Monday, January 9, 2017

Call Back, Casey. All is Forgiven

"Wait a minute. Haven't I seen you before? I know your face."
-Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard

Congrats to my newly dear friend Casey Affleck. I realize you may not remember me as the 1st AD on Floating, where you memorably played Preppie #1 in late 90s. I forgive you for not remembering, because until I went through all my shows while looking up possible cast for a film I'm producing, I had forgotten you were in Floating. I realize in the years since, you may resent that someone as meteorically successful as myself has not reached out to you for those great roles I could have provided. Of course, I never forgot the tears you brought to my eyes (or great laughs?) as Preppie # 1, or our long, special talks together. Or, at least when I made sure there was something still at crafty when your scene was over. If it makes you feel better, I also lost touch with Preppie #2. I hope you will remember those special moments on your next film. No. No. You don't need to thank me for my contribution to your development if you win awards for Manchester by the Sea. Well, it's okay if you do, but you don't have to. After all, I'm sure you remember when the co-star of Floating, Chad Lowe, was forgotten when his then-wife, Hillary Swank, won the Oscar for Boys Don't Cry, after she had thanked everyone else, down to the PA who got her Starbucks order right.*

I am quite busy this year, but if you need me to once again offer my guidance in your next performance on what will undoubtedly be a huge budget studio film, I will, in honor of our special relationship, make time for you
I'm just that sort of guy. Text me, baby.

*Note how the producers of the Academy Awards kept coming back to a shot of Chad, sure that she would mention him. Even better was she shows her paper at the beginning and says she wrote it all down because 'it would be so awful if she forgot anybosy.'.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hello 2017 - Or How 2016 Didn't Kill Anyone

“But Einstein came along and took space and time out of the realm of stationary things and put them in the realm of relativity—giving the onlooker dominion over time and space, because time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live.” 
― Dimitri MarianoffEinstein: An Intimate Study of a Great Man

Regular readers of this blog know that two of my fascinations, outside of film, are Zen and Quantum Physics. Both suggest that bookmarks such as dates are merely concepts, and not reality.

Even as we are (sometimes) Sentient Beings, we like those bookmarks to make things feel more orderly, when, in fact, all that is real exists is chaos, an all we have is this very instant, which has already passed as you experience it.

If you were to believe your social media pages, 2016 is some dastardly villain that has chosen to take so many of our beloved artists, not to mention heroes; as if 2016 actually had a conscience. All those we love and cherish, especially in the arts, need to do is make it to 12:01AM on January 1, 2017, and they will be good.

Don't think that is going to be the case.

That doesn't mean we cannot take this arbitrary date to look back at the last 365 days, and forward to the next. It's our decision, and it makes it convenient.

So, here is a look back at 2016 for me, and a look forward to 2017; keeping to old-school Irish bartender rules, meaning no discussion of politics or religion Them there Irish bartenders knew what they were doing.

2016 started for me with a UPM job, working for a very good producer. We knew of each other's work, and thought it would be a great fit. It wasn't.  Instead, it was proof that there is more than one way to cook a goose - but you have to choose one. I could have been more magnanimous in conceding to how she wanted things done. It was still a very good project, and I look forward to seeing it. A reminder of why I chose to be a Big Fish in a Small Pond (Low budget indies) instead of the opposite, which would have meant taking orders from others, which has never been my strong suit. There was a small project that I served as AD on in October that would also bring this home.

Hours on the literal cushion (Zazen) and the figurative couch (therapy) leads to a whole lot of introspection. Some, including my ex-wife, would call it over-thinking. I had a therapist once dryly tell me, "Oh, you have introspection down pat."

Me? I like to think it helps you not be that old dog that can't learn new tricks.

That did come home, when I had the opportunity to UPM a one-day commercial with the wonderful producer, Aliki, who was my production supervisor on The Indonesian Project. I was conscious of deferring to her and a really good AD, and neither ego nor stubbornness ever got in the way, and it was a great experience.

New tricks are needed all the time in this business, and in the Spring I was hired to produce a PSA to encourage millennials to vote. We prepped for a few weeks, wrapped for one; and never shot one day. Client never approved talent. Told you about that one.

I line produced a 6-day short at a camp with a lot of students and a longtime DP friend, Lauretta, who I had last worked with as DP and Line Producer on Keep My Brother. It was, well, 6 days at a camp. As I kid, I hatred camp. Give me a soft bed and air conditioning and no bugs. Did not learn to love it more as an adult.

However, I did get to teach a little bit to some bright kids, and that is always rewarding.

There were a number of small jobs, as well as line producing a feature in September where I felt like the guy on the Titanic yelling "Iceberg" but no one (neither the producer nor the director) were listening. They basically decided to ignore almost every cost-saving suggestion I had, from not casting actors with conflicts (which cost them the shoot), to not shooting short days, to trying to cut our losses after we lost the second lead, to - well, you get the point. I had to stand by and watch them throw good dollar after bad. They were talented and very nice people, but, in the end, it's always their money.

Then, there was a regular return to working as First AD which I chronicled in the last post.

So, on to that proverbial flip of the calendar and 2017.

I am producing an SVA Thesis film through a program legendary producer Bob Giraldi initiated to have experienced producers work with thesis directors.  It is spiritual without being proselytizing.

I am attached to a project about a wheelchair-bound boxer, and a feature that would take place on a real battleship in Boston.

It looks like I will be able to work on a TV series with a actress and dear friend, Maria, as director.

Maybe one of the things I most look forward to is line producing a film called Sarah Q in early Spring, directed by John A. Gallagher.  John is as close to a NY Indie legend in NYC as you get, going back to successful movies in the 1990s like The Deli, Blue Moon and The Networker. He and I have had parallel careers, and we have no degrees of separation in terms of people we worked along side. John's first producer had worked as 2nd AD for me, and I have worked with many of the same cast and crew people that work with him. Ironically, the lead actress was the lead from the camp movie I did in June, and she is as talented and as great to work with as can be.

Given my opening to this post, you might imagine I do not make New Years' resolutions, but I am determined to do a few things in the new year, including at least directing a short, and writing a short and a feature and getting a few short stories published - or at least done, Maybe get back to directing more stage, if the opportunity is there. I have no illusion I will walk away from the production side, but I am consciously going to pour out whatever creativity I have. At my age, there isn't anything to save it for.

This year ended with a birthday dinner. Shooting schedules being what they are, none of my "kids" were able to make it, and regulars Brian and Adam found themselves stuck on set. However, one of the brightest stars from the last few years, Leigh, was able to make it, as were my spiritual "brother and sister, "Maria and Lanier. I also got to catch up with an old friend from all the way back in my WNYU days, Lisa (not pictured below).

Let me conclude with two truths. As Einstein said, "Time is an Illusion;" and as someone said, pictures don't lie. Looking forward to more "thank you dinners" in 2017.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Back In the Saddle -- The AD Life

"Is that a real twenty minutes or a makeup twenty minutes"
-JB when he's been given a "twenty minutes" estimate for the last hour

I was riding back from a shoot on Long Island last night talking to the one PA (one other got sick) we had on a short film on which I was the First AD.  The producer who hired him told me he was "great!" Since I had never worked with this producer, it could have either meant he was great, or that she and I had a different idea of great. I had encountered both situations.

Luckily, she turned out to be a very good producer, who put together a talented and friendly team, and she was very right about this PA. As I've taken to doing with talented people coming up in the business in production, I asked him what he wanted to do moving forward. He gave the right answer - he didn't know - but said that next year would be the year of him trying out new positions. Then, he asked about how I liked being an AD, and it continued a thought that has been going for a few months now, where I have found myself working more as First AD than producer, line producer or UPM on web series or shorts.

Sometimes I'm glad that I let a blog post "simmer" for a while. I had draft of two posts; one on the good people I've had the good fortune work with over the past few projects, and one on returning to working more often as an AD, something that was not a plan but for which I'm thankful.

This post allows me to deal with both as well as my conversation with this young man.

One of the things I love about the film industry is its unspoken tradition of mentorship. Just yesterday, watched as the First AC showed a new 2nd AC about slating and coiling cable, among other things. I see it all the time in G&E.

Sure, it happens more often on low budget shoots, but it happens, to some extent, on every shoot. Someone is always stepping up, and there is a first time for that step up for everyone.

One of the things that impressed me about this young man was that he recognized these things even in his time as a PA, from learning walkie lingo to the first time he had to drive a cube truck in the city and more.

As I've been AD more the last few months, I've been ask which I enjoy more, working as First AD or working as producer. The truth is that both have their advantages and disadvantages, but I must say that, while I have a few producing and line producing gigs coming up in 2017 already, I do feel invigorated by working as First AD.

The First AD's first and foremost responsibility is to make the day, though that does not mean it is  the only responsibility.  No two ADs do things exactly the same. While that can make the shooting hours more stressful, there is a certain sense of "resetting the clock" at the end of the day, being able to put that day aside and start (the fight) fresh the next day.

As producer, I don't have that moment-to-moment stress, but even when the AD has called camera wrap, there are all sorts of concerns that remain, mostly tied to the budgets, logistics, and often the politics of multiple producers, and dealing with director and creative staff demands. Art department wants more money, the location manager informs you that a date change has caused a key location to fall through, and the DP is asking again about those anamorphic lenses for a small coming-of-age story; and let's not talk about agents.

This Saturday, Christmas Eve, marks yet another turn around the sun for me (as the vaudevillians would say, and, boy, are my arms tired), and while my soul has developed callouses from the stress of producing and line producing, my body has been reintroduced to the physical grind of long hours on set, sometimes in punishing weather conditions. As producer, I can duck into holding or retreat to the office.

As my longtime AD collaborator, Brian, once said in a cab ride home with me, "JB, it's a young man's (or woman's) game."

At the end of the day on set as AD, I now feel like John Wayne astride his horse in his last picture, The Shootist. Yes, the saddle feels familiar, but a day of fending off bad guys (or less than accurate time estimates from, say makeup, uncooperative light switches, uneven terrain and an annoying lack of daylight) takes more of a toll than in my early days of doing this.

Feels a little more like this.

However, those touches of gray around the temples and lines in your forehead give you a little credit for experience, and on the shoots over the last few months, I have relished working with smart, creative and talented up-coming directors who were anxious to take advice, and the feeling of watching them grow right before your eyes, knowing maybe, that you imparted some small thing that they may take with them; well, it makes it all worthwhile.

Did I mention appreciative? When genuinely offered, hearing "thank you," well, that is something that does not get old.

The nature of producing, and especially line producing, where it seems your vocabulary is often limited to one word, "no," does not lend itself to offering of thanks in the course of a day.

However, from the director and producer (and crew yesterday) back to all the directors I've worked with the past few months, and most of the producers and crew, they have been people willing to put in the hard work and fight right alongside you.

Remember my last post about directors who really were willing to put in the work of directing? The producer on this shoot was up for two days straight prepping it; the director drove the van for all the pickups and drop-offs. On a previous shoot, the producer also was at the front of the line loading the van, the writer outside in the cold fire-watching the truck, the producer's Mom making tasty, authentic Dominican food for the crew with great flavor and a lot of love.

So it was on the hour-plus van ride home yesterday that I shared some stories about working as both an AD and producer for this young man. You've read most of them here, so I won't repeat (yet again). As you might suspect, the name Stan Bickman came up a few times. Who knows what path this young man might take next year, or the year after that one. I'm pretty sure I will be there for some of it, as I plan to hire him again.

A lot of downside and stress and aggravation in this business. Seeing talented people move up the ranks and gain more confidence? Priceless.

Now, off to a birthday celebration, where, as you might imagine, there will be producers and ADs, and some who do both.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Speedboat - Part 1 - They Really Did Want to Direct

"Lots of people want to have written; they don't like to write. In other words, they want to see their name on the front cover of a book and their grinning picture on the back. But this is what comes at the end of the job, not at the beginning."
-Elizabeth George

Hello again.

Yes, it's been too many months, and another break from my obligation to this blog, which is, of course, an obligation to not only my followers (however many -  or few - they are) but also to myself, to my stated purpose at the beginning of this blog to not only offer some cool war stories and maybe some good advice, but also to make sense of a crazy career and answer the question, "Why do we do this?"

What does it say that this difficulty came in telling this story of Speedboat, which represented a new beginning for me with wonderful new people, as noted in Rebooting Again - Always Beginner's Mind?

One of the things that had soured me on the business before this project were the number of directors I had met who remind me of the quote above, itself a variation of a quote that has been attributed to many from Dorothy Parker to George R.R. Martin and others. (An interesting discussion of its origin can be found in this Quote Investigator article).

Like the picture above, many want to have directed, but don't want to truly do the hard work required to direct. How many directors have I met who could not take the time to do some sort of shot list or storyboard, to show up on set with ideas but no plan. How many wrote scripts with elements that went beyond the means of the project, and never bothered to figure out how that compromise was going to be accomplished?

Making a movie, especially an independent movie, requires a director to put in a lot of hard work, and to take with it their share of humility. Yes, humility.

Nothing gets handed to the independent director. First, they have to ask for money. Then, they need favors from friends - everything from locations to equipment.

Then, the humility to ask professionals to bring their own creativity and skill to the project, often for a fraction of the rate their services would bring elsewhere.

This element of what Paul and Dan did has served as an example for me to offer other filmmakers looking to do their own projects.

The writing ended about a year before we started shooting, and the script had challenges. Some of it took place in a run-down motel, which became harder to find than we thought, but a good deal took place on a boat that would run along the Gowanus Canal, and a driver to drive that boat, since it was unlikely that our lead actor would be able to do so. There were also scenes in a divey bar.

Just as they finished the script, Paul and Dan spent time in a seaman's bar at the end of Atlantic Avenue called Monteros, and with it's generous owner, Pepe (Montero). Pepe and his family are part of the history of the Brooklyn waterfront, and he shares some of those experiences in an article here.

Some of you will remember the reference because Pepe opened his place as a holding area to us on our Indonesian film, which is where our journey on that film ended.

It was a beginning for Paul and Dan, not only talking to Pepe, the owner, and his lovely wife Linda, but to the week day bartender with many stories, and the regulars, many of whom have their own (unofficial stools). Like any perfect divey bar, many of those regulars were daytime customers, and though there were a lot fewer boat drivers coming in, there were a few, and Paul and Dan worked out an excellent deal with a guy who regularly ran his boat on the Gowanus.

Along the way many of the stories they heard made there way ever so slightly in the script, and one or two of the regulars made it into the movie. Paul and Dan found themselves taking time not and day to spend time with these people.

The reason people opened up to them was that they were about more than just what they could "get" out of the place. Many of the stories of hard times they shared did nothing for the movie, but they listened because they cared.

Let me repeat. They listened because they cared.

People can tell the difference between listening just long enough to see what you can get out of them, and actually caring. The harder the times are for people, the more sensitive their BS barometer tend to be.

The same would hold true for another location they found, a diner that had recently been shut down due to code violations in the kitchen. The older couple lived upstairs, and without the place open, had little income. Paul and Dan talked to them and while they got a good deal, they did not use them, paying them a fair price (but less than we would have paid elsewhere).

In a side note, the couple enjoyed the experience and as thank you I got the word out to some scouts, and soon, they had bigger companies paying more money to shoot there.

The directors did the hard work, and they did it while respecting the people they dealt with along the way, and it brought them better places than they would have found elsewhere, and for a better price and with more genuine cooperation.

That did not help them with one location - a seedy motel. That one involved some script flexibility and a little luck.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My Little Crazy Greek TV Show

"My cousins have two volumes. Loud and louder."
-Toula, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 

"You obviously never worked with Greeks before"

Those words of advice came from our sound recordist, who was named Boom (I never did learn his real name - it's all anyone called him). Here were the circumstances.

I was hired to come on as production manager for a Greek television show that aired on a Greek-language network in New York City. The office was in Astoria, off 31st Street in Queens, which is probably the heart of the Greek-American community in New York.

Everyone in the neighborhood watched the show, from the hair salons to the bakeries to the diners, which I know is a stereotype but it's true. Years of doing independent projects on modest budgets has taught me that if you have limited financial resources, one way to get in-kind contributions such as locations, etc. is to reach out to communities that will relate to your material.  This show did that very well.

The show was something of a young soap opera of sorts following Greek-Americans in New York. The businesses in the Astoria neighborhood were our regular locations, and they not only provided backdrops but help in areas like catering and crafty.

The crew was small and nimble. There was Boom (who did sound) and a director, and two assistant directors (who sometimes directed, especially if one of them was in the scene), and a few tech people who did multiple jobs. When I came on, there was maybe one PA.

Much like the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this was a family affair. Two of the actors and crew were brothers. Dad was the executive producer, and technically, he was the boss. When I say 'technically', I remember this quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding after Toula complains that Dad is so stubborn and quotes him saying "Ah, the man is the head of the house!" Mom replies :
"Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants."
Argy was Mom, not just to her two sons in the cast, but to all of us. I loved her, and still do. Mom was not to be messed with, but underneath, she looked out for everything. She took a personal interest not only in how work was going, but how you were doing.

She also kept a close eye on budget, and she would ask me some questions on costs that were smarter than producers with degrees.

I was hired by producer/director Leon.  The show had been shooting for a while. As they had gotten along without a production manager, I wondered why they needed one. Leon explained that there needed to be more discipline, more order. We talked about various things that could be improved, one of which was call times.

It was during this meeting that I met Deena, who was one of the ADs. Deena was happy to have someone else be part of organizing.

There was a van that would take folks to the locations from the office every day. Leon and Deena informed me that people would often show up late, and that would get the entire day off on the wrong foot. The van would leave from the office, and often people would arrive at call time, when the van should be leaving, and then stop to get their coffee, chat, use the restroom, etc.

I had an easy solution. Institute a policy that coffee and breakfast would be available 30 minutes prior to call time. If people wanted to get breakfast, get there early. Of course, this is standard on any film set.

Furthermore, the van would leave EXACTLY at call time, and anyone who missed the van would be sent home and not paid (or responsible for getting to location on their own dime, if they were essential). Those who did the latter would be docked part of the day.

Leon liked the plan. Deena loved the plan. I assured Leon I would have no problem enforcing this plan. We left his office and announced this to the crew. No one protested. A good start!

The next morning, I got to the office about an hour early. It was locked. I waited until about 30 minutes before call time, when breakfast was meant to start, when someone with keys showed up. I was mildly upset that breakfast would be a little late. What would happen if people showed up on time for breakfast and it was not ready?

That wasn't a problem. The only crew person there was Deena, who helped me set up breakfast.

We waited. And we waited. And we waited.

About five to ten minutes before call time, a few people trickled in. Those people seemed to take their time getting their breakfast, chatting and using the rest room.

But, at least they were there. I was keeping close tabs on who was not there as of yet. I was going to make examples of them. They would be left behind.

Call time came and went. More crew trickled in. They casually got their breakfast. I kept reminding them that as soon as the van arrived, we better be ready to leave. I got a lot of knowing looks from the crew. Clearly, there was a problem with my plan. The van wasn't there yet.

Who was driving the van, I asked? There would be hell to pay!

Um, it was Leon.  The producer who had hired me to bring order to the crew. Turns out he overslept. He and the van didn't arrive until almost a half hour late. While other crew people had arrived late, they were still there before the van. What could I say?

Boom could see my frustration. That was when he said to me, "You never worked with Greeks before. Relax. This is what it's like."

He offered a smile and a pat on the back and then he got into the van.

Over the next few weeks, I got to understand some realities of working with this crew, the ups and the downs.

The ups.

They were very efficient for a small crew.  In part, this was because there was a film school mentality in many ways, and everyone did everything. The director for the day wasn't afraid to carry gear and everyone chipped in. They also were very good technicians. I would wind up bringing more than a few of them onto other shoots. In addition to being good, they were very hard workers. A very good combination.

They also had shooting on subways down pat.

In order to get a permit to film on the subway in NYC you need $2M per occurrence. Most indie insurance packages are $1M per occurrence, and the added cost is significant. As a result, many indie films will "steal" subway shots, shooting without a permit. Doing so requires organization and smarts, and if this crew was not traditionally organized at other times, on the subway, they were like a Navy SEAL team.

The downs.

Disputes, which would happen multiple times a day, seemed to be resolved by volume, as the quote above suggests. The loudest voice would often prevail, and, thankfully, that would often be Deena. As stated elsewhere, I usually disliked having my ADs be yellers, but, well, this was an exception.

I loved Deena, because I actually got to be good cop most of the time. Plus, I didn't have the appropriate Greek slang to win an argument.

I've worked on a lot of mob movies, and growing up Italian-American, I knew Italian slang. I'm not talking about Italian-American slang ('fuhgetaboutit', 'he's a mook', etc). Every culture has their slang that does not translate literally, but are better at expressing the full spectrum of an insult.

On this shoot, a phrase I quickly picked up on was "malaka." Many cultures, especially Mediterranean ones, reserve their most expressive slang insults for "crazy" or "idiot." Malaka  seemed to align more specifically with the British expression 'wanker,' as both refer to someone 'soft in the head' from self-pleasuring.

Deena also had an expression that was pure - Deena. She had little patience for, well, bullshit, and she would often express her displeasure by starting a sentence with, "I'm not going to lie to you." I came to love that expression because I knew straight up truth was coming.

I wasn't the only one who got along great with Deena. I brought that PA from the bad shoot, G, onto the job. I wanted someone to work as 2nd AD and give Deena some back-up. The two of them became fast friends, and they were a team that would work together on a lot of my other projects. G was much more proper than Deena, and while that made them something of an odd couple, G being Felix to Deena's Oscar, they were a really good team.

My little Greek TV show. It was wild, It was crazy. And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Rebooting Again - Always Beginner's Mind

"What we call 'I' is a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale." *
-Shunryo Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

My Dad, who was not a Zen master but a pretty astute observer of human nature, used to say, "When one door closes, another one opens." I think he and Suzuki Roshi would have gotten along just fine.

There was a post named "Beginner's Mind, Beginning Again - Or the Great Reboot" from January 2012. In that post, I discussed how I started again after recovering from my operation. It was really when I focused my work on film more than theater, though I never really abandoned theater.

If you stick with this business long enough, you will find yourself "rebooting" a number of times. I think of this time as significant because I met a number of people who became part of my team for a while, and we did a lot of good work together.

As those who follow this blog are aware, there have been a number of times where I questioned whether this was really what I should be doing.

By 2008, I was not sure if I was done with this business, or if it was done with me. More and more, I was seeing people with less experience get positions for which I knew I was qualified.

Despair set in, not only because of what I was going through, but what the people who were important to me were going through. My good friend JR was dead some time at this point. Most of that crew had either moved up in the business or moved on to other businesses.

The filmmakers I had the closest association with had made their movies, and like the movie JR, Jack and I had made, they had received little attention and the barest of distribution.

The few projects I was working were, well, less than inspiring. One was a student thesis project that was very ill conceived (let's just leave it at that). A second was a Greek TV show which was, well, if you imagine the characters from My Big Fat Greek Wedding as a production team, you get the picture.

While neither of these projects seemed of any note, they brought me two of the people who would become a regular part of my team. It's why I always tell people that, however bad or crazy the project, do the best job that you can, and keep your eyes peeled for the good ones to bring on another project.

So it was that I was contacted by two brothers who were doing a short I'll call Speedboat**. It was a clever story of a rather inept small time hood who gets has stolen bribe money and is being chased by two killers when he thinks he finds the perfect out - a boat driver along the Gowanus river who looks like him can take the rap.

The two brothers, Paul and Dan, admitted after they hired me that when they saw my extensive resume, they thought about not contacting me because, given my extensive resume, they thought I wouldn't take it. Ha! I had actually heard that before.

When we started looking for a First AD, I saw a resume from a woman who clearly had been around as long as I had. The brothers admitted they had thought about her for my job, but that, again, thought she would say 'no'.

Her work went back a long way in LA, and she has done a lot of television back to 1980s shows I remembered. Wow.

I knew firsthand that if she sent a resume, she was looking for work. I brought her in - we'll call her "W" - and she and I immediately knew we had something in common. She was a short, stout chain-smoker, who seemed straight out of central casting as a gun moll. When she was trying to encourage the director to move along after a particular take, she would use expressions like "Moving on. You don't want to put your foot through a Rembrant!"

I loved her. I knew she would be perfect.

It was in interviewing for PAs on the shoot that I found a few amazing future crew people, as well as one I brought along from two previous oddball films.

One, named G (She used this as short for her actual name) I had found on the otherwise forgettable student short where I was hired to AD. When I got to the van, and we had all introduced each other, and I found that there was only ONE PA, G, and she didn't drive. Once on set, however, I realized she was bright and hard-working.

From the Greek TV show, I met Deena, who was that show's AD. While I usually do not like ADs who are yellers, on this shoot, everyone yelled, so there was definitely an advantage to yell the loudest, which she did. In fact, she would scare the director more than I could, and there was something to be said for that. Lovely and talented enough to be an actress, I knew Deena had a future in production.

Then there would be the other PA positions.

Em was bright and hard-working, with a "can-do" approach to everything. As good as she was with me across many projects, I appreciated her skills the most when I threw her in the deep end of the pool PMing for the first time on a feature that was quite difficult. She shined.

I always had one personal assistant. One resume got my attention because of her background as a stage manager. Everything about her resume screamed organization. We met at a Starbucks, and she was every bit as smart as I assumed she was. Her name was Maura - I use it because I mentioned her already in the Don't Shoot post - and she was an organizing whiz, with just the right amount of irreverence to speak up if she didn't agree.

As she was leaving, she said, "By the way, I can be a bit A.D.D., so you better keep me busy or I get really bored." I came to learn she wasn't kidding. She would finish any task in no more than half the time you thought it would take her and be back asking for more to do. She also turned out to be a math whiz with a love for Sudoku and Excel.

One of the other PAs was Dion. Sorry, D, there was really not another short version of your name that wasn't "D" and I know there would be other folks with names starting with "D."

D was a born organizer, and over shoots to come, he would quickly move from PA to Key PA to 2nd AD. First AD? More on that, later.

These folks would all be involved in the next chapter of my career. I will have more on Speedboat, but before that, I should tell you just a little about that Greek TV show.

Next post. Then, I'll get back to Speedboat.

* The painting is from the rather iconic Zen Ten Ox-Herding Pictures. They are meant to represent the stages of awareness through a man who "loses" an Ox, chases him, finds him, only to realize he is back where he began, but with more awareness. This is a terribly shortened version of the meaning of the story as it reflects Zen practice. These good folks explain it better.

** As these stories are closer to my current place, and most friends know these folks, I do my best to not always use their names or names of the projects. It's not because I have anything negative to say of them, but the process of production is bumpy, and I figure these folks don't deserve to have those bumps shared. With Maura and Dion, well, most of the bumps are humorous, and using pseudonyms wouldn't do much to protect their identities for those who know them anyway.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Back from "Vacation" Soon....

First, sorry for having resorted to a meme, and one with a cat no less. Is there anything easier than a meme or using a cat to portray an attitude?

Please forgive. Baby steps here.

I realize it's been almost two months since I have posted, and I haven't gone that long since I started the blog.

Shorter hiatuses in the past have usually been due to work, and, although I've had work over this period (some of which I will share), I really can't blame it on that this time.

Some hiatuses have come due to dry spells. I've said before during these gaps that I'm more committed to keeping the quality of the posts than just churning one out every week (or so). As with most writers, I'm my worst critic. For every post you see there are tons of (figurative) pages crumbled up and sitting near the waste basket, and even those that make it go through a lot of red-lining.

Oddly, when this gap started, it was almost because there was too much.  I had a pet peeve post, which was meant to be the first in a series. Then, there was a post on a short film I was producer on recently with an long-time DP friend and lots of students.

Then, there was the desire to start posts on my 2nd "reboot" in 2009 when I taught for a while at NYFA, and where I met a young crew that would go from PAs I helped train to the best crop of young production people I had met in a long time. I have referred to them here before as "my kids" (a reference they universally despise - but hey). I met them, as well as a handful of great NYFA students who went on to move me from that guy in the posts up to that time to the guy I am now.

These came after another sort of hiatus - one that was a combination of a series of disappointments with the jobs I was doing and trying to get my aging mother past the early stages of dementia before finally realizing it was too much for me to do alone.

In the time since I started this gap in my posts until now, working on a short with a lot of students seems to be a perfect place to start talking about this stage of my career, which continues today.

I was brought back, again, to the first book on Zen that influenced me (I can't say it was the first book on the subject) called Zen Mind Beginner's Mind. In fact, we are always beginners in some way and always students, and always learning. I like the confluence of the two.

The posts should come more quickly now, as I have drafts of the first few and know where I want to go with them.

As with my other "I'm coming back" posts, I'l refrain from editing this one, lest I get tempted to over-think it.

It's just a bookmark post, after all.

New posts soon!