Archive for the ‘film school’ Category

Shots from a shoot

July 16, 2014

I worked background (as a film extra) last night, on a feature film shooting night for day in an LA coffeeshop. Now anyone who’s ever worked as cast on a film set knows you spend most of your time waiting to be called to set, and we were stationed on the sidewalk to make space for the shooting and setups inside. So I divided my energy between wandering around taking pictures of what I could find in a 30 foot radius, and reading a novel called Jamesland (pretty good, if you like stories about messed up women) on my kindle.

The great thing about Beverly Blvd is it’s paradise for sign-bloggers. Stenciling has taken off, and is very hard to remove from pavements. Obscure alterations dot traffic signs. And there’s always someone with a lost dog or something weird to sell you or tell you.

A stencil on the ground shows a guy reading a book, but it looks like he's peeing. In the background, a member of the cast takes a break.

A stencil on the ground shows a guy reading a book, but it looks like he’s peeing. In the background, a member of the cast takes a break.

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Stingers curled around a cool stencil saying “Publish Enemies”. It’s a viral (probably illegal, but I’d bet the fine is less than doing it legally) campaign for a comics / TV brand you can follow on Twitter as @publishenemies

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“Sheep needs a facelift. Draw here.” I think personally, I’d rather be a live sheep than a dead crosswalk activist. But I’ve seen mothers using their kids and babies in strollers as human shields to jay-walk, so perhaps I’m just not as trendy as they are.

 

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I am convinced this is a joke. But in Hollywood, you really never know. All I can say is that if this dog is “like their child” I hope we never have to watch the live birth video of its exit from the vaginal canal, because that would be gross.

 

Found another day, just up the road. I actually spotted this guy (without any dogs) a few days later.

Found another day, just up the road. I actually spotted this guy (without any dogs) a few days later. He looks happy, but not like the type to wear pearls or care about cash.

 

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Grumpy Cat says more money should go towards providing shelters for homeless animals, but Republican cats think this will only encourage more cats to be homeless. Snapped on La Brea on the way home from set at 6am.

As massive as LA is, as huge a hub as it is for the film business, I was struck by how small it was when I arrived on set to discover that half the crew (including the Cinematographer) were from Chapman too, and the producer was South African. You can always tell when a set is full of Chapman alumni because of the singing and friendliness that comes with the hard work and long hours. And despite any gripes I may have against the school, I say that with some pride in my former film school.

Let me tell you about my week

February 21, 2014

I am too lazy to type anymore, and I already wrote a column today, so I am simply going to post a bunch of pictures with snarky captions.  Here’s what I did this week.

I went the doctor and because it was a cheap $25 clinic doctor it took four hours.

What's the big deal. We have free sign language in South Africa too. Anyone can do it, right?

What’s the big deal. We have free sign language in South Africa too. Anyone can do it, right?

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I live in a pretty multicultural community.

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How come everybody in LA has the lowest rates? Cause everybody in LA lies.

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I made a school project and dropped it at the Orange Senior Center for my extras along with copies of the photos.

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You don’t want to know what happened as a result of this photo. Too much drama, man, too much drama…

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Her: Hahahahahah
Him: [boobies] I’m a winner.
Her: Hahahahahha!
I bet the clients at Hustler Casino look nothing like him.

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I went for a romantic stroll on the beach alone on Valentine’s day. This is my favourite beach writing. But I didn’t write it, and I wouldn’t.

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I’m grateful that I saw this. I wanted to share it with another human being but a blog and whatsapp to a sleeping SA will have to do.

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Because my internet still wasn’t working, I went to Amoeba Music at 10pm, and bought Season Three of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

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Don’t want to get into an accident with this dude. Something tells me he’s packing.

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Serious Drought Help Save Water. I drive past this sign about 8 times, every day. Rents may be lower in LA but after you factor in gas, I reckon it’s as expensive as New York…

I feared that this would become my future. After all, this guy apparently went to USC film school and look where he wound up.

I feared that this would become my future. After all, this guy apparently went to USC film school and look where he wound up.

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But it’s not all bad. While I was doing my laundry I found the best sandwich shop, ice cream parlor and smoothie place ever on Pico. I hope NPR never finds it or it’ll get full and probably expensive.

And then there’s stuff like writing, sleeping… and eating that I skipped. But I did it.

And that was my week in pictures. How was yours?

I’ll be back, Koreatown

December 21, 2013

For the first time while back visiting in South Africa, I miss my bed – my bed in Koreatown, Los Angeles.

It’s not that I’m not happy to be home, and or loving the time off, and the break from the backstabbing, excitement, joy and alienation that is film school… I am so, so grateful. It’s not that I didn’t hope I’d be allowed to go back to the USA every time.

It’s just that moving to Hollywood (of which Koreatown forms a part) was like finding a new home – something that’s been missing from my life for a few years now. I felt the same feeling of sudden belonging when I moved from Vredehoek to Sea Point; like I’d discovered a place where I could be myself, find myself, make myself what I was meant to be. I never much liked Orange. Ah screw that. I really can’t bear Orange. It’s not a bad place. It’s just not for me. Living there is like being smothered with lawn grass – looks great. Makes me want to scratch my face off.

And I left for SA 10 days after I moved into my little bachelor on the corner of two messy streets – half my stuff is still in boxes. It’s weird to think that the bus still stops outside my window every 10 minutes, that my next door neighbor still snores holes in the walls all night, and that life’s going on without me.

So just to touch base and to let the copious roaches know I’m coming to throw them out of their nests real soon, I’m posting these photos I took while getting to know my new neighborhood on foot one rainy day.

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At night, you’d never know you were in the USA, except for how wide the roads are.

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I can’t get into these sweets. Too chewy. But every morning, there’s a new batch at the Bakery.

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I need to buy these sometime. But I am scared to cook them. I will need an accomplice.

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Breakfast. In a Thai place. Don’t ask why – it’s just what happened.

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There are lots of dog grooming places, called things like this, or my personal favourite: “Puppy Time!”

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Boba Time. There are queues outside this joint every Sunday. I use it as my icafe – their internet is fast. The Boba is pretty fine, too.

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Papa Cristo Deli. Amazing food – always busy. Closed by 8pm.

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone reading in a restaurant in Orange – not unless it was the Bible or the Newspaper.

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The Latin Quarter borders. Actually the sign on the wall has a giant angel picture. And it says “We are all angels with one wing. We only fly holding each other.”

24 Hr Laundry with Massage Chair, and Running Machine, and Wifi.

24 Hr Laundry with Massage Chair, and Running Machine, and Wifi. But I’m not 24hr. I am human.

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My bed.

The I10 South - soon to be a regular run for me as I commute to college.

Approaching Freeway Entrance on the left… soon to be a regular run for me as I commute to college.

These Christmas Lights will be gone by the time I am back.

These Christmas Lights will be gone by the time I am back.

Life changing proposals

September 11, 2013

I’m having one of these days – feels like every day is like that at the moment. And it is wonderful. Things are happening so fast with One More Day. I feel blessed and energized. What have I done with Jean? Am I on drugs? Who knows, and no.

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Attn: ALL LIFE CHANGING PROPOSALS DUE TODAY!!! Aren’t they always? Written by some joker on the Dodge College production office whiteboard.

I don’t remember your name either

July 24, 2013

The hardest experience I’ve had since coming to college, about 10 years older than the average MFA candidate I study with, is dealing with the things they say about people over 30. “If I don’t know what I want to do with my life by then… If I’m not married by then… If I don’t have kids by 28… [I’d feel like a failure].” I once, as Key Production Designer on a set, had to take a break to go cry in a bathroom after hearing one of those chats at the DIT station. Granted, I was premensing a tad…

But imagine what it’s like when you’re 80, and all the things about old people have already come true, for you?

"I can't remember your name either": The elderly lady who made this hat won 2nd place in a competition for it. She should have won first!

“I can’t remember your name either”: The elderly lady who made this hat won 2nd place in a competition for it. She should have won first!

I’m making a thesis film (that’s the final short … -ish, in this case, 25 minute) film we make at Chapman. All my key roles are for people over 75 – or at least who can play that age.

I freaked out. My grandmas both passed before I met them properly, although my Mom’s mom, Barbara, was a fierce old lady who would match any game I played with hers. My Dad’s mom I barely met – I know of her mostly through the strange, sentimental stories of my Dad’s Dad. I remember the day she died and my mom taking my brother and I into our room so he could cry. I feel like they’d both have lasted a lot longer if women had careers in their day. My grandpas were around in another town, thousands of miles away, so I didn’t spend much time, although they were both a force in my growth as a writer.

My parents, who are over 65, are still running around like crazy chickens and are my inspiration for my story.

Where would I learn about really old people?

So I started volunteering at the Orange Senior Center – which is a meeting place for seniors (over 65) from Orange – not an old age home, as many assume. I found that old people DUH vary as much as anybody else. Take Wella, who strictly taught me how to serve salad in the kitchen. Anna, who could dance me off my feet.

Today my Assistant Director (if she doesn’t get a real job in time) gave me the best advice ever:
“Don’t treat them like old people. Just make sure they can walk when you audition them.”

This is especially true of actors. One is going hiking in italy for two weeks soon. The other is writing a script. The other is about to star in a play where they have to be on their feet, with an hour of lines memorized… nevermind a few names. They’re all passionate, all working, till the day they day. One amazing actress said “I hope I die on stage, or on set!” And I was like… “Just not on mine!” And we laughed.

I guess that old liberal truism – stereotypes are bullshit – is always true.

Expect the unbelievable

July 9, 2013

Every time I plan to go to LA, I dread it. Every time I come back, I’m glad I made the journey. It never ceases to give me a story to tell.

So today, I went to talk to my amazing production designer for my thesis film. I cursed the traffic on the way to Little Tokyo… It felt like everything at the time. By the time I arrived 80 minutes later, having left home for lunch at 11, I had heard NPR’s news cycle five times, and two special focus features three times. With the whole world out there, you’d think they wouldn’t need to repeat that much. But, whatever.

And then we met, and it was amazing. And then I saw this:

It's a wish tree. You write your wish and hang it there.

It’s a wish tree. You write your wish and hang it there.

What do the notes on the Wish Tree say? Can I be rich? Can I be pretty? Strangely no.

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Can I be loved? Please, can I be loved. That’s all we all say.

Downtown LA, little Tokyo, is home to people of middle to lower income, up and coming, all hoping for the dream. I picked these two because they were the most touching, but most people, almost all people, weren’t after money, the thing everybody is told to pursue here. No… And you know what’s best about that? My next appointment, across town in Westwood was with a friend I’ve barely spoken to for many, many years. We didn’t invite each other to our weddings (that hurt me; not sure about her). I always thought she judged and pitied me. And yet, when I saw her, I realised she was still the child I loved. I remember lying with her under a tree and saying how nice it was that we could just lie there. We were eight years old. And making peace with her today lifted a shadow from my mind. We’re different, but still connected somehow.

If I had a to have put a wish on the tree, maybe it should have been “find old friends”. But I didn’t know that was my wish until it came true.

Then I went, impulsively, in the hope of missing traffic on my return, to get my hair cut. The Russian stylist asked me: “So, most people in South Africa are African-American, right?” Talk about misplaced political correctness… but I like the way she blow dried it.

Then I headed home, having “missed the traffic”. Once I was locked into the 405, I heard on the radio that there’d been an accident in the car pool lane. Two cars and a motorcycle. No fatalities. But rubbernecking would make me late for my next meeting, in Santa Ana, with my set decorator. FML, I thought. How quickly we forget how lucky we are… and then, once we passed the accident, I saw this:

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I was late and going about 60mph, so forgive the poor quality. But I saw a building with a painting on it. Didn’t realize when I whipped out my cell phone that I was taking a picture of something else too…

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See the airplane, about to land at LAX? It kinda looks like it’s about to fly into the building – and I’m sure the makers of the new Marvel movie, who bought space on the building front on the highway just before comic con, were aware of that too. Ingenious marketing right? To the naked eye, the plane was bigger.

Ask me this morning what I would do today? I could tell you some things. But I had no idea, really, what I would do today, did I?

A great day / night; an imagined life

June 15, 2013

YEAH I’m using pretentious punctuation. I had one of those days where you imagine a life, with someone, and it seems perfect. Hell, it was perfect. Here’s what happened.

He went for a job interview and I wandered around a shitty area. Beverly Hills ubertown, where it’s totally fine to treat people like shit if you’re rich and famous. Not accustomed to normal hours, I found a 2 hour parking spot to sleep in. When he was done with the interview he understood how I felt about THIS.

Beverly Hills is a segment of a town where fame is everything. So in a health shop window: Whacko Jacko. The guy you worry about when it comes to health. Also featured in their creepy security cam footage: Kate Moss.

Beverly Hills is a segment of a town where fame is everything. So in a health shop window: Whacko Jacko. The guy you worry about when it comes to health. Also featured in their creepy security cam footage: Kate Moss.

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The protesters are clearly crappy at the internet, or else the internet is unwilling to lose advertising. Charlotte Olympia is a footwear brand that must cost a fortune, cause a coffee is ridiculous. The only complaint I found online was re. a broken heel.

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Another protest. Organized labor in America is a small crowd compared to where I’m from. But I’d be scared too. McCarthyism is alive and well.

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Funny, cause as cool as people pretend to be they still eat here. Fakers, more like.

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My cohort, who I can’t really call a date since we’ve both remained single on FB for 3 years and this is 2013, said there was a Banksy near the theater where we had decided to go watch docs. Turns our the owner of the building painted over it. So I just kept walking around the corner and found this.

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This is a great picture. I don’t care who it’s by. I love to surf. I know this moment even though for me it’s with foamies on a boogie board.

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Two cool doccies for $8? I’m in. For my SA readers, that’s less than the normal ticket price for two films. At Quinton Tarantino’s theater. No quibbling.

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At the New Beverly (by Tarantino) the drinks are between 1-3 dollars and the popcorn too. Best of all, the butter is real. Real butter on movie popcorn. THAT’s America.

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Took this the same night. Stopped dangerously. 40mph to 0 in 3 seconds, then a reverse. What is it? TELL ME.

The films were amazing. Find them. Watch them.And also, I couldn’t help wondering how my life might be if I lived with him and we went there. If we just went there a few times a week.

“Mud”, and the New Marlboro Man

June 1, 2013

Mud is easily in my top 3 movies of 2013 so far. Maybe it’s number one but I have to wait a couple of days to see how it settles. And if anything bumps it out of top spot, it’s one thing: Marlboro – and what looks suspiciously like very clumsy-ass product placement.

If you saw Take Shelter (writer/director Jeff Nichols’ previous film) and wished you liked it but weren’t pretentious enough to actually honestly enjoy it, don’t be put off. Although could acknowledge the mastery of his craft Nichols displayed in that, it feel like a very, very, long and tedious short film to me and I didn’t buy the marriage at all. If you liked Take Shelter, then Mud offers that kind of cinematic beauty, only this time, it’s combined with compelling story telling. Even the slightly studio ending with it’s extraneous “I love you” doesn’t manage to ruin it for me.

Go see it. On a big screen. Don't forget.

Go see it. On a big screen. Don’t forget.

Back to the only thing that really bothered me: the product placement. Now, I assume that they had to make a few moral compromises to get the 10 million dollars to make a decent movie in an industry that doesn’t really care to finance that sort of thing anymore? And I’m fine with that. I love making movies so much that I wouldn’t care if this one was funded by… *thinks* … who do I hate more than big tobacco? McDonalds. But what bugged me was that the story involves Mud (Matthew McConaughey) being stranded on an island off the Mississippi without food and needing to be brought cans of beans by two kids he befriends. Yet although he is starving to death, and smokes constantly, he never, not once, runs out of cigarettes. Even pinching them (which he does) wouldn’t explain this. Unless the kids are supplying him with that too. It took me out of the story for a second. And that, not the fact that cigarettes cause cancer, is what bothered me. Lots of stuff causes cancer. And most of it is harder to avoid than cigarettes are. Don’t smoke ’em. Easy.

Howdy kids! None of the publicity stills show him lighting up, but he does it a lot... as does his love interest, played by Reece Witherspoon (she prefers the menthols).

Howdy kids! None of the publicity stills show him lighting up, but he does it a lot… as does his love interest, played by Reece Witherspoon (she prefers the menthols).

These days, the good guys smoke. It helps with the stress.

These days, the good guys smoke. It helps with the stress. The packet of Marlboro Kings is always clearly visible through his white shirt pocket.

It's always helped with the stress.

It’s always helped with the stress.

And it's nice to do it as a family. Here, a dad and his daughter spark up a Marlboro - and share a moment of closeness!

And it’s nice to do it as a family. Here, a dad and his daughter spark up a Marlboro – and share a moment of closeness!

Notice the similarity, or is it just me?

Notice the similarity, or is it just me?

PS: Jeff is not related to film director Mike Nichols. He IS, however, directly related to his brother Ben Nichols – lead singer of the band Lucero.

Cause I’m dead if I find what I’m looking for: Joshua Tree

April 22, 2013

Joshua Tree isn’t my favourite U2 album. Boy is. But it has a song on it that means as much to me in my thirties as it did when I was a teenager. It’s like the Teen International Anthem (and just as cheesy.)

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It’s like the Karoo. You can see forever. And there’s nothing.

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.  When I thought I had, I always turned out to be wrong. So now I assume I haven’t and, when I remember, I keep looking.

The danger of film school is, well… film school. You get so obsessed with making films that you forget that you need to keep experiencing life, keeping your eyes fresh, so that you can make films worth watching. At least that’s the theory – I may have just been skiving off from writing my thesis feature screenplay when I signed up for this day hike. And I don’t know yet whether any of the images I absorbed or stories I imagined will come to anything. But here, for the record, are a few of them.

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If you’re trying to find what you’re looking for, Joshua Tree is a bad place to lose it. No water, spiky plants, hot hot heat, peyote… and it’s damn easy to get lost. Luckily that’s exactly what most of us need in a world jam packed with useless instructions.

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At the base of Ryan’s Peak, people are encouraged to post haikus about their experiences. I nearly posted my favourite one, but it’s not related. Still here it is: Haikus are awesome / But sometimes make no sense / Refrigerator

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OPEN HOUSE: Stunning views! A fixer-upper on prime real estate, surrounded by nature. Very private.

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“Partially furnished.”

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So… old burned out car. a tree. Some sand. So what?

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Look closer. There’s a glove lying on the ground. What the hell is that doing there? Is it connected to the next photo?

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… and if the glove IS connected to this photo… doesn’t that hurt?

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The only thing still working here is the brakes. This is one of three cars we found abandoned in a 2 mile stretch of desert. Nearby to the house. And a broken wind-mill. And a failed mine. There’s a story in there somewhere.

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Here is where Worth Bagly bit the dust at the hands of W. F. Keys May 1947.

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“Desert rose, dreamed I saw a desert rose / dressed all in ribbons and bows / like the silence she called to me”

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I didn’t quite make it up. I refused to take a hand-up – I’m like that with rocks. But I did discover something. If you put your ear to the rocks, it’s dead quiet inside them.

That’s not the only new thing. I saw my first blue jay (the bird) and my first chipmunk. I thought chipmunks were a made-up animal. Turns out they’re little grey things.

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Isn’t that beautiful?

Anyhow. Against all odds, I wound up in Joshua Tree – a place I never thought I’d visit.

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I’d forgotten how good walking was for my head. On the drive home, I dozed off in a state of semi-conscious bliss and coming home, solved a problem with a script that had been driving me insane for weeks.

And along the way, another story.

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Not even in the town of Joshua Tree but about 3 miles outside it, stranded in the middle of nowhere… Sushi? It’s closed. And for sale. But someone thought they could persuade the people of Joshua Tree to eat Sushi. Someone had a dream. It’s like Salmon Eating in the Inland Empire. Just as crazy and beautiful.

I wonder if this is the secret of great artists – continuing the exploration and the journey. Now all I need is the great art to go with it right?

America’s political confusions

March 27, 2013

I find myself confused today, about America. Surely by now, they must know what’s right and wrong? But no, they’re human too.

The Anti-War people. They're not going to oppose the war, per se - that would never wash. They have to paint it as selfish or they'd be mauled. America has become more conservative in many ways than in was in the 60s (when it comes to this issue, not race, or gender, or sexual orientation.)

The Anti-War people. They’re not going to oppose the war, per se – that would never wash. They have to paint it as selfish or they’d be mauled. America has become more conservative in many ways than in was in the 60s (when it comes to this issue, not race, or gender, or sexual orientation.)

This means someone's son or daughter is over there, dying for the cause of... please remind me what it is, cause it sure as hell isn't freedom. It's not me who's being disrespectful here. It's the person asking someone to give their life for no good reason.

This means someone’s son or daughter is over there, dying for the cause of… please remind me what it is, cause it sure as hell isn’t freedom. It’s not me who’s being disrespectful here. It’s the person asking someone to give their life for no good reason.

 

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The pro-war people. Do they seem to have more expensive banners – or am I imagining things?

A car in the expensive film school I go to's parking lot. I thought, being left wing, that "Miss me yet" was sarcastic. Turns out it's pro-bush. Ridiculous.

A car in the expensive film school I go to’s parking lot. I thought, being left wing, that “Miss me yet” was sarcastic. Turns out it’s pro-bush. Ridiculous.

But I guess if you go ski in the aspens and your parents bought your car for you, you would be a republican.

But I guess if you go ski in the aspens and your parents bought your car for you, you would be a republican.

Oh, and this is the same car. The guy is also anti-gay - unless he's a pro-gay scout fan. I remember being forced to learn Die Stem at Brownies in South Africa. Whites only brownies. The Scouts should be ashamed of their history, but weirdly are not.

Oh, and this is the same car. The guy is also anti-gay – unless he’s a pro-gay scout fan. I remember being forced to learn Die Stem at Brownies in South Africa. Whites only brownies. The Scouts should be ashamed of their history, but weirdly are not. If homophobia is timeless… I have no words.