Saturday, September 26, 2009


And we're rolling...

Lisa Sullivan, Production Assistant.

My sister's friend, Annie, is a Director.

She's a local girl from Cave Creek, but left for film school way back when. She recently won a film competition sponsored by PBS (they are going to start showing short fiction films) and returned home to Cave Creek to direct her piece. I signed up to help.

These people are maniacs. They get up before the crack of dawn and work twelve hours straight. Annie says now that she's older with two kids (she just had her second baby) she can only do twelve hour shifts, but that the industry usually goes much longer. Well, my first assignment was to pick up the star, Susan,

(she's been on Law and Order and CSI and a bunch of other stuff) and the Assistant Director, Sam, who are staying at an incredible modern home in Carefree. Call time (cool film people lingo for what time your day starts) for the first two days was 6am, meaning that I had to get myself and my car from Scottsdale to Carefree by 5:40. That's before the sun comes up, people. But standing in the desert watching the sunrise made it all worth it. We then headed to Annie's parents house to fetch the Queen Bee herself and Charles, the Director of Photography before heading to the production site, just one more gorgeous, right out of Architectural Digest Magazine, house overlooking the beautiful Arizona desert. Twelve hours later I was done - hot, dirty, sunburned and so incredibly amazed at how much goes on behind the scenes, how much work is involved, how much time it takes, how much it costs and how many people are involved in the making of a fifteen minute film.

The most awe-inspiring part of my first day as a Production Assistant (I got a slash - / - Driver title added later in the day. I asked if it was a promotion, but Brian, the Line Producer, said, No, just lateral. Oh well.) was just how well, practically seamlessly, so many different people melded together. People that didn't know each other ten minutes ago. Everybody became fast friends, learned each other's names and what their responsibililtes are very quickly. I wanted to fit in, look cool, you know, next to all of these guys from New York and LA (and some locals, too) so I wore my hippest outfit. It worked and I fooled at least one person, the hair and make-up girl. She thought that I was with the wardrobe department (and she usually only works on porn movies, so her bar for coolness may be higher that most, I figure. Well, maybe lower. Anyway, she says there's a huge porn industry in Phoenix - who knew?)

We spent most of the day outside by the side of a dirt road in Cave Creek, heading up a mountain. I relayed messages, got water, directed traffic (telling oncoming traffic - well, never very heavy in Cave Creek), that we are shooting a movie up the road, would you mind waiting a couple of minutes so we can finish this scene? - so, again, cool Lisa, in the know and everybody asks, oohhh...who's in it? anybody I know? Brad Pitt? Well, no, but thanks so much for waiting) until I hear the crackle crackle on the walkie talkie "Cut!" (did I mention on my second day I got a walkie talkie - definitely a promotion!) and I send the cars up the hill. One more task for a Production Assistant was to procure a restroom facility. Brian had scoped out a horse ranch down the road and put me in charge of sweetly asking if, every once in a while for two days, some people could use the bathroom. I told Brian, "I can do sweet." I drove down the hill and pulled in to find a tall blonde cowgirl coming out of the stable. She said, "You look like an information seeker" (what? wasn't it obvious I was from the wardrobe department?) I said, "No, just a favor asker," and went on to do my sweet thing. She really didn't have a restroom, more like an outhouse. But when you're standing in the desert and it's 100 degrees, you don't really need to go to the bathroom, no matter how much water you drink. Funny thing about the desert.

So scene after scene was shot. Border patrol agent yelling at pregnant lady. Young boy handcuffed and bleeding (make-up) in back of truck. Pregnant lady and boy in car. Over and over again. The complexity of each take, the patience, the perfectionism was eye-opening. And nobody was bitching. It was hot. It was dusty. It was a long day. And nobody was bitching.

It's been fascinating to watch the crew - the sound people, the camera people and all of their equipment - so massive, yet intricate - which camera to use? can you get that shot? how long to set up? By the end of the second day, they were attaching a "hostess stand" to the outside of a Prius so they could drive and film the actors inside the car at the same time. I never knew so many people could fit inside a Prius, plus a probably 100 pound camera sticking four feet off the car. I watched as they drove off, standing next to Sam (he was a little shaky as the car full of people and equipment drove off into the desert - we got a walkie talkie call from Charles saying they got two takes and were going to do one more, followed by a May Day May Day call from somebody else on the frequency...then the non-walkie talkie sound of a pack of coyotes howling and howling - hoping that nobody was getting ripped to shreds) The car made it back safely, getting the last shot of the day before the sun started to head down.

Day three, Saturday, call time: 4:00pm (3:45 - Lisa to pick up Susan)

Guess what time we get to go home???

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