Monday, September 24, 2007

My First Day as a Production Assistant

I had the best time last weekend, experiencing my first day as a production assistant for two independent short films, "Ten Years Gone" and "Philly", both shot in Arlington, VA.

Saturday morning, cast and crew of "Ten Years Gone" met at Director Ishu Krishna's house to pick up equipment, and caravan to our first location. A small neighborhood park served as the set for a flashback scene. Our biggest challenge there was framing the shot to avoid houses, fences, and other telltale signs of suburban Virginia.

The second flashback sequence was my chance to be an actor. I played a boss who wouldn't shut up. The scene basically involved rolling up to a red light, talking my head off, and oblivious to Ashlyn's(Erika Grace Allen) suffering.

After the flashback sequence, we returned to Ishu's house to shoot two of the main actors filming either end of a phone call that sets up the reunion that is the central event in the film. Because the flashback was shot with available light with no sound, Ashlyn's Room was the first full setup of the day. Once we got lights up and camera set, Erika our actress flipping through record on the bed, Matt with the boom mike, Teague with the slate, Ishu (director), Kerien (camera operator), Matt Leiner (AD), and I in the room, things started to feel tight, but the scene went really well and it got everyone excited for the rest of the shoot.

Because the crew was so small, it was easy to get to try different jobs, and when most of the crew went to film the second car scene, I stayed at the house to set up the lighting for the second bedroom scene. This time Brad (Brad Schaffer) would be standing in a room full of boxes that looked like he just moved in. The tricky part was that during the scene, he had to rummage through the boxes to find the phone. That made the lighting a challenge because when I got the lights right for him standing and talking, they threw crazy shadows into the area he was reaching into. I wish I had brought more clothespins. If you can't figure lighting out, the answer seems to be diffusion. In the end, a gel was taped up to the barn doors to soften the light.

Our big adventure was to go the Cowboy Cafe for our bar scene. When we got there, I was not optimistic. The bar was small, and the only place to set up was right in front of the door, next to the Golden Tee video game machine. Every few minutes, it would come to life with golf and and crowd sound effects.

The bar staff was great, as well as most of the patrons. They put up with bright lights, and our actors running their scene over and over again, including standing and singing,"Hercules and the Dunder Cheifs."

Sundays shoot did not go as well, however. We had some technical difficulties, and the reality of trying to film inside a shopping mall, food court, and bathroom without a permit was enough to cancel the shoot and reschedule.

I was so exhausted Sunday night, but it didn't matter. Both days were so exciting and fun that it beat the best day at my real job. I can't wait to go again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No New iphone

Well, the European announcements came and went, and the iPhone is still only running EDGE+wifi.

I was hoping that the announcement would usher in a true 3G iphone, but it looks like I'll have to wait now. Maybe there will be a new one announced in January when Macworld rolls around. I'm also waiting for new Cinema Displays to be announced. My request for a Mac pro at work was approved, but I've been holding off ordering it until new displays came out.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Powerbook CD Eject tip

I just got The White Stripes' new Icky Thump CD, and when I inserted it into my Powerbook nothing happened. I mean, no opening of the album in itunes, no sign of the CD on the desktop. Nothing. I launched Disk Utility and it could not "see" the disc either. But I found a great tip at macosxhints. It involved booting the computer into firmware and entering the command to manually eject the CD. It was a handy tip, so I thought I'd give them a plug.


Yesterday we had a great ride at Rosaryville. We had perfect weather, and Dave, Mike and I pounded the second lap. In total, just over 20 miles. I started cramping near the end of the second lap, but I was able to back off a bit, and made it back to the parking lot.

I figure I won't be able to ride next weekend, we'll be filming "Philly" and "Reunion", the two shorts I signed on to PA for. I can't wait to get started.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I took my 96 Mazda pickup to the shop this morning for an oil change and to get them to diagnose the check engine light. First, Roy told me he'd charge $45 just to hook up the scanner and tell me what the problem was: bad coil. I asked if it was a performance issue, or a breakdown issue, and he said breakdown.

I just heard back from them, oil change, diagnosis, coil, spark plugs, wires, and labor is going to set me back almost $600.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Quiet on the set, please

My experience as an extra on the Body of Lies set really got me excited about the idea of working in film production, so last week I signed on to be a production assistant for two independent films shooting Sept. 22 & 23.

I'm looking forward to learning as much as I can about the process, and about the reality on set, to see if its the kind of thing I 'd like to get more serious about. I'm working with a really small crew and cast, but some have professional credentials, so I'm hoping there will opportunities to watch what they're doing and ask questions. I think the first thing I have to do is get some appropriate tools. I located a great source has a great selection of hand tools, pouches, and a bunch of stuff I don't even know what they do. I'm conflicted, though. I want to be prepared and useful to the rest of the crew, but I don't want to look like a dork. Maybe I'll keep my tools in a bag...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Body of Lies Explosion

The Washington Post has a video on their site that shows the car bomb detonation.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

My Day on the Set

I spent a day as an extra(or background actor) on the Eastern Market/Dutch Market set of Body of Lies. For the most part, the day was made up of waiting for long periods in winter coats and sweaters in extremely hot weather for the crew to set up shots, cameras, etc. But it was thrilling to see how everything works behind the scenes. I don't think I'm giving anything away to say that a car bomb goes off in a crowded market. I don't think I'm giving anything away because of the huge amount of media that was standing on the edge of the set when the scene was shot.

We rehearsed the scene a number of times, but it was still a shock when the actual explosion went off. The blast was much louder than I was expecting, and it was followed by a shower of broken glass. There were a number of cameras rolling, including two on a nearby rooftop, and one on a helicopter. For all you Russell Crowe fans, I have to say that he was not in the scene, at least not in the parts I was around for. The best part of the experience was being able to be so close and watch the crew create and dress the sets, set up the scene, and wrangle all the moving parts to the point that even though you know its not real, it feels real. It was also surprising how few changes need to be made to create a convincing set. And of course, it was great to watch Ridley Scott at work. I can't wait to see the finished film.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Shenandoah Mountain 100

What a weekend. After spending Friday in the emergency room, we packed up the car and headed to Stokesville, Virginia for the annual Shenandoah Mountain 100, a 100-mile mountain bike race through the George Washington National Forest. I've got some great photos, including some of the 2006 Tour De France Champion Floyd Landis making his debut at the SM 100. I just uploaded all of the images to my web site.