Monday, September 25, 2006

Friday Night on the Boulevard

In an act of almost unconscionable workplace indolence, two of my co-workers and I left the office early on Friday to catch an opening night screening of "Jackass 2" at Mann's Chinese theater. Fridays do tend to be a little more chill around the office, as that same night half the crew spent a couple of hours in the bar across the street and the other half went home early. Besides, when I went to pick up my paycheck Friday I found that none had been issued to me, so I said fuck it, let's go out into the big bad world of Hollywood Boulevard on a Friday night.

And it is quite a world. Hollywood Boulevard has undergone a renovation a la Times Square in New York, and it is no longer the strip that Jackson Browne once sang of with its prostitutes and pimps and drug addicts. Now you have to go down two blocks to Sunset to find that. Hollywood Blvd. between Vine and La Brea is a sort of Vegas-like strip, with lots of neon,
advertisting, and all kinds of tourist-trapping enterprises: Hooters, the Guiness Book of World Records Musuem, The Egyptian theater, El Capitan, Hamburger Hamlet, the Virgin Mega Store, and scads of crap shops with 3 t-shirts for $10 and Your Picture with Brad Pitt. There's a heavy Scientology presence on Hollywood Blvd., and it is a rare night when I walk down the street and am not offered a "FREE STRESS TEST!" by some new Hubbardian convert. "No thank you," I usually say. "I know I'm stressed." But last Friday the vibe seemed even crazier than normal. The second we stepped onto the street a cop car zoomed by us, flashers on, and screeched to a halt at the light, whereupon a Fast and Furious Honda pulled a quick rubber-burning 180 and beat ass in the opposite direction. The cop, being blocked in, did not manage a pursuit. But the police are present not just in their cars. At the corner of Hollywood and Highland a big new shopping/entertainment complex has risen from the ashes of the old Hollywood Blvd. (the same complex that houses the Kodak Theater, home of the Academy Awards) and as we walked by we passed ten uniformed, heavily armed cops. I asked my friend Ian, "Is that supposed to make me feel safe or paranoid?" Girls were screaming out of their cars; "Yo, those the new Jordan seven series?" and a man in a rabbit suit was offering photos for a modest donation. Quite a gauntlet (look it up, Peter) we had to run but run it we did, finally arriving at Mann's Chinese for the 12:30 a.m. screening. It was my first film at Mann's, so after stopping to check out Kevin Costner's freshly molder shoes and hands (he has small both) we ventured inside. Mann's Chinese is the definition of a Movie Palace, and the interior is plush, decadent, vaguely Eastern, and huge. There's a balcony, a chandelier, and a proscenium arch in gold leaf that borders the screen. As we sat down to watch, I tought that Jackass was actually the perfect movie to be seeing in such an environment, as these guys represent what Hollywood is all about now: young, good-looking (for the most part), and celebrities of the 15-minute order, the kind of fame that snowballs until you eventually forget why these people became famous and just accept them as celebrities. The movie is horrifying and absolutely engaging in its face-piercing, horse cum-drinking, scatalogical way. The crowd was very vocal, especially during the trailers. After a ridiculously bombastic and THX-pounding trailer for "Transformers" someone yelled "It's gonna suck!" and everyone in the audience applauded. After the film we emerged in front of the theater and there was some dude laying on the concrete, out cold, a cop straddling him, a river of blood running from his head down into Hedey Lamar's shoes. Apparently the guy started a fight and then got jumped in front of Mann's. A dark way to end the evening, but completely in keeping with the vibe of the night.

Friday, September 15, 2006

R.I.P. Scarlet, 1990-2006

Well it's been a bad year for cats in the O'Dair family. In the last calendar year, we've lost three. Last week we lost sweet little Scarlet. I never said this while Bucky and Zed were around, but Scarlet was my favorite. Not that I didn't love Bucky and Zed, but Scarlet was just special. She was sweet, would let you hold her upside down, and no matter what she just wanted to sit on your lap. Also very fast. Quickest reflexes of any cat I've seen. While Scarlet was a very small cat, she never perceived herself as anything but a completely dominant Alpha cat. Small but fierce, was the way I always described her. True, she terrorized Bucky quite a bit and could be quite a bitch, but I loved her ceaselessly and so did Bucky.

I should also mention that my dear friend Peter also recently lost his dear little Liebnitz under much more tragic circumstances. Feline leukemia, which as we speak is ravaging the feral cat colony Peter has been caretaker of since they moved to Wilson Ave. Liebnitz did not make any pretensions to being the sharpest claw on the paw, but dammit was she cute and she could chase the laser pointer like a fiend. Too bad we never got Bucky and Liebnitz together when they both had their sexy lion cuts.

Tomorrow is the last day of my mindnight-9 a.m. shift, and I'm looking forward to returning to my "normal" schedule of 6 p.m.-3 a.m. No matter how you slice it, working at night sucks. Lisa is performing next week with a former French rock and roll star, and I won't be able to see the show. Billy Goldberg asked me to go to the tennis matches at UCLA, and I wasn't able to go. Skylar and the boys have signed up for a rec league basketball team that I'm supposed to play on but the games are at night, so I won't be able to go. Tim wants to stop off on his way back from Hawaii, but I have to work so what's the point? And that doesn't include random movies, shows, concerts, drinks with people, basically the stuff that makes living in a city worth it. So I ask you, why am I working at night? For the love of reality TV, I guess.

So weekends are the only time I get to socialize in any form. Saturday I got off work at 8 a.m. and went and sat on the beach for an hour, then went straight to a bar in Santa Monica to watch the Buckeye game at a place called The Shack. I found the Shack on the OSU Alumni web site, as it was listed as a place to watch the game in LA. To my surprise, the place was packed with scarlet and grey wearing fans who were very enthusiastic about the Bucks. It was a little surreal seeing all these OSU people in LA, as I thought I was the only one. I met a bunch of cool people and plan on going back for each game, if my schedule permits it. Saturday night I hung out over at Lisa and Milo's playing guitar and listening to poetry and drinking wine, which is always a good time. Sunday afternoon I played hoops with the hoops crowd, and Sunday night I went to a stand-up comedy open mic at the Improv. It was brutal and extrememly non-funny. There was one good joke all night: "I was really into Goth when I was a teenager. You know, I had the black hair, the makeup, the flying buttresses." That cracked me up but the rest of the group were really bad. Made it seem easy to get up there and be not the worst person on stage. Next week we're going to try a different open mic and see if the talent pool is any different.

Will Dan keep his night job? Will his growing dissatisfaction get him fired? Will his boss read his last post and fire him? Will he lose his mind and go postal on the reality TV world? Tune in next time on California Screamin'.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fishing with Dan

Ok it's been nearly two months since I've posted and I APOLOGIZE to all my devoted readers (if there are any left) who have been going through withdrawl. To catch you all up, I'll zoom through the highlights of the last seven weeks. This promises to be a long post so strap in.

The most sginificant thing is that I've been getting even more vampirish over the last month or so, rarely getting to sleep until the sun is well into the always-clear-and-blue California sky. My clock getting reset to post-dawn was mostly the result of a fishing expedition I took with Skylar and a couple of other guys four weeks ago. Fishing, as many of you know, has been a part of my life since I was a little kid, when I would fish with my grandfather on Lake Erie and up in Canada with my Dad and my brother. I absolutely love being on the water, being outside, eating ham sandwiches on Wonder Bread, drinking Pepsi or beer, looking at the wildlife, just the whole experience of it. But while I'm in it for the experience, most people are in it to actually catch fish. Catching fish, however, is not something I have a lot of experience doing. For some reason, I never catch anything when I go, and I've puzzled over the reasons why and I've come up with this conclusion: I'm a shitty fisherman. But that hasn't detered me and didn't deter me when I left work at 4:00 a.m. and went and picked up Skylar, Chris, and Jason. Our destination was Lake Castaic in Ventura, about 30 miles northeast of Hollywood. Lake Castaic is where the world's record largemouth bass was caught, and apparently there is a bounty on the next record fish of $1 million, so we were feeling pretty good about hauling that sucker in and quitting our jobs by noon. We arrived at Lake Castaic around 5:30 a.m., joined the line of cars and boats and the Vietnamese, Mexican, Armenia, Thai, black, and white fishermen awaiting entry to the park. We finally got on the water around 6:45 a.m. in a couple of beat-up rented aluminum boats with outboard motors, complete with a cooler full of beef jerky, ham sandwiches, bottled water, pork rinds and a case of beer. We rushed out to the "hot spot" the guy in the bait shop recommended, rigged up our poles with rubber worms, and got set to reel in the million-dollar fish.
Nothing happened at first, but fishing is all about patience, so we kept at it. Then a group of guys appeared on the shore close to us, and within minutes they were hauling in fish. Thinking we had a bad spot we tried another, then another, then another. Nothing. Not even a goddamn nibble. Perhaps one of my problems as a fisherman is that I don't have enough faith, so after about 45 minutes of no action, I turned my attention to beer, beef jerky, and watching the San Gabriel mountains flow down to the edge of the lake. A female mallard made our acquaintance, and I indulged her by feeding her pieces of Wonder Bread. Note: ducks do not like pork rinds. We also saw a great blue heron and some interesting blue birds I'd never seen before. But no action. After awhile I went swimming and lay sunning myself on the boat, still keeping a line dangling in the water just to keep up appearances. Around noon we headed back in, dropped off the boats, and tried our luck from shore with frozen sardines instead of rubber worms, with the exact same results. I went swimming again, ate a ham sandwich, and played with the giant Rambo knife Mike had given me for Christmas. When all others' faith had been completely exhausted, we packed up, drove home, and I got to bed around 3 p.m. All in all, I'd have to say it was an excellent fishing trip.

To even further screw with my circadian rhythms, my wonderful employer has placed me on a temporary third shift, thus making my working hours the surreal midnight-9 a.m. I have been assured that this is temporary, but frankly my enthusiasm for the job has plummeted in the wake of recent events. Two weeks ago on a Friday, Jason, the day supervisor, requested some volunteers to take the third shift. Jason is a good guy who works hard (also a member of the fishing expedition), and since he was in a bind and asked me personally to help him out, I agreed. This was on Friday and I was to start the new shift on Monday. So I came in on Monday at midnight, already a little discombobulated from the new schedule, and upon my arrival I was informed that earlier that day I had narrowly avoided being fired. Apparently on Friday I forgot to back up a project, and when that project was found to be corrupt on Monday morning, they went to find the backup and none existed. Corruption happens, and yes, I should have backed up the project. However, a quick survey by me later that night found that half of the projects had not been backed up, so mine was not an isolated oversight. What pissed me off was that, after nearly three months of service, making no mistakes and getting rave reviews from my producers and editors, AND volunteering for the shitty third shift, I should be threatened with termination for what seemed to me a minor mistake. On top of that, the head of my department, a 20-something highly-strung punk rocker, insisted on "writing me up," which means I had to sign a confession of my error that went into my personal file. That pissed me off even more, and I told him under no such circumstances would I sign my own scarlet letter, at which point he said sign it or lose your job. I had a 48-hour inner struggle, debating whether or not to sign or just leave. All of my fellow night-shifters were sympathetic, but basically said forget about it sign the damn thing and move on. So I did, but I did not feel good about it. The hypocrisy of that move was not lost on me, as the boss's girlfriend is also the tape librarian, and the same week she somehow lost a John Tesh interview tape that caused a huge problem with a show that was to be delivered to the network. Her punishment? Her and the boss went and got drunk during work hours and then went home and I assume had punk-rock sex. That'll teach her to lose valuable company property. But the intellectual rewards of the work clearly offset the difficulties and lack of adequate pay. After finishing the Gay Husbands show (husbands who come out of the closet after 20 years of marriage) I moved on to the Perez Hilton show (about the self-proclaimed gossip queen of LA. Check out his juicy blog at perezhilton.com for all the latest news on Lindsey Lohan, Tara Reid, and Tom and Suri Cruise), and am now working on Sex Change Hospital, which, you guessed it! is about men going through the final stage of becoming the woman they've always wanted to be by having "genital reassignment surgery." So you can see that all of my intellectual needs are being met at work, and there really is no need to pursue learning or creation outside of the job. Fuck books, I've got Sex Change Hospital!

The fucked-up schedule has made it harder to have a social life and see other people, but I've been doing my best. I got out of town a few times, once to my high-school reunion in Columbus and just recently to Richmond for my sister's 40th birthday, my other sister's baby shower, and to see my new niece Ruby. The reunion was actually pretty fun, getting to see a bunch of friends I hadn't seen in years. Most people have kids and giant houses in Powell, some are still single, some are gay, and some are mentally ill. Everyone seems to be doing well and enjoying their lives, but of course at those things everybody puts their best face on and hides the fact that they're either being hounded by the IRS, are beating their wives or whatever else. I prefer to think that people's lives are what they appear, because that provides a sort of baseline of life as it should-be-lived against which I can compare my own life. It always comes back to our lives, doesn't it? The new niece is a doll, and my twin Carrie is due in just a few weeks.

Within the confines of LA I went to a Dodger game thanks to Billy Goldberg, and met a bunch of guys my age who are all working as producers, writers, or development execs for Steven Speilburg or NIckelodeon or selling pilots to Fox. Rather that get me down by way of comparison, I was energized by the success these guys displayed, especially since they all seemed like relatively normal guys, not much different from me or the people I've been friends with all my life. I also went to a show at the Hollywood Bowl with Lisa and Milo. Milo, an employee of the bowl for three years now, scored us some front-row seats in the president's club for free, so we brought in our picnic basket replete with wine and salad and cheese and spread the whole deal out on a table with a white table cloth and watch the show in style. Zero 7 and the Gotan project performed, both sort of electronic hip-hip/trip-hop groovy performances complete with multi-media shows. I especially liked the fact that the lead instrument in the Gotan Project was a squeeze box played by a guy in a white suit. I also went and saw my dear friend Lisa Vining down in Tustin, which is in Orange County. Lisa is a friend from Columbus who now lives in New York, but she grew up down in Tustin. Her mom just passed away after battling cancer for years, so this was Lisa's first trip back since that. The house she grew up in is quite a trip, an arts and crafts bunglaow built in the 30s that sits on more than an acre of property right in the heart of Orange County. Lisa's dad is an extremely interesting guy, having run a nursery business that grows all sorts of palms for years.
Lisa calls the property the "Sanford and Son" of Orange county, due to the surplus of aging items and equipment filling the ailing barn, green house, and backyard. Just my kind of place. I also got to see Lisa and Jordan's daughter Georgia, who is growing into a beautiful happy little girl. I've also been playing basketball regularly on Sundays, and with the basketball crew went to my first Hollywood party a couple of weeks ago, complete with two DJs, a live band, and all sorts of characters wearing ties and sweater vests with fedoras.

So that's news in a nutshell. I'll try to stay on top of things in the future. It's good for me, keeps me feeling somewhat sane. This weekend I'm going to a bar in Westwood that plays the Buckeye games and see if I can't make some OSU friends out here. Sunday I'm supposed to go to a scouting mission to a stand-up comedy open mic with my friend Julie Cohen. She's done stand-up before, and if we feel inspired, we may go back the next week and make asses out of ourselves and actually get up on stage and perform. Just part of the mission to do as many LA things as possible in the hopes of maybe landing the million dollar fish.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Party Party

So last week over the extended Holiday break I went to three parties (four if you count going to the beach with 400,000 other people) and each one was a micro study in LA. The first was a party one of the guys I work with throws every year out in the Valley. It's a day-long kegger with periodic plunges into the pool and bands and DJs and games of Asshole into the wee hours of the night. Basically, the kind of party I like and have plenty of experience at. I rode out there with Skylar, and at one point this rather tall woman with blond dreadlocks and a fiery tattoo that looked a little like the cover of Journey's "Escape" on her shoulder came up to me and said, "I don't know you but you look like somebody I'd like to know." This excited Skylar immensely, and I'll admit to being a little intrigued myself. Skylar left shortly thereafter, leaving me to fend for myself, which is never a problem in LA as somebody is always going to your part of town and is happy to provide a ride. The rest of the night involved listening to bands, all of whom were talented, and chatting up whoever came into my immediate orbit. I ran into a guy I met through my voice-over class, which was weird because we were both like "what are you doing here?" The crowd here was youngish, mostly 25-35, cool people but not pretentious Hollywood assholes, all somewhere in the early stages of their Hollywood careers (reality TV if I had to guess). I finally found a ride home around midnight and made one last ditch effort to corner the dreadlocked woman for a drunken make-out session to no avail, but I count the night as a success nonetheless.

The next party was on the 4th as I went out to Santa Monica to Julie and Ian's for an early-afternoon cookout. Julie and Ian have a great place not far from the beach, and the crowd here was a little more mature, say in the next LA age bracket of 35-45. When I say mature I mean that everybody arrived with their spouses and babies in tow. It was a total baby fest, so much so that I was wondering where I could find a surrogate infant for the next party like this I was to attend. Ian manned the grilled and delivered some amazing meat and hand-prepared slaws and salad, and later there was homemade pie. Turns out Ian loves to cook and is good at it. There was some badminton before all the shuttlecocks disintegrated. I met Julie's mom and immediately saw where Julie gets her sharp sense of humor, and I also met her brother who gave me some tips about what to do and what not to do when writing scripts and trying to get people to read them. I also ran into somebody at this party that I had met before through no connection to Julie and Ian, a friend of Doug Gochman's. A city of 10 million people and I run into people I'd already met at two consecutive parties. Go figure. There was white wine and sangria but no keg. I stayed a couple of hours and left when most others did as I had to drive to the East side for another cookout and fireworks watching party.

The fireworks party was in Eagle Rock, which is out on the east side near Pasadena, at Matt's house. Matt is a friend of Skylar's and is one of the guys I've been playing basketball with. He bought this place that has an amazing back deck that looks out at the San Fernando mountains, and from this vantage point we could see three different fireworks displays, including the one over the Rose Bowl. I was already rather full from the dogs and burgers at Julie and Ian's, but had to try some of the grilled shrimp and brisket Matt was preparing. By the end of the weekend I was so packed full of meat you could have slipped a case around me and sold me as a sausage. This party was interesting as it was the first time I told somebody I was from somewhere besides Columbus. When you tell people out here that you're from Columbus, Ohio, they look at you with a sort of pity. On at least five different occasions, upon hearing that I moved here from Columbus, people have asked, "have you lived anywhere else?" As in "this city is going to eat you alive." So I was out on the back deck talking to these two girls who claimed to be models for American Apparel, and when one asked me where I was from I had one of the Bullet In The Brain moments where in a split second I thought, "If I say Columbus she's going to think I'm a hick. But fuck that! These provincial assholes out here have no idea how small this country is, that cable and the internet and the profusion of pop culture has everybody feeding from the same trough, and why shouldn't I say Columbus? That's where I'm from! This girl is probably from Des Moines or something!" So I said, "I'm from Chicago." And of course she loved that answer and the rest of the night kept saying things like, "of course this guy knows how to open a beer with a lighter! He's from Chicago!" Oh god, the transformation has begun.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Enter The Shocker

Five weeks into the job and the seesaw journey continues. For some reason I feel like I turned some sort of corner this week and have started feeling pretty good about the job and where it might lead me. The way it's been going out here, I feel pretty good for awhile, then pretty shitty for awhile, then good, etc. etc. Sometimes the swings take days and sometimes they take hours. But this week I've been feeling pretty positive all week, which is in sharp contrast to last week, which was probably the hardest week I've had yet out here. Not sure why, but everything just seemed so hard and I was wondering what I was doing here, why I gave up a good job and lots of friends who I care deeply about, and why should I stay out here? There were a couple of moments when I actually considered the idea of leaving and heading back to Columbus, but something about that move seems premature to me. I've promised myself two years, and I'm going to stick it out, and then I'll know I gave it a fair shake. Parker MacDonell, my good friend from 320 Medick Way in Worthington, was out here this week and he had some sage advice. Parker lived in LA for seven years and eventually moved back to Ohio. He said I'll always feel that magnetic attraction to Ohio until I find a counterbalance out here - friends, lovers, career, etc. That's wise and true, but I'm not sure I want the pull of home to ever go away completely.

There are many good things about working this job. First is having a routine, which I think is a good thing for me. Granted my routine is get home from work around 4:00, go to sleep at 6:00, wake up at 1:10, work on various things until 5:30, then get showered up and go to work at 6:00, but it is a routine. Rinse and repeat. For some reason this routine has me eating less crap and drinking less beer, the net result being I've lost some weight and I feel pretty good. Before leaving Columbus I believe I was tipping the scales at around 205 at my porkiest, and now I'm down to about 190. I feel like my fighting weight is about 180, so I'll see what I look and feel like when I get there. If I look unhealthy I'll pack a few pounds back on which shouldn't be hard to do. Another part of my routine is doing push-ups and sit-ups from 4:00-5:00 while watching Star Trek: The New Generation. This to offset the drop in weight so I won't look too much like a wet noodle. I've also had a crush on Dr. Beverly Crusher since the show came on the air so if I do run into Gates McFadden out here I want to look my best. Granted she's got 20 years on me, but I've always had that thing for redheads.

Career-wise, here's what's happening outside of the job. I finished the Rescue Me script and sent it off to the ABC/Disney Fellowship in writing. If I am one of the 50 people selected from the 15,000 applicants, Disney will pay me $50,000 for a one-year intensive program that helps develop writing talent. I'm also trying to track down some leads that would help me get that script in the hands of some agents. I haven't looked at it for a week or so, but I think I'll take one more pass at it and then go back to the Whimbeldon White script. Other projects that are kicking around in my head: turning Flytown into a feature script, turning my short story "Hernando De Soto Has Never Been Here" into a feature script, and a new, very commercial, idea I've been playing with that is basically "3:10 to Yuma" meets "Collateral." It would be very action-y. It's all very rough at this stage but here's the basic set-up: An LA cop and his partner are undercover to bust the biggest supplier of Meth in the city. Nobody knows who this guy is, they just know he exists. They give him a code name, something like The Shocker (he was always my favorite bad guy from Marvel comics - a street thug who, through his technical brilliance, develops a suit that allows him to shoot bolts of electricity from his arms). They get close, set up a buy, and things go bad. The cop's partner gets killed, other cop left for dead. The reason they don't know anything about The Shocker is because he's not from the city. He's hunkered down out in his compound in the desert in some small town where he runs everything. The cop, an African-American, recovers and tracks The Shocker down to his desert compound and discovers a scary world of tatooted white power freaks making meth and selling it all over the west coast. These guys are scary and bad, but the cop is badder. He finds The Shocker, whose real name is something like Ed Jablonksi, and battles his way through his army to get him. His car is destroyed, his cell phone is destroyed, so he marches the The Shocker through the desert at night to the sheriff's station in the little desert town. Problem is, the sheriff is bought and paid for, so he has to go in the cell too, but not before he tips the white power freaks to what's up. The phones have been cut, he has no car, and the army of tatooted white power freaks is outside waiting to take their man back and exact some revenge. The only way the cop can get the guy back is on the Greyhound Bus that departs the little desert town at 3:10, bound for LA. So the waiting and the strategizing begin, and all the while The Shocker, who is actually a very intelligent and articulate guy, is trying to talk the cop out of bringing him. Bribes, appeals to his street sense, offers he can't refuse. Can the cop survive, can he find justice for his fallen partner, and can he resist the temptations thrown at him?

So there's that.

Inside the job I've already started making inquiries about how I can move from the editing department to the story department. I'm not sure how long that would take, but I firmly believe I am capable of doing that job and I'm starting to get to know some people who work up there. I've also heard that if you make it known that you can operate a camera and are willing to go out on shoots, the company may throw some of that work your way on the weekends. That would be fun.

The voice-over demo is almost done, so I'll send that out as well. Just one more potential road out of the wage slave game.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Let's Hear It for the Boy

I now remember what it's like to have to go to a job everyday. Granted, working from 6 p.m.-3 a.m. isn't exactly a 9-5 job, but I've still got to report to someone everyday. That part I don't like very much, and I will eventually have to get back to a less structured way of earning a living, but the work itself is not so bad. In three weeks I have seen exactly how a reality TV show is put together. Here's the basic process. A producer comes up with a show idea. They put an ad online or in newspapers across the country, seeking people who fit the profile of the show (in this case it's people with terminal cancer who want to be granted one last wish, like reconciling with estranged family members). Once casting is complete, the producer and a film crew go out in the field and compile an assload of footage. This particular show is a pilot to be pitched to A&E, and features the stories of two people, Mark and Marilyn. Between Mark and Marilyn the producer shot about 125 hours of digital video footage. Those tapes come back to the production company, where they are catalogued and logged. Each tape is then transferred to VHS for the producer and assistant producer to watch and begin to compile a story. Once the VHS dubs are made, we in the post-production department digitize the footage into a massive network that has something like a million terabytes of storage space. After reviewing the footage on the VHS tapes, the producer "writes" a script, indicating which tape and at what time on that tape the scene takes place. Once that script is complete, my job is to "stringout" the script, which basically means finding all the clips the script calls for and editing them into the sequence. Then a freelance editor is brought in at a rate of $3000 a week, and he and the producer work from the stringout to begin shaping the show. There's a lot of revision and eventually the show is shown to the head of the production company, whereupon more changes are made. Once those are made the show is finally sent to the network, who decides whether or not they want to pick up the show. Our show is going to network next Friday, and we'll know shortly thereafter whether or not it will be picked up and new episodes ordered. I'm rather ambivalent about whether the show gets picked up or not, because I have almost no creative input. I do have to say, however, that the show is done as tastefully as a show like this can possibly be done. And there are some very good human moments in both stories.

My least favorite part of the job is the digitizing, which is tedious and dull, and my favorite part of the job are the stringouts, which make me feel like I'm actually doing a little editing. Also interesting is when I'm sent down into the basement to retrieve music. The library contains about a thousand CDs from companies that make music exclusively for film and TV. There are labels such as Grafitti Tracks and KIller Cuts, and they put out CDs titled Sadness, Drama 1, Drama 2, Hard Drama, Youth Culture, Tuff Cutz and Mad, Bad and Jazzy. It's takes a little interpretation and listening to figure out which music suits your production. There's also a small section in which I found a Glen Frey music sampler, a Kenny Loggins music sampler, and a Billy Squire music sampler. If at all possible, I will try to work "Lonely is the Night" into our show.

The new job has sort of cut into my new L.A. experiences, which I find regrettable, but last weekend my good friend Scott Hohnstein honored me with a visit. He drove the fifteen hours down from Montana, and though our original plans of camping and hanging out for five days were altered by the new job, we still managed to get in some fun activities. Scott arrived Friday night around midnight and I met him at my place around 3:30 a.m. The next day we had breakfast and took a ride through Beverly Hills, then Saturday night we rented out some band practice space and rocked for four hours, which was great. For $15 an hour you can rent a room about the size of my basement back on Patterson Ave., which is great because space is at such a premium here. Sunday we went to the beach (my first beach trip where swimming was involved) and walked the Santa Monica pier. The pier has a sort of carnival-like atmosphere, with a mini amusement park, game arcade, restuarants and food stands and a slew of musicians busking along the boardwalk, right next to all the fisherman. Some of the busking is pretty good, mostly guys with guitars singing, but my favorite was the guy doing the marionette show along to a boombox playing James Brown songs. Sunday night we grilled out and watched basketball. Just like old times.

Last night I took a catering job at the Woodland Hills Country Club for their annual member-guest tournament. Among the luminaries there were Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeanie), the guy who played Piper's husband on "Charmed," and Robbie Krieger, guitarist for The Doors. Robbie is a wizened little thing but somehow he and his partner managed to score low net in the 4th flight, and he was awarded a handsome trophy for his efforts. The musical highlight of the evening was getting to hear Denise Williams, who is famous for her song, "Let's Hear it for the Boy," perform her song, "Let's Hear it for the Boy." I made about a hundred bucks and got to bed at my usual time, around 5:05 a.m., which is precisely when the birds start chirping.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Week One Under the Belt


Tonight I start week two of the job, and I have to say that week one was not that bad. Night one was not so good, but the rest of the week I sort of fell into it. The first night I was thinking, "Oh my god how am I going to go to a job everyday? I haven't done this for so long!" But actually I find that it's good for me to have someplace to go everyday and to have a routine set up. Too much free time is not necessarily a good thing, but working at night is not something I want to do forever. I actually don't mind the hours but I feel a little vampirish. The night crew is a nice group, six in all, but for the most part people are sequestered into their editing bays and I don't see very much of them, except when we converge in the dub room to play Missile Command on the Atari system set up in their. The building is right on Hollywood Blvd., and it's very cool--an old deco masterpiece built in the 20s with huge hallways and lots of arches and sconces and whatnot. Sitting in the dub room looking out through the metal blinds at the blinking Supply Sergeant sign makes me feel like Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe. I'm just waiting for a sultry femme fatale to walk in in a black veil and tell me she's got a case for me. It's kind of strange to hear all the hustle and bustle of the street below--girls yelling, cars honking, sirens screaming, live music blasting out of bars, the same guy playing the five-gallon buckets every night--going on while I'm working, but it does make me feel like I'm in the middle of the action. Every couple of hours I'll take a break and go up on the roof deck, which offers a pretty amazing view of Hollywood. Check out the pic. Already I feel like I've learned a lot, thanks in no small part to Ricardo the night supervisor. He's a really nice guy who's a whiz on the Avid and has been teaching me everything I need to know. He's patient and thorough and I feel lucky to have him teaching me. I've been digitizing tapes for several shows - "Show Choirs" which is about high-school drama departments that put on these huge musicals. This particular school is in Morgantown, WV. The show will air on MTV. I also did some work for "Transgeneration Revisited" which follows a group of transgendered teens as they navigate their tricky lives. This one airs on Logo, which is a GLBT network that just started up. I also worked on "Last Requests" which is a sort of a Make-A-Wish foundation reality show. Two terminally ill cancer patients - Marilyn and Mark - were chosen and the show attempts to grant them their last requests, both of which involve establishing a better relationship with estranged children before they die. Everyone else in the office thinks the show is morbid and depressing, but I find some of the things Mark is saying very true, stuff like appreciating your life while you have a chance to just being happier with yourself. Of course it strikes a chord with me. On Friday I did my first string-out, which is a sort of very rough edit that lays out all the video and audio for the editor to begin working with. It was fun. I felt like I was editing.

The important thing for me now is to keep writing every day, because that way I'll feel like I'm moving forward with the real goal and not just stalling in some night editing job. If I can manage that I'll be fine for awhile, and so far so good. I finished an essay last week and am really really close on releasing the Rescue Me script. I sort of have the hope that I'll send this out and some agent will read it and then my life will change and I'll get a TV staff writing job, but I understand that the odds of that happening are not great. When it doesn't I'll probably get all bummed out for awhile, think I'm a terrible writer and that I made a huge mistake even moving out here. So I'll indulge that feeling for a couple of days, but then I'll have to move on to the next thing, and when that doesn't sell I'll move on to the next thing and etc. etc. etc.