Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Different Point-of-Hue: L.A. Stories 2008
(Part II)

Another Shot in the Dark
I dunno. Maybe I’ve always been this way. Despite the fact that I’ve never considered myself much of a risk-taker, I had a brief-but-memorable stint as lead singer in a garage band when I was in fifth grade; and I don’t recall the two ensuing public performances I had in that endeavor being overly scary. Then in eighth grade I ran for student council, delivering my campaign speech from atop a chair I had to stand on because I couldn’t see over the freaking podium; yeah, that was sorta fun too.

Then I subsequently spent fifteen years of my life as a competitive gymnast, swinging around on the rings, taking my life into my hands on a daily basis even after a missed dismount in a college meet once left me with a broken back; I never had a second thought about quitting.

Off and on throughout my adult life I’ve done a limited amount of public speaking, and can’t remember the last time I’ve felt intimidated in a crowd of strangers. All of these things, I’ve been told by folks over the years, take a bit more nerve than the average person possesses, yet I’ve never thought of myself as overtly courageous, in public settings or otherwise.

My son Shawn has rock-climbed El Capitan in Yosemite and bungee-jumped off 150 foot-high bridges; now that’s courageous — or dumb — I don’t know which.

The fact of the matter is, I’m somewhat of a ham; a reserved ham, but a ham nonetheless. I’m not afraid to walk up to and talk to someone, regardless of the situation. I don’t like to be embarrassed anymore than the next guy, but if I want to meet someone, I’m generally willing to toss caution to the wind.

As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I mentioned in the previous post of this series the story of how I met Michael (A.K.A. MakeMineMike). I sought him out because that’s just what I do. It works for me. I’ve never been the type of person whom people flock to (unless of course I’m walking down the street waving around a wad of Hamiltons in my fist — but that doesn’t count), and that’s fine; I don’t take it personally. I’m rather used to it at this point in my life. For better or worse, I’ve come to decide that most circumstances in which I have a problem with someone acting or not acting a certain way around me, it’s usually ME that has the problem — not the other person. I realized early on in my adult years that if you wanna have friends, most of the time you have to make friends. You can’t expect them to always come to you.

Friendship needs to be cultivated, and the first act of cultivation is preparing the soil. Next comes planting the seed. Where and how it grows from there is solely up to how well it’s maintained.

But that’s a discussion for another time. This is about taking chances.

My initial meeting with Michael was a shot in the dark. I had no idea whether he’d go for it or not. I really didn’t see any reason why he wouldn’t, but I was certainly prepared for it if he had declined.

Well, I decided to do it again this trip, four years later.

Tuning In
A year ago last February I stumbled quite innocently across a blog whose subject matter was about 180 degrees from my own. The author was a TV writer (the abbreviation hereto be forevermore rendered as ‘TeeVee’ in her honor). And the shows she’s been a part of weren’t just any shows, but ones I had actually watched and liked.

Her site is entitled Seriocity, and her name is Kay Reindl.

Of particular interest to me was Kay’s involvement in one of the shows of Chris Carter, a name you might recognize as the creator of The X-Files and Millennium, two widely-acclaimed Fox Network series that leaned decidedly toward the sci-fi/paranormal side of the aisle.

Kay was one of the primary writers during seasons two and three on Millennium, a haunting and dark paranormal drama that I got into a bit late but really enjoyed during its run in the late 90s. In addition to her work with Carter, Kay has more recently been involved in the series revival of The Twilight Zone, USA Network’s The Dead Zone, and the recent and critically-acclaimed-but short-lived CBS sci-fi offering, Moonlight, to name a few.

Her latest project is a series that will debut this fall in syndication, based upon Wizard’s First rule, a rather Lord of The Rings-esque fantasy series of books by Terry Goodkind. It should be an interesting challenge for Kay and her writing partner, Erin.

But her resume was only a fraction of her blog’s appeal for me. Kay’s a no-nonsense kinda gal, with a free-flowing, conversational style of writing that’s as hip and fun as it is engaging. She talks about lots of different things, namely her eclectic taste in music, her longstanding love of the Sport of Kings, and her unfortunate (…sorry Kay…) affinity for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Equally interesting was the inside scoop Kay dished out in her blog on the joys and frustrations of getting a TeeVee series to market; from concept to pilot, to having a show picked up by the networks. It may have been old hat to many of her readers, but I found it extremely fascinating.

However those who were involved or affected by the recent strike involving the Writers Guild of America television writers may know Kay’s blog for something else — her active and spirited involvement as a proponent of her union’s position during the WGA work stoppage of late last year. Kay’s blog quickly morphed from a personal home for her off-work idlings to one of the industry’s hottest destinations for strike opinion and dialogue. She was well-versed in the points of contention between the WGA and the Networks, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP), and she didn’t spare the salvos in meting out her opinion on the matter.

I watched her comments grow exponentially during the late fall of 2007, as more and more writers (as well as a few AMPTP trolls) came by to offer their support or derision. It was a fascinatingly educational experience for me (to say the least), as it seemed I was one of the few consistent non-TeeVee industry frequenters of her site during that period.

Going in I had no idea how old she was, but I knew she was wise well beyond her years, confident, and seemed to be a pretty fun person. I really wanted to see what she was like in person.

But Kay wasn’t the only one I wanted to meet.

Fresh Squeezed
I’m sure guys in his line of work get a kick out of the various and sundry attempts by outlanders like me to guess exactly what the term, Juicer actually refers to as the industry moniker for Hollywood lighting technicians.

I intended to ask him about it, but it never came up.

Were I to proffer a guess, I’d imagine the nickname has mostly to do with the idea of the lighting techs providing ‘the juice,’ or electrical power, to a film set via the installation and positioning of those heavy, powerful, hot-as-H-E-DOUBLETOOTHPICKS lamps that illuminate a scene for the cameras; making what would otherwise be a shadowy, nondescript setting appear amazingly bright and naturally lit.

Juicers are as integral to the look and quality of a TeeVee show or feature film as the cameramen who employ them, because they’re the ones who give the camera something to see.

But then again, after reading Michael Taylor’s blog, Blood, Sweat and Tedium: Confessions of a Hollywood Juicer a little while, I began to think that perhaps ‘Juicer’ really has more to do with the analogy of what happens to an orange during the process of having its nectar extracted.

Perhaps they should call ‘em, ‘Juicees’ instead.

Lighting work is hard, physical labor, and the one thing I’ve learned over the course of the nearly a year of reading his blog, these guys don’t get paid nearly enough; they certainly don’t get the thanks they should receive, nor the respect, nor the job security. Along with their other ‘crew’ brethren, they’re among the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave a film set. They typically work 12-to-14 hour days, sometimes on only straight pay. They’re also the first ones to feel the brunt of studio politics brought to bear by a change in director, producer, and certainly, the Director of Photography of a particular project.

And as if their incessant physical toil isn’t bad enough, they oftentimes also serve as the undeserving targets of temper tantrums by insecure, egotistical actors or directors; some of whom have had lighting crew members fired just for looking at them out of turn.

Again, as with Kay’s blog (through which I discovered Michael Taylor’s site) this glimpse into a life — from inside an entity that the average Joe has absolutely no true connection to — was absolutely fascinating to me.

AND…the guy’s an incredibly good writer as well, which even more than the subject matter, is what grabbed me by the throat. I was hooked after the first read. Michael’s eloquent, lilting narrative style is one pathway that I never tire of traversing.

Kinda makes me wonder if he’s not on the wrong side of ‘The Line.’

Needless to say, I was very interested in meeting Michael as well. And I figured if I was trying to put together a meet with Kay, why not attempt to get together with them both at once? Thankfully, he was up for it too.

Next: ‘Above the Line’ meets ‘Below the Line’ meets ‘What’s MY Line?’
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