During the very last week of our trip, we decided to put together a little film shoot in my Mom’s house. Her house is gorgeous and we wanted to utilize this opportunity before we left.
I’ve had a script rattling around in my brain for a while, and I had a few scenes in mind…
First up… a garden party… with dogs.
Nutmeg and Barkley sat still for a little while, until I brought out that cake… and they immediately caught buttercream frosting fever, which is totally understandable. So, we had to work quickly.
The second scene is our actress, Michelle, putting on lipstick at the cool built-in vanity…
Third… Michelle having tea in the sun room…
Lastly… watering the lawn. So fantastic.
I didn’t have a whole lot of setting up to do, since my Mom’s house is full of props already, but I did do some shuffling and lots and lots of present wrapping. Here are a few shots of our setup, along with some wandering furry props, too…
We had a blast!
Our actress, Michelle, was SO professional and fun to work with. She came up with some great ideas and was super patient with our doggie actors. I hope we can work with her again really soon. Thank you so much Michelle!
A huge thank you to my Mom for letting us use her beautiful home, to C for holding the boom mic and for her amazing prop wrangling and set dressing skills and to Nathan for helping me put this all together. Yay! :)
Oh, and while I was setting up, a lucky ladybug landed on a Tiffany box that I was using in the dog party scene…
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.
A friend of ours told me about Mandy.com. 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…
- Call time: 3:40am
- Location: Los Feliz to Long Beach to Riverside
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ;)
We didn’t just chase food trucks all day long (although, it was fun!), we also visited (more than) a few places around town…
First off, not in town but it needs to be mentioned, we had our first Mexican food experience in a long time at a place in Albuquerque New Mexico called El Charritos.
We each had a twin helping of enchiladas:
And sopaipillas came with every meal. They brought us these things with a squeeze bottle full of honey. I’ve never had one. Now I know what I was missing. Fried dough? Yes, please. (seriously… that should have been the meal).
They had a little patio, so we could bring Meg. You can tell she was as excited about the experience as we were!
Our Mexican food experience continued when our friend introduced us to Norma’s Tacos in Pasadena.
It’s a cute little taco stand made from a converted gas station.
The tacos were good and super fresh, made with fresh handmade tortillas, the sauces were excellent and it was a gorgeous day out. Although, they put guacamole on everything, and I mean everything. So if you aren’t a fan, as I am not, you may want to be very specific about that. (I know, I know… from California and I don’t bow to the glorious avocado… it’s a curse I suppose).
One place we ended up at late at night a few times… The House of Pies in Los Feliz.
The House of Pies has been on the Food Network and has an interesting Hollywood-flavored history. Rumor has it, Quentin Tarantino worked on “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” here as did Charlie Kaufman with “Being John Malkovich.” If they wrote at night, I’m not sure how… the lighting in this joint is pretty bad for writing. They don’t seem like guys who write in the bright light of day… but that’s just an observation. Perhaps the pie made up for the horrible lighting.
Behold… the pie.
This is the peanut butter cream pie, which was amazing. I’m a big peanut butter fan. The crust was perfect and the filling to whipped cream ratio was really good. (Although, we later were introduced to the banana cream pie, and I never looked back at the peanut butter again. But I’m guessing, any of their cream pies are superb.)
Another place we frequented was a place on Foothill Boulevard in La Crescenta called Everest. It’s a drive-thru fast food joint. They have great chicken sandwiches (The Mediterranean Chicken is excellent), salads and breakfast burritos. Great prices, open late and the food was consistently good.
They also have a dog-friendly patio! (Yes, that’s Barkley in a stroller. A dog stroller. I’ll revisit this again, later.)
The other cool thing about Everest… it was transformed into “Deb’s Restaurant” in the HBO series Big Love. It’s where Sarah and Heather worked. So, we were eating at a location from one of our favorite shows, which was fun to talk about. I wish I would have snapped a picture of it when they were filming here years ago… I had no idea at the time! They also filmed at a few other locations in the area including Chili John’s in Burbank and Wild Thyme in Pasadena.
While visiting downtown LA to see a sort of variety show hosted by the delightful Charles Phoenix (Which I shall talk about in another post!), we grabbed dinner at a place called Starry Kitchen.
There were some bold choices on the menu that day like, the Chinese Hoisin Hamburger, crunchy tofu balls, basil friend rice and assorted pork Banh Mi and lemongrass chicken wrap and sandwich options. Since they were slammed that day, they were crossing off menu items left and right, leaving us with little to choose from. When my Mom got to the front of the line, she ordered something… I can’t remember what… and the owner yelled “That’s the most f***ing-est boring thing on the menu!!!”. He was cute about it… but… I think it took us all by surprise. So, because of his outburst, she ordered something else, they ran out of it and she went with her “boring” choice anyway. My “boring” choice was the lemongrass chicken wrap and basil fried rice. The wrap tasted pretty good, but a bit messy and drippy (hard to eat while sitting on a bench), so I couldn’t finish it because I was starting to wear it. I love the lemongrass flavor. A burst of citrus with earthy undertones… very fresh and summery. The basil rice was really good, too. If you are ever near Starry Kitchen… I recommend a visit.
A close up of that sign in the room… referring to their crunchy tofu balls.
And this sign was sort of awesome… and notice their lack of beverages and placement of empty cup on the floor. Definitely was a busy day for them.
So, I’ll leave you with Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena. We found this place on a food truck gathering night, and I ended up going back to pick up a pound of coffee.
Great atmosphere… including live music the night we were there.
And the coffee is roasted on the premises. Their coffee has a rich, caramel flavor. So, it’s almost sweet without any sugar. Makes for an amazing drip experience at home, or get a latte there… you will not be disappointed!
We visited dozens of other eateries… but the ones above had the most character :)
So, I still have at least 3 more California/trip posts…
awesome LA events we visited, friends’ shops we visited, Meg’s favorite spots and the actual 5,000 miles on the road!
After that, it’s back to art-centric posts. And Halloween is coming!! yay :)