Monday, March 22, 2010

H&H Part 4 - The Town

The drive to Jackson, high in the Rockies is therapeutic, away from Jonathan and Kaplan and having to deal with their agendas, each of which are basically to make sure they come out on top.

I had doubts about joining them, but realized that the money is just too good to pass up and at least I will go in with some support from the network. At least for the time being. And from now on I'm the payroll and will receive a weekly of $2000 (remember this was several years ago) and per diems of $350 to spend as I wish, and of course hotel/motel accomodation.  And the two scripts I have been assigned to write will pay around $20,000 each. All of this for 6 months.

Sounds like a lot of money, but considering that I might not get another job for a year or even two... it isn't all that much.

Jackson is set in a valley with towering peaks all around, it's both a tourist town and a working town as the railway comes through the valley to a shunting yard, creating work for locals after the tourists are gone. There is skiing but it's too far off the beaten path to really matter.

I find the motel where our production offices are, the entire wing of the place. Beds have been removed and replaced by desks and chairs and conference tables. I find the production office and meet some of the crew. 

A series our size utilizes a lot of people, over all maybe as much as a hundred.  Most of the crew are the same as me, from Vancouver or other areas and locals fill in the jobs that require basic typing and business skills.

Writers are usually looked upon as suspicious. We don't really have to deal with anyone else except a director or producer or network head so we have little to do with the rest of the crew. Our work happens in closed rooms, by ourselves, writing sometimes is not a team sport and so they are curious about us.

I make it a point to be friendly and easygoing as I will need favors from them in the next few months and it's best to make friends. 

Then I meet Liz. 

Liz Mahon is the other producer besides Kaplan. She's not a pleasant person and bitches immediately, complaining about the lack of snow, the hotel and the lack of preparation. Since preparation is the producer's job I wonder why she doesn't realize that. When I ask for a printer in the writer's office, she says "goddam it, great, you don't have a printer"?

I tell her the production needs to get one, because, of all the crew, we need a printer the most. And a secretary to help us, which was also promised besides a printer. She sizes me up;  "are you going to be trouble"?

I just smile and say "I hope so".

But I'm realizing that my conflicts with Jonathan and Kaplan are only scratching the surface of this job, that there will be many more of these people to be wary of. I know I must make my alliances right off the top, much like Survivor to make sure I don't get screwed.

Is working on a series as bad as that?

I apply the old rule; it all begins at the top. When I worked with Kim from Vancouver on a series, he was the creator and producer and it reflected his intelligence and caring as well as a remarkable talent for writing. His show was not only easy, it was fun.

This show has already begun with 3 potential enemies, and all three at the top end of the balancing sheet. Remember they said they were disappointed in my work. And then the network head praised my work. For that I will suffer.

And remember, Jonathan was dragged off in a strait jacket on one of his previous series.

My motel room is spacious, as you can see in the picture above, it has 2 rooms, one with a kitchen suite but I would rarely eat there. I unload my six month supply of clothes, winter, spring and summer, and set up my computer even though I will be working out of the office.

Jonathan I learn will work out of his suite across the street, he has a ski-condo type accommodation, fireplace, a loft for a bedroom. Well, he is the head writer. But any room is fine with me anyways as I will rarely be there for any period of time.

I do a walk downtown, about five blocks, even though business in the town in January is slow, you can tell that summer is their big tourist season. They have Greek restaurants, Chinese, Italian, steak houses, one French restaurant and two sushi joints.

And several hotel bars.

Where more than once I will almost get into trouble through no action of my own, rather with the leading actress. But that's for another blog.

Without tourists, most of the men in the bars are tough and hardy, lots of workboots and plaid shirts and very opinionated. A tall heavy man sitting at the bar next to me tells his friends, "there are eleven types of women, lesbians, transvestites, feminists, liberated, hookers..." and turns to look at my reaction, hoping for a challenge.

My food arrives and I'm spared the confrontation. And since I'm neither of the categories in his list, which he never completes, I feel safe.Later I would learn there is a disproportionately high female gay population here, and was told they have less hassles than in bigger cities and towns.

And since this semi-working town also caters to tourists, there is a greater toleration. At least that was what I was told. Gay men never really entered any conversations, oddly enough.

Walking back to my motel I notice the silence. There is virtually no sound. No cars, no stereos, no trains. Just silence. Then to add to the picture, I see two deer munching on brownish grass by a house, paying very little attention to me as they continue foraging. Nobody in town seems to even notice them anymore. In the weeks to come I will see deer, moose, a black bear, elk, lots of elk, and marmots.

And right now it's heaven.

I finish the night by watching the news on a Detroit channel on cable. It's ironic as I started my career in TV at a station across the river from Detroit and am now over thousand miles away, and watching the same reporters I used to work with.

But my sleep isn't easy, I dreamt of the show, of my writing, whether it will make up for the bad start, whether I'll last. It becomes that running uphill kind of dream, where you try and try but can't seem to make any progress - or escape.

No matter what else I think; this will be a battle.

(Wed: The work begins) 

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