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November 2009

Home Sweet Home, For A Minute Anyway

As mentioned previously, it's been a surreal week. One week ago today I was getting on a charter flight from Ouarzazate to London. Here's your visual:


Before getting on the plane, I had a refreshing snack. Well, the coke was refreshing but the chips were awful. Took two bites and threw them out. 


I did keep the coke bottle and now use it as a water bottle at home.

Friday night I was at the pub called The Pillars of Hercules in Soho -- such a dramatic name for a pub! Outside was a mini photo shoot going on so I took a snap of the lovely model.


The next morning I flew back to Los Angeles. This was the beautiful sight that greeted me on our final approach. HOME!


We landed and parked, but then had to get onto buses to go to the Tom Bradley terminal. We walked under our own plane -- a Boeing 777. Very impressive when you are under it!

Now I'm gone again -- Kurt and I are in North Carolina for Thanksgiving with friends. It's relaxing here, no rush, nothing much to do except enjoy good company and food and wine, play games, listen to music, play some wii. We'll be home on Saturday to relieve the cat sitter. Then I'm off again on Monday for a week of location scouting in Montana/Oregon. When I get home on that Friday night, I'm home home home for quite a while. How nice it will be to put the suitcases away.

I have that John Denver song in my head, "Leaving on a jet plane." 


Weigh in Monday

Cute-baby-pandaI got on the scale this morning, prepared for the worst. I thought I'd put on at least 5 pounds what with all the Guinness, bread and bread. Did I mention the bread? 

To what did my wondering eyes appear?


Exactly the same as when I left. Shocking!!

So I'm pleased and will continue to work my way down that scale now that I have much better control over my eating options.

All The Little Things...

I can now, finally:

Wear anything I want out of my wardrobe.

Go to Zankou Chicken or Versailles. (Okay, that's just what I'm craving at this moment.)


Text Kurt on my iPhone (I was cheap and didn't do a data plan while away)

Do my own laundry.

Make my own coffee. (OMG this is huge.)

Not have to do math when making phone calls. (4 is 8 for LA and 7 is 9 for Hawaii, etc)

Pet the cats! 

There is much more, but these things are top of the list for the moment.

Yay to be home!

Oh but then I leave again on Tuesday for Thanksgiving (friends in No. Carolina) and then back Saturday. Then gone again on Monday for a location scout for another project. Back five days later. Then home to stay...

Surreal, Really

I'm sitting in Heathrow, in the biz class lounge (thank you very much) drinking my Pret A Manger latte and waiting for my flight back home. Two days ago I was standing in the desert in Morocco. Yesterday I sat in an office in Oxford Street in Central London. Last night I had a few pints with people I met while standing on set in Mexico City three years ago.

Film making is a strange and wacky business.

One of the strangest parts is when you wrap, the job is over for most people on set (some people have a bit of packing up to do for another day or so) and you all just say good-bye. Sometimes there is a wrap party. Sometimes there is a flight home with everyone (as was the case on this as we flew a charter plane back to Belfast then London.) But you go a million miles an hour, all night, all day, weather be damned and suddenly, Poof! It's all gone. You make a few new friends on Facebook and sincerely hope to see them all again. I do anyway. (See the above about having pints with friends from Mexico City...)

But now comes the other half of my job and with it, a different set of issues and a lot less fun every day (though I'll need fewer layers). It's just not the same to say "Oh for fuck's sake!" the way Paul does when he's not around to laugh with. Or chatting and chuckling with Sean as I place tracking markers on the greenscreen and he holds the ladder. Or looking across video village to Andrea and doing that Eddie Izzard "Yes!" "No" head shake thing and then laughing hysterically. Hearing Katrina's sweet voice answering my call with "Hello lovely lady!"  Sean B and Sean G always calm and relaxed and helping me out with a laugh or smile. 

What a great group. I'm grateful for the crew I got to be a part of.

And I'm even more grateful to get home.  

(But I won't miss the coffee.)

Let's Talk About Nights

The first time I worked nights was in 2001 on Kate and Leopold. We spent quite a few nights on top of and under the Brooklyn Bridge. It was March and April and it was cold. Having worked at Imageworks for years before, I had not been on set much at all. Most of the jobs I worked on were post production only. Even Contact, which I started in pre-production, was so heavily digital that we had to start shots as we started shooting so I never really left the building as I had to manage the FX crew in-house. When they shot parts across the street at the Culver Studios, I would pop over to look from time to time, but otherwise, chained to my desk.

So when I broke free from corporate life, I was not so prepared for life on set, clothing wise. (Let's recall the lesson about layers.) Especially night life on set. The first night we worked was only a partial night, thank the gods. Robert and I both were underdressed and the next morning we RAN to an outdoor store and bought supplies. I got my Patagonia shell and a fleece vest and I think a capeline undershirt. We did better the next few nights. Oh and did I mention it was raining? Didn't have my rustly pants then.

When we started work on Geisha and I knew I would be working in Northern California in January, standing at the ocean, I did some research and got the layers I have now and was quite comfortable when we did shoot nights on that one. 

Nights throw you off in all the obvious ways -- I end up sleeping less just because I can't get a comfortable rest when you go to sleep at 6 or 7am. Then you get up all groggy and get ready and go right back to work. When you work days, even if it's been a long long day (as they tend to be) you can still come back, have a bite to eat, check email or watch a bit of tv, then sleep. But when you come back at 6 or 7, you just fall into bed. (I do anyway, some people would eat breakfast then sleep.)

When you get to set and start work, it's not so bad as you are busy. The fact that you are working all night doesn't really hit you until about 5 or 6. And the next night, same thing. I've been lucky to only work on shows that had only a few nights of shooting. I remember watching the movie Collateral with Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise and about 20 minutes in thinking -- holy crap this whole move was NIGHT SHOOTS! Horrifying to me. When I read the script for Vantage Point, I was so pleased to realize there were no nights as the whole thing took place during the day. 

The funny film crew thing about working nights is that when you arrive on set at 5 or 6 or 7 pm everyone still says "Good morning!" And often the caterers will be serving breakfast, then lunch then dinner type snacks or food as you get close to wrap. 

And when you work in a place like Morocco where the temperature gets very cool at night, you have to bring layers. But unlike Belfast, you don't start out wearing them all. When we started here at our call time, I would have maybe my icebreaker shirt on, then put on the black fleece after an hour or so. Then add a scarf, then my down jacket and rustly rain pants (which stop the wind and keep you warmer) then finally my outer shell jacket. But you have to carry all this with you and since we have nowhere to leave stuff (Unlike the camera and grip/rigging depts. who have trucks) it ends up in piles around you. Luckily, we do tend to perch near video village and since we make friends with the awesome video assist person (her name is Grace and she ROCKS) we could pile our bags and jackets around her equipment. Carrying them home after wrap is not an issue as now you are wearing it all.

Coming back to my room was just a comedy of "get all this off so I can go so sleep!" and I would stumble around trying to get my rustly pants off without taking my shoes off and almost fall over. Then I would have the pants halfway off and wrestle with my laces and pull the dusty dusty boots off then get the pants off. Jackets, scarfs, fleece layers would all be scattered around and when I woke up it was a pretty funny sight.

The best part about working nights in Morocco were the stars. Not the movie stars, the actual stars. You could stand a bit away from set and lights and stare up at all the gorgeous constellations. I haven't seen the stars like that since the last time I was home on Maui. 

But now the nights are over and we are packing up. The lobby is full of bleary eyed crew, piling up suitcases and checking out. All of us are happy to be heading home, in whatever that direction that might take us. 

Dusty Wrap

We wrapped at about 6:30 this morning. Love them night shoots. (More on night shoots later.) Normally when the sun is coming up I run for the bed, but today I stayed out at the hotel patio drinking wine and eating toast and laughing with some of the crew. I went to my room at 9am to get a few hours sleep.

I took this photo of my boots before hitting the hay.


They were pretty much dark blue when I bought them just a few short weeks ago. They have Northern Ireland and Scottish mud on them finished with a nice dusting of Morocco. All my clothes are oh so dusty now.

We had a wonderful wrap party which I ducked out of very early as I'm SO tired. In fact, jammies are coming on now and I'm going to sleep. 

Home soon. Hooray!

Bits and Bobs

My 2nd to last Guinness from the other night. Good-bye wonderful Guinness!


Current hotel room. Lots of room to spread out! Nice.


My "desk" in the room. It's wee.


That restaurant!


View from my patio. Good morning Ouarzazate!


It's dry here.

So far I have learned to say hello, please, thank you, and you're welcome in both arabic and berber. I enjoy surprising people when I use my new phrases in their language. 

Now on to work!

Let's Talk About Layers

When you work in the film biz, you must be prepared for all kinds of weather, on set and off, inside studio stages and on locations. We were working the other day and it was raining. A civilian was nearby and asked me, "Do you stop when it starts raining like this?" It was all I could do not to laugh. I politely said "No."

So you have to be ready.

On our coldest/wettest days here is what I wore:

Socks -- two layers. A thinner liner sock and a fatter smartwool type sock. Never wear cotton!

Legs/lower body -- thermal underwear (I have patagonia capilene medium weight), fleece pants (by Mountain Hardwear) and then wind breaker/rain outer pants. (The rustley ones.) These three layers keep me very warm, though in anything less than freezing, I might need thicker versions of the thermals and fleece.

Upper Body -- I had two daily versions of warm on top. One is my bright pink, medium weight Icebreaker wool (thin) sweater. Icebreaker clothing is phenomenally warm and makes great layers. On top of that I had a thin fleece layer, then my Land's End medium down jacket and on top of that, my Patagonia outershell/raincoat. My second daily version would be capilene undershirt (silk weight), my pink and white "stripey jumper" of cashmere and a fleece vest. Then the Land's End down jacket and the P outer shell.

There would always be a scarf, whether it was a fleece one (fast dry, very warm) or a pretty wool one, depending on my mood.

I had fingerless wool gloves that were good most times I needed gloves. (Still had to use my fingers to write.) I might get better fleece fingerless gloves for the next project. 

And a hat. I have a Mountain Hardwear wind stopper hi-tech hat. I have not had to wear it yet, but have loaned it out a few times. I've only worn my bright blue earmuff/headband to cover my ears and keep my hair out of my eyes in the wind.

The one thing I haven't quite sorted out is the shoes. I bought a new pair of boots here because I brought my lower hiking type shoes but realized they would not work as well. The boots are waterproof and generally comfy, but if I need serious winter protection, I don't think they will do. Need to look into that for next year.

You can never assume it's going to be warm or dry when shooting in fall/winter in places that are known for rain and weather. Always carry as much extra protection as you just never know. And even in LA when you are shooting on a huge soundstage in winter, it will be COLD in those giant cavernous buildings. Cold. 

All these layers makes one look like the Michelin Man and there are days when it's really hard to find people on set because everyone looks the same with their dark colored clothing with hoods. You have to go around and look into everyone's face to find who you need. Occasionally someone wears a had or jacket of a bright color and that is handy.

Now if they only made waterproof paper.