Strike, days 94 and 95; Production, day 3

Our final day of shooting consisted mostly of chasing actors with cameras, my brief homage to Point Break. We also had our first and only company move — just two blocks, to a tiny medical clinic in Eagle Rock. One by one, we wrapped our actors, until we were left with just one regular and one guest star.1

At lunch, I gave my sincere thanks to a crew I really enjoyed working with. I’d long taken it as a given that production is stressful, but this honestly wasn’t. Yes, we had a bit of padding in the schedule, but we weren’t dawdling. It felt most like shooting Part Two of The Nines: a small, nimble crew and the freedom of constrained expectations.

Now we move on to editing. We’re cutting on Avid, but I’ve been using Final Cut Pro to check out footage as well. So far, I’m a fan of the P2. If we were shooting multiple episodes, we would need to find a slicker workflow, but our dumping-to-MacBook worked fine for this.

I’d hoped to make it to the picketing at NBC yesterday, but the cold I’d been medicating for the past few days took over. In the age of the internet, being sick doesn’t keep you from working, but it makes it hard to muster enthusiasm for much. I’m alternating DayQuil and Diet Coke in hopes of attending the WGA meeting tomorrow night, but that’s on the bubble.

Talking with writers last night, there was widespread belief that the end of the strike is approaching. And yet it doesn’t feel like the end — or more specifically, it doesn’t feel like what an end is supposed to feel like. There’s a profound lack of closure. Bob Fisher will shave his strike beard. I’ll have beer with my Van Ness crew. But you can’t throw a parade when there’s so much work to be done.

It’s going to be brutal trying to get the town started up, figuring out which movies are still happening, which TV shows are going to try to finish their seasons. You know when there’s a big evacuation — fire, hurricane — and the residents are finally allowed back to their houses? It will be like that. The first few days will be just about finding out what’s still standing.

I have six features in various stages of production and development, all of which will need tending in the first few days after we get back to work. Three months is a long break. I haven’t read a word in these scripts, or jotted a single note. I’ve forgotten half the phone numbers I used to be able to blind-dial. So going from stand-still to sprint is likely be rough.

  1. I realize how weird it sounds to call an actor in a short a “guest star.” The point is that if this were a series, he wouldn’t likely be in future episodes.

The Nines drinking game

Saw a link to this in the comments section at IMDb.

1 drink every time someone drinks
1 drink every time someone says “Nine”
1 drink every time you see the number nine or can make the number nine from something on screen
1 drink every time you see a pug dog or a picture of one
1 drink every time you see the main character’s green friendship bracelet

Note: I don’t actually recommend this, because you’ll probably get alcohol poisoning.

Strike, day 93; Production, day 2

With all eyes on yesterday’s primaries, the announcement of the big, bi-coastal WGA membership meeting this Saturday was easy to overlook. But it’s certainly a welcome development. It’s widely expected that the WGA boards will discuss the status of the agreement with the AMPTP, and outline the steps needed to get back to work.

I anticipate some uncomfortable questions and awkward moments. That’s almost a given at a meeting with 1,000+ people and open microphones. But I can plead for a little decorum. Specifically:

  • Dissent does not equal treason. You can disagree with anyone in the room or on the stage, but that doesn’t mean they’re a villain or a sell-out.
  • If someone else asks your question, or makes your point, sit down. Yes, you waited in line 20 minutes to get to the mic. But let someone else say something new.
  • The future takes precedence over the past. There are a lot of histories to be written about the strike, including alternate scenarios. These make interesting message-board discussions, but don’t play well as one-sided polemics.

In Los Angeles, the meeting is at the Shrine Auditorium — often home to awards shows, but also the stage where I got my USC diploma. I’m planning on working the phone banks at the WGA mothership on Friday, so if you’re a member, there’s a chance I may be calling you to encourage you to come to the pow-wow.

Much of yesterday’s shooting on the web pilot was constrained to a narrow kitchen, which reminded me again why traditional TV comedies have unrealistically-sized rooms. Another challenge: this show has a lot more characters in a scene than The Nines did, which inevitably slows down the work as you connect eye-lines and coverage. But it went smoothly, and we got our last shots just as the sun went down.

Today, we have a late call — 11:30 a.m. — and wrap production after dark.

Strike, day 92; Production, day 1

Instead of picketing, I spent today in production on the short-film-slash-web-pilot, details of which I’m keeping infuriatingly mum so that there’s some tiny bit of surprise when I can start showing it to people.

Today went really, really well. We’re shooting two cameras — the HVX-200’s I was all a-twitter over before they came out — with six actors in challenging sets. It’s a very different kind of shooting than The Nines, looser and less planned, with many departments and amenities absent but (largely) unmissed.

I’m tired, but happy tired, which is a huge difference.

Tomorrow, call time is 7 a.m. We’re wrapping early to allow cast and crew to vote in the California primary elections.

Added: I got the same email all WGA members got this evening, with word of important progress but significant points still to be resolved. So don’t pop corks just yet. But that’s not to say you couldn’t stockpile a few bottles. And get email addresses for those folks you met on the picket line.