Tuesday, September 30, 2014

One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Wallpaper Putter-Upper

Hello. No post last week, because life. But I'm back with arms full of wondrous narrative treasures.

One of the cool recent happenings was the set I worked on this past weekend. It was a short film that was being shot at Silver Dream Factory, a funky studio with all sorts of sets that I often had to tunnel through to get from point A to point B, ensuring my life felt like an extremely genre-confused movie.

But I prefer the term "genre fluid."
Since I just sort of arrogantly strut onto sets without any real background or formal education in set design, every set I work on is a guaranteed learning experience. I'm fortunate enough to even have quasi-mentors, aka unnecessarily kind and intelligent production designers who patiently teach me how to do shit. I got recruited on this set by someone I've worked with in the past, who taught me a ton on our last gig and even more on this one.

On this particular set I was not the production designer, but the set decorator. When movies have larger budgets, the art department sometimes gets the luxury of stratifying its responsibilities. Here we had our production designer, the head honcho and final authority (besides the director) on all artistic decisions, the set decorator who gets to do the fun stuff like decide what goes where in the picture, and the prop master who makes sense of the chaotic mess of props and furniture and keeps the most important pieces on hand. Now, I say that divvying up these duties is a luxury, but on this set it was definitely a necessity. We had so much shit, both to do and to keep track of. In the end, three people was hardly enough to undertake our undertakings.

90% of this shoot was wallpaper. Lots. and lots. of wallpaper. Sickening amounts. The surface area we had to cover was unbelievable. And because we couldn't actually apply the permanent adhesive of the wallpaper to the set walls, we had to lay down a complex matrix of painters tape and carpet tape beneath it... essentially, we covered the same four walls three times. Specifically, these walls:

After about 12 straight hours of staring at a wall, getting evil mutant tape boogers stuck to your fingers and scissors, trying to match the edges of wallpaper patterns together, and pretending not to hear the DP's passive-aggressive remarks about how long this is taking, you are sometimes tempted to hate the world and everything inside it. But then, eventually, you step back:

And you think, "Well, we are some bad-ass interior decorating motherfuckers." And you know you are right.

For me, this weekend's shoot had a lot to do with transformation. The above photos are a drastic example, as well as the transformation of the kitchen. The kitchen transition, however, will actually appear in the movie, since there is a flashback that takes place there. Behold:

Dirty scary kitchen

Clean un-scary kitchen
We also completely redecorated a bathroom, created rain effects with a pvc pipe and a spray bottle, and used a wind machine... which both sounds like and vaguely resembles what Leonardo DaVinci would one day coin "the fan." Because that's exactly what it is.

That's enough of that chatter. Another exciting development is the newest addition to my job collection: agent assistant! Yyyeah buddy, it's official now. I'm working in comedy and comedy development. I go in a couple times a week and talk to stand-up comedians and casting directors and watch comedy reels and it's super fantastic. Plus the perks are bomb diggity. Last night I got into a show at the Laugh Factory for free, where I both watched and met like a metric buttload of big-time comedians. There were a couple exciting drop-ins (speedy comedy vocab sesh: celeb-status comedians who come by the club last minute and say "hey, lemme do some jokes," and then they do) including Dane Cook and Paul Rodriguez. Wut?!

Anyway, that's just me bragging about how great my life is. However, if we're talking full-disclosure honesty the truth is my work-work-life-work balance has been tough, in the sense that it is nonexistent. Between assisting my director, assisting my agent, production designing, being a friend/girlfriend, and requiring clean laundry, I find myself trying to mash my obligations together into a cohesive schedule. I'm going for jambalaya but winding up with succotash.

Seriously. This is how god punishes vegetables.
Every obligation is a conflict for the other, and I can't lie... it's really, really tough.

And out of sheer insecurity I feel the need to end this blog on a high note. Hey, check out this fat squirrel!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In Apple Valley, Hike Takes You

The weekend started off strong with a trip down to SD for boyfran's birthday. Happy birthday, boyfran.

After a night of drunken buffoonery involving lots of friends, beer, hard alcohol, and a prize wheel, I drove my righteous booty back up to LA to meet up with my three friends Casey (girl version), Casey (boy version), and Lee to embark on the journey of a lifetime: a backpacking excursion to the Deep Creek hot springs in Apple Valley. Please put sunglasses on before viewing:

And somehow, the place is even prettier than in this photo. It's the Meryl Streep of nature.

"Where does such a magical place exist?" you are probably wondering, with a Flapjack-like twinkle of wanderlust in your eyes.

Is this cartoon still relevant to you people?
It is located here:

That ain't no red brick road, y'all. That's a good 2.5 hours' hike. To get to the magical hot springs you have to navigate about 4-5 miles along an unmarked path. It's a challenging hike with lots of inclines and declines and straight lines and felines. Not to mention you're also carrying everything you'll need while you're camping out there-- food, water, shelter, clothing, toilet paper, copious amounts and varieties of psychedelics... by the time you've been hauling everything uphill on your back for an hour you start wishing you had left your 1990s tv set back at the car.

Compound all this with the fact that, especially in recent times, it is WAY too hot to go outside. I'm currently in default with my bank because I won't go out to the mailbox. Can you imagine rigorous and prolonged hiking in the mo' flippin' desert? No way, osprey. So, what do we do? We hike in the dark.

Every iteration of previous-me would have been scared to walk around in the forest at night. The only difference between them and current-me is that I didn't really think about it until we were out there doin' it. Funny thing. As it turns out, some forests aren't filled with misunderstood lab mutants.

And others are.
They are, however, filled with beautiful stars, lush desert plants, and the sounds of invisible creeks rushing below you.

When we finally reached the creeks at about 10pm, we dropped our junk in the sand, put on our bathing suits, and joined the other campers who were swimming around in the hot springs. Many were in the nude, so of course, when in Rome... just in case you're wondering why I don't have any photos of me enjoying the hot springs.

The site was sparsely populated with friendly, fun-loving, naked hippies. It was a perfect place to be. I was sad when, on the following evening, we had to finally pack up our gear and hike out.

Fortunately, I didn't have to say goodbye to nature as quickly as I anticipated, because on the hike out we got utterly, completely, hopelessly lost. One guess of a turn became a second guess of a turn became a third, until it got to a point where the four in our crew had zero clue where any of us were going. It was dark, we were exhausted, and everything looked like trees. We thought that surely if we kept heading in the right direction, we would make it back to the random Twin Peaks (which is a real place!) off-ramp where we had left the car.


9 miles in and no such luck. We had been hiking along the face of a mountain for nearly 4 hours and seen nothing promising... except an aintfuckinwitchu bridge enshrouded in darkness that joined the two adjacent mountain faces. It was fun playing the "Guess how many yards you'll fall to your death to" game as we crossed.

Ambiguous guesswork soon led us down into the ravine between the two mountains, which was a treacherous downhill climb bested only by a similar escapade on the way in, where we lost sight of the trail and slid halfway down a mountain face before finding our way again. (Fun digression to that story: my friend saved my life by pulling me back up to the trail with a poncho. Just spend some time with that mental picture.)

Once at the bottom of the ravine, we trekked through the river bed, searching for the alleged trail that never quite appeared. Half of the river bed was dry, but yes, the other 50% was in fact a river bed. That's when things got pretty Oregon Trail.

Despite the fact that by that point two of our flashlights had died and we had run out of water, it was an invigorating experience sloshing through the river in the dark. Had I not been completely exhausted and, y'know, needed water, I would have been content to do it for longer. But by our 12-mile mark I just wanted politically-incorrect slaves to carry me home on a banana leaf.

That did not happen. Instead, I somehow climbed up an impossibly steep cement bridge that had been built into the side of the mountain. Yup, we did takesies-backsies on the whole "going down into the ravine" deal and climbed back up.

By the time about 6 and a half hours and nearly 15 miles flew on by, we at last struck asphalt. We followed it to a gate that indicated we had been slogging around in a restricted military zone. We were in Victorville, several miles from the car.

From there, one member of our party (and the decided hero of the evening) literally took off running to get to the car and drive it to our location so that we could go home. In the meantime, the other three of us sat and waited. At that point we were 89% dead, so we unrolled our sleeping bags and napped on the side of the road.

I'll skip through the part where we momentarily hitchhiked with a dude until discovering the road we needed to get on had been closed on that side of the mountain for years. But that also happened.

At long last, we reached home at 6am (only 6 hours behind schedule!). And I spent the subsequent 24 hours not moving, because every inch of my body had crystalised into a solid glacier of pain. Regardless, it was a grand experience to be coerced into bonding with nature. Being with 3 very good friends also helped. In fact, they made it worth it.

The hot springs were lovely enough on their own, but this weekend will be among one of my more memorable experiences. I can say that much.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Rube Shooting Videos at Youtube Studios

Tonight's (this morning's? time is relative) post will be brief. On most other nights I would diligently take 17 paragraphs and 3 personal anecdotes to explain why, but for now, let us chalk it up to this: other writing. It is an exciting and stressful time to be me. I wish I could slow down time and zip through the world like in Clockstoppers.

Unavoidable observations before moving on:
1. It is amazing to me that short-sleeved shirts over long-sleeved shirts were ever a thing.
2. If you found yourself in hyper speed would you really spend that much time playing with a fucking bee?

So last week I booked a production design gig for a something I'm not allowed to talk about yet, lest the mighty goog of Google fall upon me. I am, however, allowed to share Instagrams. So here's where I was:

At the fabulous YouTube Space in Los Angeles, and yes, I do mean fabulous. The YouTube Studio has all the hip bells and whistles you might expect of a trendy multi-million dollar corporation. Google treats 'em gud. To my understanding, the space is available for rent and free for YouTube users who have achieved a certain number of followers, so that's kind of cool. The YouTube Space boasts several large and fully-equipped sound stages (big, empty, usually expensive rooms specially designed for building and shooting movies in), and is decorated with lots of cool furniture and fun/confusing post-modern art pieces.

Frankly, this one is obscene as it is racist.
But personally, for me, the highlight was this coffee bar:

The punny name alone would have been enough, but everything on the menu was gratis (typed in italics to create the illusion of sophistication). I enjoyed it far more than the typical c-stand:

After much deliberation, I've decided I'm not going to explain what this is but rather direct you to the Wikipedia article. Don't say I never redirected you to anything.
The shoot was swell-- good cast and crew, and a fun new studio to discover. I hope to return soon, for more free macchiatos. Oh yeah, and to PD some P's!

...That didn't sound inappropriate until I typed it out. Welp. That's showbiz.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Agent Double-OMG

The hilarity of my last post is that while I so proudly and willingly preached to all you babies about making decisions and sticking with your passions, I soon after went into a spiraling fire-tornado of overwhelming indecision so severe the USDA Fire Service mistook it for an imminent threat and raised fire danger levels to "very high."

Note to PSA-land: if your mascot is going to be referencing to anything as "very high," you probably shouldn't name him "Smokey."
Which leads me to make the following amendment: if you're having trouble with indecision, it's good to have level-headed people in your life who can be the voice of reason when you're too busy running around like a headless chicken. This is exactly where my source of re-invigorating calm came from, and I'm happy to report that I'm back to my cheerful, relaxed holier-than-thou self. I also got a good pep talk from my boss. See guys? She's like, totally nice. And she just so happens to be a certified life coach aside from the 1 million other things she does as a director. Convenient? Chyeah. I'll take those free consultations over dental benefits any day.

Serenity and cheerful, relaxed holier-than-thou self aside, I'm not any less busy. In fact, it's the opposite. My agency internship is kickin' into full-swing and that's gonna be a whole thing. I had my first day last week. It was fine. Very basic work answering phones, doing some data entry, and making small talk with the friendly front desk intern. The coming months, however, promise a heavier workload. While I can handle a heavy workload, I'm a little nervous... because I'll let you in on a little secret, gang:


And I'm desperately trying to get myself up to speed fast enough to where my supervisors will forget that. Remember the first time you ever ate spaghetti as a kid? I don't either, but I'm sure your parents have photos. It feels a lot like that-- messy, confusing, complicated, saucy, and hey! Pretty enjoyable once you discover what you get out of it.

Disclaimer: This is not me as a baby.
Speaking of which, some of you may be wondering why I'm diggin' on this unpaid internship so hard. After all, I'm an artsy tartsy writer. Why do I want to be at a talent agency?

Why I Want to Be at a Talent Agency

1. I get a firsthand look at what kinds of material do and don't get looked at. Remember, this is also a literary agency and I am working in the agency's comedy division. Chances are a lot of funny comedians and written material are going to pass my way. If I'm planning to shop my writing (industry slang for: ravenously send stuff out everywhere in the hopes of somebody important reading it) in the future, I want to know the best way to get it picked up (industry slang for: purchased, maybe and/or eventually, and actually made, maybe and/or eventually).

2. I can develop a relationship with the clients. In this case, a bunch of comedians. Buko networking. They have an agent so you already know they have some credibility, and they might have a good hook-up.

3. I can develop a relationship with the agents. They are the hook-up.

4. I can scope the competition. My experience thus far has been that, though it is quite established that this is a competitive industry, we are all angry little beta fish who often can't see past our glass into all the other bowls. So instead we fantasize that the others are either vastly superior (ref: inferiority complex), or vastly inferior (ref: presumptuous dickhead). Seeing what "all the others" are up to is a good way of knowing to either step up my game or to give myself some credit. It's also just very useful craft-wise to read others' material and absorb any useful formulas.

5. I still get my creative fix. This certainly isn't true of every agency, but because of the nature of the role I'm playing my creative input holds some value. This is an emerging division; right now it's no more than a feeble growth on the ably-tentacled body that is the entire agency. I get to be one of the players adding strength and vitality to that little growth. How's THAT for a metaphor?

6. I finally get to explore development. Comedy development, no less! Development is something I've become interested in since getting me some industry exposure out here. Development is the process of discovering new material-- so a lot of reading, summarizing, commenting, and best of all: criticizing. I'm great at criticizing.

7. Question mark question mark question mark??? If the past year has been any indication, there is NO telling what the future holds! I could really enjoy the work of an agent, or even one day become an agent, or discover a new career path, or get fired for exposing myself to a co-worker. The possibilities are endless!

Right now the best I can do is be effing jazzed. I don't know that I've mentioned this, but my first solid goal towards *achieving my dreams* out here was working at an agency-- preferably a literary one (check!). And now I'm here... unpaid part-time, but, y'know, still here. It's very surreal.

Specifically, this bowl of surreal:

And in case you're wondering, "Are you

 Yes, I'm 100%