This is a test of the emergency blogcasting network. Had this been an actual blog post, you would have been riddled with random thoughts and goofy images. This concludes our test.
(Easily one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons...)
For the past nine months, I have had a baby on board. It's been a wild ride full of ups and downs (thankfully, more ups than downs) and many surprises. This journey is almost at an end. I am standing by for either that first contraction or word from my doctor that she needs to induce, so I decided to write about my experiences to keep from losing my mind...
I get many of the same questions wherever I go. There's the standard "so, what's your major" trio that tends to happen when I am standing in line or waiting in an elevator. They usually come in this order:
1. When are you due?
2. Is it a boy or a girl?
3. Is this your first?
The answers, in order, are April 9th, boy and yes. Usually, after these questions are answered, there is a polite "congratulations." Sometimes this is followed by a bit of advice or an anecdote if the person has their own children. Sometimes these tips are welcome: "being a parent is an amazing experience" or "here is the name of a friend of mine who is an experienced doula." Sometimes they aren't: "say goodbye to your life" or "that's a terrible name- you should pick names from the Bible" (a verbatim quote. Tip: never discuss names with people and never discuss babies with crazy people). Occasionally, the questions are just shocking. "How old are you?" was rude and confusing, particularly since it was asked because I looked "way too young to be having a baby" (only in Los Angeles). "You're not carrying twins? That's a HUGE baby!" almost got a little old lady kicked in the shin. I have had the urge to smack one or two people, but I've yet to do it. That leads me to some of my own little surprises about pregnancy. Maybe these are myths, maybe these aren't, but these are a few of the pregnancy stereotypes that didn't quite fit me:
Pregnant women are crazy. Are they? I've seen so much about the "crazy hormones" that us pregnant women get. I think a lot of it is to make people feel better about being insensitive assholes. Typically on an internet Q&A forum:
Q: HELP!! My wife/girlfriend got angry at me and says I never help around the house but I totally did the dishes once last week! She used to be so happy and carefree and let me do whatever I wanted and made me sandwiches all the time. What is going on?!
A: Relax, bro! It's just hormones. Women just go inexplicably crazy when they are pregnant. It's for sure nothing you are doing.
I only had four real emotional breakdowns and they all had VERY valid reasons, one of which included being in my third week of fighting a terrible virus while simultaneously being 9 months pregnant and unable to take most medications, lie in a comfortable position or sleep. At all. Between coughing fits, I was pummeled with tiny fists and feet begging "why are you shaking my house so much, mom?!" I felt terrible because I was horribly sick, but also filled with guilt whenever I would cough, sneeze or blow my nose. I was terrified of going into labor in such a state. I was... quite justifiably... a little emotional. Nah. I'm sure it was just hormones and I was probably just upset about getting fat or whatever...
I do admit that my BS tolerance levels are at an all-time low, but I don't attribute this to "crazy hormones." It's not comfortable being pregnant and it never lets up. You are building a new person 24/7 for nine months and you're already not getting your usual amount of sleep. You need help. You're nervous, excited, scared, responsible for every step of that little human's growth and in a great deal of physical discomfort. You can't have a glass of wine to unwind and I sure didn't get to do any of my usual "stress busting" activities (see photos, below). Hormones were the least of my concerns. Sure, there was the occasional "silly" tear shed for pet food commercials and at movies that weren't tragically sad, but hey, if you don't cry during that Sarah McLaughlin Humane Society commercial, you probably don't have a soul.
Those tears fell LONG before I was pregnant! Which leads me to my next myth:
Pregnant women have wild food cravings. No again. This was another of those FAQs for which I never had a satisfying answer for anyone. Yeah, I love potato chips with a jalapeno pepper slice and dipped in ranch dressing, but I created that little concoction years ago. I had a woman approach me in the grocery store when I was buying ice cream: "Wow! Do pregnant women seriously crave ice cream?" Well, sure. But, uh... do you not? (By the way, being pregnant is apparently like wearing a giant sign that says "PLEASE APPROACH ME AND START A CONVERSATION!") I probably ate more peanut butter than usual, but otherwise, my diet was pretty much the same. The only exception was my miserable first trimester. That was the only time I had real food aversions. I could not abide chicken. I couldn't eat it, smell it, look at it or even think about it without feeling ill. Most of the foods I craved at that time were either starchy (bagels) or sugary (lots of fruit- especially mango and watermelon). I didn't ever wake my boyfriend up in the middle of the night and insist he go get me Pad Thai with a side of chocolate cupcakes and pickle juice. Most of these food preferences were less about a "craving" and more about wanting to eat something that wouldn't make me feel sick to my stomach. Which leads nicely to:
Morning sickness is bullshit. I don't mean that it doesn't happen, I mean that "morning sickness" is cruelly misnamed. My nausea usually came at night, right about as I was leaving work. It came off and on throughout most of the day, as well. It was paralyzing. The worst part is, I didn't actually get sick, I just felt like I was constantly on the verge of getting sick. Though I will admit, hearing about Kate Middleton's horrible affliction made me complain a little less. Because these symptoms lasted weeks and came rather randomly, I couldn't really take time off of work, but I had to cease most of the activities I normally would have been able to do in that first trimester. Most notably, this:
Sigh... I know I will get to do these things again, but I have really missed them over the past nine months.
We live in an advanced society and people aren't weird about pregnancy anymore.Um. No. I've had all sorts of obstacles to overcome with this. I've dealt with loads of outright discrimination and this strange mix of over and under-reaction to my physical activities. I have had to explain to people how my baby is not- even by scientific definition- a "parasite." Yes, there were people (coworkers, even) referring to him that way. Even if you WANT to make that argument, don't make it to a pregnant woman whose feelings about her own pregnancy you do not know. It's not clever or cute. I had one guy at work get outright angry at me because after a meeting, some of my coworkers lingered to ask me questions about my (newly announced) pregnancy. As our meeting was clearing out, this guy barked, "come on! We have to do a conference call in here in ten minutes and you girls are over there talking about PREGNANCY!" I guess us "girls" don't get that you need a solid ten minutes of no lady talk before a room is fit for a conference call. Also, for the people who are "grossed out" by pregnancy: you were once a fetus too. Grow the eff up. Yeah, it's not always pleasant and it's sometimes gross, but I don't need you explaining why it's okay for you to be offensive and make me feel like I should be hidden under a tent. Oh, and while we are at it:
I don't have a clue what I am doing. Apparently. I've never read a book on pregnancy. Never looked it up online (what is Google?) I don't have a doctor I can talk to. I have no maternal instincts. I've never even known anyone else in my entire life who has been pregnant and can tell me things about pregnancy (e.g. my own mother). I am SO HAPPY you know everything about my "condition," person I hardly know! Please enlighten me. One woman tracked my every movement every day: Did I know I couldn't eat feta? I should probably sell my cat because of her litter box? I should probably leave my boyfriend because he will be just like her ex husband? My showers are too hot? No wait... too cold? I should see my doctor more often? I shouldn't get my hair dyed? I shouldn't drink coffee? I should eat more, even if it doesn't seem appetizing? I wish it ended there, but this woman had me wondering if I should just quarantine myself. As if it's not stressful enough that so much of the information out there is conflicting.
It's all by the books. Except the books say different hings. And why in the world are fetuses measured against the size of produce? I suppose it's because us ladies spend so much time doing the grocery shopping and wouldn't be able to envision "golf ball sized" versus "baseball sized" or some other consistent size comparison. But seriously, what the heck? Here is an example of how one baby app sizes up my growing kid:
Week 4: poppyseed. Okay. Yeah, I got that. He's tiny.
Week 5: appleseed. Yep. I can see that.
Week 6: pea. Again. Pretty consistent. He's pea sized. Got it.
Week 7: blueberry. Um... wait. I just grabbed a handful. Some are smaller than peas. I don't...
Week 8: raspberry. Okay? Is he not growing?
Let's jump ahead to week 11: lime. Okay. That's bigger than a raspberry. Got it.
Week 12: plum. Week 13: peach. Wait wait. Are we talking about organic fruit or...? Son of a bitch. I give up. Right now, I am at week 39: watermelon. Well, hell! THAT'S gonna hurt:
Next week, I will be at week 40: jackfruit. Whatever the f*&$ that is. Why do I even want to envision him as something edible anyway? Maybe that's why people dress their babies as food for Halloween.
I'll get by with a little help from my friends. This one is true. My friends have really been there for me. Sure, there were a couple who shunned me (pregnancy is not contagious, you know) and acted like my professional and social lives were over, but by and large, my real friends and family came through for me. Sometimes the love was almost overwhelming, but for those of you who have been checking in on me, inviting me to hang out, reminding me that I can ask you for help, driving me to my appointments when needed, cooking me food: you are all wonderful and I love each and every one of you. You kept me sane and happy. Which leads me to my final point:
Pregnant women are smug. Hmm. I was feeling a lot of things: tired, happy, sad, brooding, worried, alone, scared, overwhelmed, gassy, bloated, lazy... Sorry Garfunkel and Oates, but smug just wasn't one of them!
This shot took me DAYS to set up and render. I made it for my demo reel so I could get a job at Rhythm + Hues in 2006.
R+H created Babe, Richard Parker from Life of Pi, Aslan, the Geiko gecko and countless other memorable CG characters. They recently filed for bankruptcy (a disturbing trend amongst VFX houses lately). Pi won best VFX tonight and when the rep started thanking R+H, they not only played him off stage, but they muted his mic. R+H got no mention from the cinematographer (who, let's face it, owes many of his gorgeous "shots" to the VFX) to even the director, who only expressed that he wished VFX could be cheaper.
People are under the impression that CGI requires nothing more than a button press. Computers are a tool, just like a pen, but it still takes real artists to pull it all off. I spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours learning these skills and I consider myself to be nowhere near the caliber of the people who pulled off Life of Pi. I struggled to find work when I moved out here and was SHOCKED at what people were willing to pay. Luckily, I had other skills to fall back on, but I miss this work and would like to think that I could someday return to it AND support my family. And for my friends who are struggling to find that balance, I hope it gets better. Without the VFX artists, many of the most profitable movies would be nothing more than a couple of actors standing in front of a green screen. I hope to see a reverse in this trend and respect to the artist.
Since I couldn't show up in person to stand with the artists, I have to settle for making a point via the internets: https://www.facebook.com/VfxSolidarityIntl and @VFXSoldier on Twitter are two great sources of more information.
Ah, Futurama! One of the few things on television that actually fact checks their science references... and takes great pleasure in ripping apart things that don't.
The recent meteor event in Russia has made me wish that newscasters and blog writers had Morbo sitting next to them whenever they made some lame joke or speculation about some scientific phenomenon.
I suppose the news stopped being objective and checking their facts a long time ago, and about more than just science, but the confidence with which newscasters and writers present their scientific "facts" really irritates me.
I don't claim to be a science expert, but it is a passion of mine. I studied astronomy and physics for a while and almost made a career out of it. You don't have to get that far into science, though, to know how to do a quick cross-referenced Google search. And if you are about to explain some scientific phenomenon to a worried public, you should consult a scientist. Otherwise, you end up saying stupid things like this:
(Please ignore the fact that this video clip is coming from a UFO playlist- it is a very much identified falling object.) First of all "I tracked those meteors..." No you didn't. You simply did a Google search to see if there were any meteor showers that happened to be taking place when the footage was captured. Also, meteors don't actually come from constellations, they just appear to. Constellations are apparent arrangements of stars many light years away, not throwers of fireballs. And while the name "Quadrands Muralis" is obsolete, constellations do not "go extinct." We just decide we don't like them anymore. Then we have "they are often hard to see because the northern sky is usually cloudy." That's right. Clouds like to gather in the north... for... strategic... science purposes. Forget that "The Northern Sky" is relative to where you are standing and... you know what, I'm not even going to dignify that statement with further commenting.
Actually, the women who were joking around were absolutely right! This was, in fact, a Russian rocket body that entered the Earth's atmosphere, broke into pieces and fell to the ground. I suspected it was something like this the first time I saw this footage. First of all, it is moving pretty slowly. Meteors streak and burn up quite a bit faster than this. Secondly, if you compare the colors and the shapes of the fragments to actual man-made objects burning in the atmosphere (sadly, the Columbia footage comes to mind), this what it looks like.
Then the facepalm moment. "I mean you know it all, Tomer. YOU'RE OUR METEOROLOGIST?!" A. Meteorology is not astronomy. B. Please see my comment about "northern clouds." An actual weather scientist should know better.
The reason the recent Russia event reminded me of this was that I am getting sick of every streak of light being attributed to a "meteor shower." I wish the above footage is what a meteor shower looked like! It would make those chilly early morning trips to the mountains so much more exciting than the 10-15 quick streaks you actually end up seeing.
Early reports of the Russian meteor were that it was a meteor shower or even... meteor rain? I'm sure everyone has seen the footage a million times at this point, but here it is again:
Okay, some quick vocabulary (from NASA):
Asteroid: A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun.
Comet: A relatively small, at times active, object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas.
Meteoroid: A small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.
Meteor: The light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.
Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands upon the Earth's surface.
So, an asteroid or a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere where it become a meteor. It either burns up or it makes it to the surface as a meteorite. OR in the case of the Russian event, it's a bolide, or fireball or in this particular case, a "detonating fireball."
Pretty cool, right? Contrast that with a meteor shower. Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through clouds of debris from comets. Yes, you can have all of that excitement in a meteor shower, but usually what you have is tiny streaks across the sky over several hours. Still cool, but not quite as spectacular as either of the two videos above. They are also global events (you can't have a Russian meteor shower, for example) and come like clockwork every year- not just randomly.
And meteor rain? That... doesn't exist, actually. At least, not in scientific terms.
So the next time a newscaster attributes some weird thing in the sky to a meteor shower, I want Morbo there to tell them:
A while back I thought it would be a good idea to chronicle some of my extras gigs in my blog. Then all the social networks, my day job as a web developer and my film making and screenwriting efforts made maintaining my website seem more like a chore than the fun thing I used to do. This is a return to that. I'm not going to make the promise that I will regularly update (a promise that I will inevitably break), but I would like to get back in the habit.
As for extras work, it was a super fun thing I did when I first moved out to Los Angeles and could afford to fart around before getting down to business. I don't mean to diminish the life of the full-time professional extra. It's actually a tough way to make money and if you can do it regularly, you are magic and I salute you. Yes, it's quite possible to make your living being a "blur" as people will so kindly refer to them (hey, ninjas are blurs too, and NO ONE messes with ninjas), but I had other aspirations and other obligations. Sadly, my blur days are becoming just that... So I want to write about them before they are gone.
My first gig was 100 Questions. A very short-lived sitcom on... some network. I don't think my scene ever made it onto the small screen, but I basically had to sit in a pants suit and fake sip a fake martini. I've already written that story. I've also already written the Cold Case story, so you can catch up on those if you so desire.
My third extras gig was Castle. NOW we're talking! Though I don't watch it regularly, I do enjoy the show- especially the Nathan Fillion part of the show- so I was excited when they told me I would be in it. They informed me that I would be a New York subway patron. Sweet! I can play that! I lived in New York for almost four years. I know from ridin' the subway, yo! I decided to go method for this one.
On that note, one thing you should know, should you desire to be an extra or find yourself on set one day: background work is NOT acting. No one appreciates your efforts to stand out. You are "background talent." Your goal is to blend in (see earlier ninja comment). Also, no one on the set really wants to hear about all of the acting you do, the workshops and schools you attended, the people you have met... Actually, scratch that. Some people do want to hear about that. And they are sitting at that table over there. Not at my table, where I am clearly trying to read American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
Yes, I was being crabby on the set that night. It took far too long for me to find parking and meander through the trailers to find the 2nd AD. Plus, this was a night shoot and I'd heard rumors that we might not get done until four in the morning. There was also limited food for my then-vegetarian self to eat and I was starving. Knowing every eatery nearby would be closing soon and I would be reduced to eating chips and fruit snacks for the next six hours filled me with dread. On top of that, I found out that the scene we were shooting would have NOTHING TO DO with Nathan Fillion. At all. I have this annoying curse of being where he is- sometimes EXACTLY where he is- and never getting to see or meet him. More on that later.
While I was sitting at one of the few tables that had adequate reading light and feeling sorry for my(let's face it, pretty spoiled)self, I got a call. When I answered it, the voice of my dad's partner answered back and I suddenly got very nervous. Don't get me wrong, we get along great and I love talking to her, but it was a bit odd to get a call from her late at night, knowing that it was three hours later where she was. As it turns out, I had reason to be nervous. My dad had suffered a heart attack. Now, I do love suspense, but not where my family is concerned, so let me just spoil this and spare you: he's fine. Everything turned out great. However, that information would not come to light for another few weeks and the rest of my time on set was spent worrying about him.
I felt trapped. He would need a surgery and I wanted to fly out for it, but I was unable to do anything about it. I alternated between distracting myself with my book and researching flights on my ten-percent-battery-life phone. I decided the best thing for me to do would be to just finish out the night and go home. Needless to say, much of the evening was a bit of a blur after that. I remember walking with my book, trying to look like a New Yorker. I was depressed and self-occupied, so I think I pulled it off quite nicely.
The one detail I do remember from the night is that I was selected to be one of the subway patrons who would go through the turnstile right as the bad guy jumped over to escape Beckett. Since my face would be in the shot, I had to pretend like I noticed, but not really care. Much like I would have reacted in New York had I seen someone jump over the turnstile. The turnstiles the actors were to jump over were very clearly marked with tape. We were told that we could go through any of the other turnstiles, but that we had to stay out of the way of the marked turnstiles.
When the first take came up, I found an unmarked turnstile and set my intention to walk through it. I headed toward it (without looking like I'm heading toward it) and BOOM, the bad guy jumps over the unmarked turnstile. Any look of shock I had as this actor came hurtling at me uncontrollably was completely genuine. They called a cut. No one blamed anyone (mostly because it wasn't my fault... they have no problem yelling at extras, but tend to hold back with the talent), but I was much more cautious about approaching the turnstiles on subsequent takes. I mean, I would love to be a stuntwoman, but that's a completely different pay grade with a totally different set of rules and insurance requirements.
I did manage to make it in the shot, at least- see above picture. This was season 2, episode 18. I'm that blur that looks kind of like... well a rather gothy New Yorker. And see that green blur? That's my copy of American Gods (that book really did help me get through that shoot).
I was later used in three other shots, but never made it onto the screen. It's pretty amazing. With the exception of two people veryone you see on the screen was an extra or a stunt person. Some of them got paid more than others. I got paid about $80 to be there that night, and I was on the lower end of that price range so... do the math. It's expensive to put bodies in scenes!
Recently, "winter" started in Los Angeles. What this means is that for about four days, I had to break out my winter coat (read: hooded sweatshirt) and think about maybe carrying an umbrella around with me. I had to weather-proof my apartment, mostly by taking the fan out of the window and verifying that the heater I had never used actually works. My sunglasses were rendered nearly useless as I only needed them about 40% of the time I was outdoors. Despite all of that, me and my fellow Angelinos managed to make it through. I heard on the local news that this weather was responsible for countless traffic problems. Being from Colorado, where I had to drive my 1988 Honda Civic while dealing with weather phenomena such as hail storms, tornado warnings, blizzards that dump a foot or more of snow, sub zero temperatures and black ice on a fairly regular basis, I found it hard to relate, initially. I assumed the problem was psychological. Upon further study (and my gradual SoCal acclimatization), however, I have come to the conclusion that the weather- and probably science- is clearly to blame. Here are some of my findings:
1. Turn signals no longer work. How else can we account for the complete lack of them? I hypothesize that either the precipitation seeps into most vehicles' electrical systems and attacks only the turn signal functionality, or that the rain droplets somehow refract the light from turn signals so that they go unseen by the drivers behind or around them. Both of these explanations satisfactorily explain why visual signals are rendered useless, but horn-honking functionality remains unaffected.
2. Braking can only be applied forcefully and suddenly. Gradual braking is not an option, possibly due to the coefficient of friction approaching zero when there is moisture on the road. Sudden and forceful braking must be applied to overcome this. Another possibility is that the rain droplets refract light around objects and intersections, making them essentially invisible to drivers until they are literally right there and have to turn or stop.
2. Drivers can no longer see lines on the road, read road signs, or see traffic signals. I believe this is due to the refraction of light through the rain droplets.
3. The laws at intersections no longer apply. This isn't as much of a scientific problem as it is a legal one. I still haven't learned what the alt-weather laws are at four way stops, so this is probably just my fault. That or refracted light through rain droplets either cloaks vehicles completely, or alters our sense of time and space, making us unable to determine who arrived first and has the right-of-way.
4. Perspective changes and varies dramatically from person to person. An acquaintance claimed that he couldn't see ten feet in front of his vehicle while going seventy miles an hour down the highway on his way in to work. This cannot possibly be the case, as visibility was not limited and it is impossible for any vehicle to move at seventy miles an hour on an L.A. freeway during rush hour. Yet he believed it so fervently and dramatically, that altered perspective (possibly due to refraction of light waves by rain droplets) is the only explanation.
5. Wifi and cell phone signals no longer work. Okay, this one isn't related to traffic, but a guy in a hotel was explaining to me that this was the reason the internet service that I was paying $9/day to use wasn't working and he couldn't refund me. And also my calls like NEVER go through and sometimes my tweets get held up for ages. What the hell, science? The only thing I can think of is that the signals used in such devices are some how "refracted" through the rain droplets and re-routed to people who don't have AT&T or Time Warner Cable.
6. The world essentially ends. Seriously. I didn't feel like going to the beach, people had to cancel their flying trapeze and paddleboard classes and I totally didn't feel like eating at Pinkberry. This is most probably due to the refraction of joy out of life by rain droplets.
You might detect some sarcasm in this post (and a lot of refraction). It's not that I don't appreciate that relatively speaking, a couple of days of rain is a monsoon and forty degrees is freezing, it's just that, well come on, SoCal. You are where the weather forecaster stands when talking about weather happening in the rest of the country.
My new web series! My Two Brads is a sitcom spoof in which we take one lame joke and spin it a million different ways. You know, just like a real sitcom? Only difference: we promise to keep every episode about one minute in length. Made with Brad Bishop and Brad Smith (yes, the show is based on real events) and with the musical talents of Sven Faulconer. Here is our pilot episode. Head over to http://mytwobrads.com to subsribe on YouTube or Vimeo, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, G+, all of that stuff...
I've always had a bit of a fear of heights. It's nothing unreasonable. I can get a little dizzy on ladders or scaffolding and shudder when I see people falling in movies. This fear became a full-blown phobia after the terrorist attacks on September 11. I was in New York when that happened and saw the buildings fall right in front of me from my roof in Brooklyn. It took me a while to get to the point where I am now: comfortably working- despite the constant threat of earthquakes- on the 18th floor of a high-rise. Over the years, people have tried to get me over this fear (though I personally think you SHOULD be a little nervous about being high off the ground- it is a natural self-preservation mechanism, after all). Soaring through the air on a flying trapeze, safely in a harness and with a net beneath me, seemed like an exciting way to confront my nervousness.
Here is the video proof of my willingness to overcome! I had a BLAST doing this and hope to do it again soon. I got a little distracted by the aerial silks (which I have been doing almost every week since this video was made), but I hope to return to the sky soon.
Many thanks to Brad Bishop and Hermione Leach for filming and SUPER thanks to Morningstar Bloom for NOT LISTENING TO ME AT ALL when I told her I couldn't do it! :P
We often start the New Year by making our steadfast resolutions: I'm going to lose weight. I'm going to write that screenplay. I'm going to learn French... In short, we seek out to "fix" our lives in some way. It's equally important to take a moment to look back on the year and reflect on everything that you have done. With 2011 in full swing, I take a moment to recall few of last year's highlights:
- I got to hang out on some awesome television sets as an extra. The Office? Mad Men? Castle? That's pretty bad ass. I'm VERY lucky.
- I got a job as a web developer at Fox. I've gotten to create/work on sites for my favorite shows and some of the best shows on television. Fringe? Family Guy? The Simpsons? Glee?
- I'm working on my 3rd level of improv comedy classes at The Upright Citizens Brigade theater.
- I've gotten to see DOZENS of movies/performances with their creators! "Up" with Pete Docter and Bob Peterson? "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnasus" with Terry Gilliam? "Avatar" with James Cameron? "Scott Pilgrim" with Edgar Wright? "ASSSCAT" with Amy Poehler, Jon Hamm, Jack McBrayer, Matt Walsh, Tim Meadows, Heather Graham, Matt Besser, and Ian Roberts?! I can't even list everything!
- I aced particle dynamics at the Gnomon School and made a music video out of what I learned.
- I've gotten to explore Southern California in all of its glory.
- I've mingled with awesome people. John Noble? Hugh Laurie? Seth MacFarlane? Hells to the yes!
- And not least of all, I met a wonderful and talented guy who makes me smile, think, and melt, and with whom I get to share much of the above. Our adventures are just beginning.
The point here is not to brag. In this year, I've also lost a grandmother, heard news that my grandfather fell down a flight of stairs and is in bad shape, watched my dad get a triple bypass surgery, heard the horrible news of my high school BFF's struggle with breast cancer, done great battle with unemployment, helped my brother pick himself up off the ground, worked 100+ hours a week to get the new Fox.com off the ground (almost losing my sanity in the process), failed a relationship, lost friends, and collected a hefty amount of debt in the process. But the positives FAR outweigh the negatives. I've done all of this DESPITE all of that. My point is to prove that if I get out there and try to make it happen, you can. Granted, I tend to live my life at about 100 miles per hour. Sometimes, the passage of time doesn't even register with me. Since moving out to Los Angeles back in August/September of '09, I have pushed myself to do all that I can in my entertainment career.
Wait, wait. What was that? "Entertainment?" That's right. I have accepted it. I work in entertainment. Yes, I consider myself above all to be a "filmmaker" and primarily a "director," but I've really opened my mind to television and the Internet. Also, take a look around my site! I clearly have about a dozen other interests and entertaining talents. Realizing this about myself and accepting that having such a broad range of interests is an asset rather than a liability has been a major step for me this year. I enjoy acting. I enjoy writing. I enjoy drawing. I enjoy animating. I enjoy photography. I enjoy scientific discussion. I enjoy music. Hell, I even enjoy web development, my so-called "day job" now that I work for Fox. And to boot, I'm not too bad at those things. Why should I stop doing any one of them?
We have a tendency to want to slip others and ourselves into tidy little well-defined slots. Time and time again, I have had "wiser" people tell me I need to focus on one thing (and I've heard this said of some of my other friends with "multifaceted" interests and talents). The problem with that is that it doesn't work for everyone. The more I limit my music playing, the less inspired I feel to write. The fewer photo-hiking trips I take, the less I feel the urge to sit down and code. When I feel like my interests are too scattered, I remind myself that my idols like James Cameron and J.J. Abrams write, direct, draw, compose, geek out about science, etc. And thanks to twitter, I'm learning that other people I admire have just as varied interests and talents (and learning to appreciate others that I may not have ever heard about).
Enough. Do what you love. All of it. As much as you can squeeze into your life. Soak up every day. Love someone. Shout it out. And as the song in my video cries out: Go Do! The secret to life is not that complicated. Live it. My resolution is to make 2011 just as awesome as 2010, accepting that there will be bad with the good. Take a moment and reflect on just how much you did in 2010 and reward yourself for that. Make 2011 about building from that, not scolding yourself and giving yourself rules. And above ALL, let a little love into your life. There's a lot about the world to love.
A friend of mine sent me a story this morning with the following headline (image will link to story):
Toy robot detours traffic near Coors Field
Another sent me this one (again, image links to story):
NASA Finds New Life
Wow. Not EXTRATERRESTRIALS, sure, but it opens to doors to what we should be looking for.
8-inch Killer Robots and Arsenic-based life forms. Finally, the Universe is reading my screenplays. And producing them!
(Picking up on my extras stories...) The second extras assignment I got was for the show "Cold Case." Fittingly, the thing I remember most about this experience was that it was freezing. It was also wet and muddy- sometimes dangerously so (lights and their power generators and cables don't mix well with "wet"). How a Los Angeles set manages to seem freezing and wet to a native Colorado ski bunny is beyond me. I played a 1970's-ish circus goer who witnesses an "accident" on the aerial silks (the show aired months ago, so if this is a spoiler, I'm sorry, but you need to catch up). I was married with kids. The pressures of the set split our happy family up, though. My husband and I separated. I lost custody halfway through. So did he. Sigh. I miss little… kid.
Not only was it freezing, but the costumes were ridiculously uncomfortable. I still don't quite understand how women could wear polyester, pantyhose and high heels. Simultaneously.
Part of the props also included balloons. Anyone who has known me long enough or who regularly reads this blog understands that this is a pretty serious problem.
I am globophobic (afraid of balloons and yes, it is a real thing and yes, you can shut up). They make me tense up and act like an imbecile. I will leave a grocery store if I can hear them being blown up. When I see a balloon animal artist (or as I view them: terrorist) on my side of the street, I will make an effort to cross to the other side or feign sudden interest in whatever the storefront closest to me has to offer. The situation to the left, for example, in which my "daughter" is mercilessly beating me with a balloon flower, was torture. It's a strange phobia and does not solicit the same sympathy as, say, a fear of heights or a fear of spiders. I usually just keep my mouth shut about it and hope I don't reveal too much to the person walking with me. (note: I recently tried to overcome this fear by participating in/orchestrating a photo shoot. The results of this test are on my facebook page.)
Of course, "my kids" wanted balloons and balloon animals more than they wanted sugar (which on that set, was saying something). They also insisted on attacking both me and my camera with them. I wore a brave face throughout it all. Three balloons were detonated in front of me. People kept thrusting them into my hands. Honestly, I should get a freaking Oscar for the photo at the bottom of this post. Or an Emmy, this being television. Do they give out Emmy's for stills?
Anyway, it was two days of either standing in the mud or sitting on metallic bleachers and being told to "shush" every three seconds. The popcorn was fake- actually, it was real, but ancient. I am SO glad none of the children eating it plus copious amounts of cotton candy were mine. Seriously. Whose idea was that? "We have a bunch of kids that we need to keep still between shoots on a circus-like set filled with clowns, balloons, and live snakes (I don't think the snakes made the final cut). How do we keep them manageable? I know! Let's give them stale salty popcorn and colored clouds of sugar!"
Turned out they had to cut many of my scenes because the guy in front of me was wearing earrings and they didn't catch it until AFTER the last shot. The result? You can see approximately half of my head for less than a second. I vowed to never again do it, but then, I hit the jackpot of extras gigs...
I'm working on it, but I have a long way to go before I can get anything this raw and honest out of my voice/fingers:
After weeks of dialing and dialing, I got my first gig in November of 2009: Bar Patron on the NBC summer season sitcom "100 Questions" (note: this episode will air on Friday. I will try to update with a screencap if I can get one). Since this was going to be my first time on a big television set, I was really excited for the job. That is... until someone not only took the wind out of my sails, but shot a canon through the side of my enthusiasm ship by informing me that you haven't really arrived on the extras scene unless you're in a summer blockbuster and THEY call YOU. Dually noted. From my new perspective on the bottom of the "T'ain't-nothin'" Ocean, I prepared myself for my experience. I was told to come "hair-and-makeup-ready" (this industry is filled with terms spawned from bad English, more on that later), which required the purchase of makeup. I ended up spending about $50 to make my $8/hour. I took one stealthy picture of my costume in the bathroom because I was terrified of being sued or killed. I also respect the "No Spoilers" rule and the concept of "sensitive information," so it's not just a matter of self preservation. I've since learned that a picture of myself in a business suit does not count as "sensitive information." In fact, how do you know this is not just a picture of me from some office job in 2002?
As a girl who once made television sets in her desk at school, it was surreal to finally be on the set and stare at all of the toys. It was all I imagined it to be and more! Lights, camera, lots of inaction mixed with frenzied moments of action, baseball caps, gaffing tape! There were only three walls and bleachers (complete with "Applause" light). A particularly fun Hollywood moment came when we were told that in the event of an earthquake, we should run to the nearest wall. The nearest REAL wall. The director was loud and had a British accent. Only he and the first AD were either allowed to laugh at the jokes or thought they were funny (I'm leaning toward the latter- note the earlier description of "NBC summer season sitcom"). And I'm pretty sure James Cameron was the second AD. Why not? I don't think he had anything better to do at the time...
I met people who were happy to be there and revved up about the industry, and jaded, miserable folks who should probably seek out other careers. I found myself somewhere in between. "Content" would be the best way to put it. After all was said and done, though, I'd had enough fun that I decided to try to land another gig.
Ah, yes. It's about time I got around to writing about this! It's been, without a doubt, the activity my friends and family are most interested in hearing about. I had a bit of cash saved up before I moved out here, so I was able to play a little bit before "buckling down" and finding a "real job." I decided to skip on down to Central Casting and sign on to be an extra- sorry, "background actor." That's right; I just basically implied that being an extra is not a "real job." Also, I used a semicolon. Read on THAT!
Granted, some people have managed to make it such, and I applaud their success (and wonder how much Top Ramen they must eat), but it is NOT for the faint of heart. Often times referred to as "dots" or "blurs," extras are treated with absolutely zero respect. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect respect (soon to be a new hit song), but here I am referring to such an extreme lack of respect that you don't even feel like a human being. The props are quite literally treated better than you are. As a non-union extra, you make $8 an hour to stand on your feet all day, often in uncomfortable attire, and to be shushed like a five year old every time you yawn, sneeze, or say "hi" to your fellow extras. But if it's worth it to you to have a little bit of yourself attached to a project or to see that star you always wanted to meet, read on:
Here's how it works: you go down to "Central" at the most inconvenient time on a weekday morning. You listen to their spiel. You stand in a long-ass line with dozens of other Hollywood hopefuls. You register with them (SSN, DLN, W-2, height, measurements, dress size, special talents, car type, "how far will you go," the works). You stand in another long-ass line. You stand in front of a camera (about as sophisticated as the DMV) and get a picture taken. One. You do not get to see said picture. They hand you a packet of papers and give you a phone number to call. You call said phone number. Again. And again. MANY times per day. You listen to pre-recorded job postings and hope to hear one that sounds like something you match and that is something you might actually like to do. You listen to the WHOLE THING because often they only want your car, or your specific breed of dog, or they want you to jump into a swimming pool with all of your clothes on (repeatedly) or shave your head or be a professional soccer coach or a biker or stripper or something (yes, I've heard all of these) and they seem to want to put this critical information last. You call another number to talk to the agent that posted this call. This number will be busy. Always. (I guess a lot of people fit "non-union woman between the ages of 21 to 71.") You call again and again and again (because you have nothing better to do) or you pay $75 a month to have someone else do it for you (keeping in mind that you will still only make $8/hour when they find you work). IF you get the gig, they will give you almost NO information about where it is or what you will be doing or how long it will take because again, you have nothing better to do and can put everything else on hold. If you don't get the gig (after all of that), you spend the next several hours worrying that you sneezed or a bug landed on your face in that headshot you never got to see. They give you yet another number to call the night before your job. You call that number (note: get a phone plan with unlimited minutes). They pre-scold you for being late and/or not having everything you need. They tell you to bring your own clothes and often something you would never own and will need to buy (i.e. pantyhose). You try to sleep the night before because your call time is often early in the morning (6:15AM) or late at night (10PM), running until early in the morning. You fight traffic to get to set on time. You fail. You park as far away as possible from the set. You arrive and check in with the 2nd AD or a PA who will either ignore you or call you sweetheart. You go sit in "holding" which is often a tent with a bunch of metal folding chairs in it. You talk to some cool people and a couple of crazy folks. They tell you to be quiet. They tell you to go to costume, hair and makeup, all three of which will tell you to go away because no one is really going to see you and they don't want to waste their time. You swallow sadness and immerse yourself in a good book. You get called to set. They tell you to be quiet. A lot. Even if the crew is making all of the noise, they will blame the "background talent" for the hammering. You do your thirty seconds of bad "casual conversation" pantomime. You feel good because you SWEAR the camera is, like, totally right on you the whole time! They feed you (usually). You finish your "day." You go home and tell all of your family and friends to tune into whatever show at whatever time. A week later, you get a paycheck for approximately $80 for ten+ hours of work. Your episode airs or your film is released. Two people report possibly seeing the back of your head for half a second. One of them is your mother. It turns out that it was not your head, but you don't tell anyone that. You swear you are never going to do it again. Two weeks later, you call the pre-recorded line and start the process all over again. This time you just know you're going to get that SAG voucher!*
However, like all experiences, crappy or otherwise, being an extra expands my library of fun stories to tell, and I shall share them here- with pictures (where possible)! You know, someone should make a television show based on their experiences as an extra. It might be really funny! They could get awesome actors to guest star. Ooh, ooh! I'd love to see Ian McKellan do something on a show like that...
(*You need to get three vouchers before you can join the Screen Actor's Guild, which is every non-union extra's dream. Once you have your vouchers, you pay SAG a large sum of money and then you can actually begin making a more livable wage from doing "background" work.)
That's my dog, Pixol. This picture was taken at LAX. She is sitting in her soft dog carrier (read: celebutante dog purse) after having made me chase her through the concourse, knowing neither "come" nor "stay." What's a Pixol, you ask? Why, a pixol is a three-dimensional pixel in Z-Brush. A Pixol is also my dog. Why Pixol and not Pixel? Because my dog has three legs. Ba-dum tish. And what a good way to kick off my FAQ! Whenever I take my little one out for a walk in our Santa Monica neighborhood, we are bombarded with questions and comments concerning her handicapability. I decided to create this FAQ and direct people here to make our lives a little easier. In descending order of frequency:
MY DOG, AN FAQ
Q. Oh my God! He only has three legs! A. This is not a question. It's a (rude) statement. I already knew that. And he is a she. But thanks for pointing that out. You're good at seeing stuff.
Q. What happened to its leg? A. Wait... what? Where's your... bad dog! Bad dog!! Let's go back to the dog park...
Q. No, seriously, what happened to her leg? A. Shark fight. You should see the other guy.
Q. Are you only going to give sarcastic answers to these questions? A. Mostly. Actually, she was hit by a car and it had to be amputated. There. Don't you think "shark fight" is way cooler?
Q. Was she "like that" when you got her? A. Yes, I adopted her with a missing leg. And yes, "good for me" for taking her in. I am awesome and the angels smile upon me.
Q. Aww... well she gets along just fine, doesn't she? A. No, she doesn't. It's a daily struggle, and I'll thank you not to bring it up again. Actually, yes. She doesn't even seem to notice. She slips on the hardwood floor, but then so do I after a glass of wine. Of course, I only have two legs, so you be the judge of who is more coordinated...
Q. Are you ever going to get her a prosthetic? A. If I ever feel that she needs one, absolutely. Or if I ever want her to be a pirate for Halloween. I will go as her parrot. It will be awesome.
Q. How long have you had her? A. It's funny how often people ask me this question. Is this a question asked of all dog owners or only the owners of dogs with missing legs?
Q. Does it ever bother her? A. Not really. I mean, when she gets tired of walking she just flies. Like everyone.
Q. What's her name mean? Why didn't you name her Tripod or Hoppy or Stumpy or some other stupid thing? Heh heh. A. I don't know. Why didn't your parents name you Rude or Baldy McAsks-a-lot-of-dumb-questions? Isn't "Pixol" bad enough?
Q. Have you seen the dog with only two legs? A. OMG Yes!! It's the worlds cutest YouTube video and it made me cry liek a lawt. ^_^
Q. What kind of dog is she? A. She's a Chispangledoodle mix. And also part cat. Somehow.
So there you go. Everything you ever wanted to know about my dog. If you can think of any other questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments section.
You know that you are living in the land of celebrities when the local Whole Foods has a sign that says that you are not allowed to photograph people in the store. I’ve tried to train myself to notice the stars, but I only seem to notice them when someone is beside me and says, “hey, isn’t that so-and-so from such-and-such?” I also notice them on the set, if I happen to be working on their show or movie. Sometimes… I have been mistaken for a celebrity on a few occasions and it has really piqued my curiosity. I’d like to know who people think I am so that I know how to sign the napkin and ask for my “famous person” discount. Regardless, it is kind of fun to play with it. One year at the Cannes film festival, I put on my celebrity disguise (black t-shirt and jeans with a black baseball cap and sunglasses… not that this departs greatly from my usual attire) and had my friend take pictures of me as I was walking down the street, acting indignant. That turned a few heads.
Still, even as a non-celebrity, it’s a bit strange to think that there are actually people watching you as you go about your business. Just to say they saw you, say, at the local Pinkberry after their yoga class… Ohai, Fran Kranz. You were awesome in Dollhouse, luvyakbai! It does make life in LA-LA land kind of fun, though. I hope I don't tarnish the reputations of Jennifer Connelly, Jenna Fischer, Michelle Williams, Christina Ricci and other random celebrities whom I have been told (and don't believe) I resemble by walking down Rodeo Drive with my fizzy hair while eating copious amounts of chocolate and enjoying the company of a guy none of those women is reportedly dating (I'm talking to you, shirt-wearing Matthew McConaughey lookalike).
And yes, I can confirm that so-and-so is hot, that such-and-such is probably going to be canceled and that celebrity-couple-portmanteau will probably be breaking into their own pronouns soon, especially with the arrival/adoption of the baby. No one really thought it would last, anyway.
Warning: this post contains
spoilers no spoilers, actually. At least not to Lost. At least... not that I know...
So, I'm about ready to sink into a deep, dark depression. In case you have been living in a hole for six years or just refuse to partake in all things wholesome and good, I'll get you up to speed.
There's this little show called Lost. It was created by some guy named J.J. Abrams and then handed over to these guys named Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. It's about some folks who crash on an island and then some stuff happens over six seasons. Compelling protagonists. Complex antagonists. Mystery, intrigue, romance, drama, sci-fi and general mythology ensue and then it ends today.
It ends today.
In some ways, this makes me incredibly happy. I like endings. I don't like shows that stretch out for years based only on ratings and then suddenly come to an abrupt end when the sponsor gives up on it.1,2 In other ways, it makes me incredibly sad. I've really become attached to these characters. Quite a few things have ended recently. No more Harry and Hermione. No more Starbuck and the cylons. 1No more Hiro and Claire Bennett. 2No more Flash Forward. And now, no more Jack and Kate. Sigh. Comic-Con had better deliver me something geeky to obsess over this year or I might have to leave my house more often (or at least when Fringe is not on).
Since it is all over the internets and has become something of a pop-culture meme, I offer here my own Top Ten Lost Series Finale Spoilers:
- It's all just a dream. Vincent's dream.
- John Locke is Keyser Soze.
- The Island sees dead people, and it's YOU who has been dead the whole time!
- Turns out the whole thing is about Shannon, Boone, Nikki and Paolo.
- The hatch was actually a worm hole that connected to the Large Hadron Collider. And they blew it up! Those maniacs! Damn them. God damn them all to hell.
- Claire is Jack's sister! His mother! His sister! His mother! She's his sister AND his mother!!!
- There is no Island, only Zuul!
- Kate is actually a man. But it works out because Sawyer is actually a woman. So...
- "Dharma" is the name of his sled. It's also made of people. No, seriously. They wear jumpsuits and stuff.
- It's an alternate universe run by aliens who live in a black hole at the center of hell, can travel through time, have x-ray vision, and also everyone is dead and it's all about the Bible or some junk, but it's okay because it's all just Hurley's schizophrenic delusion.
Thanks for the ride, guys. I will forever carry my Dharma Initiative card in my wallet and the stories in my heart.
Okay, the Oscars were over a week ago. Yes, I knew Avatar wasn't going to win. Sci-Fi only really wins in VFX, makeup, sound mixing and the like* Yes, I'm ECSTATIC that a female won for best director for a very worthy film. It was weird to think they were taking place 20 minutes from my house (approximately 3.8 days with traffic) and that I had actually seen many of the winners in real life (most of them by grace of the awesome Jeff Goldsmith who hosts podcasts for Creative Screenwriting magazine, but also the crew of "The Cove" who actually debuted that film in Boulder, Colorado before I moved away). I wanted to post this before the awards, but here it is. A funny little anecdote:
So an experimental film friend of mine works at the Academy Archives. I’d heard him mention this before, but I always just thought of the job: archivist. I’d never once considered the place: The Academy. Probably some… like… military school or university or something? Didn’t matter to me. He works at an archive. I worked in preservation at a film lab. We spoke the same language and that was enough.
He invited me and my friend to explore some of cultural Los Angeles and catch a movie (which was followed by pie at Apple Pan- YUM, YUM and DOUBLE YUM).
We followed the directions. As we approached the building my companion said, “wait. Your friend works at the ACADEMY archives?”
Uh, yeah. Should I know what this means? I’m new to L.A., so probably not.
It wasn’t until after I entered the lobby, having gotten through a couple of security checkpoints and passing several displays housing Oscars, that I realized that the “Academy” was not referring to West Point. The Academy was referring to The Academy. The AMPAS. The one you would like to thank (along with your agent, significant other and hardworking crew). Oscars.
I tried to hide my embarrassment at my naïveté. What? The Academy Awards. So? I knew that. Like I care. Like… what? Like I host a party every year, glue myself to the E! channel and write my acceptance speech out in my head every time I finish a project? Pshaw! As if!
(*practices acceptance wave*)
It didn’t take long for me to completely geek out after that. We got a tour of the storage facilities and some of the screening rooms. It was pretty damn cool. Glamour aside, it was just cool from a technical standpoint. And it was cool from a temperature standpoint, it being a film storage facility and all that. (Ba-dum tish!) And *I* probably seemed pretty damn cool for appearing not to give a f&*% about it. Then again, I just blew that cool by divulging the truth here on this blog.
Me= clueless geek.
*interesting that Avatar won for best cinematography... I've already explained why that's cool to people who say "but it wasn't 'filmed.'" It was, actually- remember that there were also real actors and real sets on that film and that the lighting and camera on those sets needed to match exactly what was happening digitally. Not to mention that you still have to fuss over depth of field and all of that on the computer side AND make it match what you shot in reality... Discuss!
Why does this man make so much money? I can't answer this question for everyone, but I can answer it for me. I'm a girl who got her first SCUBA mask at 15 and got certified in a rock quarry in Pennsylvania in winter (which means I am both nitrox and dry suit certified, thank you very much). I cleaned animal poo at at veterinary clinic to fund my voyage to Sea Camp in San Diego at around that age. I can relate to his love of exploring the "alien" underwater world.
Further, as someone who lugged a 70 lb Cousteau-style underwater housing system for a 16mm Bolex through Brooklyn and Manhattan (via subways) and got scolded CONSTANTLY for making flip books out of science texts, drawing instead of taking notes, and recreating television sets in her desk (I'm not even exaggerating- ask my mom. It was the set of Moonlighting and I was about eight years old) I can relate to the love of art and movies. EVEN MORE, as someone who went back to school at the age of 25 for astrophysics because I fell in love with the images coming back from Mars and Titan, I can relate to the love of science fiction and space exploration. I offer here his presentation at TED. If I can have even 1/3 of the filmmaking adventures he has had, I will die a happy girl. I would love to bring my love of science together with my love of films. (I'm working on it. And I've all the confidence in the world that I can.)
I will gladly fork over the cash to see anything James Cameron does. I think that his scientific background is WHY he makes good SciFi movies. (Did you know that the glowing bioluminescent plants in Avatar are based on very simple creatures found right here off the coast of SoCal? It's not SciFi, it's just science re-appropriated.)
"Curiosity. It's the most powerful thing you own" "The respect of your team is more important than all the laurels in the world." "Failure is an option. But fear is not." Seriously... I love this guy.
OH... and by the way. I twittered this and posted it on my facebook page, but I was lucky enough to have seen Avatar WITH James Cameron and to hear him talk about it with his production designers at the end. It is not a requirement for a director to know everything about the technology (s)he is using, but he DOES. It is pretty clear that his production designers DO respect him. Since I also geek out about film technology, I should add that I FINALLY got to see the 3D system they were talking about when I was in Cannes, which made me a happy girl.
(I love how they are all squatting off the edge of my soda cup. I wasn't sure if I was allowed to take photos so I James Bonded it...)