Monday, April 12, 2010

H&H Part 11 Kaplan's bad news and the actors arrive

The network sends a 4-page memo on Kaplan's 4th rewrite of his script, Episode 11 which will be filmed in two weeks. They tell us we're all wonderful and they're excited.

Excited is a commonly used word in the film business as in "I'm excited". It's along the lines of "Trust me".

Then they proceed to rip Kaplan's script to pieces. Kaplan's face pales but he tries to shrug it off when the network suggests someone else rewrite it in order to get a shooting script in time to film it.

None of us want to, not me, not Rino and not Jonathan. The decision will be made tomorrow and I suspect Rino will do it, that's what he's here for, to fix things.

I've heard the actors are arriving today and they'll be at the Mountainview, a restaurant bar that has become our official hangout, much to the joy of the Greek owner. While there is a ski resort here, it's at least 6 hours drive from the nearest city so week-day nights are pretty dead.

I show up and recognize Todd Lander, the male lead. He's a mid-range working actor who was a co-star in a western series. It's always strange how someone can be a lead in a series and get all the attention, and then once the show's cancelled, they're out there hustling for jobs like all the other out-of-work actors, waiting in the same hallways and offices for work.

Of course, writers aren't far behind them. We don't get the same attention, as audiences rarely care who the writers are. They know stars and Steven Spielberg.

Lander and I are both from LA so we have some common ground, he tells me he met Kaplan who told him thathe felt our series is modeled after Gunsmoke, something I suggested to Kaplan way back in Vancouver. Now it's his idea.

Gunsmoke was one of my favorite shows and it was on for nearly 23 years, one of the longest running 1 hour shows in TV history. What made it work was that it wasn't about the lead players, rather it focused on someone coming into town, Dodge City, who had "baggage" as I like to say. In other words they brought something good to town, or more likely something bad. And that's when the regulars on the show got involved.

Our show could work on that level. If we had better producers and better scripts. But I still have hope.

Rino shows up and Jonathan, once again looking ill or hungover. Then the alliances begin, as anyone knows from Survivor. Rino establishes a rapport with Lander. Writers often try to get actors on their side so that if the director or producer resists something in the script, the actor will come to their aide.

And actors do the same. After all, we're the ones who write what they will say.

Jonathan seems in another world, he stumbles abit with his words and Lander glances at me as though to say "he's the head writer?" I feel for Jonathan, he's not a bad guy, he just seems burned out and unhappy.

The other actors show up, a Native American, Ramon, who I saw a few years ago starring in Mel Gibson's movie Apocolypto. He's friendly and gracious and lives near Santa Fe. Then there's Macy, a model-turned actress, also friendly, a little apprehensive but willing to learn. Macy will, later on the show give me one of the best compliments I have ever had.

The one actor missing of course the real star, Erica, she who was a major star in Hollywood with the likes of Paul Newman, Peter Sellars and . She'll show up in a few days.

The director of the first episode appears as does Mahon the co-producer and Kaplan. They sit,appropriately, on the other side of the table. Ramon offers a suggestion to Jonathan to change his character name from Sam to Max. Jonathan mumbles and totters a bit, everyone at the table is beginning to realize he's drunk.

Then the director points out the crewmembers are sitting across the restaurant eating their dinners, where the director feels they rightly belong being "below the line" that term that delineates the creative people like us from the working "grunts" like them.

While I've had my arguments with crew, I still respect what they do and support then when I can, at least if I think they being made fun of.

But the highlight of the evening comes with the arrival of the Monahan sisters, Lauren and Marilyn. They are both blonde knockouts and are well known by our crew. Lauren is an assistant production designer helping the bearded production designer. Marilyn is an assistant.

They seem friendly enough, each is different, Lauren is wound a little tighter, more serious, feels she's in a man's world and fighting it, while Marilyn is more friendly with a sense of humor, although there seems to be some darkeness behind those eyes. Both do enjoy the attention, although Lauren would deny it.

Together they are quite a potent pair and every guy in the place notices them. "You're drooling", says Karen, the accountant. She laughs and tells me it's always like this when the sisters work on a film or TV series. Karen's learned to enjoy it.

Later, walking on the way home, I see Marilyn and the lead actor Lander walking and talking, I guess he's not wasting his time, although he has a wife in Los Angeles. I try to avoid them and walk to my hotel when Marilyn calls me, she's left Lander and heads to me, joking about my seeming aloofness.

She is even more striking up close, and I begin a pattern with her that continues even to this day. I stumble and stammer trying to find something to talk about and usually say something really stupid.

I feel like I'm doing a bad Woody Allan but when I'm around her I felt like a nervous 15-year old. And on the occasion when we're in the same part of the world, I still act like that.

She has that effect.

Now the show is coming to life. Now we become a community of sorts, there will be fights, alliances, love, affairs, lies, betrayal, humor, adventure, illness, sadness, frustration, friendship made and friendship lost. 

I'm excited.

(Wed: The Stars come to life)