Things For People

No strong convictions about this blog site to speak of. Just occasional musings inspired by things that transpire outside my window: LAPD helicopters searching for fugitives, transvestite prostitutes wrestling with their pimps at 3am, and the chubby kid next door who sings in the shower 4 times per day.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Saturday, December 14, 2002


Today was my first hands-on experience on a film set behind the camera. I've done production work before, but it usually came in the form of, "Hey, move that big thing over here," "When are you going to make the coffee?" or "You're standing on my foot you fat slob!" I was actually handed a considerable amount of responsibility today, which often tends to be dangerous for me and those within 10 feet of me. I was the 2nd assistant cameraman (I think) on a public service announcement about child abuse that was filmed in a church. The pastor didn't seem particularly thrilled about us being there, but he was polite about it in the way that pastors tend to be. I was responsible for slating the scenes and filling out the camera reports. For those of you who don't know, camera reports are references for the editors who have to cut all of the footage into something that makes sense. There is a specific formula to follow with these reports that incorporates a lot of technical terminology that I never fully understood. I was having enough trouble just keeping the dry erase marker from smearing on the slate, my hands, and subsequently my face. I can't even read my own writing, so I'm not sure what the hapless editor will think when he's handed a piece of paper that says, "Roll 1, Scene 2A, Take 3, 85mm, 13.5-8.5 split, TOUCHDOWN!," and some letters that are smeared with chocolate. There wasn't anyone else available to do the job, though, so they couldn't complain much about my incompetence. The assistant director had to keep reminding everyone not to use profanity since the main actor was a five-year-old child and the setting was a church. Profanity on a film set is a common tension breaker that serves the same function as a coffee/smoke break and big, fat sandwiches. It was entertaining to hear a bunch of adults saying "Shucks!" and "Dagnabbit!" when something went wrong. Having a child as a main actor presents its own set of challenges. As you are probably well aware, children have short attention spans and lose interest in things quickly unless there is some kind of prize to win. Come to think of it, I guess everyone is driven by that kind of mentality. However, as adults we're not allowed to scream "It's mine!" and "When is it my turn?!" without any particular target audience. If you do that when you're an adult, people try not to make eye contact with you out of fear of some kind of uncomfortable confrontation. While all of this was going on, we all had to take a break every two hours in order to move our cars from block to block to avoid parking tickets. On low budget film sets people are usually volunteering time to either learn something or curry favor with participants who are being paid, so people tend to disappear as the shooting day wears on. By 6:00 p.m. I was slating scenes, filling out camera reports, retrieving lenses, setting up camera stands, pushing the camera dolly, and basically finding myself responsible for whatever was near me. I didn't mind the job description increase, though. I was there to try to learn as much as I could and felt sort of proud that people trusted me to do so many things that I was clearly unqualified for (suckers). Unfortunately, Ethel called me in the middle of the last series of shots to tell me that I had driven off with her keys, and that she was now late for work. I had to tell a bunch of people with panicked and exhausted expressions on their faces, who were holding heavy, expensive equipment, "Gotta go, sorry." They were all really nice about it, but I felt kinda bad since I could tell that they all wanted nothing more than to go home and drink a beer and take a shower. My absent-mindedness was my ticket out of there. They must have been thinking, "What an, he's so lucky." It was probably a lot like the feeling I had when I was on my way to elementary school and saw the mud-covered guys digging ditches in sweltering heat on the side of the road for very little money. "Those guys are so lucky. They don't have to go to dumb school."