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.

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