Wednesday, April 14, 2010

H&H Part 12 - The Star comes down to earth

Spring is beginning to show up in the mountains, days are a little warmer, snow is melting on the brownish lawns and the Rocky Mountain sheep graze closer to town, with little concern for photographers or tourists.

I get a ride to the office with Karen the accountant who says Kaplan is really over his head and the local producer even more so. I keep wondering how these guys got those jobs. The local producer is easy enough, he comes with local financing and for the most part he really stays out of the loop. Still he is responsible for misjudging the costs of filming in a town 6 hours away from the nearest airport and city. 

And Kaplan, whom I'm sure some of you feel sorry for by now, he's another case. He bluffed his way into this job and is making it a difficult shoot for everyone from the writers to the crews and even the accountants and eventually the actors.

As the saying goes;  he must have pictures of the company CEO in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.

No subtleties there. It can be a kill or be killed atmosphere on films and TV shows, egos are huge and when a show goes bad like this, it begins to affect the entire crew who more than often decide to rough it through which I admire greatly. I only wish I could do the same.

At the office, I learn who's going to rewrite Kaplan's script, the one he tried to rewrite 4 times.

It's Rino -- and me. Together.

And the departments are beginning to ask us for scripts. We have to shoot in less than a week and the wardrobe department, the production design department and others need a hard copy of the script to study to see what's needed.

Jonathan, the head writer isn't anywhere around, he's in his condo even though he has an empty office here down the hall from us. Jonathan should be involved but the wardrobe girl, Nancy, says I'm the only one who anyone sees. Even Rino disappears from the office from time to time. At one point, when Jonathan dropped by, someone asked me "what exactly does he do?"

Next on the schedule is the reading.

This is the one, for any of you who have followed the blog, is my least favorite place during production. It's where all the departments get together to pick apart the script to say what they don't like, can't do or won't do.

And it's also the appearance of the real star of the show. Erica enters the room with a sweeping movement, like she's floating into the crowded room. In weeks later this talent will save me and an actor from serious harm.

Erica takes over the room completely and I figure she has earned it, she's been with the big stars, been in major movies and now to be in a "B" level series has to hurt a little. But as they say, there are no small parts, just small actors.

This reading goes the way I expected and we get 32 pages of changes and considering the script is around 54 pages, that's almost half. But it's mostly small stuff, much of it words that could be changed on the set and probably will be even though we still have to write it.

I suggest we leave it to filming, we don't need to re-do 32 pages for changes like "Todd looks at her", to "Todd slowly looks towards her direction". But Kaplan insists. Mahon sits quietly playing solitaire on her computer and Jonathan just tries to act like he's the head writer. Which he is of course.

I say I will do my best. I've learned you never let them think it's easy, make them feel that their suggestions will make the script ever so better. In truth later I do the 32 page rewrites in less than an hour. But I hold off handing it in for the rest of the day. And Rino, who was supposed to help, is nowhere in sight.

I stare at Erica now and then and am taken back to being a teenager in love with a movie star, never dreaming I would be this close to her. She still looks good, in her late 50's and very energetic. I sense she is checking us out, feeling her way around the room. It seems bigger than a little TV show with her here, it seems like a movie.

Ah, they don't make stars like they used.

It's clear in the meeting that the various departments  have little patience for Kaplan and one of the grips tells me they want to use him as grizzly bear bait since the rangers told us a grizzly is in the area.

After the reading, Jonathan goes straight to the actors to congratulate them on their "wonderful" reading and how he personally is going to make sure they get "brilliant" writing from "his staff" even if he has to step in personally.

Rino and I exchange glances, it's not even funny anymore for us.

Afterwards I meet Paul Patterson, an actor who comes from Windsor, across the river from Detroit, where I grew up as  a teen. Paul came in with Erica in the production passenger van and tells me a great story about how the driver didn't know who she was, or care but had to present her with flowers and a bottle of wine at the airport.

Erica is a little apprehensive, realizing she's riding in a passenger van with two complete strangers. She keeps her wine and flowers to herself and drinks it by the time they arrive, several hours later.

Ironically enough, that story became the screenplay, Travel Day, which began this blog and which I am now trying to finance for a fall 2010 filming.

Later, at the Peak bar, I am personally introduced to Erica and she mentions she has read one of my scripts and likes it.

I wonder how often someone gets a dream that comes through. I just did.

I've come full circle.

(Fri: Camera, sound, ACTION!.)

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