Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday's Tales from the Set

Hey guys!  Sorry about being MIA, just been crazy busy y'all, but more on that soon enough.  Instead, allow me to present the first installment in my new regular Tuesday feature:

Tales from the Set

In which I get REAL, y'all, on the nitty gritty of what work, life and love looks like behind the scenes of a Hollywood set.  And I'm not just being alliterative with the love part, just so you know.  Twice now, I have come across cast or crew members having sex somewhere on set (I KNOW I WAS SHOCKED TOO *STABS EYES WITH FORKS AND PEEKS SLIGHTLY BECAUSE ONE OF THEM WAS REALLY HOT*).  No, but seriously.  Thank God that whole Rapture thing didn't pan out, because I'm telling you, the televangelists are right about us.  When the End comes, us Hollywood types are totally getting Sodom and Gomorrah'd.

Now, I'm sure most of you have at some point or another said to yourselves: "Self?  I wonder how my good buddy Kalen metamorphosized from a naive little Hollywood wannabe to a full-fledged Hollywood  Butterfly whohasneverthelessstillnotmanagedtogetanoticeablerole."

And if you haven't asked yourself that question YOU ARE NO LONGER INVITED TO MY BIRTHDAY PARTY.  You know.  Next year.  When I turn twenty five again.

But I'm just going to assume you all are coming, and tell you a story about Little Pupa Kalen the Actor's first steps on the road to being a full-fledged Hollywood Butterfly whohasneverthelessstillnotmanagedtogetanoticeablerole.

It's called "Kalen's First Day On Set."

It's otherwise known as: "How Kalen Almost Cost Production Tens of Thousands of Dollars His First Day On Set."


Sips water.

Adjusts tie.

Once upon a time, an ambitious, well-intentioned and utterly clueless aspiring actor named Kalen arrived in HOLLYWOOD.  Capital of the entertainment industry, city of glamour, fame and fortune, the place where dreams come true.  He strode down the star-studded Hollywood Boulevard, gazing around him, wide-eyed at the wonder of it all, until a passing car splashed muddy rain water all over his Clearly Not Designer Clothes and he realized catching pneumonia your first day in town does not make for the most auspicious career beginning.

So he moved on to hovering around Starbuck's in the areas Big Fancy Agent Types were said to frequent, waiting for someone to recognize his Obvious Brilliance and Pending Fame and Fortune.

This continued for a couple of weeks.

Our intrepid hero was a real go-getter however, so soon enough ascended from Street Corners to the next rung of the Hollywood Ladder.


It was there, after several false starts involving Large Overweight Hollywood Stereotypes Who Seemed to Think This Was A Date, that our hero came across the secret entrance way to the Actor's Inner Circle and Pending Fame and Fortune.

A magical place, known only as....

Central Casting.

*Your narrator pauses to allow his audience time to make the appropriate oohs and ahhs of wonder*

Central Casting, he learned, was the largest casting agency for extras in Hollywood.  They supplied ninety percent of all the movies and TV shows filming in LA with extras or 'background artists'...those people you see in the background of your favorite shows and movies, just doing random every day things to make a scene feel real and large as life.  It was the perfect place for a Famous Actor In Training!  They could get him on every set in Hollywood where you could see first hand how things worked behind the scenes.  He'd learn the difference between a director, a director of photography, and assistant directors.  He'd learn magical words and phrases like 'Check the gate', 'martini's up' and 'first team flying in!'  It was the best way to earn his union eligibility, and there existed the slim, fragile hope that he might even be DISCOVERED.

Standing in line at Central Casting, waiting for his photo to be taken, he heard all the stories.  About how Charlize Theron was an extra when the director picked her out of a line-up and gave her a role.  About how Brad Pitt was actually fired from Central Casting for sneaking off set to go to an audition - and two weeks later booked his first movie.  So many stories!  So many possibilities!

So when our hero called the Casting hotline that night and right away booked a job as an extra on a major primetime crime procedural show for the very next day - oh the excitement!  He was on his way!  He would show up on set, bright and early, and his Obvious Brilliance and Pending Fame and Fortune would take it from there!

Fate however, had other plans.

His call time the next day was five am, and as he drove through fog-shrouded streets on his way to another mystical land known as CBS Radford studios, it occurred to him that bright was perhaps not the best descriptor - though early fit it well enough.  It also occurred to him, as he circled the studio five times, that there were an awful lot of entrances to CBS Radford, and he had absolutely no idea which to enter or where to go upon entering.

This was, to say the least, unforeseen.

So after trying ALL THE GATES and only discovering the right one on his last attempt, it was five after five when he finally parked his car and ran quick-like-a-bunny to the bungalow the Less Than Helpful Security Guard had directed him to.  His heart beat like a jackhammer as he struggled with the three changes of wardrobe he'd been instructed to bring for Various Unfathomable and Possibly Occult Reasons.  Clearly this was the first of his Trials to test his worthiness for Pending Fame and Fortune.  He could not fail!  And so when he arrived at the bungalow just in time to see a Production Assistant leading a herd of extras down the street, instructing them all to grab a chair and follow him, our hero did the only reasonable thing.  He grabbed a chair and followed the pack, hoping his tardiness had gone unnoticed.

Luck was with him!  For when they stopped at the 'holding area', he was one of the first ten to be picked out by the PA and instructed to go to set!  Eureka!  Not only had his near-gaff been completely overlooked, he was one of the CHOSEN ONES.  Surely this meant great things!  Lots could be read into this!  His future Bel-Air mansion awaited him!

However, after the first four hours of standing around a cramped Hollywood setting cleverly gimmicked to look like a New York night club, he couldn't help but notice that all the tales of Hollywood glamour had left out some very key details about Being An Actor.

The first was the temperature.  Surrounded on all sides by huge whopping lights that could only be characterized as miniature suns, our hero quickly learned that being on set was synonymous with BEING HOT AS FUCK THE ENTIRE FREAKING DAY AND OMG HOW COULD IT POSSIBLY BE THIS HOT WITHOUT DEFYING THE LAWS OF PHYSICS.  As sweat drenched his shirt, he prayed for deliverance from the hellish heat - and then the director called cut, the lights were switched off, and the sound stage's AC kicked in, blasting the set with sub zero temperatures.

That was the day our hero grew to hate the phrase: "Be careful what you wish for."

The second detail the tales of Hollywood glamour had left out was that Hollywood does not like noise.  It frowns upon it, in fact.  Or in most cases, yells.  Apparently - shocking as it may seem - sound stages are in part named for well...sound.  As in, it carries.  And so it turned out that acting involved a lot of standing around being completely silent for several hours at a time, because on a sound stage, hearing any sound OTHER than what his actors are saying in scene is the kind of thing that makes a director Very Very ANGRY.

That was the day our hero learned he doesn't like when directors are angry.

The third detail the tales of Hollywood glamour had left out was that acting is hard freaking work.  This too, was unforeseen.  But as hours of performing the same actions over and over in EXACT repetition set in, along with the effort it apparently took to manifest the same amount of energy in the same facial expressions every time the camera swung his way - all so the director could have multiple takes and then match the same actions from different angles when the cameras were moved to capture the turnaround shots - it started to sink in that the ease of this career had perhaps been somewhat exaggerated.  Especially when our hero considered how much more difficult it probably was for the ACTUAL actors, the ones reciting the same lines over and over and conveying ACTUAL emotion and having the cameras on them FOR EVERY FREAKING SECOND OF THOSE HOURS AND HOURS.

That was the day our hero first contemplated a career change.

And then, disaster struck.

During the lunch break about half way through the day, he checked his voice mail to see if anyone had called him in the eight hours since he'd started working.

It turned out Central Casting had called him about twenty times, asking in increasingly angry tones where he was and why wasn't he on set and this was EXTREMELY unprofessional and his standing with them was in serious jeopardy.

Our hero was understandably alarmed, and experienced a momentary existential crisis.  He had THOUGHT he was right there, on set, but apparently that was somewhat in question.  He hurriedly called Central Casting and insisted upon both his existence AND his presence on set.

Then the casting director asked if he'd checked in.

....Checked in with whom, our hero asked?

There was an audible sigh, and the casting director asked whom he'd gotten his voucher from.

Our hero was forced to admit that he did not in fact HAVE a voucher, and wasn't exactly sure what one was.

There was a definite groan then, and after telling him to stay put, the casting director hung up the phone.

A mere thirty seconds later, the PA angrily strode into the holding area waving a small white voucher and demanding to know who this Kalen O'Donnell person was.

With increasing foreboding, our hero reluctantly admitted that was most likely him though he wasn't one hundred percent certain.  Due of course to his current existential crisis and the fact that he suspected from the PA's expression that it perhaps wasn't in his best interests to BE Kalen O'Donnell at that particular moment.

Then he learned that a voucher is the small piece of white paper that tells the production both that you are in fact, there and accounted for, and how much you are owed for the day.  It's a very helpful piece of paper, and its VERY VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU HAVE IT IN HAND FROM THE SECOND YOU STEP ON SET.

In explaining why he had not actually checked in or received the all important voucher, our hero was forced to admit that there was a slim, small, slight possibility that he had been five minutes late.  When asked if he had ever been approved by wardrobe then, he was again forced to concede that there was an equally slim, small, slight possibility that he had not - and in fact had no idea what the phrase 'approved by wardrobe' referred to.

There was a moment then when it seemed that the PA might do bodily harm to our brave but stupid - oh so stupid - intrepid hero.

One flurry of activity later, a trio of the most bizarrely dressed women he had EVER seen swooped over and clucked in dismay over his attire.  Although he had THOUGHT he was wearing appropriate apparel for a New York night club scene, he was outvoted and apparently it was not at all what they would have put him in, had they seen him. NOT AT ALL.

And then, there was a small, stifled sound from one, almost like choking on a scream.  She clutched at her heart, and horrified, pointed to his chest.  He was wearing a logo!

That was the day our hero learned this was a VERY BAD THING.

For in our era of product placement and multi-million dollar endorsement deals, ANY visible sign or indication of a brand name must be carefully vetted and approved by production, as they can not risk lawsuits from the makers of products they aren't approved to use, promote or endorse on their shows.  Nor can they risk angering the makers of rival products who HAVE paid to have their product used, promoted or endorsed on their show or in their advertisements or commercial spots.

And yet, blindly, stupidly, our hero had been cavalierly promoting an un-endorsed shirt IN EVERY SINGLE SHOT.

For a moment, it seemed all was lost.

Would they have to reshoot?

In a panic, production quickly reviewed their footage, and to their vast relief, discovered that our hero was not actually visible in any of the final footage, despite his many hours of doing all the same work and showing all the same effort as every other, ultimately visible, extra.  Crisis averted, he was swiftly changed into more fitting attire, and production proceeded.  By the end of the day, nobody even remembered what he'd done.

And that was the day, dear readers, that our hero realized that he was in for a LOT of hard work, with absolutely no guarantee of reward.  And the very high likelihood that most, if not all, of his work might ultimately go largely unnoticed.

It was a sobering day.

But, it was merely the first day.  The first of many, and of many lessons to be learned, and many times of screwing up and almost costing production thousands of dollars.

Because, as our aspiring young actor soon came to realize and will share with you in weeks to come, Screwing Up and Costing Production A Metric Shit Ton of Money is something that happens every single day.  And despite the frequency of it happening, it is Never a Good Thing and to be avoided at All Possible Costs and that these are just two of the reasons why most actors are stressed, neurotic, raving lunatics.

Welcome to Tinseltown, Kalen O'Donnell.

We hope you survive your stay.


  1. hahaha, this was fabulous. Terrifying, but fabulous. OH KALEN. I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL YOU'RE A SUPER STAR AND I CAN SAY 'HEY, I KNOW THAT GUY!' XD

  2. Oh man! I was cringing the whole time. You are one brave soul. Now I know why celebrities resort to drugs and whatnot. Sheesh! I'll stick to my suburban lawns and plasma tv and be content watching actors entertain me. Thanks for sharing. I'm with Lori--if and when you MAKE it, I'll get to say "Hey, I know that guy!" and that's enough for me.

    Goodluck, dude!

  3. hahaha! always wanted to be an actress, so I'll live through you.

  4. FINALLY! Blogger has been acting goofy all night; I've visited everyone's blogs and tried to leave comments to no avail. It's about time... *stomps foot and rolls eyes* Hee

    Okay, ditto everything the ever shiny and lovely Lori said! And my fave Kalen line: Various Unfathomable and Possibly Occult Reasons. VUPOR. LOL.

    Bless you Kalen, for you not only gave me some insight into an alien world I hope NEVER to land upon, but as always, you told your tale with humility, humor, and most importantly, wisdom. As always, you are a class act, my friend. :)

    P.S. We've missed you in bloggersville and tweetland of late! Glad to see you're still among the living. I was starting to worry that you'd been taken by the same rapture circus clowns who snatched up Camping. *shudders*

  5. 'OMG HOW COULD IT POSSIBLY BE THIS HOT WITHOUT DEFYING THE LAWS OF PHYSICS.' Come on man, I had a mouth full of water! Not cool. So you got off to a good start, huh?
    - Sophia.

  6. Wow, what a story! Was the logo for something like "Joe's Bar: Poker in the Front. Liquor in the Rear."? If only....

  7. LOVE this! What a fun and fantastic glimpse into a world we "outsiders" rarely get to visit. This needs to be a book in and of itself!

  8. LOL! Jenny P's comment above was so HILARIOUS I had to comment again!! Oh, pony. How do you come up w/this stuff???

  9. @Lori - Ok, I'll hurry up with that but I'm only doing it for you!

    @cherie - yeah its sad watching it happen to others because - I totally get why it does.

    @Jenn - umm, YOU'LL live vicariously through ME? Hah!

    @Anita - I KNOW! Blogger is pissing me off of late! But sorry, missed you guys too, I'm never too far though!

    @Sophie - Sorry! At least it wasn't hot coffee! You could sue me! And oh yeah. Very auspicious beginning.

    @Jenny - HOW DID YOU KNOW?

    @ LisAnn - hey! been wondering where you were lately! And thanks, you never know!