Wednesday, August 25, 2010

♫♪ "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'..." ♪♫

Hello, Kind Reader.

A great man once said "Time is the fire in which we burn".  Well, actually it was Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Tolian Soran in Star Trek Generations, but, hey, why split hairs?  It's still a cool quote.

Well, it's been nearly five months since my voluntary departure from my last traditional paying gig and I can scarcely believe it.  Like with any new, exciting and terrifying venture, for the first few weeks after my liberation time crept by like a chameleon on downers.

But inexorably, it began to pick up steam again.  Despite my best efforts to the contrary, the summer is melting away like quicksilver through my fingers.  Whatupwitdat?

Do you remember how the days lasted forever when you were a kid?  Do you remember how time would drag by sometimes and you couldn't wait for a certain major event to roll around?  Do you remember checking days off an Advent Calendar waiting for Christmas like a crazed little Dwight Frye in Dracula? 

Cripes, it seemed like a month would have to transpire before you could earn the privilege of spinning that little dial, marking an "X" or doing a cardboard "B&E" to retrieve the chocolaty  treasure inside.   

Summer vacations were epic long before the word epic was overused.  Of course, "Back in My Day" (best read in your finest Grampa Simpson voice) we weren't over-saturated in entertainment value.  There was no internet, no home video and our game consoles all sucked considerable amounts of ass.  All we had were Star Wars action figures, G.I. Joe (the gigantism version that would be much more likely to nail Barbie versus that pastel-clad closet case Ken), crappy hand-held electronic baseball games, and drawing paper.  Mardi Friggin' Gras, huh? 

I've said this before but it bears repeating: the intervening years between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were the longest years of my life.  I look back on it now and consider those thirty-six months to be like the dream that Leonardo DiCaprio and Marion Cotillard shared in Inception.  It was like a separate, insular other lifetime. 

So why is it that time seems to accelerate the older we get?  Frankly I gotta know because I'm looking at the calendar and feeling a bit whip-lashed here.

I did some research on the interwebs and found a lot of theories.  Here are just a few:

(1) "We had more leisure time and less responsibilities as a child so when you add in deadlines, chores and tasks, the time flies by quicker." 

Frankly, I don't buy this one.  Class attendance and homework certainly ate up more lot time for me as a High Schooler than I have now.  So why are my weeks as an adult flying by quicker again even though I'm theoretically doing less now?

EEEEEENNNNTTTT!!!  "Ooooooo, sorry, good guess but I'm afraid that is incorrect!  Now would you like to try for the bonus round where the scores can really change?"

(2) "School as a kid is so boring that time drags by. Once you're out of school you can choose what you want to do and suddenly there's not enough time in the day to do everything you want."

Ummmm, okay.  So why do you perceive time spent at your current boring adult job (especially an entire work week) still melts away quicker then, say, when you were locked up in a classroom as a kid?  In the immortal works of Ricky Ricardo: "'Splain, Lucy, 'splain."   

Let's face it folks: Lucy never did.      

(3) "Because time spent as a child is a larger proportion of your life.  Three years between the ages of three and six is half of your existence. Two years between the ages of 47 and 50 is only about 4% of your life."

Ri-i-i-i-i-i-ght.  Even the original author thinks this is horseshit when he admits: "Well, it sounds good when you say it fast."  Frankly a year is a year is a year.  A kid has no perception that a year of his life represents a certain percentage of his time spent on earth.  Nuts to this one as well.

(4) "Your brain is similar to a camera shutter.  The higher the setting on the shutter speed, the slower objects appear to be moving when you see them on film.  As you age, your brain starts to slow down like the shutter on a camera.  If you take a video at a high frame rate of a fast-moving humming bird its wings will appear to freeze in flight. When you're a kid your senses are operating a lot quicker."  


Okay, all I gotta say here is: "Ground Control to Major Tom!  Ground Control to Major Tom!"  Who the f#@$ wrote this, Doug Henning?

Actually I'm being a bit facetious here.  Of everything I've read so far at least this is an interesting theory.  This guy also tries to tie it into your diminishing reaction time as an adult and why your reflexes are sharper as a kid.  Frankly I think that's more related to the physiological disconnect that characterizes advanced aging and is certainly too variable amongst individuals to be the rule of law.   

Besides as an adult I'm a helluva lot more likely to grab something tumbling out of the cupboards before it brains me versus when I was a kid.  I was a clumsy, gangly little shit.  

(5) "As a man in his Sixties I believe that it's an attempt for the brain to guard itself. The more recollections we store up the more challenging it is for our minds to catalog it all.  The less intensely we feel things, the less the minor aches and pains will bother us. The more health issues we experience ( hearing loss, fading eyesight, stiff joints, poor balance, lack of recall...etc ), the more we'll welcome death as an old friend."

Jesus, morbid much?   This might address perception a bit and it's an interesting take, but there's not a shred of evidence to back it up.  Okay, let's wacko. 

(6) "It's a physical process. Dopamine levels alter the perception of time.  Experiments have shown that people with high dopamine production guessed much higher than those with average levels when asked to approximate how much time had passed. Subjects with low dopamine levels guessed considerably lower." 

Alright, now we're cooking with gas!  This is the most sensible thing I've read so far.  But having said that, there are still no clinical studies available that have looked at the passage of really large chunks of time like an entire year.  But it certainly speaks to the old adage: "time flies when your having fun."

But if it was purely based on dopamine, why does your perception of time start crawling again when we suddenly find ourselves in unusual or different circumstances?  Typically during times in which our our usual routines are shaken up?  

Why is time flying by quicker for me now  versus my first two months away from work?  I've been uniformly busy the whole time and I'm pretty sure my Dopamine level hasn't dropped off a cliff in the past eight weeks.  Nope, something still isn't right here...

So, ladies and gents, I present to you, the real answer IMHO presented verbatim as written by the original author:

"Most people fall into a daily routine where nothing unusual ever happens. Our culture develops systems for smoothing our deaths, financial hardship, births, and so on, so that no one ever need be overly concerned. 

"People's lives are planned by the State from the moment they're born to the moment they die so as to cause minimal fuss and disruption. The way the human brain (and other brains in general) work(s) is extraneous data is discarded to ensure that critical data is always able to get through. 

"A frog's brain is so simple that it edits out anything which doesn't move erratically; large erratic objects are predators to be avoided and small erratic objects are prey to be eaten. Snakes are efficient predators of frogs because their smooth, sinuous movement makes them literally invisible to frogs. Human brains, while more complex, work much the same way. As time passes, the uninteresting daily routine gets edited out of your experience. 

"Sadly, for most people, this means they blink at age 9 and suddenly they're 65, on their death beds.

"The best way to avoid having time whiz past at breakneck speed, rushing you to your death, is to make sure you never fall into routine. Take up new skills constantly. Challenge yourself always, and take on slightly more than you can handle. Throw yourself into crisis willingly, and tantalize yourself by the occasional brush with lethal danger. 

"I'm 39 years old, never had a wife, no kids, no car, no career, no insurance, and my income hasn't exceeded $10k per year in a decade. I'm an anarchist activist, a street organizer, I've done time in jail, and fighting with riot cops is a pleasant and relaxing hobby. When at last I go to my final rest -- with any luck, still wearing my combat boots -- I'll have sucked every drop of experience from my life and be well ready to throw the husk away."

So there it is.  Now I'm not saying that the previous theories don't hold any water at all.  They all contribute to our experience as time's plaything.  But I think this one really hits the nail on the head.

I'm also not suggesting we all go out like "anarchy boy here and throw Molotov cocktails, burn cop cars and spend time on a chain gang but for the love of Katy Perry, if you feel time is making you her coat rack then just twist the wheel hard to port and veer out of that rut!  

Turn off the crappy reality television!  Liberate yourself from that time-sucking MMORPG!  Stop virtual farming and plant a real friggin' garden!  Look for a new job!  Sign up for a course!  Go out and see a good movie!  Take a walk without a destination!  Read a book at a coffee shop!  Embark on a trip!  Go camping!  Volunteer!  Er, write a blog!

You'll be surprised how much time slows down again when you give your eyes and ears something new and exciting to chew on.

Yes, I still lose track of time occasionally but at least now I've got something to show for it!  Before all I could do was say that I pressed some buttons, habitually pestered people over the phone and then picked up a paycheck.

I hated knowing that every day of my work week was a pre-destined exercise in futility.  Just like clockwork, every morning I would get up, boil some tea, make toast, check my links, get cleaned up, get dressed, go to work, slave away pointlessly for two hours, go buy a coffee on my fifteen minute break, blabber endlessly for another two hours, drive somewhere for lunch for thirty minutes, rock back and forth in despair, come back and hit the feeder bar for another four and a half hours before stumbling bleary-eyed out of my corporate prison.

And my reward for enduring this at the end of the day?  Running errands, making dinner, paying bills, cleaning up, self-medicating myself with a movie or a video game for an hour or so, only to pass and do it all over again the next day.

I did this continuously for ten years with one interchangeable day blending into the other. Little wonder our brains merge all of these identical "experiences" into one big amorphous blob of  mush!  It's a horrible, limbo-like existence designed merely to prop up the status quo. 

After subsisting on this unchanging pattern of chronological gruel  for so long I've vowed never to let myself be imprisoned in my own life ever again.
At least now I can point to some things and say, "Well, that's what I did with my time!"   Of course some people may respond: "Really?  Jeez, that's pretty sad" but I bet it's more than they can claim.
Don't be kindling for time's fire, people.  Burn the bitch right back... 

EPIC: "Magic is illusion and illusion is magic, except on Wednesdays..."

100% bonus in the EPIC department:  "GET IN DA CHOPPAH!!!"

If this was a link it would be CAPTAIN EPICPANTS:  The best song I know on the subject.

FAIL: More half-baked answers to the time quandary right here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Christmas Came Early This Year! - Part III

Good day, Cinemaphiles!

Well, the first few takes of our walk-through continued to be tweaked.  At one point the sound guy must have gotten an alert that my kicks were making a bit too much noise on audio so my soles got the ole' carpet treatment after all.  It was kinda surreal standing there like a stabled horse getting "shoed" by a dude that bore  more than a passing similarity to the "The Jefferson's" doorman.  

Also, due to our proximity to the "video village" we risked showing up on the audio track.  Instead of moving on the typical command of  "BACKGROUND ACTION!"  we utilized an ultra quiet "tap system".   Here's a typical breakdown of how a shot is done:

BLOCKING: This is when the director and the actors hash out how the scene is to be played out.  The principals go through the motions of the scene without the camera burning film so that the Director of Photography can puzzle out lighting and everyone can decide on their marks.  Typically this happens before background is even on set. 

REHEARSAL: The actors practice the scene with all the elements in place and the camera is still off.  At this point in time, background performers are usually on set and doing their parts as well.

FINALS: This is an alert to the cast and crew, letting us know that this time it's for keepers.  Hair, make up and wardrobe paw over the actors and background performers to see if you've sprouted a zit in the past three minutes or suddenly look "dewy". 

PICTURE’S UP : Cameras will soon roll.  Film will be burned.  Don't f#@$ up

ROLLING: As soon as the AD’s screams "ROLLING!" (often making you pee a little) this is the technical term for "SHUT YER CAKE HOLE".  Don't speak, don't move, don't even blink.  A boom mike can actually pick up your thought patterns, so put your brain in "test pattern mode" and just collect some dust for a bit.  Keep paying attention tho, since you might miss this next command: 

BACKGROUND ACTION : The 1st AD usually fires this one out and it represents an extra's "cue to ski-doo" (unless otherwise instructed).

ACTION: Everyone goes on ‘action’ if Background doesn't have it's own separate orders.  The principal actors typical hit the ground running when they hear this one. 

CUT : The cameras stop grinding and the director then decides on whether or not to do another take. If the director is in a "Kubrickian" mood than you're more than likely to hear…

BACK TO ONES, or FIRST POSITIONS: You head back to where you started from and run it again.  And again!  And again!  And again!  And again!  And again!  And again!  And again!  And again!  And again!  And again!  And again!  And again!  Okay, you get the idea...

So, for sound's nefarious purposes, we Background folks weren't given an audio cue to move, but a tap system was employed.  The A.D. tapped Mary, Mary tapped me and we were on our way.    

Eventually the shot was locked down and we moved on.  

For the next pass the cameras and equipment were all rolled down to the opposite end of the corridor, next to the three principal actors.  We would be walking into picture this time.  Subsequently our direction was also a bit more complicated. 

"Okay," the A.D. hastily explained, exhibiting more energy than Regis Philbin on a Red Bull bender.  "This time when we tap you I need you to do exactly what you did before but I need you to listen to the dialogue carefully.  Since we just got you passing by Sam as he was saying '*Mumble, mumble*  "Something badass."  *Mumble, mumble* "Something awesome".  *Mumble, mumble.* "Something inspirational'  we need you to pass through the scene around the same time he says it again.  So, if you're walking down the hall and you're almost there but they haven't gotten to the line yet, just slow down a bit.  If you hear the line coming up but you're too far away, just speed up a bit.  Got it?"

"Um, yeah?" I said, only managing 'semi-convinced' for a tone.

"What do I do?" Mary asked plaintively, clearly hoping for a line or a quick song-and-dance number as we passed by the camera. 

"What you've been doing so far is perfect.  Just follow behind your dad like last time and you'll be fine."

We looked at each other and shared dubious glances.

Well, on the first take I was completely convinced  that I'd blown the scene.  When we passed the triumvirate of frighteningly convincing actors and made a move to go up the steps I discovered to my horror that the way was completely blocked by John Corbett and his canoe-sized shoes, which he'd inexplicably taken off. 

In a panic, I did the only thing I could do.  I walked between the camera and the stairwell railing, behind the crew and prayed to Tom Cruise that the stairway was out of frame.

Well, just as soon as we were out of the shot Mary called me on it. 

"We were supposed to go up the steps!" she whispered.

"But...but...I couldn't get through!" I replied, feeling terrible about my gaffe. 

But in my mind, I couldn't have done anything else.  If I'd bumped into Chris Stevens (or worse), stomped on his kicks, he might have lost his temper, picked me up and hurled my noob ass down the stairwell like Darth Vader heaving Palpatine into the Death Star reactor.
As the A.D. screamed a request for "FIRST POSITIONS!" I stopped him as he passed by and asked:

"Dude, were we supposed to go up the stairwell?  The way was kinda blocked..."

"Oh no, that was perfect!  The camera can't even see the stairwell from that angle."

I promptly turned to my co-star, bent down and said:

"HA!  HA!  I knew it!  In your FACE!  Neener-neener-neener!!!"

That right, folks, as if it wasn't already apparent, here proof positive that I have a lower maturity level than a ten year old girl.  

Every time we passed by the principal actors to go back to our places (which was a lot!) I got brief glimpses into their world.  Sarah Paulson seemed a bit insecure about some elements of her performance, which in my opinion was baseless.  I thought she was completely convincing as the distraught mom. 

Sam Elliott was a boundless wellspring of patience and tranquility.  He definitely came across as team captain, giving his co-stars tremendous encouragement and hitting every line reading flawlessly.  I was amused when I passed by once and Sam was confiding in John that he was having a hardcore sushi craving (?) but couldn't get anyone to go with him.

"I'll take ya!" John said, looking more than amused. 

As I passed by I thought 'Curse you, John Corbett!  That was supposed to be my line!' 

Sam, if you're still in town and didn't get your hankerin' for miso soup, California rolls and sashimi fulfilled...dude, call me!  I know all the best spots.

John Corbett was a bit more tightly wound than I expected.  He flubbed a line once and blurted a colorful little epithet despite the presence of little ones around.  I guess that's just a workplace hazard that parents likely have to warn their kids about.  After all, when I thought I'd screwed up my last take I certainly thought about shouting a couple of "Fiddledy-Dee's" and "Poopidy Doo's" myself.

He seemed pretty intense at times; taking deep breaths, shaking out cobwebs and sneaking periodic peeks at a little cheat note with lines written on it.  But when the cameras started rolling, the dude was money.  Frankly I'm still amazed how actors can inject so much emotion and gravitas into lines that some solitary, pale, chain-smoking writer just banged out in Microsoft Word in his basement.   
One thing that I found kinda irksome was the constant background noise.  Seems to me that, initially at least, the crew didn't put up enough signage down in the lobby to encourage visitors to try and be quiet due to filming.  I know it's kind of a "Catch-22", though.  The location was off-season but the building still had to be open to the public so I can imagine it must have been difficult to get a handle on it.

The scene itself was being shot in a big open atrium/stairwell sorta thing and the talking, slamming doors and footfalls down below screwed up quite a few takes. 

To cut down on the noise (and since we would no longer be shown going up the steps) I was asked by the AD to doff my shoes.  I'm not sure how much that really helped considering the veritable three-ring circus happening down below.

Director Robert Harmon was a constant presence on set to guide the proceedings and encourage his cast.  He worked quickly and efficiently.  As soon as I saw him I though he looked a bit familiar.  I was aware that he'd shot the Tom Selleck/Jesse Stone detective series as specials for CBS right here in Halifax.  But later on it clicked: he was also the director of the seminal 80's thriller The Hitcher!    

Of course!  A few months back I'd attended a charity screening of the film with Hobo director Jason Eisener and star Rutger Hauer, who's mentioned Harmon's name several times and went on and on about his genius as a wonderkind director.   

And here I was rubbing shoulders with that same guy mere months later.  Life can be kinda cool sometimes!

We repeated the shot a few more times.  Even in the air conditioned building, the day was super-humid, I was dressed for the winter and feeling constant pressure not to goof up.  I felt myself getting distressingly "moist".    I feared the worst when I saw the A.D. go by and he looked like Raj Binder in a jacuzzi.  Mercifully the nice makeup girl happened by and powdered a few of us down.  I imagine by that time I was probably looking like a Muppet dipped in shellac. 

On a subsequent take Mary became obsessed with walking beside me instead of behind me, perhaps in an effort to ensure that she'd be seen.

"Um, I'm pretty sure you're supposed to keep walking behind me.  In all the other shots, you're behind me so I think it's gonna look weird if all of a sudden you're walking beside me."

Try as I might, I couldn't dissuade her.  After we went through our motions, we were called back to "First Positions" and the A.D. interdicted us before we got there.  He bent down to talk to Mary.

"Okay, kiddo.  I need you to keep walking behind your Dad, okay?  Walking side by side like that you take up too much space in the shot, so I just need to you to trail along behind Dad like you did all those other times.  Okay?"

"Okay," she said sheepishly.

After he left I let a beat pass, turned to Mary, bent down and said:

"HA!  HA!  I told you so!  In your FACE!  Phhttttttttttttttt!!!!"

Okay, I know, I know, that's 'Strike Two'.   

We had out penultimate moment next up with close up coverage of the principal actors while both of us cut in front as foreground. 

This time our command to move was triggered by the more traditional call for "Background Action".  We trucked through the shot several times.  Once we were asked to reset because a baby just started crying from out of nowhere, prompting Sam and John to crack up mid-scene.

"Okay, it's just getting ridiculous now," John chuckled, half-amused and half-seething. 

After this we were dispatched to a holding area close to the set on the same floor.  We were treated to pishcha like sammies and muffs and bevvies like moloko.  No eggiwegs tho.
During this time I got acquainted with Mary's mom and introduced myself to some of the other parents that had brought their kids in for the call.  They all seemed very astute, level headed and easy-going.  I had a chance to quiz them a bit about their previous experiences on set and how they'd gotten their kids inducted in the experience. 

I did get a chuckle when moments later the scene wrapped and John Corbett strolled by.  He appraised us knowingly and shouted out:


This prompted a ream of girlish giggling from the ladies.  Oh, and likely, me as well.  

What can I say, he's a good looking man.  I'd do 'em.

Sarah Paulson walked by in the company of the director.  She looked relieved that the emotionally draining scene was over and was emerging from whatever dark place she'd gone to in order to achieve that level of realistic grief.  Her elevating move was infectious and I felt my own spirits buoy somewhat as she passed by looking a lot happier. 

I drifted around for a little bit while peeling a clementine.  As I spun around abruptly I nearly collided with Sam Eliott.  Instead of saying something intelligent like "Hi, Mr. Elliott.  How are you?  Do you prefer your sushi as rolls or maki?" I just grinned like and idiot and hopped out of his way.  He returned the smile and had the decency not to trample me into the dust under his cowboy boots.

After lunch I retrieved by wayward shoes and went down to the original holding area.  To my chagrin it had been moved upstairs to the food court and when I got back up there, my garment bags, back pack and shoes were scattered all over hell and creation.  I hunted everything down, put everything together and soon discovered the reason for our expulsion: our original holding area was being swarmed by the crew who were hastily preparing it for another scene.

This amazed me.  Everywhere around me there were people passing the time sitting around reading books, doing crossword puzzles, texting or watching television episodes on their computer.  What the hell was wrong with these people?!? 

From where we now stood we had a perfect vantage point to watch the next scene come together.  It had all the entertainment value I needed.  I watched with growing interest as the set was dressed, a dolly track was laid down, lighting was strategically positioned and cameras were moved into place.  It was riveting. 

So, during this spectacle, some dude was actually watching episodes of the Star Trek show Enterprise, instead of watching them film.  What What What?     

Dude, I might understand if it had been the Original Series, ST II: TWOK,  "The Dominion War" storyline on DS9, or some selected eps of Next Gen like "Yesterday's Enterprise" but that piece of canon-altering mush?  Really?!?

Sorry, I digress. 

The A.D. bombed in again, this time snagging a slew of people who "hadn't been in a scene yet today."  Booooo!!!  I immediately ran over to have a confab with Mary to re-state my conviction that someone was still going to come by any time to give us both a page of dialogue to memorize.

During this time I also had the privileged to meet and hang out with "Chase" a cool mom, Goth queen and Star Trek addict, who will likely rip me a new one for my appraisal of Enterprise.  Her son was in a star-making turn as "Wheelchair-Bound Sick Kid" and frankly, I think his efforts were Oscar®-worthy.  I wanna thank her for being so cordial, friendly and (by happy co-incidence) having similar interests.  Our discussions of all things geeky certainly helped pass the time.

Eventually supper time rolled around and craft services put on a crazy spread of Asian-themed dishes.  With my allergies I'm always trying to eat the most innocuous food I can.  After all, if I were to have a severe reaction on a movie set involving an impromptu hospital trip or puffing up like an adder it's really gonna be a bitch for continuity!

After a tremendous supper, we goofed around a bit more.  At one point me in time Mary and I busted out a few "Hail Mary"-style football plays by launching "Ney Ney" the Webkinz horse long-bomb style down the hallway.  At this stage in the game the kids were really grokking my loopy comedic stylings and I had a few of them following me around Pied Piper style just to see what lunacy I'd be up to next.  At any moment I expected them to shout out "Dance, monkey, dance!" and then throw change at me.

My obvious connection to Mary and general affinity with the other kids quickly earned me the nickname "Daddy Dave".  I'm still flattered and I can say in all confidence that I had a real blast.                  

Despite being kept around for several more hours, Mary was wrapped not long after.  Now dressed in her street clothes with her hair liberated she looked like a normal, vibrant kid again.  I wondered if she'd been wearing makeup before because she suddenly looked a hell of a lot healthier.  I guess it was just "ACTING!"♫ 

So, with heavy heart I parted ways with my darling daughter.  She hugged me goodbye, wished each other well, and expressed hope that we'd see each other again some day. 

After she was gone I found myself oddly moved.  Trust me when I say this: I don't normally have parental urges.  Sometimes I'll watch a sappy McDonald's ad and think it would be cool to have a son or daughter but just as soon as I witness a kid going apeshit in a mall, the feeling quickly goes away.  It always does.   

But it lingered with me this time.  I think it's because Mary was such a smart, bright and well-mannered kid, and we obviously shared a common interest.  I sincerely miss the l'il monster. 

Before I get too maudlin here, I'll always remember her final words to me.  Just before she came up to me looking sorta pissed off.  I asked her what was wrong and pouted, folded her arms and said:

"They didn't let me keep 'Ney Ney'!  Can you believe that!?!"

That's my girl.

Since could now officially be billed in the credits as "Mary's Dad" I assumed that I was wrapped as well.  I went to one of the assistants and asked if they still needed me.  Much to my surprise they told me that I could still conceivably be used (perhaps as a doctor in the distance or clad in my final still-unused outfit) so I grabbed a seat at the table and waited for filming to resume. 

While there the director and a few senior members of the crew finally came by to power down some supper and get back to the set.  I was amused listening to them gripe about the sort of things that I'd often hear aired out at the lunch table at my last place of employ.  Stuff like health issues, who's being a jackhole to whom and some other movie-related things they might prefer to be doing.

This came to a head at the end of the meal when one of the A.D.'s got from the table and announced:

"Okay, so next we shoot the car chase, then the alien attack and finally the murder scene and I think we can call it a day."

Inside I was roaring.  As the director responsible for such insane material as The Hitcher I could only speculate that Robert Harmon might find a "disease of the week" flick a bit mundane in comparison.  Even if that might be the case, it certainly wasn't obvious on set.

In fact, after the break, they were right back at it again.  I watched in awe as the seasoned crew milled about like workbeltified army ants, always mindful of personal space and never once getting in each others way.  That alone was remarkable.     

An elaborate scene was soon staged which involved Sarah Paulson and her two fictional kids (including Emily Alyn Lind from The Secret Lives of Bees) sitting on a couch in a hospital common area, surrounded by kids, parents and medical staff extras milling around.  Dad John Corbett enters with some presents for the kids and they share a heart-warming scene involving a snow globe. 

I was completely captivated watching this scene play out and was particularly taken by how impeccably professional the child actors were; staying completely stationary for hours at a time.

Certainly more than some others on set.  As the hours wore on I was also amazed to overhear some people actually bitching about the lack of sandwiches in the holding area.  Or someone gossiping about script changes or rumored on-set propositions. 

I'm consistently stunned by people's fascination for the salacious.  I guess that's one of the many reasons why I despise reality T.V. shows and the main reason why I left my last place of employment.  It was a bit disheartening to see to exhibited here as well, it even to a much smaller scale. 

I want to embrace the positive and roll with the negative.  Life is too short to constantly marinate in negativity.

Just like on the Hobo shoot, it turned out that I'd been locked on set longer than I was needed.  But I really didn't mind.  I'd been there since 9 am and that evening at  9 pm we were all wrapped.  I picked up my pay stub, hastily gathered up all my crap and then left the location.

As I was on my way out, Sarah Paulson was coming back into the building.  Despite my burden I held the door open for her and her assistant and she thanked me warmly as she went inside.  Just outside the doors a van was idling with the door open where John Corbett sat, presumably awaiting his co-star's return so they could all be shuttled together back to their hotel.

We shared a mutual acknowledgment and with that I was off to my car and back to reality.

On the drive home I spent the entire time on a natural high, feeling privileged to catch yet another fleeting glimpse into a world that I would love to make my own.  I left feeling blessed that life and circumstance had afforded me yet another rare and unforgettable opportunity which I'd cherish as long as I lived.

And then half way across the bridge I realized that I'd left my Merrill sneakers behind. 



The Hitcher



Monday, August 23, 2010

Christmas Came Early This Year! - Part II

Hey, Party Peoples!

Well, with just a quick declaration I was made privy to the results of a make-believe paternity test.  Just like that I'd become "insta-Dad" with the added perk of completely avoiding the teething/diapers/"terrible twos" phase. 

I took no time in introducing myself to my long-lost daughter and we seemed to hit it off right away.  Not long after the set decorator/props dude came by and tagged her with a fake patient wristband with the generic name "M. Jones" printed on it.  We speculated at great length as to what the "M" stood for but eventually settled on the whitebread but non-threatening moniker of "Mary".  Or "Matilda".

Well, I'm gonna go with "Mary" 'cuz it's less to type. 

 Mary was well cast in her role as a patient in a kid's hospital ward.  She was bean-pole slim and pale to the point of translucency.  Her fair medium-length hair was tucked up inside a quilted cap, completing the illusion perfectly, despite the fact that occasionally she'd have to pause and jam it back into place.

At one point in time later in the shoot, she'd obviously become tired of cramming her loose hair back under the cap, so she tied it up in a stubby pony tail and squished the hat back on.  It pooked out the back of the cap so dramatically I thought surely someone would notice it and call us on it.  I figured if anyone challenged us we could probably convince them that it was actually the reason she was there in the first place.

"Yeah, it's not a pony tail under there.  Makeup gave her a fake tumor.  Or a goiter.  They didn't say which.  It could be both.  A 'tuter' maybe?  Or a 'goimer'?"

People who say "you shouldn't work in movies with kids or animals" are dickheads.  They're obviously just people that can't talk to or relate to kids at all.  Now I'm not saying there can't be some difficult child actors but I could see it in practice all around the set: some paired-up fictional kids and parents were barely talking to one another between takes.

I just couldn't do that.  Partnered up with my diminutive co-star I thought it as my responsibility to try and develop a rapport and keep her amused.  I bent my completely puerile sense of "humor" to the task and endeavored to keep her in stitches.

Hah, hah!  "Stitches"!  Geddit!?!  A little medical ward humor for ya there, folks.  I tell ya, every one's a Maserati! 

I've been told that my own brand of funny is especially appealing to kids.  It's probably because it's 33% "pop cultury", 33% arrested mental development gross-outs, and 33% physical comedy (with the last 1% composed of "What the f#@$ are you talking about?").  Still there were times when I'm sure Mary was thinking:

"Eeeeeesh.  What a dork!"

That's right folks, my sense of humor is not sophisticated enough for a ten year old.  

Actually that's not true.  Mary was more than game for an exchange of the goofy.  Her appearance certainly belied her boundless energy.  She was bright, whip-smart and I could barely keep up with her half the time.

She was also quite the little chiseler.  When she saw another kid relegated to a wheelchair she was instantly in "self-agent mode" and lobbying for a prop of some sort.  The wheelchair idea was immediately nixed but at two different times she had the prop guy attach her to an IV drip and when that didn't work out she was given a heart-shaped balloon to tote around.

She had the dude jumping though hoops like a diminutive diva.  It was awesome.  At some point I thought she was going to make a crazy J-Lo type rider request for an apricot floating in petrol in a man's fedora hat just to see if they'd do it for her.

Just prior to our first scene a sound guy (who bore an uncanny resemblance to actor Ned Wertimer came by to get us all to do a walking test.  Anyone deemed too "scuffy" or "clonky" instantly got the bottom of their shoes re-soled with padding so as not to be so noisy over the on-set audio captures.  After taking a quick foot pad around the hall I was given the all-clear and asked to sit down again.

Mercifully our first scene was pretty simple.  We were asked to keep our places in the same squishy padded bench at the end of a long hallway.  The other background extras walked (or wheeled) by as the principal actors played out at scene at the opposite end of the corridor.

I was given the direction to mime a consoling conversation, pat Mary's back in a comforting gesture and turn together to look out the big picture window.  The view of Halifax harbor was spectacular and there was no shortage of interesting things to play off of. 

We ran the scene several times and nailed it after a few tries.  Between takes I continued to get acquainted with my young co-star and soon found myself envious of her experience.  When she told me that she'd already shared screen time in a Cisco Teleconferencing commercial with Ellen Page I was suitably impressed.

It got me thinking about how awesome it would have been to grow up in a place like Halifax where opportunities existed like this for a ten-year-old kid.  To appear in a movie or a commercial at such a young age would be so amazing.  Some parents kinda "volun-tell" kids to do stuff like this but I would definitely  have been one of those kids who would have wanted to get involved with it.

And with that, our "winter scene" was done.  We were dispatched down to the holding area to switch into our second winter outfit, which was a tremendous relief for me.  I felt fortunate that I was sitting down in the last scene and my crappy, baggy sweater couldn't be seen hanging off of me like Mary Kate and/or Ashley Olsen.
Now in blue dress shirt, dark gray pants, blazer and dress shoes I felt infinitely more comfortable.  The A.D. must have liked the look of Mary and I (or recognized me from the "Hobo" shoot) but he came to us again with another cool assignment.

He took us back upstairs where we were asked to do a corridor walk-by featuring all three of the film's principal actors. 

They included Sarah Paulson, who you may recognize from the pre-nuts Mel Gibson's vehicle What Women Want as Nick's secretary Annie:

Or as Vikki in the Renée Zellweger/Ewan McGregor retro romantic comedy Down With Love:

Or my own personal fave, as Reaver victim Dr. Caron in the Joss Whedon Firefly flick Serenity:

Um, we won't mention The Spirit, but she's also been seen in some other tremendous television roles such as Law & Order, Deadwood, Nip/Tuck, Desperate Housewives and the quirky American Gothic. 

As for John Corbett, how you recognize him seems to be entirely based on age and gender.  Women in their thirties seem to remember him mostly as Aiden Shaw from Sex in the City:

Or as Ian Miller in My Big Fat Greek Wedding

But not me, dude.  For me he'll always be the shadowy existential Cicelian D.J.Chris Stevens from Northern Exposure:

Chris was f#@$%^& hardcore.  In his wild days he did more drugs than Keith Richards and stole more cars than Nic Cage but now he lives a simple, repentant life in his Airstream and reads Walt Whitman.  He's badass, yo. Recognize an' respec'. 

You'd also get bonus crusty points if you remember him as Karon Arnold's hippy boyfriend in T.V.'s The Wonder Years:

Hah-hah!  Betcha forgot about that one, huh?  You can thank me for the jarring flashback later, folks!

I just got a chuckle when Mary looked up to me and said: "My mom knows all three of those people!"  I just thought it was awesome that this young soul had no friggin' clue who they were and I was standing there barely able to contain myself knowing I was about to shoot a scene with them!  

Well, there we both were, at the end of a long corridor being asked to walk through a scene with these three industry veterans.  Sam Elliott's director's chair was now just a few feet away from us and I could actually smell it.  It smelled like the Marlboro Man was somewhere on set, like a combination of Old Spice, bullet residue, saddle leather and cigarette smoke.  Somehow I wasn't surprised.

The A.D. came by and gave us our direction.  We were asked to hug the left hand side of the corridor, drift slowly through the shot mid-way down the hall, move around John Corbett and head up the steps just behind him.

The scene itself looked pretty pivotal.  A clearly distressed Sarah and John are talking about the dire condition of their child while Sam Elliott's character is doing his best to comfort them.  The dialogue was something like this:

Sarah: (sounding anguished) "She's really bad."
John: "The drugs are really beating her up. They're thinking of sending us home."
Sam: *Mumble, mumble*  "Something badass."  *Mumble, mumble* "Something awesome".  *Mumble, mumble.* "Something inspirational."

Sarah looked as if she'd worked herself into a terrible and bleak mental state.  It looked as if she'd been crying for days and hadn't slept in a weeks.  Part of me wondered if this was achieved through sheer force of will or by method acting.  I wonder if she'd told the crew:

"Yeah, look guys, I need to ask you for a favor.  Overnight I want you to just randomly scream obscenities outside my trailer door and throw rocks at it.  Can you do that for me?"

"Um, okay, Ms. Paulson.  How often do you want us to do this?"

"Oh, I dunno.  What do you think?  Say, thirty to forty times?"    

With some of the actors clearly "in the zone" I didn't want to cock it up and get thrown off the set.  Mary was goofing around with the balloon somewhat and I was terrified that she'd loose a grip on it and it would sail up into the atrium.  

I joked with her saying: "Hey, kiddo.  Don't lose that balloon, alright?  It cost me thirty bucks!"

She laughed and responded by tying the string around every one of her little digits so it wouldn't float away.

We ran the scene several times, tweaking variations as we went.  I thought it would be suitably parental to take Mary's hand as we went up the steps but I didn't want to overstep by boundaries.  Color me suprised when on the third take the A.D. asked me to do just that as if he'd read my mind.

Next the balloon was nixed because the director declared it to be "too distracting".  The shrewd negotiator that she was, Mary had it replaced within minutes with a Webkinz stuffed horse whom she instantly dubbed "Ney Ney".  How sickeningly cute is that?

Problem was, as we were ordered to go back to first positions and sound began to roll the A.D. couldn't get the balloon off Mary's hand since the goofball had tied it to every one of her fingers!  I chuckled a bit to myself as the props guy and the A.D. asked for a quick time reprieve to resolve a "balloon-related situation" as the cameramen gathered around chomped at the bit.  
Each time we did our part, hit our marks and  scooted up the steps.  Sometimes it was a bit of a challenge to keep Mary quiet after we'd finished our pass and the cameras kept cranking on the dialogue below.  She wanted to keep talking and goofing around so I mimed some silly facial expressions to keep her entertained and then blabbered at her as soon as "CUT!" was yelled.

Can't say I blame the kid since all I wanted to do the whole time was scream out:


Ahem.  Sorry 'bout that.  

Tomorrow in the concluding segment, the shocks keep coming and I'm amazed by how even a movie set can take on the bitchy qualities of an office environment.  One tear...  

Northern Exposure - The Complete First and Second SeasonsMy Big Fat Greek WeddingSex and the City: The Complete Third Season
What Women Want [Blu-ray]Serenity [Blu-ray]Down with Love (Widescreen Edition)
Road House (+ Widescreen DVD) [Blu-ray]Tombstone [Blu-ray]Hulk [Blu-ray]


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Christmas Came Early This Year! - Part I

Hello, Returning Readers!

Well, after my adventures on the "Hobo With A Shotgun" set (documented right here - your Ever Lovin' Host) I was pretty keen to keep this train a-rollin'.  Thanks to the "Hobo" experience I discovered the "Faces for Film" website and set up a profile for myself not long after.

Well, I'd assumed that with the profile set up they would just email or call me if they thought me suitable for any specific assignment.  But when I got busy and time began to ream by I came to the realization a few weeks ago that I hadn't heard from anyone.  This in spite of the high frequency of cryptic-looking yellow signs posted around the city: sure evidence that active movie sets were somewhere close by.

So, I popped into my profile, added a photo, some extra specs and then looked through the current bulletins.  It was there that I spied the following request:

"I am currently casting for a Hospital scene that will be filmed in Halifax on Thursday, August 5th.

-the shoot day is Thursday, August 5th
-the people I book must also be available for Friday, July 30 in case of bad weather
-if you are booked, I will contact you with weather cover details if necessary on Thursday, July 29th

Here is what I am looking for:

- clean cut visitors, aged 25-60, any ethnicity
- thin/sickly looking kids, aged 5-12, any ethnicity

If you are interested and available for both days please comment below.  I will call you if I can book you!"

I threw my hat into the ring and a few hours later found myself in the following phone call:

Me: "Hello?"
Awesome Filmworks Rep: "Hi, David?"
Me: "Yes, speaking."
Awesome Filmworks Rep: "David , its _____ ________ from 'Filmworks Casting'.  How are you?"
Me: "Fantastic!  Yourself?"
Awesome Filmworks Rep: "Good. (not sounding entirely convinced) So, I'd like to book you in for this Hospital shoot as a background performer.  Are you still interested?"
Me: "Yes, yes I am!"
Awesome Filmworks Rep: "Okay, great.  Right now I'm trying to get confirmation as to whether or not it'll be August the 5'th for sure.  We're trying to figure out what the weather is going to be like tomorrow."

I suddenly found myself in a "Matrix"-like bubble of time suspension as I tried to puzzle out out how the hell they could possibly know what the weather was going to be like a week from now.  Slowly my bullet time moment of stupidity lifted and I realized that they were likely looking for bad weather to justify altering the shooting schedule.  The spinning cogs and pinwheels in my brain almost distracted me from her next question.

Awesome Filmworks Rep: "So, would you still be available if we have to move the shooting date to tomorrow?"

(I rummage around in a few random pieces of paper sitting by the phone), Me: "Uh, let me see here.  Yep, I'm free!"
Awesome Filmworks Rep: "Fantastic!  I'm almost 99.9% sure it'll be the 5'th but in the event it gets bumped up to tomorrow you'll be getting a frantic phone call from me around 9 or 10 o'clock tonight.  Let's just pray it doesn't come to that."     
Me: "Well, regardless of when it is I'll be there!"
Awesome Filmworks Rep: "Thanks so much, David.  I'll be in touch.  Have a great day!"

Well, to quote the Mike Myers-spawned German television host Dieter I was "as happy as a little girl."
(best spoken while pinching the fabric of your shirt at the nipples and pulling it away from your body)

I was getting back on another major film set and this time I was going to get paid.  Or at least, I thought I was. 

Not that it mattered at all.  I would have paid them just for the privilege of being able to stand there and watch the process. 

Well, I didn't get a desperate phone call that night so I assumed that the original date would hold true.  Sure enough I received the following email on the 4'th:

"I have you booked to do background work tomorrow (Thursday, August 5th) on 'November Christmas'.  All of the information below is very important.  Please read it carefully- I know it's ridiculously long, but it is important.

I am also attaching a list of Basic on set information, rules, and etiquette. If this is your first time on set, please read it over. (ACTRA members: please ignore)

Your Calltime for Tomorrow is: To Be Determined.
I am anticipating a morning calltime (they began filming at 8 AM today).  I will email you your calltime tonight around 9PM. 

Please be sure to check all messages and respond promptly to confirm.

Please Report to: *EDITED*
I will let you know the exact room number when I email you tonight.

Your Character Is: Visitor at a Children's Hospital

The Scene: These scenes are interior and take place during several days and three different times of year.   These scenes take place in: August 1995, September 1995, October 1995 and November 1995.

Wardrobe:  Please come prepared with 3 complete (head to toe) wardrobe changes:
August Look:  Please bring an upscale casual option for late Summer.  Think about what you would wear if you were actually going to visit somebody in the Hospital and wear that (you would be a little bit more cleaned up than usual, but not "fancy").  Late summer option should include:
Women: skirt & blouse, dress, or lightweight business pants and blouse; summer footwear; light cardigan or jacket
Men: dress shirt; lightweight business pants, light jacket; ties; summer footwear

Late Fall Look: Please bring TWO complete upscale casual options for late fall/early winter.  Keep the idea of trying to look nice for visiting the Hospital, but keep in mind that it is supposed to be cool outside. Late fall options should include:
Women: long sleeves: skirts and blouses, dresses, or warmer business pants and blouse;  late fall footwear; sweaters;  fall jackets
Men: long sleeves: dress shirts, pants, sweaters, fall jackets, fall footwear

COLORS/THINGS TO AVOID: white, blue, red, bright colors, busy patterns, plaid, logos, sparkles
COLORS WE LIKE:  Neutral/earth tones: grey, beige, charcoal, browns, dark green, navy

Please make sure that all clothing is clean, no ripped or stained clothing please.
   ** Labeling all clothing is a good idea- there will be many extras on set tomorrow**

Hair/Make-Up: Everybody please arrive with clean, dry hair.
Men: Please arrive clean shaven or with groomed facial hair
Women: Please arrive hair and make-up ready, if possible.  Please arrive with a base coat of make-up on: whatever you would wear on an everyday basis.  Please do not wear any sparkles or glittery make-up.
Please be sure to bring a hair brush or comb, and hair elastics, clips, etc for the day changes.

Things to Bring: water, snack and drinks (Lunch will be provided if you are there at lunch time, but in case you are hungry before that);  your Social Insurance Number- you MUST have this for prompt payment;  cards, games, anything that will keep you entertained and happy without being disruptive. 
(ACTRA members will be fed as per the IPA)
PLEASE NOTE: Cameras are not acceptable to bring to set.  Please do not bother the cast and crew with requests for photos or autographs- they are there to do a job and you are too.

If you MUST cancel, please call me at ***-****. ( That number is for emergencies and cancellations ONLY.  I would be happy to answer any questions or concerns over email or on the office line: ***-****.)

Thank you, I will be in touch tonight!

Now with my role confirmed I began my own descent into panic.  Did I have the appropriate clothes to accommodate this?  For "Hobo" I was just asked to dress as crappy as possible (which I'm more than capable of doing at any time).  But I needed three distinctly different semi-formal outfits here!

I pulled everything vaguely business casual out of the closet, washed it all in an attack of acute paranoia and ironed it all.  I can safely say that I did more ironing on that one day than I've ever done collectively in my entire natural life.

I cobbled together three passable outfits and prayed to the costuming Gods that I'd hit the mark.  I was hoping to get my call time quickly so I could make arrangements to drop my persistently patient wife off at work early while I schlepped two massive garment bags across town in time in the car.  But the email didn't come in until around 11 pm!

I nervously opened it up and read the following:


Your calltime for tomorrow is: 09:15 AM

You should report to:  *EDITED*
(there will be yellow signs to follow that say BaseCamp)

Please refer to my earlier email for all other details.

(If you MUST cancel, please call ***-**** immediately. That number is for emergencies and cancellations only. I would be happy to answer any questions over email.)

Thank you, Have a great day tomorrow!" 

This was a sweet relief.  If it had been 8 am like the previous day of shooting I certainly wouldn't have been able to take the car with me.  Part of me wonders how long I'll be able to pursue these opportunities with a single vehicle, especially if the shoots are outside of Halifax.

I got up at 6:30 with the best intentions of getting all my ducks in a row.  Paralyzed by indecision I was completely unable to pare down any of the clothes I'd set aside for the day.  I hedged my bet and  threw all of it into two separate garment bags (one for pants, one for shirts).

After dropping my uber-tolerant better half off at work a full hour early (Love ya, Pookie!) I blasted over to Dartmouth to locate the set.  I did so in record time, located the closest Tim Whorenuts and ordered a bagel with thirty minutes to spare.

Despite the fact that my bagel was pilfered by some chickenhead, I still managed to hork it down and get over to the set fifteen minutes before my call time.  I eked out a parking space, slung about seventy pounds worth of fabric over my back and staggered into the main entrance, flirting with the very real possibility of the first ever medically documented garment bag induced hernia.

After entering the main building my gut was instantly in a knot.  There was absolutely no orientation signage at all.   Crap!  Was I in the right place? Was I going to be late?

I backtracked out to the trailer lot and bushwhacked a member of the crew who did indeed confirm that I was in the right place.  There were still no signs upon my return but I did spy a few intriguing characters milling around the food court area.  I hovered around there for a bit, buzzing around the cryptic-looking piles of paperwork like a fly, no...more like, like a bee around honey.  Yeah, that's the ticket!

No one was manning the table and I didn't want to fill out the wrong forms so I wandered back to the entrance where someone was finally posting up a "HOLDING AREA" sign pointing downstairs.  Down below I spied a slew of extras loitering about, dressed as commanded.

I made my way downstairs, heaved the two bags off my back like nylon hit victims and settled in for a long wait.  Just as I got comfortable I overheard someone asking an acquaintance if they'd registered upstairs yet.  Tipped off, I traipsed back up to the form-laden table in the cafeteria.

Finally someone was assisting the extras with their paperwork.  I filled out two documents, one for a pay claim ("WOO!  HOO!") and one was a declaration of residence.  Once I'd filled out name, rank, serial number, birth date, blood type and my estimate as to the air speed velocity of an egg-laden swallow (I asked the qualifying African or European rebuttal just to be conservative) I sauntered back down to the holding area just in time for wardrobe's inspection.

A nice wardrobe girl helped me pick out three outfits starting with the winter attire.  This consisted of a pair of dark green khakis, my "Merrill" sneakies, and a dark gray sweater.

This was initially fine by me but I'd purchased the sweater in my usually size "large" at "Old Navy" without trying it on first.  To make matters worse I'd washed it the day before and attempted to dry it in an over loaded dryer.

It came out sopping wet.  Instead of doing the intelligent thing and drying it again with the hopes of shrinking it a bit I'd left it to air dry overnight.  Too bad I decided on this course of action on the most humid night of the summer.

Well, I'd gotten up the next day and the friggin' horse blanket was still wet.  I didn't have time to dry it anymore so I'd just chucked it in the garment bag and ran out the door.  When I pulled it out later on set it looked slacker than Martin Landau's testicles.  It looked even worse when I put it on, like something I'd  borrowed from my boyfriend Moose's closet.

Undaunted I changed and waited nervously for the main wardrobe lady to come by and give me final approval.  While I waited I was directed over to the nearby makeup chair where I was pawed over by a dotty hairstylist.

After she told me a story about trying to plug a hairdryer into a glass reflection from the other room (?) I should have considered that my cue to just out of the chair, run away from her and hide.  I'd washed my hair when I first got up that morning and it was admittedly kinda poofy but her solution to this was spritzing me down with a water bottle and coming my hair forward for an awesome "crows wing" sort of effect.  Feeling abused, I stumbled away from the chair and vowed to effect repairs as soon as I could.

No such luck.  I was tackled by the costume overseer and she quickly appraised me with a practiced eye.  She nixed the white t-shirt I was wearing under the sweater and asked me to put on a brown collared shirt underneath instead.

After she walked away I though: "Really?  A dark brown collared shirt under this cable-knit gray sweater?  Really?!?"

But sure enough after I'd changed in the bathroom and looked at myself I thought: "Damn.  She was right.  It does look better!"

What I know about fashion and co-ordination you could fit in a Cadbury Easter Creme Egg.

Back in the holding area I killed time talking to a couple of cool dudes who were also just getting started doing extra work.  One guy I recognized as a cop from the "Hobo" set and apparently he'd snagged a recurring police role in a new local television show that was being shot in the area.  They also gave me some interesting insights into getting an agent, ACTRA and tips to secure future gigs.

Not long after the AD (the self-same dude who'd done such a tremendous job on the "Hobo" shoot) came by and swept up about ten to twelve of us to bring on set.  After a brief elevator ride we were positioned at the end of a long hallway and asked to wait while we got our assignments.  I took a seat on a cushy chair and a pale, thin ten year old girl dressed in a pink robe, slippers and a chemotherapy cap plunked down next to me.  We smiled knowingly at one another, reading each others minds as we collectively thought: "This is soooooo cool!  What's gonna happen next?"

During this time we were asked to keep quiet since some of the actors were nearby running lines.  A giddy thrill went through me as the directors chair bearing the name "Sam Elliot" was empty one moment and occupied the next.

Wow.  That's friggin' Sam Elliott right there, sitting not six or seven paces away from us.  

He was General Ross in Ang Lee's Hulk:

"The Stranger" in The Big Lebowski:

Wade Garrett in Roadhouse:

Not to mention Virgil Friggin' Earp in Tombstone.

I was geeking out hardcore but managed to retain my composure.  Just  in time the A.D. came by and started giving out assignments.  He directed one dude to sit alone at a table and wistfully stare outside.  Her asked another couple to walk casually down the hall.  He put a kid in a wheelchair and instructed an extra dressed as a nurse to push him down the hall.

Then he looked at me and said:

"You.  You're her Dad."

He pointed at the winsome, precocious little girl sitting next to me.  Just like that, in a matter of a few seconds, my life was forever changed.

I was finally a Daddy!

Check back next week when I reveal the meaning behind the following cryptic observations:
  • Does the old adage "don't act with kids and animals" really hold true?
  • The importance of being ninja.
  • Sarah Paulson: Method Actress?
  • John Corbett's Arch Nemesis: Background Noise.
  • Sam Elliott is mother-f#@$%^& pimp, yo.
  • Balloons and horses and wheelchairs: Oh My!  
  • I get schooled by a ten year old professional actress. 
Take care, Peoples!




Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"The End of Days" - Part V of V

Welcome, Mavens of the Mysterious!

Here's the concluding chapter of my zombie epic...

WARNING: Due to scenes of violence and mild language reader discretion is advised!

The End of Days


Just as soon as he crossed the threshold of the church, a comforting presence fell upon Father Paul like a warm shawl. As he walked between the pews and knelt at the altar, all seemed right with the world again.

The unearthly silence nullified everything else. He was oblivious to the guttural moans just outside the old wooden walls and the sound of chaos brewing down the road at the gun shop. He suspected the residents of Styler were making their last stand right about now.

Immersed in that oasis of tranquility an epiphany came over him that was loud and unmistakable.

He would go forth and help as many people as he could as he awaited the inevitable. God was coming to set things right. He knew it was his duty to preside over this and make sure that as many of His flock would be there to bear witness as possible.

The priest stood, blessed himself, then left his sanctuary with a renewed sense of purpose.

He was attacked just as he cleared the doors. The closest ghoul, a heavy-set woman, crashed into him at the foot of the steps. It seized his upper arm and tore away with fingernails that peeled off just as it ripped through his jacket and the arm underneath. He pushed the creature back and held up his crucifix.

Two more of the fiends who were trying to flank him seemed put off by the cross as if the priest was about unleash it’s hidden power any second. Father Paul knew it wasn’t the holy symbol itself but the renewed weight of his convictions.

He cautiously maneuvered through the tightening clutch of undead cannibals closing in on him. When he extricated himself from their deadly circle he bolted towards the closest refuge, the police station.

Father Paul ran inside and looked around frantically. With only one entrance to the building he knew he couldn’t tarry long in here for fear of being trapped.

“Sheriff Cooper? Deputy Harris?”

It didn’t take long to notice that something was terribly wrong. Earl’s distinctive hat was on the floor half-concealed behind the desk and the brim seemed to be smudged with an ochre-colored stain. A sizable crimson pool was slowly starting to creep out from behind the desk. All too close, another hat rose up from behind the back of the Sheriff’s worn, green chair. The squeaking sound of the chair turning around set the priest’s heart on ice.

Deputy Harris revealed himself, looking considerably paler than normal. His hands, the lapels of his uniform and the lower half of his face was slick with blood. He muttered something and the priest was horrified by what his brain translated.

He recognized it only because Joel Harris had come to him many times before, always beginning the rite of confession the exact same way:

‘Bless me Father, for I have sinned.’

The Deputy stood up, looking both vacant and somehow penitent. He cradled his service revolver in two hands. Father Paul made the sign of the cross and backed out of the police station.

As the door swung to, he took away another lesson of faith. In times like the, the law of man was quick to crumble. When the world was at an end only the Law of God remained.

He would preside over the judgment of the Lord. It was coming just as certain as the sun would rise. Almost on cue, the sky started to lighten in the distance as dawn began to herald its approach.

Father Paul made haste to the gun shop just as a single gunshot reverberated around inside the police station.


Harmony wilted under a flurry of grasping claws and fled. Bleeding and frantic, she nearly collided with Bobby as she ran back into the gun shop. The quarterback braced himself against the door frame and squeezed a shot off into the stifling darkness. Instantly he could hear the heart-sinking sound of a ricochet in the distance. He ducked back into the store, hoping the light inside would make his target clearer in the doorway.

Jessica ran over and grabbed a box of ammo from the same display case Bobby had broken into. She jumped when she heard the sound of breaking glass and the shrill scream that followed.

Catatonic with grief, Clint hadn’t noticed two of the fiends pounding on the window above his head. They poured in on top of him, and all at once the mechanic was buried under things that should themselves be buried.

Instead of fighting with its rival for a portion, the last of the two ghouls that had come in through the window stood up and lurched at Jessica. The nurse reacted with instinct, grabbing the nearby first aid kit and drilling her attacker in the face with it. The thing staggered back and hissed the equivalent of an undead curse. Jessica raised the metal case again and prepared to deliver another blow but something in her peripheral vision caught her eye.

“Bobby! Look out!” she yelled.

Distracted by the sight of things falling into ruin, Bobby turned to see the shambling corpse filling the doorway. Clad in a bloody brown plaid coat and denim overalls, it was once an older man with receding gray hair. His jowls and weak chin were torn apart and although his head was skewed off to one side, the eyes were still fixed hungrily on the promise of flesh.

Bobby raised the weapon and fired.


Someone close by screamed and ran into him with all the force of an outside linebacker on steroids. They both fell to the floor in a heap. When he looked up he was expecting to see a face considerably less pretty.


“It’s my Dad!” she screamed. “I can’t let you hurt my Dad!”

“Get off of me!” Bobby shouted. “He isn’t your father anymore! He’s one of them!”

He pushed the farm girl away with a force born from panic and looked up. The thing was practically on top of him now; too close to even bother trying to get to his feet. He braced the gun with both hands and fired three times in quick succession, wincing under the rain of blood that followed.

The creature was rocked back a few steps, giving Bobby some much needed clearance. He rolled over, took a bead and sent the last bullet true, destroying the head and putting the body half way through a nearby window.

Panting, Bobby got to his hands and knees and then pushed himself to his feet. He turned to appraise the situation and was surprised to find himself on the business end of a pitchfork that had been pulled off the wall.

Jessica stepped back and hurled the first aid kit with every bit of force she could muster at the creature inching towards her. The thing staggered back and tripped over the ghastly communion happening on the floor close by. She ran over to the case to grab a gun for herself then stopped dead in her tracks as she caught sight of the standoff across the room.

“Harmony, what are you doing?!” Jessica shouted. “There’s more of them coming in!”

“Get out of here,” she told he quarterback, her voice wet with emotion.

Bobby nodded and stared back at her, looking grim.

“I’m sorry, but I had no choice.”

The young man backed away, threw a glance towards the door to make sure the way was clear and then raced outside.

“Bobby!” Jessica called after him. “Where are you going? We need you!”

A weak voice from the floor gurgled a warning from out of nowhere.

“Harmony! Behind you!”

Harmony realized it was Clint, shouting with his final breath. She turned towards the door where another skeletal-looking fiend was edging over the threshold. With a banshee yell, she charged at the creature and impaled it with the rake, driving it back outside. The weapon went with it and she let it go without hesitation, looking over to the counter where her “Plan B” sat waiting for her.

Jessica finally succeeded in loading her gun. She quickly appraised the mass of writhing sub-humanity on the floor and decided to put an end to the creature that was beginning to gnaw contentedly on Clint’s innards. Just as she drew a bead, the monstrosity she’s felled earlier with the first aid kit sprung at her with surprising speed, its claws re-opening old wounds.

The pistol went off almost reflexively. The deafening report caused her to jump and scream at the same time. At point blank range, however, the weapon did its intent and the nurse was nearly bowled over by the avalanche of dead weight that fell on top of her.

“Good Lord! Jessica!”

The nurse steadied herself and spun around, her frazzled nerves barely able to register that the new voice coming from the doorway sounded familiar.

“Doctor Mullins!”

The white-haired country physician looked both alarmed and aghast.

“Good Lord,” he repeated, rushing over to her. “You’re hurt. Here let me...”

Just as he got behind the counter Mullins spied the creature that had been dining upon mechanic and froze. Sensing more prospects, the ghoul stood up and turned around. Like sharks drawn to chummed waters, two more fiends appeared in the window and were struggling to heave themselves into the shop.

“Get behind me!” Jessica shouted, grabbing the doctor by the sleeve with her free hand and pulling him out of the way.

At first, Jessica though her gun had gone off by mistake again until she opened her eyes a crack and caught the sight of body fragments hitting the floor. There was too much smoke, too much damage, too much carnage for it to have been her.

Both doctor and nurse turned slowly to where Harmony was standing nearby, still holding the shotgun on the level, smoke ebbing from both barrels. She wore a distressing expression of satisfaction as she appraised her grim handiwork.

“These sons o’ bitches ain’t so tough,” she muttered and then racked the weapon for dramatic effect.

“Good Lord,” Mullins said again.

“We have to get out of here,” Jessica added. “We’re well armed, but it’s too easy to get trapped in here...”

As if to illustrate, Harmony was forced to spin around just in time to ward away another of the undead with the butt of her rifle. The sight of the creature’s jawbone hitting the far wall barely registered with the group.

“I’m inclined to agree with you, Jessica,” Mullins muttered. “I had no idea it was this bad...”

“What are you doing here, anyway?” the nurse asked the physician as he turned to appraise her wounds.

“I came down here when Earl called me. He sounded panicked on the phone, babbling some nonsense about Deputy Harris trying to kill him. I mean, what do you do when the police call you?”

The nurse considered this as the doctor broke out his own first aid kit and improved on her patchwork efforts. She raised her hand to shield her eyes as the rising sun cast a weak beam into the shop at an odd angle.

“I was just driving by and I saw what was going on in here. I thought I could help.”

He paused, pushed his glasses back onto his face and appraised his efforts critically.

“Not my best work” he huffed. “But it’ll have to do for now.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Jessica said, amazed by his speed and proficiency.

“We have to get over to the police station right now,” he replied, quickly packing away the loose contents of his kit.

“Too late!” Harmony shouted, raising her weapon. “Here they come!”

The jawless corpse had recovered and was joined by two other ghastly compatriots. The farm girl was thrown off by their swift, relentless approach and total disregard for the rifle barrel leveled in their direction. Stunned, she found herself wrestling with one of them over control of the weapon. Mullins and Jessica watched helplessly as the rifle went back and forth like the rope in some bizarre game of tug of war.

Before Jessica could rush to her aid, one of the creatures flanked the farm girl and bit into her arm. The nurse hurled herself at the closest creature, knocking it back a few steps. Now bleeding, a madness seemed to seize Harmony and she ripped the gun free and pressed the trigger in one smooth effort. The weapon roared, and in a fine mist of blood, three of the fiends were left scattered across the floor.

Another loud bang caused everyone in the gun shop to turn. The opposite door flew open and one of the creatures spilled onto the floor, rag-doll limp. Suddenly the light that had been a mere intimation earlier seemed to flood the gun shop all at once. A black-clad figure entered, bathed in the nearly celestial glow, looking noble and triumphant.

“Father Paul?” asked Jessica, vainly trying to shield her eyes from the glare.

“Yes, Jessica. It’s me.”

The priest approached her and took her hand. All at once she was calm, at peace.

“I’m sorry I left you. I couldn’t promise to protect you then, but I know I can now.”

“What’s going on?” Harmony asked, looking wildly around. She could still hear the unmistakable sound of the creatures approaching from all direction, but could barely see in the blinding light.

“It will all be over soon,” the priest said, sounding serene.

He turned towards the now-open door. Jessica could discern twisted shapes staggering towards him. Thinking the priest was still suicidal, she stepped up and fired her pistol at the lead ghoul and felled him.

The priest’s warm, firm hand came up and lowered the gun. For some reason, she didn’t resist.

“Just watch,” he said, turning to smile at her. “He’s about to set everything to rights.”

The gathered watched as, just outside, the army of shambling corpses collectively twitched and fell to the earth. Harmony thought they’d all been shot simultaneously by a hundred expert snipers working in perfect tandem. If he’d been asked, Doc Mullins would have guessed that the fiends had all been pulled back to the earth as if by some invisible power. Jessica, on the other hand, would go to her own grave swearing that something had severed the knotted strings of some demonic puppet master.

But only Father Paul knew with complete certainty what had just happened at that moment.


Bobby collapsed in a heap, trying to congeal from several bite and claw wounds. He’d just experienced nothing short of a miracle.

To make amends to Harmony he’d gone to the Sty farmhouse with the intent of clearing out the place. It was a great idea in theory until he realized that his pistol was jammed and the axe that was usually in the front yard was missing.

He’d ventured inside unarmed and was instantly swarmed by three (or was it twelve?) of the things. Just when he began to realize the futility of his actions and how horrible it was going to be to die alone, something remarkable happened.

The budding reddish sunset on the horizon flashed as if it went supernova. The light that washed over everything wasn’t harsh, painful or blinding. It was, however, his savior.

Bobby sat slumped on the floor for what seemed like an eternity, almost as inert as the bodies that surrounded him. He made a promise to himself to thank the clever scientists that just had launched the miracle weapon at the eleventh hour, saving him and everyone else in Styler.

Slowly he stood up, picked his way trough the ersatz graveyard and stepped out into the sun, hoping to find Harmony. With any luck she would see her way clear to forgive him.

Now if only he could shake the strange feeling coming over him. How long had it been since he’d eaten anything? Suddenly all he could think about as he made his way back across town was his growing hunger...