Friday, February 26, 2010

No-No From The Get-Go

A few days ago, Justin asked me if I could help him on any days of the shoot he was on. It was a movie I shall call "Strippers' Revenge" and I couldn't find any days to help him except for Friday (today). He called me up to give me information on the shoot.

"Thanks again for helping, Nate," said Justin, "And it would be cool to work with you on a movie set again."
"No problem," I said, "I've been wanting to get back on a set."
Justin paused for a moment, "The shoot is at a strip club."
"...what?" I replied, "Seriously? The only day I'm available and it was the day they shoot at a Strip Club? That's crazy!"
"Yeah," laughed Justin, "I'll get the info to you. Where and when and all that."

The shoot was on Friday, and the call time was 6:00 am. It was at a "Gentleman's Club" called Rio. I was up at 4:00 am (staring off into space for most of the time that I got ready), and hit the road around 5:00. I got to Rio, parked, and met up with Justin. We walked around a bit as the crew started setting up.

The Rio was classy in a way that upscale prostitutes are classy. It just costs more, and the upkeep is better. All the walls, booths, and chairs were black. But the floor was entirely carpeted in tiger print. Each wall had a blown up picture of naked women, or at least a version of what Playboy must consider a woman, though they all looked like photoshop facsimiles. Like if Harry Flynt was able to mass produce Frankenstein brides. In the middle of the entire establishment was the Pole. From this pole sprang forth 90% of the money this place made every night. A ring of lights circled the stage, and I couldn't help but be amused at the thought that money was magically summoned forth by the ritual of naked women spinning around it. It was like a Pagan ritual to bring about good fortune. Except instead of pagan drums, they danced to Yin Yang Twins and Katy Perry.

Carissa, the Producer, was finally settled enough to go over our duties for the day, with Justin and Sean, another friend of ours. And as luck would have it, the place she decided to do a rundown was at the front desk of the Rio. And right above this desk is the blown up picture of a very naked woman. And Carissa is a very small woman, so she wasn't hiding ANY of the picture. I try not to be a typical male, but it was distracting.

"Okay, Nathan," explained Carissa, "The first thing we'll need is a food run. We need snacks, drinks, and fruit, to start off with."
"No problem," I said, feeling my eyes slowly drift up towards the picture.
"I'll have Justin do the coffee run," continued Carissa, "And Sean will keep an eye out for the extras."
"Sounds good," I confirmed, curious if that was a birth mark or a scar. No, it was definitely a birth mark...
NATHAN! EYES FORWARD! yelled my brain.

My higher mind and my basic mind were having an argument, all the while Carissa was telling me to pick up donuts and pita chips. The rest of the information was written down, which gave me a chance to focus. I then took off to pick up the supplies.
As I walked through Smart & Final, gradually picking off items on the grocery list, I got a call that Michelle Ryan needed Half & Half for her tea.

Oh, yeah, who's Michelle Ryan you may be asking? She was in a recent Doctor Who special called "Planet of the Dead" (I wrote about it already, woot), and she had been the new Bionic Woman on the recently short-lived show. Lovely lady with an English accent. What else do you need?

It would take me nearly a half an hour to get back, so it was quickly decided that it would better if I just picked her up a new tea from Starbucks as well as the Half & Half. This is an adventure in its own right, because the nearest Starbucks was in Downtown LA. More specifically, the unofficial 10th Ring of Hell. As I circled around TWICE, I finally stumbled upon a parking spot right next to the coffee shop, got the tea, and headed off to the shoot. Michelle Ryan was pleased with the tea and cream, and the food was dropped off with no problems.

As we got situated, the extras started coming in. We sent them to their designated spots, and I went to work setting up the craft services (food tables). Eventually, the crew was done setting up for one of the first shots. And it turned out they would need another couple of extras, which, as luck would have it, would be Sean and I. So we sat down in the spots we would need to be for the next hour or so.

It turned out we would be audience members for Michelle Ryan's pole dance scene.

If I hadn't been assigned as an audience member for this particular scene, I probably would have snuck a few peeks at the performance, but mostly have been a gentleman and not stare for very long. But now it was my job to stare right at her. Like I had payed to see her gyrate on stage. It was surreal, and be only one such moment in a string of similar strange moments. Over 5 takes later, I was impressed with her abilities. She was doing stuff that honestly made me wonder how much she had had to practice to pull off the routine she had put together. Either way, I am now in the movie. I'm hard to see, but I would be able to point myself out during a viewing.

The day didn't stop being odd.

Lunch eventually arrived, which were awesome (if overpriced) sandwiches. I didn't have to pay for my lunch, since it was kind of my compensation in the first place. It was during lunch that concerns about the quality of character that some of the extras were exhibiting started to come to light. A beer disappeared from the bar of the Rio. An actual beer that was not even close to being okay for anyone to take. The crew was clean, because there just was no point to taking it, especially since they knew they would probably get fired if they tried to pull something like that. The main actors could have a beer if they really wanted one, but they were too professional for that.

That left the extras.

And a man in a fedora in particular was showing signs of d-bagism. He tried to chat up a lot of the scantily clad actresses, which was a no-no from the get-go. And he kept trying to take food that wasn't his. Basically, the guy was unprofessional as hell, and the Prop Master did not like him at all. But the whole day was not bad. Far from it, in fact. I got a Porn star's sandwich order (tuna), I found out that Michelle Ryan drives a bad car (Kia), and saw two grown men gently embrace (wha?).

Allow me to elaborate.

As I was at the bar/craft services, I was looking at the next shot being set up. Emmanuelle Chriqui was doing her scene, which involved a fantasy/dream sequence where she interacted with the audience members that were watching her perform. This involved two very muscular guys in the front row, one was white, and the other was black. I didn't know what their bit was going to be.

"Okay guys, get ready for your scene," said the director.
"On it," they replied.

So they started taking off their clothes.


Yep, the two guys stripped down to their underwear. And the scene involved them freezing in different positions. Yeah, doesn't that sound like the recipe for something really creepy? As it turned out, they started with the white guy holding the black guy in his arms, and both of them staring lovingly into each other's eyes. Then they were frozen in a spanking position. And then in an almost kissing pose. It went all like that for a while. The whole time I was refilling a bowl with pretzels and thinking to myself "This is actually happening."

And the show went on. Shoot a scene. Set up. Shoot a scene. Set up. So on and so forth. Lather, rinse, repeat. It was a blur after a while. One of the most disorienting aspects of film shoots is the repetition of moments. Over and over again, I would have deja vu. The waitress would walk by just like so. The main character would then leave the bathroom. And an extra would sit down at their mark exactly the same way each time. Its exhausting, methodical, and incredibly important for editing. We were making good time.

Or so I thought.

The very last shot for the day was being set up, exactly on the deadline for the day. We needed to be out by 6:00 pm. We hadn't even moved anything by 5:45 pm. If we went over, it could cost the production $1000 for an additional hour at the location. Nerves were getting frayed, time was being burned, and takes were being flubbed.

We didn't get out till 6:20.

At 6:00 all the shots were finally done, and so we undertook the agonizing ordeal of cleaning nearly every square inch of a Strip Club, and to remove each piece of film equipment. And somehow... some amazing way we did it in 20 minutes. I had never seen anything like it. Everybody, absolutely everybody lit a fire under their rears, and cleaned that place up. We moved so fast, that the owner changed his mind on charging us a grand, and settled for $300. We were hoping to not be charged, but a $700 discount was better than nothing.

I said goodbye to everybody and took one last glance at the Rio. "This actually happened" I thought to myself. When I got home, I fell asleep as soon as I hit the pillow. Because I had to wake up at 4:30 the next day for an entirely different shoot.


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