Thursday, May 25, 2006

Captain's Log: Supplemental

Well everything is going to change now because I just got offered and accepted a job. Actually I got offered two jobs this week. The first was the clearance PA job for what I think was the Apprentice. It would have been a nightmare of a job, basically running around with a film crew getting strangers who appeared in the shot to sign a release. They called me and said "Daniel we really liked you in your interview and we'd like to offer you a FULL TIME position starting at $7.25 an hour!" $7.25 an hour? Don't they make more than that at Taco Bell? I called them back and politely declined their offer. The other job, the job I took, is working as an assistant editor at World of Wonder (the place Skylar has connections - he basically got me the job). It's great because I'll be starting as an assistant editor and not a digitizer, which is essentially one rung up the ladder. The only drawbacks to the job are that it's at night (6pm-3am) and that I won't be getting paid a tremendous amount of cash. Still, it will be enough for me to pay my bills and I've been saying all along how I need to start at the bottom and work my way up. This is an ideal job for that. I'll get great experience and pretty soon I'll have a resume that actually has a bunch of professional credits on it. I've heard that the night crew over at WOW is very cool and fun to hang out with. That leaves me with my days free to write and pursue voice-over work, which is great. What it doesn't leave me with is the chance for a social life, but hey, I don't have much of a social life right now so what am I complaining about? I start Tuesday and the first project I'll be working on is a documentary about Jim and Tammy Faye Baker's son who has a punk-rock ministry in Atlanta. I'm a little nervous, but I guess that's to be expected. Engage!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Submit to Everything

Last week I felt like my job search was grinding to a halt and it was getting me down, so I decided to renew my efforts and take a slightly different approach to things. Basically, the I'm a Nice Guy From the Midwest thing doesn't get you very far out here. I really don't want to turn into a Hollywood asshole, but there is something to be said about putting up a good front, at least intially. This includes dress, talk, jewelry, etc. Lisa, who has never worked a day of PR in her life, has parlayed the strategy of positive self-promotion into a very lucrative position doing PR for a local arts organization. She's completely capable of doing the work, but if she'd approached these people saying "Gee I think I can do it but I don't really know. I've never done this before" they never would have hired her. So last week I sent out several applications for jobs and on all of them I adopted a pithy, don't-give-a-fuck attitude. This seemed to work as I had three interviews this week and actually landed a job as a PA working on an independent film last weekend. The PA work was hard--moving sets, helping to set up the camera, going on coffee runs, and a lot, a lot of standing around and waiting. But I got $350 for the weekend so that was good, plus I got to see how a low-budget independent film was made, what with the lighting, the director of photography, the sound and the director working in tandem. It's going to look very good - shot on HD, with some really nice dolly shots. My first day in film school. Yesterday I interviewed for a digitizer position for The Amazing Race and for a field clearance coordinator for what I think was The Apprentice. Today I had another interview over at World of Wonder for an assistant editor position, which went well because Skylar gave me a strong recommendation. All of these jobs are perfect for a 23 year-old, but I've come to realize that I will have to work beneath what I believe is my current station in life in order to eventually work at what I feel is my current station in life. Kind of sucks, it's kind of humiliating, but I knew all of this going in. Last week Charlie quoted Kerouac: "Submit yourself to everything." That's a good philosophy, get rid of the ego and experience a lot of different things. Who knows where I'll end up? If I get the WOW assistant editor job, I'll be working at night and getting paid like $700 a week, which is considered chicken scratch out here. But I'll take it as a place to start. Plus I can write during the day, which is when I write best.

On the way home from the set on Friday night I got into my first LA auto accident. I was driving along Ventura Blvd. when this Oldsmobile pulled out of the Ralph's parking lot right in front of me. I know that anti-lock brakes are better and help you stop faster, but they do take some of the drama out of screeching to a halt. So I slammed on the brakes and decelerated and T-boned the Olds at about 5 miles an hour. I was oddly calm in the wake of the collision. The person I hit was a 72 year-old Armenia man named Bedros, and he was noticably freaked out. We pulled over the side of the road, and after I helped him pry his door open he placed my palm on his chest to illustrate how hard his heart was beating. I kept asking him if he was okay and telling him everything was going to be alright. He seemed to appreciate this, but not enough to prevent him from asking me for $500 on the spot to pay for his car. I tried to explain to him that it was his fault, and that Hazel, the woman who stopped to volunteer to serve as a witness, would attest to this. This caused him to launch into a diatribe about discrimination against immigrants, a real issue to be sure, but one that was not germaine to the situation at hand. My bumper was slightly dented, so we exchanged insurance info and got on our way. Hopefully this won't turn into a big hassle but I figured better to get the bumper fixed and do things on the up and up. I'm just glad he was okay and didn't have a heart attack.

Tonight is my last voice over class. Will I be able to start making money at this? Who knows. I've been told I have a lot of potential, and that I should definitely pursue it, so I'm going to. This means making a professional-sounding demo from the recordings I made during the class and then sending it to agencies. I don't really have the money to take more classes right now, but hopefully I'll start working soon and then I can take more V.O. and Groundlings classes. The Rescue Me script is 80% done. Almost time to start showing my writing to LA.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Routine?

I feel like I'm reaching the conclusion of the first phase of my L.A. adventure. My voice-over class will be done next week, my second Groundlings class will also conclude, the tutoring with Edward will also wrap up soon and I'm feeling the need to secure gainful employment now more than ever. In a way I think this is good because I've settled into a sort of routine here, which is nice, but I also want to keep trying different things and meeting new people. The job search continues in earnest and I've got a very promising lead with World of Wonder (the prod. co. that did Inside Deep Throat) once again. I've also landed my first job as a graphic designer out here, making $400 for a postcard and flyer (this, on top of another $700 for dogsitting, camera work, and catering, has made this my most profitable month thus far). The weather is changing for good, gone are the chilly nights and cloudy mornings. It is sunny L.A. now, just as promised.

Last week I went to a couple of cocktail parties, including one at Clay's, the guy who hired me to film the concert. At the party I ran into the band and they said the footage looked great and that they watched it all the the way to Fresno. That was a relief, and hopefully will open the door to future camera work. I'm supposed to have a beer with Clay this week to talk about it. Lisa had a gradution party in the garden at her apartment this weekend, and we had fun playing bongos and guitar into the wee hours of the morning. I like Laurel Canyon (where Lisa lives) - it still has that hippie/60s vibe to it, which I find endearing more often than annoying. I met a guy at the party named Ben and he took me to see a 25-foot totem pole he carved in Bali, then paid $15,000 to ship back to Laurel Canyon. It features the visages of Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, is carved out of mahogany, and has a poem to go along with it, which I would recite if I could remember it. It has something to do with riding the snake (of course). Driving home I say two coyotes, neither of whom seemed concerned about me. Last week one of them ate Lisa's cat.

I'm sorry for the voice-over class to winding down, because in addition to liking everyone in the class I'm having a lot of fun with it. So far my favorite thing has been animation. I think I mentioned doing a voice for a stoner-hick named Dave who wears hemp pants and loves poetry, and last week I voiced Lord Spite, who was described as a "very evil and insecure Paul Lynde." Doesn't that describe the actual Paul Lynde? I took this cue and went on the web and found a bunch of video clips of Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares and The Donny and Marie Show, and using these I did my best impression of him for Lord Spite. If I could get paid for what I do anyway, which is make up voices to speak in (this happens less without the cats around) that would kick ass. After this class I'm going to put together a demo and as soon as I can afford it I'll probably take another V.O. class. Listen for me on an America Online commercial within two years.

I've promised to turn in a short story to the writing group, which will be the first story I've written in like five years. Hard to get the voice back, so I'm planning on this one being sort of a throat clearer, but the writing I've been doing lately for Charlie's group has been story-oriented, and I realize how much I miss working in this way. I'd be happy to share it when it's done if anyone is interested.

Sunny and about 80 degrees today so I'm off to hike Mt. Hollywood. Happy mother's day to all mothers out there, past future and present.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Video Camera 101

A bit of a long layoff between posts here, so sorry about that, because I know the masses are out there screaming for more California news. Last week I went on my first casting call. Granted, it wasn't for a spot on a pilot or even a commercial, but it was a casting call nonetheless. The Learning Channel is planning on airing a series called "Resolutions" starting, I think, in January. The show will have various permutations, e.g. resolving to lose weight, resolving to find love, resolving to get organized, and the show I inquired about, resolving to quit smoking. I saw something on Craig's List and sent them an e-mail saying how I'd love to quit smoking and something like this would be a nice little incentive. So they called me in and we talked on camera for half an hour and then they took my polaroid. If selected for the show, I think I would get paid, plus I'd get to live in some sort of smoker's Real World-like house for awhile. It would all be very tastefull, they assured me, not like an MTV or Fox Production. I wonder if Flav da Flav is looking to quit smoking?

Last weekend I had the video shoot down in Anaheim and, dear reader, I feel that you have come to expect a certain level of honesty from me so I'm going to be completely honest about how it went: it went great! True, there were some negatives as well as positives, but overall I'd say it was an excellent learning experience. I learned, first and foremost, that I have a lot to learn on the technological side of things when it comes to DV cameras. When Ben and I were making "Flytown" and "Night of the Machine" and "Bucky Wonder," we pretty much turned the camera on and let it do all the work. Out here, that's amateur city and will not fly and will not get you asked back to do another shoot. I was slowly realizing this on the day of the shoot as I unpacked Skylar's camera, which I had borrowed the day before and therefore was not very familiar with. Zebra stripes? What are those? Neutral Density filters? Huh? Knee balance, 24p, 30p, 29.97 drop frame, infinity focusing, manual vs. auto white balance, color matrix, manual exposure, auto exposure, manual focus, auto focus, custom audio levels, detail adjustment, whaaaaaa? So I finally decided that I was going to manually expose the picture and use auto focusing, just as the band kicked off their first number, a little nü metal diddy called "I Get Violent" featuring some interesting rapping from the hot white female singer. I began filming, gliding back and forth in front of the stage, zooming in on the singer and the Blackie Onassis-like lead guitarist, lots of sweet pans and tilts and zooms and steady shots and artsy framing. This is what I was used to and good at, framing shots and getting the most of the images, so a couple of songs in I began to relax and enjoy the shoot. The day after the shoot I went out and bought "Video Shooter: Storytelling with DV, HDV HD Cameras" read the entire thing in a couple of days. I can now speak more intelligently about all of the items in the above list and feel much more confident in my abilities as a cameraman. Chad the drummer left me a message this week saying that the footage looked good.

Tuesday's voice-over class was the most fun yet. We did video-games and animation, so I got to say things like "Drop the gun! Do it now!" and "Deploy a stinger!" After I emerged from voicing Dave, the hippie stoner hick on "The Ron White Show" my instructor told me that he auditioned for the part when they were casting it and he wished he had done as good a job as I had. That was nice. On Saturday I went and saw The Brian Jonestown Massacre in this warehouse downtown. You may know them from the documentary "Dig," which, if you haven't seen it, you should go check out. They were absolutely amazing, from the first chord they hit to the extended 25-minute art-noise outro they finished with. Thursday night after turoring Edward (see pic of me and the cute little math whiz) I catered my first Hollywood film premiere at the Academy Awards theater. It was the premiere of a new poker movie called "All In" starring Michael Madsen, Dominique Swain, and Academy Award® Winner Louis Gossett Jr. I was dissappointed, however, to find that none of those stars showed up to the premiere, but it was still quite the Hollywood affair. Lots of well-dressed men with their slender wives and girlfriends mixing and horfing down the hors d'oeuvres I was serving. I can't say there were may A-list stars there, but there were a lot of character actors whom I recognized but do not know their names, such as The Guy Who Got Convicted of Inciting the Rape of Jody Foster in The Accused, Big Carmine from the Sopranos, The Big Italian Cop from Ace Ventura Pet Detective, plus of couple of other Sopranos soldiers and other familiar bit players.

Yesterday I went down to the LA Times Festival of Books on the UCLA campus and saw a couple of panels and heard a couple of authors read. Lisa's friend Michael was there to promote his new childrens' book series "The Sisters Grimm" about a brother and sister who find out that they're descendants of The Brothers Grimm and therefore have special powers. At his book signing a representative of Reese Witherspoon showed up and said Reese was interested in producing the movie version of his first book. The success is all around, I can smell it in the air.