My first personal encounter with Erica in the bar was somewhat unexpected. She sat next to me and leaned in to say "Ah, the Writers, the storytellers". With that she had me on her side even more. While I've had experience with aging divas, Erica seems okay, she's friendly, smart and she knows the business.
And she has new breasts.
Erica pushes up her breasts, covered by a sweater and asks if I like them. I stumble a bit, she laughs, and I manage to say "They seem fine". She answers, "they ought to, they cost enough".
Unlike those of us who try to sound tough, she has proven herself on the field of battle in this often wicked business. Then she tells us her side of the Travel Day with my actor friend Paul and the driver, her side is as funny as Paul's. She has the attention of the table as she does this and I decided to leave as I had to work early.
Erica immediately announces that I hadn't said goodbye to her and I assured her it wouldn't happen again. She laughed and leaned over to kiss me on the cheek. I stay for another beer and her stories of being a young girl in post-war Germany, peppered with some nice bad words are quite honest and revealing.
She mentions the subject of being German in Hollywood and the occasional Nazi name-calling which surprises me. At this point the director, drunk, makes some off-color German jokes as well, making a fool of himself.
I finally leave and see the serious sister, Lauren and talk to her, much easier than trying to talk to Marilyn, her sister. Lauren confides that Kaplan screws up things for the art department and she wonders how he ever got the job. So do I
But even Lauren's presence beauty isn't enough to keep me awake and I escape to the quiet of walking back to the hotel noticing there still is snow on the ground and we need it for our first episode.
Working on a movie or series is like being at a family reunion in many ways. There are people you know, people you've heard of and people you meet for the first time. The work is intense, sometimes 12 to 14 hours a day for some of the crew.
This intensity ends in strong bonds among the crew, very family like in that they get along most of the time and other times want to kill each other (figuratively of course). Add to that the fact that we are on location as well, friends and family are at least a 6 hour drive and in some cases across the country.
Unlike regular workers, film people work in spurts, a month here, three months there and a lot of unemployment so the intensity of relationships ramps up to fit that short period of time of work. And the relationships are fairly spread all over the crew for the most part although there is a separation between above the line and below the line. Above is the creative end, writer, director, producer. Below the line essentially is everyone else.
And it's similar to workers and executives and, depending on the production and the producer can be a good experience or a bad one.
Writers have their own little world as well, as mentioned, we are the only ones who, for the most part, work alone. Nobody ever sees us work, they see us in the office or sometimes on the set, but mostly they don't really know how we do what we do. All they care to know is that we can make their jobs hard or easy.
I remember one show that was filming in Vancouver and I had come out to the set around 10pm and, as it is common in Vancouver, it was raining. Trucks were lined up along the street, tarps were set up to repel the rain and the crew and actors were hustling around.
At that moment, I realized that they were all out there because I had sat in the comfort of my office and typed five simple words:
EXT. CITY STREET - RAINING - NIGHT
Those words took me less to do than it took you to read them. I could have written DAY or INT. or anything else. But I chose this.
And now about 50 people were cold and wet and making a movie.
Can that be considered the power of the pen (or computer)?
(Mon: More trouble in River City)