Monday, August 15, 2011

California Trip - PA Job

With all of my online shops on vacation hold, I had the opportunity to try something new to occupy my time while we were in LA.

I've been told I should look into doing Production Design by a few people. I've heard of it, and thought I was doing it when I made animated pieces and films, but I think I was only scratching the surface when I storyboarded out my pieces, constructed a tiny donut western town or set up displays at the shop. There's a look and feel with sets and props, but there's a LOT more involved than that when it comes to real Production Design (with an art department and everything!).

Production Design, or Art Design is more intense than just designing a space or dressing the space or Mise en scene (love that word!)... you are designing the whole feel, look and soul of a film. It's how in 'The Sixth Sense', the color red was introduced when a dead person is in the room. That was planned early on. That secret pop of red props sets the entire tone and mood for the film's big reveal, which was the trademark M. Night Shyamalan twist. Pretty brilliant... and It's Pretty intimidating to pull off correctly, if you ask me!

We studied this in film school... how a film uses mise en scene to show that a character is changing, that tension is building... something is going to happen. The film we studied in tremendous detail was Rosemary's Baby.

As Rosemary falls in with those evil people and becomes pregnant, her sunshiney yellow happy apartment gets darker, the walls seem to shrink and suffocate you... her world is slowly getting scarier and filled with less joy in each scene. Camera angles, camera lenses, strange sounds, make up, lighting, sets and props... all morphing and merging scene by scene towards that last scene with the demon baby. Totally brilliant! (and disturbing!)

So, here I am... a few weeks left in LA and wanting to work in the art department on a film.

But how?

A friend of ours told me about It's a place where people post jobs for film and television. Some paid, little pay or no pay.

Well, as far as working in the art department of an upcoming production in the small window of time I had, I didn't have a ton of choices. I ended up applying for two different productions and got called by one. A seven day shoot on a short independent film. I signed up for four days, no pay... in the Art Department as a Production Assistant. Yay!

Since I was new to this, I had no idea what to expect. So, I will describe what I did as a PA in the art department for those of you who are curious...

Day One

  • Call time: 3:40am
  • Location: Los Feliz to Long Beach to Riverside
3:40 am - fill up my minivan with "crafty" or the craft service food for the day. Pick up the make up artist from Long Beach and drive three crew members to a location in Riverside, CA.
7:30 am- Get to location, unload van, grab coffee for the cast and crew and meet a few other folks on the crew. I was then given the task of watching these items on the set so that they didn't walk away.

8:30 am - after about 10 minutes of watching stuff, one of the producers comes up to me and says "Please tell me you're good with babies!" How can I say no to that?

So, I spent the next 6 hours hanging out with an adorable baby, who was starring in a few scenes, and his Mom. Made sure they were comfortable and taken care of and that she had some breaks. Talent babysitting... literally :)

4:15 pm - Load the car back up and drive two of the crew back to Los Feliz. Then drive up to Bel Air/Beverly Hills. Unload van. The location was gorgeous. I then moved some potted plants around.
10:00 pm - Drove to gaffer's apartment to get a piece of equipment. Thought his apartment building was pretty neat. It's one of those places that you've passed dozens of times, but never been in... so it was cool to see what it was like inside. Caught his roommate off guard when I let myself in with a key. Oops. Drove this audio thing back to Bel Air. Left the set around 11:30 pm.

Day Two

  • Call time: 7:00 am (But I got there at 1:00 pm, since I didn't have a car until then)
  • Location: West Hollywood night club
First duty... Run to 7-11, get bottled water for everyone. Then I helped move furniture around. The night club had photos on the wall turned into wallpaper of burlesque-ish dancers getting ready. I thought this was a great idea! (I want to make iphone picture wallpaper!).
Second duty - More furniture moving, glass and bar accoutrement moving to set the mood in different rooms. And we added some candles, too.

Since we used this nightclub as 3 different locations, each room had to have a different feel. The first scene was a more cozy bar, so it was in an area with a small, cramped bar with bar stools at the actual bar. The second was the well-lit energetic dance floor and the third was more of a laid-back, sophisticated lounge (this is where the candles were!). One location had all of this to offer. Pretty cool.

Third duty - run and pick up juice at that 7-11 to make mixed drinks for our club-goers. I also got a lime and a lemon. I'm not a cocktail expert, but the other art PAs knew how to mix faux drinks really well! See, I would have totally used real booze... not watered-down diet coke... probably would have ruined every shot with the drunk actors everywhere ;)
This is Zodiac the skink. He was really very cute... in a lizard sort of way. And look, he's smiling. He was in one of the scenes in the film. Mise en Skink! ;) (I know, I know... but it made me laugh)
Fourth duty - putting ice in drink props and then made sure a few dozen actresses stayed quiet during one of the scenes they weren't in. I was hanging out with one of the assistant directors (shown here) and we were "shhh-ing" girls left and right. It was surprisingly difficult.

Before I left, I turned row after row of booze bottles back around so the labels were facing out, since the nightclub was going to open that night.

Day Three

  • Call time: 9:00 am
  • Location: Los Feliz then to the Hollywood Hills
First duty... load up my van and run to a prop house in Sun Valley to return a few props. It was really really cool there. I wonder if they give tours?
Second duty - Drive 2 cornhole game boxes and bean bags to Burbank. I thought this was particularly entertaining because we hadn't ever really seen the game of cornhole until we moved to North Carolina and here I am... in Burbank... with something that wasn't brought to my attention until I moved to the sort-of South. (Read the rules and terminology at wikipedia... you'll see why it's funny). The owner of the games of cornhole was really really nice... had a fun chat with her.
While waiting, I would check my phone often. I thought this random neighbor's wifi name in Los Feliz was great.
3:30 pm - Take furniture to Studio City and unload, load more, then take that furniture to West Hollywood and carry it up 2 flights of stairs. Then, I drove to Whole Foods and got some food props for our next location which was in the Hollywood Hills, near the Hollywood Bowl. While a show was going on at the Hollywood Bowl. Did you know that the Hollywood Bowl seats 18,000 but it only has parking for 2,800? We both learned something! So, getting to the next location took some creative map searching since the parking spill off was tremedous. Once I was there, I ironed some hand towels and an apron. Pretty exciting, huh?

As I was ironing, and people were running around me on the set like crazy, I kept thinking... what is the EMOTION I'm trying to convey here? What is the hand towel owner's character like? Is she totally anal, or messy? Did she have a Sleeping with the Enemy hand towel encounter? Should there be a stain or two, a few wrinkles or should they be ironed perfectly? I went for perfect.

7:30 pm - I sort of helped make a "nanny-camera" bear by removing an eye of a teddy bear. I then pushed some furniture around and then had a very heated discussion about fireplace usage.
We then had pizza, set up some more props including a faux lobster and some candles... and then called it a night around 11:30pm.

Day Four

  • Call time: 10:00 am
  • Location: Los Feliz
This was our last day. I wasn't on the call sheet for the day, but I showed up to pick up some gas money and help out for a few hours.

I probably should have stayed home because while tearing down one set, I broke a sandbag. It was only a $20 sandbag, but... I know that sandbags can break if they are dropped from high places. Duh.

I'm glad all that was hurt was my ego. And one sandbag.

I enjoyed being on the set, but I must say... the hours were killer. It's almost like a marathon you need to train for!

And... I learned a LOT, and I met a lot of really kind and talented folks, too.

Can't wait for the film to come out so I can point out my hand towel ironing skills ;)

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