Sunday, June 12, 2011

NEWSFLASH: (Some) Things Have Changed!

So! I am officially not a real resident of Los Angeles. That is to say, I have taken all my stuff (which ohmygod was SO MUCH MORE STUFF than I thought I had) and moved it into a 5x10 storage locker in Glendale, and taken the rest home to San Francisco with me, and now I am basically a nomad. I have gotten sick, in the last week, of explaining to people how well, I am not really in San Francisco permanently YET, or maybe not EVER, because I'm going to Chicago for 6 1/2 weeks and THEN I'll be around for a couple months at the least, but I'm not really sure where I want to be, and blah blah blah I see their eyes glaze over as I'm talking. They don't really care. And who can blame them? The minutiae of my life really matters only to me.

I've been home in San Francisco for about a week and a half now, and while I can't even begin to describe how much I miss seeing Steve and Kirk twice a week, or watching nerdy movies with Brian or my trivia buds or geek sessions with Nausheen and Richard... I love it here. I don't really want to leave. Life just seems so much more NATURAL in San Francisco. Why is that?

I mean, beyond the fact that when I'm subbing at Pac Prim I am forced to eat organic non-allergenic foods. Why is that?

My cousin Tobin, who is Wise, once said that "it's something about the air." So true.

And as my pseudofriend Maggie, tonight at a high school-themed party full of kids from high school (where I felt awkward and was glad that, unlike high school, I am now allowed to drink), said, "San Francisco is not a bad place to be figuring your life out."

Yes. That is what I'm doing. I'm figuring my life out. I'm also still kind of drunk and trying my damndest to avoid typos.

This party tonight! Weirdness. It was for Alexis' birthday, which was officially yesterday, and which was also the 10th anniversary of the day we actually graduated from Lick. Matty P and Will Madison had blown up photos from high school and hung them up everywhere. I wore my class tshirt; Rachel had on her class sweatshirt, and the guys all had some form of letterman or LAX jacket. We are nerds. I'm glad we're all still seemingly proud of going to Lick... it was a good place. Those kids are still so much cooler than me though. Individually perhaps they're not cooler, but as a group they are way cooler. I still don't really know what to say to, for example, Emily Johnson. She started out cooler than me and will always remain cooler than me. The end. I think in general, though, the boys have gotten nicer, which I appreciate. Matt Levy was never really a jerk, but now he talks to me and actually seems glad to see me. Will Madison was kind of a jerk for awhile and now is not. Etc. Alexis and Matty P have always been great. I'm glad they've stayed that way. And I'm glad we have Rachel and Alexis to hold down the high school fort, so to speak.

Rambling! Sorry.

So what else has happened? OH! I went to Texas, finally. May 21st-28th I was in San Antonio with Kevin Welch and Jennifer and their adorable children, makin' a movie. I think Jennifer was kind of annoyed with us for taking over their house (and rightly so, given the tiny children involved), but other than that I think it was a very successful trip. I don't know how it turned out... to my knowledge Kevin hasn't started editing yet, nor perhaps even looked at the second day's worth of footage. I am a touch worried about that second day, because we did a lot without any crew and when we were keeping the actors overtime, which is to say we might have been rushing, and rushing always concerns me. But it is what it is. It was a comedy about a couple who have conflicting fantasies over the breakfast table... it involved a lot of gore (which was incredibly difficult to clean up) and suggestive sex scenes and well, I just hope it turned out well. I really like working with Kevin... he doesn't flip out (or at least he didn't this time) and he puts a lot of thought into his movies, which I appreciate given the lack of thought put into anything by many LA directors. Not my AFI directors- they were great- but other directors that I've worked under, if not for. LA is very product-driven, and that's not how I was raised in the film world, and Kevin is much the same way. Plus we have fun, and that's half the battle.

We spent the first few days doing prep for the shoot, which involved all the usual stuff like shot-listing, but also shopping for production design elements and costumes, as there were no people specifically designated to do that. Shopping for women's clothing with two guys (Kevin and his friend/co-writer Craig) was exhausting. They were confused the whole time, and it was not really the right season for what we were looking for. We ended up with a good outfit for our actress, who looked great in purple, but only after buying about 6 different outfits "just in case:"


Those are our actors, after the fantasy murder scene. They were pretty game for anything, which was great- and it helped that Kevin had unwittingly cast two people who had recently started dating, so they were perfectly happy to hang out into overtime as long as they could be making out in the other room while we set stuff up.

Kevin and I also did a bit of production design on the Welch's kitchen, which consisted basically of this improvised wainscotting:

(the blue stuff, in the back there... whether it looks legit or not I'm not sure, but we liked it)

The hardest part of the shoot, as a DP, was... well there were two things, a) getting "natural" light into the middle of Kevin's long, largely windowless kitchen, and b) getting the EX-1 to have any sort of depth of field. I think things ended up ok on both fronts, but I've barely looked at the footage... hopefully I'll have time to look at it more this summer. About halfway through the first day I just taped an ND6 onto the front of the lens, and left it there for the rest of the shoot to force myself into lighting to a T1.9. Ghetto, perhaps, but I think it worked out.

The crew consisted primarily of Kevin's students from St. Mary's University, who were eager at first but soon realized that working on a film set isn't all glitz and glam and awesome. It's hard work. It was an awkward position- while we needed hands to get everything done, we didn't really have a lot of time to teach them how to do things properly, or WHY we were doing them, so I think they got bored pretty quickly. To be honest, I can't really blame them- I frequently get bored on film sets and I generally DO have a vague idea what's going on. Being clueless would only be more boring. By the middle of the second day (and there were only two days) we had basically lost everyone to made-up excuses like "I suddenly got called into work." Oh well. I hope they learned something... I was able to teach them basics like setting up HMIs and Kinos, and they got pretty good at that. I'd tell them where to set things up and then after they did, I'd run around and tweak things. A few of the girls who were interested in camera stuff got to pull focus on some shots, and they took some great camera notes for me. So, you take what you can get with a free crew. Someday we'll have a real crew and things will be amazing.

Texas itself was not really what I was expecting. Perhaps that's because the Welchs live not exactly IN San Antonio but outside it a bit, perhaps a 30 minute drive from the downtown area. It seemed pretty suburban with a lot of chain restaurants and giant stores. I think my main impressions of Texas come from things like Friday Night Lights and No Country For Old Men, so I imagined it being poorer and less clean. We drove over to Kevin's school to pick up some equipment, and that neighborhood was much more like what I'd been picturing. Downtown San Antonio was a little bit more of what I was expecting, too- the old, preserved buildings and the Alamo were exactly how I had pictured them. The Alamo was really cool; we didn't really spend a ton of time there, because it's just a building and we had a baby and a 3 year old along for the ride, but it was pretty cool just the same. Just what the history nerd in me wanted.




Speaking of 3 yeard olds, I had a lot of fun with Avelyn, Kevin and Jennifer's 3 year old. She is a little firecracker who talks a mile a minute, called me "honey" when she couldn't remember my name, and did a damn good job in the few shots she was in for the film; she did exactly what Kevin told her to do, and looked adorable:


I only wish Noah, the baby, had taken to me in the same way, but he's only 3 months old, so I can't really blame him for only wanting his Mommy.

Anyway, enough about Texas. I could go on and on with details and impressions and general film geekery that I'm sure none of you care about. In two days (HOLY CRAP TWO DAYS) I am off to Chicago, where Tim and I are hoping to shoot a zombie movie next weekend, except for the fact that we are lacking an actor at the moment. My frustrations with that are running high, but I'm hoping against hope that it works out, because we've been planning to do this for at least 6 months and we're both really invested in just making SOMETHING this summer. And then, in about a week and a half, I'll be at Northwestern, and in the dorm, and in one spot for 6 blessed weeks of hanging out with my Chicago friends and David and Jessica and Willa Marie, maybe even including a baseball game with Dave and/or Willa, MAYBE even a Giants double header, and let's just say I'm really looking forward to the whole damn summer. And TEACHING. Is it ridiculous that I've realized so late how much I love teaching? I hope not. I just wish I knew how to turn it into an actual career.

OK! To bed! Tomorrow is the Haight Street Fair, which is pretty much the quintessence of what I love about my neighborhood in San Francisco. You know, the Fair where I unwittingly bought a gay pride windchime when I was 10 because it was a pretty rainbow, and where I first registered to vote with the green party. HEY, WHO ARE YOU CALLING A HIPPIE? Oh, me? Yeah, well, yeah I am.