Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pastrami, Epiphanies and Actor Bonding on the Shoot

The big revelation came when I decided to buy the pastrami at the deli. I didn't buy a sandwich – just the sliced pastrami and the Swiss cheese. How is that a revelation? It's just deli meat, after all. There was a time and one that is not that long ago when I would have made the pastrami from a brisket. There are a few recipes for the home cook. I have the spices, and I had the time at the point I considered it. I realized that making the pastrami was a crazy thing to do for such a tiny shoot. The actor wouldn't be eating the sandwich. Actually, there was no guarantee that we would show the sandwich. As far as that shot went, there was nothing to be gained by having homemade pastrami. Further, there was far easier and far less expensive ways to feed the cast and crew. I had entertained the notion of serving the homemade pastrami along with some home roasted turkey breast for lunch. But beef prices are crazy right now and apparently, it's not turkey season at any of my markets.Forty dollars for lunch meat just seemed appalling to me. Resisting that impulse showed that I had gotten some sense into my head about pushing myself beyond all sense and reason. That was a very happy thing, because I still had a lot of hats to wear on Saturday. And I still had a cast and crew to feed. And a pastrami sandwich to make. Incidentally, the soup in the container is real and homemade, but only because I happened to have stock in the freezer and noodles in the pantry.

I managed not to work myself to a frazzle and get to the shoot exhausted. I was very tired, mind you. I don't sleep well before a shoot – even small ones. But I wasn't running on fumes. There was almost too much to do. We had a schedule that we had to keep to get the actors (whose time we were gifted) out of the house and onto their other appointments while getting all the shots on our list done. I'll go into the nuts and bolts of what we did and when we did it on the behind the scenes blog I write for this web series. You can visit there now and see some of the photos from the shoot HERE . Just go the the LINKS menu on the right. I'll post a link in an announcement here when that goes up. On this blog, I'll just cover what was going on in my head while all this mayhem unfolded. The primary hat I wore on the day of the shoot was sound technician. I had a mike and a mike stand and audio software (thanks, Bruce). But someone had to be on a headset making sure the dialog was actually recording. It's a pivotal job, but not physically difficult. However, that kept me from other tasks while shooting a take. In between takes, I was rushing around like a hummingbird to make sure actors who weren't in the current shots were in costume and getting their makeup done. After I made the sandwich, I had to keep checking to make sure none of said actors ate the sandwich. Jon brought a dozen gorgeous donuts from a shop very close to us in the Happy Corner strip mall. On a side note, those donuts are so incredibly light that we swear the unassuming owner had to have trained in Paris. Despite the donuts, actors do wander quite a bit and most eat a great deal.

Though I didn't have time for some things I would normally do – like take a photo of that magnificent sandwich or casual shots of the actors, I made sure that I could at least check on them as I jogged from room to room in the house we were using as a location. I'd hear a snippet that let me know that my Vampire and my Doctor were running their lines together. I also liked what I was hearing of their choices on how to read the lines. I could hear the chemistry between them. “Oh, good. They're bonding,” I thought on one pass through. On another pass, I heard them chatting with my FBI Agent. It was a ribald exchange that cause me to think, “Oh god, they're bonding!” It's a fine line with actors and bonding. The line between tight knit cast capturing lightning in a bottle to a set that's run amok is a very thin one. Jon and I are always outnumbered. I don't want to tell you what they found while pretending to research on that laptop. Sunshine Lliteras, or set dresser/makeup maven, asked me if I realized that all four of the actors were deeply twisted. I knew that two of them are, but the other two really surprised me. Sunshine thinks I am attracted to a certain vibe from the folks I work with. I must admit, even my crews tend to be on the wacky side. What's interesting about that is that the initial hires were all via e-mail. Maybe I can sense wackiness through email.

The shoot was a frenzy, but it was a fairly organized frenzy. While Jon and I shot one set of actors in one room, Sunshine did makeup and set dressed the other. When Jon and two of the actors helped put the living room back the way we found it, Sunshine and I set up the green screen and the table. Somewhere in the middle of all that, Sunshine and I quickly set the meal up to heat. I chose a favorite Ina Garten recipe, lemon chicken with garlic and herbs, basmati rice and a mixed baby greens salad. Instead of boneless chicken breasts, I used in bone in chicken parts from a picnic pack. I quickly picked some red onions and cucumbers to go on the salad. All we had to do was put the chicken and the sauce in a baking dish. The rice went into another one. I decided not to stop shooting to eat, because we were very close to finishing. Of course, I was starving having not eaten since 5:30 am – it was 1pm. I also managed to not go to the bathroom for all that time either. That happens with all of my shoots. I just don't find the time. We kept moving, because we had great momentum. The new fangled camera needed very little in the way of extra lighting, so there wasn't the fifteen to twenty minutes of tweaking (if we're lucky) between shots. Jon went from shot to shot with barely a break in between. We thought we would finish with the house put back together by 4:30 or 5pm. We were finished with the house put together and eating at 2:30. I was lounging on my sofa at 3:30. That was awesome. And it was so nice to see Jon working a shoot again. He looks intense and frenetic, but he was having a great time. He was jazzed the rest of the weekend.

There were some disappointments connected to the shoot, but they were minor. I didn't get the use the orchid I took great pains to buy at the Farmers Market. The green leaves faded into the green screen. I'm am so glad that I only spent ten dollars on that and not sixty dollars on that bonsai tree. Besides, I get to keep the very pretty thing which is supposed to last up to eight months. I wanted to have more than one shot of my vampire in period clothing, but that proved to be too complicated to get done in one day along with all the dialog shots. Ah well, that why the finished product is called a teaser. It's a hint of things to come. Jon says I'm vexed because I like seeing cute guys in pirate costumes. I think that is beside the point. We'll save those shots for another day.

Overall, I'm deeply pleased at how well that shoot went. I am paying for it physically though not as much as I thought I would. I need more than today to get some real rest or I will be in trouble. A couple of actors have called to fuss at me about doing too much on my own. There was talk of hiring me a minder, so I behave myself. I've got that covered in the actual shooting budget, believe me. I can't do five days like that in a row. However, it meant the world to me to be able to do it at all. I had some bad moments this past week. My yearly mammogram put a terrible fright in me that amounted to nothing mere than a Doc being careful due to my history. I must have looked plenty freaked out though, because I was told the results (all clear) before I left. The humidity has brought back sinus headaches like I haven't had since I last lived in Philly. Not fun. But overall, I am stoked at how well things went and what that says about the future.

There is more. There is Craig and the naked guy he thought was a bear, but that'll be for next time.

Stay tuned.

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