Friday, March 31, 2006

Why I love my new wool hat:

1. Awesome Aimee made it for me;

2. It looks good while keeping my head warm; and

3. Jimbo Jones from The Simpsons is my idol.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Doc: We'll get your blood work back and your cholesterol will be slightly high and I'm gonna wanna prescribe some medication and you're gonna say, no drugs, let me get back in shape on my own first and then we'll run some tests.

Me: Nice script. Who's the writer in this room?

Doc: Supposedly you. But I remember this scenario from last year.

Me: Well, not this year.

Doc: Why's that?

Me: 'Cause I won't be on this insurance plan anymore. I got one final week under my old job's PPO. Why do you think I came in?

Doc: Not my scintillating conversational skills?

Me: Close. It's those Good Housekeeping magazines in your waiting room.

Doc: Okay, well, it looks like you need a hepatitis boost.

Me: Bullshit. You guys already gave me hep A and B and then a boost for each one... and Blue Cross doesn't cover vaccinations for adults. Ninety bucks a pop. That's 360 dollars you stuck me with... literally.

Doc: Well, B requires two boosters.

Me: Sonofabitch.

Doc: Roll up your sleeve.

Me: Do I really need this?

Doc: You planning to be sexually active in the future?

Me: Planning on it... whether it comes to fruition is a different story.

Doc: So there you go.

Me: Pam Anderson's not part of the plan.

Doc: Let's go, you pussy.

Me: Fine. Ow.

Doc: And it says here you haven't had a tetanus boost since 2000.

Me: So?

Doc: You should get one every five years.

Me: That prostate exam wasn't enough sadism for you, eh?

Doc: Are you that chickenshit of needles?

Me: It's not the shot... I'm gonna be aching all day. I come to your office healthy and leave feeling like shit.

Doc: Yeah, what are you gonna do?

Me: Doc, you make me sick.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I share an office with our TV show’s music supervisor. Like everyone I’ve met here so far, he’s totally cool. Doesn’t seem to mind me shouting obscenities at my slow-ass internet connection keeping me from blogging, or while I try out my voice-over lines, saying the silly puns aloud.

That’s ‘cause he usually has his headphones on, listening to music on his computer, going through a library of cleared songs. “Cleared” means that the network has a synchronization license and thus, can use that performance for any program it airs. Since we use a lot of quick music cues on our show, he’s got a lot of work to do. But that’s the fun part -- choosing the appropriate sound for each moment of action.

Someone else already had the task of procuring the legal rights to each of these recordings. That ain’t fun. Trust me, I know.

When my friends and I produced our independent film, we needed a lot of music, too. The movie required almost back-to-back rock songs playing… 25 to 30 tunes in total. First we had to compile our own huge collection, a jukebox of up-and-coming musicians. Finding struggling bands in LA is easy – all the waiters are actors, but the unemployed people hanging out all day are musicians.

Actually, through word-of-mouth, we got demo tapes from all over the country. And some of them were really good. We producers had fun rockin’ out, having our editor lay in each recording and seeing how the sound often made the movie look better.

Then for some reason, I landed the job of getting the right to use these songs. We wrote up (with the help of an entertainment lawyer) a very simple synch license. And I went to each of the bands to get ‘em to sign. I’d rather shoot a snuff film starring myself than go through that again.

Okay, some bands were fine. They said no problem and signed, or showed it to a representative who said no problem and they signed. I didn’t even mind the ones whose reps told me they didn’t want to sign. We were offering no money, just a credit -- same as everyone on the film: cast, crew, producers, etc. -- in return for the license. We wouldn’t own the song in any way, could only use it for the film (a soundtrack album, if it were to be produced, would be negotiated in the future), and we had no net profit points to give out, but promised in the unlikely event our film hit it big a la The Blair Witch Project, we’d offer some compensation in good faith. But some bands had already made money for film work, and felt this was a step backward for them. I understood. Last thing I wanted to be was Snidely Whiplash demanding sign!sign!sign! while twirling my mustache.

A timely yes or no and I was happy. But not so with the wishy-washy flakes, or complete morons intimidated by the written word that wasn’t their insipid lyrics. A lot of these bands had terrific songs but terrible attitudes. They’d say, “Come to our show, and we’ll talk about it…” So I did and then they wanted to go party first. So I did and then they wanted to talk about tomorrow when the Stoli and Jaeger wore off. This was all they knew. And so the circle of no-life continued.

We were trying to lock in the film’s audio and were still getting jerked around by these schmucks. I remarked that their stupid derivative ditties weren’t worth the aggravation. Who did they think they were? I tell ya, they weren’t some hot local band with a record deal, well-produced tracks… and genuine talent. They weren’t The Muffs.

The director and I had separately discovered The Muffs and then coincidentally told each other, “Hey, I heard this awesome band the other day!” Their music is basic rock-n-roll with a hard edge. Perhaps they could be described as a riot-grrl band, but they’re not a chick group. Although their lead singer is a cute chanteuse who wears demure dresses while belting out her angry lyrics or screaming your ears off. Very sexy.

A few numbers from their Blonder and Blonder album would have fit nicely in our movie. We had even cut a temporary trailer using their song “Oh Nina” and it seemed perfect.

So I called the record company on the CD cover -- I think it was Warner Bros. -- and got transferred all over Burbank, leaving messages with everyone, explaining what we wanted and just got the run-around. I figured it was futile, but what the hell, I tried.

Then one day I got a message on my voicemail. It was a sultry, slow, raspy voice. “Hey, Mike. This is Kim from The Muffs. I hear you wanna use our songs. Go ahead, Mike. I hope you like ‘em and they work for your movie and all… You can call me back if you have any questions, but don’t call too early, ‘cause I’ll be all sleepy, y’know?”

I have to admit, I felt like one of those crazy fans from the days of Beatlemania at the airport who made eye contact with members of the Fab Four. Maybe I was just loopy from this whole synch license scenario. But when I told the director about the call, he was fuming with jealousy.

“I can’t believe Kim from The Muffs called you.”

“Kinda sorry you had me handle this music shit now, ain’tcha?”

I called her back and we chatted for a while. And she was great -- funny, easy-going... But that didn’t help with the movie. She didn’t mind us using the songs, but couldn’t sign the agreement. “I’m not the one to talk to,” She said. “You gotta talk to our music publishers. That’s how it works. I’m sorry. And I gotta warn you: They’re dicks.”

Yeah, well, musicians and management never get along. Who knows what those flaky band members said about me with my fancy-schmancy one-page contract. The publishers couldn’t be that bad.

I found out they wanted a ton of shit before they’d even consider it. A copy of the script was understandable. Most musicians asked for that, to know what their song was used for. But also things like detailed descriptions of the volume and levels and exact final footage of the scenes they would go with, not to mention thousands of dollars per minute of the song. It would’ve worked out to more money than we spent on the entire production. And they stated all this in such a cold business-like manner. Completely opposite to what I had been dealing with so far. Kim didn’t tell me about the publishers asking for my first-born child, too. What dicks.

Fuck it. We found some other songs and completed the film and it turned out very well.

Years later, I was walking past Tower Records, and heard “Oh Nina” being performed live. The Muffs! I went in and saw they were promoting their latest album. After grooving to a few oldies and new tunes, I went over to say to Kim face-to-face.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “I remember you and your movie! Didn’t I tell you the publishers were dicks?” When she was right, she was right. “We have our own publishing company now, so next time you want to use our songs, get in touch with me.”

Good to know.

As I sit here writing this, I can see our music supervisor with his headsets on, culling through tunes, without having the headache of clearing ‘em. If I get to do another film, that could be me… at least with one cool band.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Her: When I first moved, I thought the place would be, like...
Me: Like what?
Her: The H-word.
Me: Hollywood?
Her: No.
Me: The Holy land?
Her: No, no! C'mon, you know what I mean.
Me: Hell, I have no idea.
Me: I thought the guy was maybe an asshole, and after I met him, you know what?
Him: He was a-hole?
Me: No, he wasn't an a-hole. He wasn't an asshole either.
Her2: Shit!
Me: What?
Her2: I forgot my keys. And I sorry.
Me: We can just go back and get 'em. No need to apologize.
Her2: I'm not talking about the keys.
Me: What do you mean?
Her2: Well, because of my religious beliefs, my values, I don't like to use that language.
Me: What language? What'd you say?
Her2: "Shit." Oh, shit. I'm sorry again.
Me: I forgive you. But were you talking to me or Jesus?
Him2: ...and then the effin' studio wouldn't pay me.
Me: Which studio?
Him2: Disney.
Me: Okay.
Him2: That's who I've been talking about all along. Who'd you think I meant?
Me: I dunno... Fox? DreamWorks? You said... Oh! You meant the fuckin' studio.
Him2: Right.
Me: But you said "effin'".
Him2: Right.
Me: Why didn't you just say "fuckin'"?
Him2: Well, that's kind of crude.
Me: Fuck yeah it is. But no one else can fuckin' hear us. Who the fuck are you gonna offend here? Me and my fuckin' virgin ears?
Him2: You can say whatever you want. I don't like to talk like that.
Me: Fine, but why say "effin'"?
Him2: What's wrong with it?
Me: I don't know if it's wrong. I was asking a serious question: Why use euphemisms? See, I find language fascinating. Not just what people say or don't say, but what they almost say. I'm not advocating that people use four-letter-words but I would advocate that people use 'em or don't. Is it that you want to say "fuckin'" but you're only going halfway?
Him2: I don't know. I do know you think about this too much.
Me: There's a reason I do. I wonder if maybe you've been affected by the media. The FCC and censorship... it's crazy sometimes. I'm finding at my TV job, the rules at what we can get away with and what's taboo, it begs to be parodied. And as a result, inherently ironic terms enter the mainstream. I remember back when Howard Stern was on "free FM", responding to critics who said he was too crude. He said "Eff them!" Now I hear that verb so often I wonder if it should be in the dictionary. Is it a synonym or does it have a slightly new meaning? I submit that when I say "friggin'", the differences in definition from "fuckin'" are subtle but distinct. Or maybe it's like the old cartoons, that represented curse words with typewriter symbols -- the percentage and asterisk and tic-tac-toe board...
Him2: Well, I don't work for television or radio or with comic strips.
Me: But you are being screwed by the studio.
Him2: The effin' studio.
Me: Right. And it's not just us in entertainment. I notice lots of people do this and it always stands out to me. Bloggers, on their own personal websites write things like "eff-dash-dash-dash". It also makes me wonder about the Jewish "Gee-dash-dee" substitution for "God", when all words are merely symbols and representations... My religious friends would probably have something to say about that. But don't get me started on the haphazard handling of political correctness regarding ethnic terms. Words are powerful, but only in as much as we give them power, you know what I mean?
Him2: All this because I was talking about Disney.
Me: Well, you confused me.
Him2: Why? You really thought I meant Fox or DreamWorks?
Me: "Effin'" sounds like "F.N.", as in maybe Fox Networks.
Him2: Oh, okay. And DreamWorks?
Me: It's DreamWorks SKG. As in Spielberg, Katzenberg, Geffen. I thought you maybe you meant "effin' Geffen".
Him2: Uh-huh.
Me: 'Cause, y'know... that rhymes.
Him2: You're effin' weird.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Kiss me -- I’m not Irish, but I’ve been to Ireland.

I was traveling around after a semester in London. Rather than have the hectic summer itinerary like most other American students -- “It’s Tuesday, it must be Slovenia or Slovakia or Kreplachistan” -- I decided to focus on a few places for a few days at a time, soak up the culture, learn the lingo, experiment with their plumbing systems...

But who would be my traveling companion? The girl I had been dating back in the States was broke and couldn’t fly out.

One of my good friends from college, Zucker, was in England, too, but he had been studying in Sussex. Before we left, we discussed hanging out across the pond. But this was before cellphones were ubiquitous; in fact, at that time, the UK’s communications network was about as good as their cuisine. So we never got in touch. Still, one day during my semester in jolly ol’ London, I heard something familiar. Even with the roar of trains on the Underground I recognized that deep voice which lacked the Limey lilt.

Without even looking, I said, “Zucker.”

He turned and bellowed, “Miiiike?”

He was up from Sussex, doing the tourist thing: exploring Picadilly Circus, visiting Trafalgar Square, seeing how many holes it took to fill the Albert Hall, etc. We each mentioned how we planned to call each other but, well… Hey, how weird was it that we ran into each other in this spread-out city of seven million people? Zucker’s baritone was the beacon, but I remarked that those of us with half-decent dental work stood out around here. Okay, we agreed we’d get in touch to travel around Europe at the end of the semester.

Yeah, right. We both flaked again.

And since my short-attention-spanned colleagues didn’t want to linger in any single nation for more than a single pub-crawl or hashish bar visit, I decided to mix up my travels by doing some of it alone, some of it with others. I had already driven around Spain and Portugal with my friend Dave, and visited much of England among the other Yanks. Later I would go to Denmark and Sweden, after I checked out Ireland and Scotland.

The plan was to meet up with a couple of girls I knew in Edinburgh, but first I flew into Dublin for a few days. I walked all over the Emerald Isle City, saw the historical churches, sites of IRA-related battles, went up and down Grafton Street, learned that “crack” meant a good time, as in “aye, you’ll have grand crack”… And then I was getting tired.

The benefits of venturing out solo is that you can do whatever you want, and you find yourself more accessible toward trying different things and meeting new people. The downside is that it can get lonely at times. Even if you’re someone who absolutely must have time to yourself everyday the way Brits must put blood pudding and kidney pie on every menu, you still may start to crave meaningful dialogue over the internal monologue.

I decided to give my aching feet and self-reflective brain a rest. I hopped on a bus to go back to the hostel, where I’d undoubtedly run into other travelers and see what kind of trouble I could get into.

But where was that hostel? These roads didn’t look familiar. Finally, I asked the driver when we’d get to my destination and his Gaelic-garbled response was that I was going the wrong direction. Great.

I got off the bus before I wound up even further out of my way. Was I even in Dublin? Cork? Kerry? Limerick? If so, I’d have to tell everyone that I was from Nantucket.

There was a pub right there, a place called Hardigan’s. The name reminded me of one my favorite albums, Hard Again by Muddy Waters. I went inside, replacing the chatter in my head with the song “Mannish Boy”.

That was the night I decided I definitely didn’t like beer. I already knew this, but for years I had let people sucker me into trying their favorite – German beer, lager, ale, pilsner, microbrewery labels… to me they were just different varieties of piss. I figured Guinness was the ultimate of the suds, and if I couldn’t enjoy a pint in a pub somewhere in the Dublin vicinity, I should just give up.

Yeah, whatta startling revelation. Big deal. I sat there in this quiet tavern with my half-drunk Guinness stout and my three or four empty glasses of Irish whiskey, feeling kinda down. A stranger in a strange land. Long ways from home. The Muddy Waters song in my mental jukebox now playing was “Can’t Be Satisfied”.

Just then, throngs of people poured in. Young locals in an extremely festive mood. I discovered that the nearby university’s medical school had just finished their finals for the semester and the students were ready to celebrate. And let me tell you, these Dubliner doctors-to-be knew how to let loose. I don’t remember a lot from the evening, just that the blokes were funny and friendly and the lasses were freckly and flirty. Aye, I had grand crack there.

Somehow I got back to the hostel late that night. Hungover the next day, I decided to leave Ireland. Nothing would top that night. I figured I’d head over to Scotland early.

Dublin to Edinburgh isn’t that far as the crow flies, but as the poor student travels, it takes forever. I caught a ferry across the Irish Sea where I chatted with some cute Canadian girl… no, no bodily fluids were exchanged, just reading material – her Margaret Atwood story was good; I wasn’t reading American: Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

On the train from Liverpool to Glasgow I sat next to an off-duty London police officer. Yes, I told the bobby, cops in my country have guns. All Americans do. When you pass your citizenship test, they issue you a 9 millimeter. He said, “Is that right?” No, I said. Actually it’s a .38. We hate the metric system.

I ended up traveling all day, meeting interesting people everywhere I went, but getting less enchanted with each of these short encounters as I had arrived in Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful city – one of my favorite places in Europe that I’ve seen. But I was too tired to appreciate it at first.

I slumped into my bed at the hostel, telling myself not to fall asleep. I wouldn’t connect with the girls ‘til tomorrow night. It was around 7 that evening, and I’d wake up at 11, ready to go do something, but if Scotland was like England, everything would be closed and the city would shut down. Damn wimpy UKers. No wonder they needed us to help win the war. They were probably all asleep by nightfall instead of defending Europe: “I say ol’ chap, it’s too late for this bric-a-brac. I’m knackered. A spot of tea and off to bed. Cheerio.” I was missing New York, where you could start your evening at midnight. Man, this whole trip sucked.

Again, such is the nature of solo journeys. Traveling partners can hold you back at times, but can also be like workout partners – someone to help keep you going when you don’t feel like it. And vice versa. Just another point to ponder in the ongoing monologue in my head. It got louder with curmudgeonly thoughts, and among the sounds was a voice in a deep baritone. But that wasn’t coming from me. That was real.

I didn’t even open my eyes. “Zucker,” I said.


Zucker and I wound up getting to hang out in Europe after all. And when I met up with the girls the next day, it was even more fun.

Running into him there was perhaps not as bizarre as back in London. Edinburgh’s a smaller city, and this was the biggest hostel in town. But weird coincidences, like exotic travels – whether alone or with friends – are experiences that you never forget.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The new gig is great so far. I started working in television this week, but not at the network right now.

Their editing rooms are still in use from another show they're doing, so they rented some space at another post-production house. I expected this; they did it early last season but apparently they couldn't get in at the same location as before.

There's hundreds of post facilities in LA. Some are luxurious, with beautiful editing bays, office spaces, gourmet free restaurants and cute little receptionists peeking into your room asking if they can do anything for you and before your mind has a chance to wander, they've placed a delicious cappucino in your hands. This is not one of those places. It's on the cheap end of the spectrum -- peeling paint, exposed drywalls and the AC blasting to keep the editing equipment from overheating, leaving us to shiver in winter coats indoors.

I don't care. I get to be creative and help put a show together. Awesome.

Still, I'd like to settle in more. We didn't have office spaces 'til yesterday afternoon, and I still don't have a computer set up. I had to write my voice-overs on my laptop, and I'm not in the network's computer network, so culling information from all the other sources had to be done the old-fashioned way. I had to go see people face-to-face.

Again, that's fine by me. I went over to the main offices a couple of times already. To fill out paperwork and to get some. In the meantime, I ran into lots of cool people -- some old friends from before, people I met from last season and plenty of new ones.

I go from feeling, well, superfluous at times, to extremely vital to the whole operation. It depends who I talk to. Gene, the head of our department, is a funny, nice guy, but every time I'm done talking to him, I don't know where I stand in the scheme of things. Hard to explain. Could be just me. Still, he gave us the scoop on how to keep things wired -- when you gotta crank and when you can chill.

And then I'm reassured when I talk to the super-supportive producer who's helped me for the past year and raved about how great it is that I'm there, that I'd really make things run so much more smoothly.

I hope so. Right now I'm still learning the ropes.

Obviously on the organizational stuff... One producer gave me a sheet with specifics about how graphics and text that appear on screen are to be formatted, going over carefully that I should keep an eye out for indiscrepancies. I assured her I understood. I found three typos on the information sheet itself.

But also, I'm trying to get a handle on what the executive producer and network want creatively. I've discovered that pop culture references are tricky. Oddly, Chris Farley, Donna Summer or the Flintstones... those go over fine, but others things leave people scratching their heads. One of the tapes we were editing featured a dude who was a big brutish blonde boob. Gene said, "Anyone ever read Archie Comics?" I had, but I could see that no one -- including the executive producer -- knew what he was talking about. "This dude reminds me of that dumb guy, what was his name?"

"Moose!" I said, realizing my knowledge either ingratiated me with Gene or nerdified me with everyone. We agreed to forget the Moose joke, based on the room's reaction. Whatta buncha jugheads.

But I'm thrilled to be working full-time with all of them, getting paid to write my voice-overs and other creative elements. I think the excitement wears me out; I find myself exhausted at the end of the day. But hey, I'm so close by. I got home last night in six minutes.

Monday, March 13, 2006

After it rains in this town, it not only clears the sky...
312sk1 312p1 empties the streets, too.
312st 312st2
With no smog or traffic, you have the roads to yourself and can see for miles. Of course, you may find it tricky to take photos and drive at the same time...
312h1 312m1
But who's complainin'? 312m2

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Santa Monica, CA -- Asked to discuss the recent slow-down in his site-traffic and comments, Michael offered several explanations. But he emphatically insisted that it's not due a sudden end to popping popularity-pumping drugs.

"I've never used those things, even back when the gravatar hormone was legal," said Michael, speaking at an imaginary press conference at the Coffee Bean on Wilshire Boulevard. "I hadn't even heard of Haloscandrotine until they banned it from Major League Blogging."

Still, many are skeptical, pointing out that the writer used to average double the comments per post and three times as many daily visitors as now. Critics attribute the higher numbers to a former regimen of injecting entries with anabolic anecdotes, photo-fueled galleries, readership-roping rhymes, and the occasional creatine-crammed cartoon. Since then, the Santa Monican scribe has been slipping.

"Hey, I've still got my alliterative skills," Michael said.

Things are slow throughout the community, he added. "This is a new dead-blog era. Like in early '04. Don't worry. Things'll pick up. Next thing you know, it'll be like late '04."

Michael defended his recent writing choices, that before being traded from the day job to a more suitable franchise, he wanted to get in some last-minute entries about his old teammates. "I wasn't trying to be Dilbert with the office-related cartoons," he explained. "But when would we ever again see a picture of me and our old mascot, Pudge?"

Most fellow site-surfers refused to weigh in on the controversy, but one anonymous blogger claimed that upon meeting Michael face-to-face, "he seemed to be on something. Like he was all flickred up. Mike claimed it was just coffee, but I know a Google-head when I see one."

Whether it's a lack of entry-enhancements or simply daily diary-blogging jitters, Michael isn't too concerned about the drop-off. He stated that he is enjoying Spring Training and his week as a free agent. He won't promise higher traffic, but assured that future posts will not cover such subjects as site traffic, or his former place of work.

New rumors surfaced that discussing the day job on the internet was perhaps the reason Michael had to quit, ironically leaving him for the moment without a subject about which to blog. But the temporarily-unemployed writer concluded his press conference by buying a double espresso and issuing this final statement:

"I was never Dooced or juiced."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Man, I'm nuts. Having time off is too stressful for me. I mean, I've gotten a lot of writing done, and straightened up my place, but that's pretty much it; I feel like I should be doing so much more.

You dream of having free time, and then when you have it you feel like you're wasting it. Or maybe it's me.

Or maybe it's the weather. I was determined to run every day, come hell or highwater, and it seems like we've had both. Yesterday it rained most of the day. I used to love the rain, but now I find it depressing. I didn't move to Southern California to get drenched. The earth can tremble, fine, but not the heavens. I still went out there and trudged a few miles in the downpour. Further proof I'm nuts? Hey, I know a lot of other runners who are more fanatical than me. Yet I didn't see anyone else out there.

Today we reaped the whirlwinds. With clear skies, I thought it would be the perfect time to run out by the beach, but half a mile into a blinding sandstorm, I decided my dedication was deranged. I'll watch Lawrence of Arabia, not live it. That is, if I can get these grains of sand outta my eyes.

I'm looking over the list of things I need to do this week... and the only entry is make a list of things I need to do. Think I'll add relax and don't worry about it, maybe watch some classic movies, like Lawrence of Arabia... or Taxi Driver... but now Travis Bickle's line is running through my head:

"I got to get organizized."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Spent the weekend celebrating my escape from Alca-blahhs... and so I ate too much, drank too much, drove around too much, seeing my friends who all bought me food and drinks... and engaged in movie overload. I'm sure everyone's Oscared out, so I'll spare you my opinions on this year's fiascoes.

But I gotta mention that this year has provided further evidence that the Academy doesn't know shit. An argument I used in my favor when Henry and us other film geeks once again debated the so-called classics.

I think it began by us pointing out that there's some socially and politically charged movies this year, perhaps in the wake of tumultuous times -- war, gov't scandal, etc. Much like the cinema after Vietnam and Watergate... only not as good. We listed all the great films from the late '60s and '70s, and someone mentioned Network.

"Yeah, I didn't care for that one so much," I said.

"It predicted where television would go!" Henry said, and added, "if they were wrong, you wouldn't have a job, Mr. reality-TV writer."

"Fine, Network gets the psychic-friends network pat on the back, but the movie still wasn't that great. Every actor was so over the top with that 'I'm mad as hell!' bullshit."

"Over the top?! Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Beatrice Straight. There's three Oscar-winners for ya."

"Yeah?" I said, "I got three words for you: Dances. With. Wolves."

That stopped the Scorsese-robbed Goodfellas fan cold.

Still, I think we armchair critics are too critical. Movies ain't so easy, ya know. I remembered the difficulties of filmmaking... and that's just the little cheapo shoestring indies.

Back in film school, we had to do a short-subject documentary. None turned out Oscar nominate-able, but the process was always challenging. Another time, I'll talk about the one I did... it actually turned out good... but I also helped other students, like Ralph with his video love-letter to his pickup truck.

We drove up to the San Gabriel Mountains to provide some good scenery. I filmed him talking and driving about his adventures with the vehicle, then got out and did some scenes of him zooming past. Finally, he wanted an overhead shot.

He had me climb up atop a tunnel leading into the mountains, then rest the camera with the lens pointed downward over the road. I had to lean over and turn the lens to follow him as he drove past and disappeared into the tunnel.

I suggested that I just stand with the camera on my shoulder and point downward. It would provide about an extra five feet of height, would still give the desired look... except for the last part in which the shot is straight downward. But that's the part he wanted most of all.

I explained to Ralph I'm not afraid of heights... if I'm standing safely from the edge of a precipice. But get me leaning over the edge awkwardly in the mountain winds, balancing heavy equipment from falling a good ten yards over a busy road, I get a little nervous.

But the director insisted. So I let the auteur get his way, even if it was gonna kill me.

Of course I managed... it's what us brilliant cinematographers do. Despite my vertigo, we got the shot and his documentary turned out okay, too.

But he told me later that he had to overdub that scene. The visuals were great, but the sound was just me grumbling, "Bastard doesn't know what the fuck he's doing. 'You'll be fine,' he says. Yeah, right. That the same thing they told Vic Morrow."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Nick at work said when he was in the Army, that guys finishing their service would count down the remaining time saying things like, "nine days and a wake-up". Well, all I got left is a wake-up. Tomorrow's my last day. HalleBerryLujah.

Man, I was there too long. I hated the tedium of the job, but most of the people were cool. I'll miss 'em -- Skeeter, Lyssa, Nick, Steve, Clay, Jive Turkey...

Especially Jive Turkey. Here's an exchange we had this week:

M: What?
JT: What?
M: That's what I said.
JT: Right. Why? You didn't hear me?
M: No, I heard you. But the moose up in Canada didn't. Whine it a little louder.
JT: Ohh, don't starting getting uppity with me, now that you're leaving.
M: Yeah, you're right. I totally treated you with a reverent awe until now.
JT: Dammit! I am your superior! (banging desk with fist) You are my subordinate!
M: Bravo. (clapping) I'm sure the moose would enjoy that.

And I'm sure he'll miss me too.

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