Monday, October 17, 2005

Monday, October 17, 2005
Full Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mars Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

Home for a few brief , shining moments. I’ve spent days being cold and wet. Thank goodness for my friend Artie, with whom I’ve been staying, for keeping a hot pot of stew in the crock pot, and all the extra towels.

It’s been a good experience, but everything is sore.

I’m glad I learn really fast.

Last Tuesday, of course, it began to rain as soon as I walked out the door. My mother was in a lot of pain and I felt guilty about leaving her, but I had to go to work and then stay in for the shoot.

The Fury Muse took over Never Too Late. My martini-swilling muses stepped back, and the Fury (in the sense of the Greek mythological Furies) took over. She’s a goddess of creation and destruction beyond even the warrior goddesses. I like it, although it’s very hard on the people around me. I’m getting better at seeming to function in this world while actually “writing” in my head. Which is how I spent most of day work. I was thorough, but I know the work well enough know that I can engage my mind elsewhere while only a small part of my consciousness and my body are actually doing the work. It’s sort of like a drug, though – you don’t want to drive or operate heavy machinery when a Fury is in charge.

I realized that I need to figure out the entire series. One of the things I’ve learned, re-reading the Harry Potter books in order several times running now, is how much she benefited from outlining the entire series and then writing it. So many little things connect in the various books, which is not something that happens when you discover as you go, but the book it should harken back to is already on the shelves and you can’t go back and put in a detail important to it all.

So I have to sit down and work out all 13 books in the overall scheme of where I want each character to go and how I want to get them there. I want to find overall themes. I want to find the theme for each individual book and see how it fits into the overall themes. I don’t want to imprison myself, but I need to plant seeds in the first book that might not fully bloom until the 13th.

I had dinner with a friend after day work, and we caught up on our various friends in common. Many people we know are at a crossroads – it will be interesting to see where we all wind up.

Got a call from my supervisor – tomorrow’s work switched from 85 small, sticky children to 40 adults, possibly getting shot.


Roo and Bast, my friend’s cats are just adorable, and so affectionate. I would have missed my cats terribly without them.

I forgot how loud NYC is.

On Wednesday, I woke up every two hours, but finally gave up and got up at 4:30 AM – only 15 minutes before I needed to. At that hour, showering quietly and opening the Coffeemate are challenges.

I trekked up to Spanish Harlem to the location and off we went, dealing with the background.

Background (extras) are called by the casting agent and given a call time, a location, and how to dress. One is always supposed to bring choices – most travel with a small suitcase – but some of them claim not to know this and wear what they want, whether or not it is appropriate to the scene. If that is the case, we take the sizes and pull something from the stock on the truck. Or, in the worst case scenario, we try not to use them, or tell the Assistant Director to keep them “deep” (not let them work close to the camera).

We shot in the monsoon-like rain, outside, on a construction site, so, very quickly, it was mud. My supervisor ordered up several boxes of raingear from a supplier and sent me down in a cab to get it (two hours round trip due to traffic and flooding ). By the time we all got dressed in it (the crew), we looked like a pack of Gordon’s fisherman. Unfortunately, I did not have the rubber boots and had to keep changing socks in an attempt to keep my feet dry.

One of my colleagues on the shoot, the PA with whom I work most closely, is up from New Orleans. He lost everything in Katrina. He has a backpack left. But he’s got a job here and is staying with a friend, and apartment hunting. He’s very good at what he does and really nice, so that’s a good thing.

The director is prepared, and the cameraman is very good, and that helps.

The work is not hard, but it’s physically demanding and you have to pay attention all the time. And it always takes awhile to learn a new system.

I was home in the evening in time to watch lost. Can I just say I despise the character of Ana-Lucia? The actress does a good job, but the character has alienated me so much that I want her killed off. No explanation they can come up with will justify her behaviour to me. There’s a difference between being a strong, tough, resourceful woman and being a bully. And she’s a bully in the worst order. Of course they’ll make Kate take her down, for the gratuitous girl-on-girl violence. Lost is starting to lose me.

On Thursday, I began to wonder if it would ever stop raining? It doesn’t seem that way. I’m glad I brought a second pair of shoes along, and I’m starting to wish I’d brought a third. Everything is in Ziploc bags, even my cell phone – the Ziploc containing my fortune cookie last night was just the right size.

I’m tired of the noise: construction; rap coming out of someone’s truck at 5 AM; listening to the drunks fighting on the street.

We shot inside today, down in the East Village, but getting to and from the location to the truck and/or holding (where they keep the extras) was a pain in the . . . .I also feel like I’m not getting enough information, but that’s often the case in this kind of work. I’ve found people who I can ask, and I can piece things together.

We shot scenes inside a bar – party scene flashback, then funeral scene (Irish wake). My Paddy in the coffin kept fidgeting – I’d straighten his suit before each take, and he’d fidget and be rumpled by the time the camera rolled. He was a very sweet man, but I kept scolding him, reminding him he’s supposed to be dead! I had another little old man who kept falling asleep between takes, and I had to fix his tie and adjust him before every shot. I think he liked the attention. They were a good group – about 40 of them – mostly nice people. You always get a couple of problem children, but, for the most part, they were very nice.

The actors in the leading roles are also very sweet – and one of the actors who plays a detective is an actor I worked with over 20 years ago off-Broadway! One of my favorite actors with whom to work. Better yet, he remembered me, and we had a good catch-up session between takes. I think he was pleased to see a friendly, familiar face from long-ago theatre days, too.

The big thing we worked on was the bar fight – with stunt coordinator, breakaway glasses, a rubber stool, the whole nine yards. The boys loved doing take after take of the fight. They thought it was the most fun ever. Of course, one of them got a little overzealous and picked up a real bar stool instead of the rubber one, but, fortunately, it was thrown on the floor, not on another actor.

One of the network producers who came in really pissed me off. A very sweet electrician set up a spare light pole for me and ran me a line so I could hand-steam one of the shirts being used in the fight between takes. The LA network guy walks in the room, takes off his soaking wet coat and tosses it over the light pole where I’m working, hitting me in the face with the jacket. I grabbed it and threw it back at him, saying, “No!” the same way I would scold a bad dog. I was willing to be fired rather than be treated with that kind of disrespect.

He backed down.

They kept me on an 8-hour day today, because of the tight budget, so I got to go home and relax in the early evening (with the commute it comes to a lot more than 8). I keep trying to write, because I can hear the Fury always there in the back, but I’m so physically and emotionally exhausted I can barely think straight. I just collapse onto the couch and let the cats sit on me before crawling in to bed around nine or ten at night.

On the way back, though, I swung by Wicked to get my check and bought some socks, underwear and a shirt, because they decided to keep me through the weekend. Thank goodness NYC stores tend to stay open late.

On Friday, I woke up with excruciating neck pain and felt nauseous. Not much I could do except take a hot shower and a lot of Advil and hope I didn’t spit up. My clothes were still wet from Wednesday.

Television moves so fast because of the tight budget that it seems a lot is sacrificed. Fortunately, the director and one of the producers co-wrote the piece and they have some truly kick-ass credits. The director is very prepared – there’s no shilly-shallying and indecisiveness on set, which I like. I can’t stand it when a director stands there and reconceives the piece because he didn’t bother to prepare ahead of time. This guy is very decisive, very prepared, and knows what he wants. He’s open to suggestion and experimentation, but keeps it moving.

My problem in this case is the nickel-and-diming by the network. If they are so interested in the project and believe in the creators so much, why are they trying to do it on the cheap? Put the money in and help it be the best it can be. Get rid of a dozen or so executives who stand around doing nothing but getting in the way and chatting on their cell phones because they think “quiet on the set” doesn’t pertain to them and put their salaries into the project.

As someone working on the production, I feel that there’s a sacred trust in helping the director/producer/writers bring their vision to reality. But, as always, networks look at money, and very few of them have creative capability if it’s not a number that can be crunched.

I’ve also been spoiled in many other experiences, because I’m used to being in on the creative end – and often being the one doing the scheduling.

I was so happy that there was a Dunkin Donuts right across from the wardrobe truck! A nice way to start the day (as though catering doesn’t feed us every few hours – they bring trays of food around the set, in case we can’t reach the catering table – and most of it is very good).

I snuck online last night and I’m pleased to see that people miss my blog. I certain miss my other life!

I stopped at Old Navy and K-Mart to buy a few shirts and some thermals to get through the weekend. I saw a pair of Halloween pajamas at Old Navy that I have to go back and buy. Too cute! And yes, I’m twisted enough to wear Halloween pajamas.

So, the background, who were recalled for today to match shots – some bits taking place in and around what we shot yesterday – some of them don’t seem to understand the concept of wearing exactly the same thing. Or matched shots.

Like someone on set said, “There’s a reason they’re background and not featured.”

One guy says to me, “Do I have to wear my sweater? It’s hot.”

I say, “We’re matching shots. You have to wear exactly what you wore yesterday.”

“But if it’s hot, wouldn’t he have taken off his sweater?”

I say, “That’s a director question; and, on top of it, since we’re not shooting in order, the shots have to match what we did yesterday.”

Another guy wore a different suit, because his “got wet” yesterday.

And what part of “wear the same thing” don’t you understand? And you obviously have a hair dryer – why didn’t you use it on the suit, or bring it to us to let us deal with it?

So we kept him deep. So deep you could only see his head.

And he was one who’d been pushing to the front at every opportunity the previous day.

Fortunately, there were “milling shots” with people moving around. Plus, even though I tried to match people to yesterday, the director kept moving them around, having them take off a jacket, do this, do that, so there’s very little continuity in that scenes.

Believe me, all those Polaroids I took yesterday came in handy.

One woman came to me terribly worried because Hair decided to braid her hair when she’d worn it long yesterday and scolded her when she protested. So we walked over to show the Polaroid and he had to stand down. We’re matching, people!!!!

Another woman came to me and said, “My coat was wet from yesterday. I didn’t like the way we were treated yesterday so I wore a different coat, hoping I’d be fired.”


Actually, by the end of the day, each and every one came up to me to thank me for being so nice to them and taking care of them, so it was all good. I do feel rather protective of them because they are mine.

And one of the leads locked himself accidentally into the bathroom of his camper, and wardrobe had to rescue him when we wrapped the rooms – or the poor guy would have been hauled to the next location and trapped overnight!

Saturday morning, I was up early, although I had a fairly late call. Artie left me a heating pad, so my neck was much better. We had time to go out and have breakfast together (buying him breakfast is the least I can do to thank him for letting me stay with him).

I was very twitchy. I called my supervisor, convinced I’d gotten the call wrong. She reassured me; then called me back, saying she’d gotten the call wrong and needed me earlier. I raced back up to Spanish Harlem, but the train was running express so I got there an hour early. Since I can’t do anything until I’m on the clock (we don’t work for free, people, and if you’re called at 2 and start work at 1, you don’t get paid for that hour)., I found a place to tuck away and write for an hour.

There’s a whole section in NTL that needs to be thoroughly worked out, with a lot of sensory details. And I’m just too damned tired to do it right now. So I put in some placeholders, and make several pages of notes on the overview.

However, once dropped back into that world, it was very hard to leave. The entire trip to the location was a running conflict between wanting to work on my own vision and being well-paid to work on someone else’s vision. It was very hard to get into “set head” and it left me depressed, frustrated and angry at myself for those feelings. After all, I am grateful to have this opportunity and want to do good, focused work. And yet – even though Chiron is now direct – I know that it’s not my soul’s purpose. And – Uranus Retrograde – I continue to feel that my place is no longer in the technical world. It’s an increase to the internal friction that caused the birth of this blog in the first place. And it makes me sad.

I have to rework my transition plan. The transition has to happen more quickly than it is. I’m not quite sure how yet.

And, not writing every day is taking its toll.

Then, I get to set and find out they wanted to cancel me, because they cut down from 66 background to 27. However, 25 or more, and they have to hire an additional (that’s what I’m called – “an additional”) and, if they’re going to cancel me, they have to let me know by 3 PM the previous day. Since they didn’t decide until 6:30, they had to pay me for today anyway, so there I was, on set.

This was not a nice bunch of background. Very sullen and cranky. And I was in no mood for that. When I say “Lose the gold bag and the necklace” – I mean it. Although I did get annoyed at the Asst. Designer, who told me to line them up for a look over, and then wandered off to get himself coffee. I knew he would be at least ten minutes, so I had them all line up – in chairs. I won’t have them standing around in line for no reason, especially not when some of them are elderly. I just think it’s disrespectful.

I want to be cooperative, but if I feel something is simply wrong as far as treatment of another human being, I’m not going to agree to it, or simply stand back and let it happen. You want a Yes Man or an Ass Kisser – someone else has to be hired. I’m not your girl.

Then, because we had to match shots to what we shot in the monsoon earlier in the week – first nice night in a long time and we had to bring in the rain truck. Gotta love the magic! So we were all in raingear again. And wet. Even though the weather was beautiful.

By the time I crawled back towards the train station late at night through Spanish Harlem, people were stopping me and asking me if I was lost, because, “we don’t get no white girls up here. Not at this hour.” They were all very nice and genuinely concerned with getting me safely to the subway, which I thought was sweet.

It’s also odd to be riding the subway again – I haven’t ridden it since before 9/11.

As far as sleeping Sunday – very little. Some jackasses with jackhammers worked across the street. So I kept calling 311 and filing complaints with the EPA – because not only were their work permits out of order, both the decibel level AND the time they were doing it was against city ordinance. The inspector kept showing up and having a screaming fight with them; they’d turn it off until he went away. A half hour later, they’d start up again; I’d make another call and it would start all over again.

All night long.

Then, I see, as I leave for the day, that the street is closed for filming. A film crew vs. a construction crew. That should be interesting. I can’t wait to hear what happened.

So I haul my suitcase and all my crap to the location – and there are no campers. It’s moved – but they didn’t tell me. So I call my supervisor, and it’s only a few blocks away, so I haul all my crap over to the new location.

Our holding area was the top floor of a furniture store. I kid you not. My “desk” to check in was a Queen Sized bed, and the extras sat on couches and in chairs until called to set.

One of the guys is someone who works on everything that shoots in NY – he resembles an older Denis Leary-type and he’s funny as hell and very sweet. It was a pleasure to have him on set.

And the writer/producer bought us all Happy Meals from the McDonald’s around the corner. Can you imagine? 150 Happy Meals out of his own pocket! It worked – we were all smiling.

We then had a pretty big location move and another set of background coming in. One of the new background is someone totally nuts – total whack job. I warned the PA about her – and then, of course, not only is she far more uncooperative than anyone, but she wants the PA’s number to give to a “friend” who she claims is an A.D. I warned him that he doesn’t want to be associated with her – she’s poison, barely works, and people who work with her tend not to be hired by anyone because one can’t risk that those people are as skill-free as she is.

The only reason she even got this background gig is because ten projects are shooting in NY and there aren’t enough background to go around right now.

Another background looked very familiar, and, once we’d dressed the six out of twenty people dressed inappropriately again and moved to the new holding area, she and I figured out I’d been her stage manager a million years ago in a repertory company downtown. Neither one of us worked there very long (long story) and we had a nice chat.

We shot in Harlem that night, another stunt sequence. Background was standing around for hours, and I kept giving out hand warmers and taping body warmers to their backs. Especially for the stand-ins, which stand around a lot.

They weren’t kidding, calling them “stand ins”. Also known as “B Team”. The actual actors are “A Team” and the stand-ins are “B Team”.

Any way, these hand warmers and body warmers are great. They’re little packs, and you take them out of the plastic, shake them and stick them in a pocket with nothing else in it (it’ll melt stuff). And you warm up. Or you tape the body warmer to the inside of you clothing (but not touching skin), and it gives you a warm patch. They work for about six hours.

And then they fed us Popeye’s Chicken at 11:30.

I was released at midnight, but there were still some extras around. However, my supervisor wanted to make sure I got the last train out, so she had a teamster drive me to the station.

My schedule said the train was 12:27. When I got to the 125th St. Station, on the board, it read that it was 12:35 on Track 3.

Well, at 12:30, a familiar looking train stopped on Platform 1. I asked the conductor what it was – and it was my train. I would have been stuck on the Harlem Platform until morning if I hadn’t asked.

Metro North bites. Big time.

I got home around 1:30 (I bet they were still shooting), puttered around and fell into bed.

Now, I need to catch up on my life and do laundry – the wet clothes from last week are starting to stink.

And I have to prepare for this week’s shooting – which might be two days, might be more, or might be nothing, depending on how much they tweak the schedule.

Of to try to catch up.

I missed blogging!



At 2:48 PM, Blogger Colin said...

What a totally fascinating read!! Great to be reading your blog again!!

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Lara said...

Oh my gosh how busy you are! But is is SOOOOO good to read you again! I've missed you!


At 6:27 PM, Blogger Tenille said...

It's so good reading your update! Aside from all the rain, it sounds like there are exciting times to be had there in NYC. I'm sure it sucks having the muse nag at you and having no time to devote to getting it all down.

I always loved hearing about your theatre work, so I'm loving reading the details of your time on the set.

At 7:28 PM, Blogger Sandy J said...

Wow! What a great read! And a fascinating job. Hope to hear more soon.

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Vanessa said...

Reading about your life in NYC is very interesting. It's seems like something i see on t.v. or in a movie. Just started reading ur blog and I'm enjoying it. Also, didn't know they had a Popeye's chicken in NYC!


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