concerns for what sort of riff-raff, looking for their 300th Idol post of the day, might drift in here.

Obviously, this will require some serious thought. And cookies.

Hey Look At This!

I ran across PicLens while searching Firefox addons yesterday. I haven't figured out all I can do with it yet, but just a quick run through Google Images using it was very cool. Take a look.

Another Day, Another Blog Post

So, here we arrive at that hour of the morning, where, inevitably, I say to myself, "Self, Self I sez, you haven't posted a blog entry today. What are you gonna write about? Huh? Huh? Huh?"

While repeating "Huh" over and over, Self also pokes me in a most annoying fashion until I either come up with something absolutely brilliant to post about or just start typing and noticing that whatever they say, there are words showing up on the screen. Words showing up on the screen indicates accomplishment. Yeah, I'll go with that.

Today, let's talk about film budgets.

You may or may not have heard the terms Above The Line and Below The Line. In film budgets there is a literal line that separates two general types of expenditure. Above The Line, you'll find things like the Producers' Fees, Story Rights, and the big one: Star Salaries. Its not unusual for the Stars Salaries to represent a highly disproportional percentage of the total budget.

Below The Line, you find everything else. The equipment you need to rent, the crew in every department, the caterers and the cost of meals, the sets you'll need to build, the cars you need to rent, the hotel rooms you'll need, gas and tolls...everything. In other words, the Below The Line budget is the amount of money you've got to actually make the movie.

The way I get work is that usually I'll get a call asking me if I'm available for a certain period of time. If I am, the next part of the conversation is where they'll tell me a little bit about the movie; what's it about, who's directing it, are there any stars attached? This is all information that I'll take into account before I decide whether or not its a job that interests me. At some point when I feel comfortable enough, I ask the Big Question? What's the budget?

For a long time, I was hesitant to ask the Big Question because it seemed...a little personal. Like, what business of mine is the budget. I got over that quick. Knowing the budget tells me a lot about what kind of job it will be. Will I have enough money to hire a good staff? Can I afford reasonable fees for the locations I'd be trying to find? Is there adequate money for all the behind-the-scenes unglamorous stuff that needs to happen every day? So, I no longer hesitate to ask the Big Question.

Furthermore, once I've asked the Big Question, I ask what part of that is Below The Line, because frankly, that's the only number that matters to me. Once, I was having this conversation, and after being told that the budget was in the "Ten Million Dollar range", I asked about the Below The Line. The producer's assistant I was speaking to said something unintelligible. I asked him to repeat himself. He mumbled, but this time I was able to decipher that the Below The Line on this Ten Million Dollar picture was less than Two Million.

I didn't take that job. (In hindsight, I don't have any recollection of that movie ever being completed or released.)

On another front, there's a blog called Life Below The Line that I like. Its written by a woman who works in the sound department for films and TV commercials. She's anonymous because, as she says, "you can't afford to piss people off when you need to eat." (I figured out who she is once, and I've worked with her, but since then I've forgotten who she is, so she's in no danger of me spilling the beans.) She doesn't post very often, but I usually enjoy her posts, so hey, go have a look.

I had one other thing I was going to talk about today, but I see I've met my bloggerly duty with enough words, so I'll save the other thing for another day. Woot, a stashed away post idea.

Technorati No Longer Spits in My Eye

Since I've gotten one more link Technorati has upgraded me to the C-List. Since I have to do this ten times over before I move up to the B-List, you don't have to worry about hearing more on the subject any time soon.

C-List Blogger

C-List Blogger

Monday, February 11, 2008

HIstory


While trying to figure out what to blog about, I ran across this picture my brother sent me a couple of years ago. The guy with the arrow pointing at him is my grandfather (mother's side), Samuel J. Thier, (January '01 - November '77). I believe this shows a group of laborers who worked on the 6th Avenue Subway line which would make him about 35 years old in the photo.
I have no idea who anyone else in the photo is, including Mr. Coat & Tie, Boss-man type in the back left.

For some reason, I have my grandfather's wallet. Contents: Florida Driver's License (expiration in 1981), an undated deposit slip to a checking account at Marine National Bank ($265.09), a receipt from his cardiologist ($75.00), a receipt from Winn Dixie The Beef People, ($1.49), a "Conditions of Admission" to Baptist Medical Center (11/29/77), an undated picture of me and 10 other "grandchildren" (I'm guessing '74 or '75 by looking at the picture; my hair is way below my shoulders). a "Permanent Voting Registration Identification Card" (D), a Health Insurance Card (valid 7-1-66) with my grandmother's name hand-printed in (Runny).

Any point to this? Nah. I think its a neat picture. He looks happy to have had a job.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Text Messaging. The Location Manager's Best Friend.

Crowd Scene from Ghandi
I told you recently about how I was an extra in a scene from my last job. I told you how I almost always say no when asked to be an extra in a scene. I didn't mention that one of the reasons I usually say no is that I despise extras and prefer to stay as far away from them as possible.

Let's analyze my hatred of extras. I think its an entirely rational hatred. YMMV.

First, let's define the job these folks are doing. They are there to populate the background of the various scenes we'll be shooting. You can't just go willy-nilly putting innocent passersby into a scene. You'll get sued. You also can't get innocent passersby to walk through the background from the left side of the frame to the right side of the frame precisely when the lead actress says, "Yes, Jorge, I'll be your wife." over and over again, for hours and hours. The fact that the top of the frame cuts off this particular extra at the shoulders is of no concern. This extra is going to be in the movie (headless) and s/he is thrilled.

Later in the day, we'll be shooting a scene that takes place much later in the movie (possibly months in script time), so this extra will take off the heavy jacket s/he was wearing in the first scene and walk through the background wearing a T-shirt. (It's still 6 degrees out on the day we're filming, but fuck 'em, they're extras. Let 'em suffer.)

So, assuming you think you might be shooting your first scene at 8:30 a.m., the Assistant Directors (A.D.'s) will set the extras' call time at 6:30 a.m. That's because someone has to look at them and decide that the "old lady with little yappy dog" is, in fact old lady-ish enough and that the dog is yappy enough. Its also good to discover that the guy who's supposed to be driving a car in the background can, y'know...drive a car.

Because of the fact that we need to have the extras change clothes between scenes, they all bring their entire wardrobe to work with them. And they bring stuff to read because they'll be sitting around in the Holding Area for more of the day than they'll actually be working in front of the camera. They rarely bring snacks because their union dictates that we must provide snacks.

Whoa! Did I just say Union. Why yes. Yes, I did. The Screen Actors Guild says that the first 100 extras hired on any day must be union members. They get an allowance for the wardrobe they bring. They get additional pay if there is smoke on the set. They get extra pay if its raining and they get wet. They get extra pay if we're creating rain and they get wet. They get extra pay if they have a "special ability" like riding a bicycle.

Now, why, you may ask, does any of this matter to me, the Location Manager. Why should I care?

First, think about the mindset of a person who will happily sit around for 7 of the 13 hours s/he may be at "work"...for a chance to show up out of focus half a block behind the actors in the scene. The pay is ok, but not great. They get snacks and free lunch. And while, I'll admit that some of them have higher aspirations and/or they're doing it to supplement their income, most of them are people I see over and over and over again. They are professional extras.
(I once had a woman drive up to me and ask me where she should park. When I asked her if she was one of the extras, she replied, "I am a background artist!" Yeah, right.)

When the A.D.'s set a 6:30 a.m. call time for the extras, I have to make sure the Holding Area is open by 5:30 a.m. I have to make sure there are enough tables and chairs for all of the extras. (For 25 extras, you need to have 75 chairs and Eight 8' tables, 'cause they need to have somewhere to put their stuff.) Sometimes there are additional Make-up and Hair folks if we think the extras might need special attention. If that's the case, I need to make sure that there are Make-up and Hair stations in the Holding Area. The extras make extra work for me.

There's always a few extras who show up obscenely early. As soon as they've arrived, the Holding Area will look like a tornado hit it. There are clothes everywhere. Somehow every newspaper, magazine and book has been read in 15 minutes and is dropped wherever the reader lost interest. Invariably, one or two extras will ask me within 5 minutes of arrival whether or not I think they'll be finished in time to make it to an audition at 9:00 a.m. (No.)

So anyway, they expand like a gas to fill all available space in the room I've been required to provide. Anything they no longer want, (reading material, empty water bottles, 1/2 full water bottles without the caps, banana peels, 1/2 eaten donuts, whatever), is dropped precisely wherever it became no longer wanted. It could be on a table, but if the table is more than arm's length away, it will be on the floor. I could put trash cans every 5 paces and there would still be a bunch of crap thrown everywhere at the end of the day. Don't even get me started on what the restrooms look like.

And my department is responsible for cleaning up after these slobs at the end of the day.

Also, if you walk into the Holding Area in the middle of the day, you'll be subjected to the most inane conversations you've ever heard in your life...at peak volume.

So, yeah. Extras annoy me. Before they show up. While they are there. After they leave.

So, what's with the title of this post? On a recent shoot, I walked into the Holding Area. Dead Silence. Wardrobe everywhere, but a strange absence of other debris. I looked more closely. Every single extra was sitting in a chair, mesmerized by their Blackberry or i-phone or whatever device they had brought to work. They were too mesmerized to even get up and walk over to get a snack.

Text Messaging. The Location Manager's Best Friend.

Update 10/4/12: I just had reason to read this again more than 4 years after writing it. Unfortunately, it may be obsolete already. It would seem that extras have become highly adept at multi-tasking. Now, they can text and throw shit all over the room simultaneously without breaking a sweat. On the other hand, they bring less reading material on paper, so that's a little better.