Saturday, December 21, 2013

What, no Kraken?

Ever-so-professionally refraining from squealing like a mud-caked pig in a poke whose hungry snout sensed that her empty trough had just been filled, I graciously thanked the Casting Company for my call time to stand-in on a Sit-Com pilot.
Granted, I had many chores to tackle before dutifully reporting to my work assignment after my many months of hibernation (the most challenging task perhaps being that of disencumbering my slightly atrophied limbs from what had become a spectacularly woven warm cocoon of bedding); but come Hell or high water, I would BE THERE!

Color-resistant gray roots of hair on head properly returned to dazzling copper/auburn hues for High-Def camera lighting?  Check!  Full tray of miniature ice cubes frozen and placed in water bottle for necessary hydration on stage?  Check!  Pens and pencils in trusty skull-and-bones backpack for paperwork and most necessary script notations?  Check!
Meanwhile, logging on to my poot that afternoon, I was both delighted and appreciative that the Production Company had included our humble team of Stand-Ins with a PDF file of the script.  (Vital to us, yet often baffling to the production companies as they seem to know not what we do.)

And arrogantly assuming (when will I learn?) that I had successfully tackled every unforeseen obstacle in my path (aside from actually READING the file at the moment), I cut myself some slack and opted to chill in front of the TiVo and TV for a couple of hours.  Heck, I could peruse the script around dinner time, right?

For no apparent reason whatsoever, my PC refused to acknowledge neither the DSL modem nor the Wi-Fi signal before I could open up the emailed script.  “Pfft!” I tut-tutted, reaching for my wireless Kindle; only to discover that it too (the little bastard), refused to recognize its own Wi-Fi signal, which was registering as “connected”, “100% strength” and “Excellent” in reception; yet also denied me access to the world wide web and the one and only email that I really, really, REALLY needed to read! 

I hadn’t smelled the stalwart snorting breath of my stealthy High Horse “Resilient” in quite a while; but I’ll be darned if that particularly belligerent equine wasn’t pawing at the ground, “snarfling” me awake and demanding that I tackle my day with as much mighty force as I could muster.  (I’m not sure how he busted through the gate, but don’t look a gift horse in the eye, right?)

With seven hours of sleep under my belt, the usual expected blended amount of curiosity, minor anxiety and excitement of going back to work in Tinsel Town after my hibernation,  and clambering atop the saddle upon “Resilient”, I phoned the official “Geek Squad” company to help me resolve my tech troubles. 
Unfortunately, the collective high-tech representatives were apparently suffering from an equally challenging morning, as they accidentally hung up on me twice before I eventually reached a third Agent.

“Oh dear, I’m so sorry, but my computer just froze up.  Would you mind holding while I go get someone to help me with this?” she apologized.  (Oh, the irony!)

Sturdy, proud and refusing to begin my first day of work on a pilot feeling defeated, I whipped open my Kindle once more and tappy-tapping on the web thingie icon that showed the contradictions of itself, my valiant High Horse “Resilient” stomped a hoof on a different Wi-Fi connection as my email magically appeared.  What the...?  (Gift horse, I tell you.)
But, YES!  I was able to read the script!  I had a grasp of the show!  And scanning through our Crew List, I was positively delighted to see so many wonderful people that I couldn’t wait to work with again; as well as the unfettered joy of seeing my name blissfully listed at the bottom of the Second Team.  

Now, this, in itself, would not generally connote anything in particular to anyone else:  but from my experience over the last 20-whatever years, The Universe had deemed me the last to be hired, the last body allowed under the budget, and therefore more than likely a “Utility” Stand-In just to cover the occasional “Under Five” line speaker here and there.  (Sooo easy-peasy!)
Oh, the equine snarfling had indeed paid off!  With my preliminary work accomplished in the morning, I could truly savor the arrival at the familiar gate of the Studio; the exhilaration I always feel when striding in the steps of Hollywood Legends; the warmth and greetings of embracing faces I’ve missed, and the ‘unbridled’ (run free, “Resilient”!) gathering of collective creative minds sharing ideas over plates of food from Craft Services!

Nay (neigh?), nothing could stop me now!


Wheeling Cecilia (my 1997 Toyota) to the parking structure about an hour and a half before our call time on set, we both puttered abruptly to see that the gate was closed.


Having seen one of my fellow Second Teamers walking down the street, I could only assume (again, when will I learn?) that the only alternative for working on a Saturday was to nestle Cecilia into a parking spot somewhere in the neighborhood:  so angling her into what might be perceived as perhaps not exactly Beverly Hills, I locked “The Club” onto her steering wheel, and headed on foot to the Studio.  (Fret not, members of Cecilia’s fan base (she’ll have a Facebook page long before I ever do); as sans two hub caps on her right tires (I totally suck at parallel parking), she’s got hard-core street cred.)

Yet at least, I still had “Resilient” to guide me safely to my final destination.  And slinging my skull-and-crossbones atop his saddle, we trotted confidently to the usual Security Gate a few blocks away, only to peer through the darkened window of the locked door.

Well, tut-tut and pshaw, how much further could the next open gate at a massive Studio Lot possibly be?
(Author’s aside:  Should you need to postpone your reading of this post in order to run some errands, throw in a load of laundry, discover the cure for Cancer, etc. please feel free to do so, as I was probably still walking...)

To say the least, by the time “Resilient” and I hit Melrose Avenue and the Main Gate - where only the VIPs enter the lot - my horsey had kind of lost his stamina...

But ponying up to my side, a twenty-something, wide-eyed pimply-faced boy who was equally lost, asked if I might be doing Background work on his particular stage. 
“Actually, I’m just standing-in on a pilot over there” I pointed.

“I did a pilot last week too!” he beamed.  “I was even kinda ‘featured’ in a shot!  That was sooo cool!” he giggled happily.  “I hope my parents get to see it!” he trotted off with stars in his eyes.  (I can still relate to that feeling!)

Miraculously still arriving a few minutes before my call time on stage, I breezed through the open elephant doors fresh as a daisy (yeah..., no, that’s not exactly it...) I elegantly pirouetted on stage like an etoile in a tutu (no, you’re never gonna buy that one either), I spectacularly, acrobatically somersaulted my way across the cat-walk grid, landing in a feline posture with a “meow” and a... and a... um... oh, who am I kidding?  Let’s try this again:
Miraculously somehow still arriving a few minutes before my call time on stage, I wheezed like a drowning sailor with a life belt around my waist as my friends gently pulled me to safety with welcoming hugs.

“You’ll be covering **** all week” my friend Dev informed me per the ADs as he handed me the script.
“Um, you don’t mean the young (maybe 10 year old?) girl whose name appears FIRST in the slugs of every single scene, and who also has dialogue on every single page?” I double-checked with him, as clearly someone had made a horridly laughable albeit forgivable mistake.

“No, I’m sure!” he confirmed sunnily.

As I’m a “big picture” person despite my chosen “small screen” career, I have to say that in my ongoing quest to make sense of The Universe and my place therein, I absolutely admire the fact that I am consistently baffled on any given day. 
Despite my ridiculously rocky start to the work week rehearsal day, the uphill battles our crew faced working with a handful of small children - who have the attention span of gnats, and get bored very, very quickly; despite the fact that amongst our brilliant Second Team, not one of us is 4 foot 6 inches tall and therefore somewhat ineffectual during camera blocking; and despite the on-going demand for tots exchanging goopy Special Effects fluids, as well as choreographed foam-bat battles (two kids accidentally got bopped in the face which abruptly brought filming to a screeching halt); despite all of these challenges, yet blissfully guided by a Director with the patience of a Saint, we pulled together as a crew and managed to shoot what felt like a phenomenally tedious, yet adorable feature film over the course of only three days.

Indeed, The Universe may enjoy playing the occasional Cosmic Obstacle Joke on us now and again (although the barricade of the outer Studio walls seemed a tad too “on-the-nose” blatantly obvious for my sense of humor), but I stood up to the challenges! 

Nay (neigh?), when I put my mind to it, there is absolutely nothing that my High Horse “Resilient” and I cannot achieve!


“NOTICE OF DETERMINATION:  YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE BENEFITS UNDER CALIFORNIA UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE CODE SECTION 1253A BEGINNING 09/01/13 AND ENDING 09/07/13.”  (And all this time, EDD was sending me triplicate forms for the week after?  Who ever knew there was a problem prior to THAT?)

Well played, Universe...  Well played...
Happy to be afloat and keeping a weather eye,

~Persevering P


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Just What the Devil is Going On in There?

Alice Pearce aka "Gladys Kravitz" on Bewitched, 1964 - 1966
Not particularly adept at hiding my, shall we say idiosyncrasies, I toddled outside late one night, swaddled in my Wonder Woman “Snuggie” (the bottom part of which I had thrown over my shoulder ala a Grecian toga) to respect the planet and deposit two bags full of recyclables into the proper receptacles.

What I hadn’t counted on however the next day was the fact that my Landlords had recently installed a camera over the front gate (I do like the security!), nor the idea that the wife of Deceased Landlord Yang is now filling her days by watching closed camera circuitry as if our humble apartment building were private stories in her own personal soap opera.

*tap, tap tap* my front door echoed as I rolled over in my sleep.

*knock, knock, knock* the affront continued, as I ignored it and most justifiably could be simply out for an occasional walk in the neighborhood.
*BAM, BAM, BAM* a loud assault escalated, as I rushed to the door in a panic.

“Oh, so sorry to bother you:  You move car for gardeners?  I hire them to trim, trim!” Mrs. Deceased Landlord repeatedly bowed humbly as the tiny wisp of a woman mimicked “snip, snip, snip” with her fingers.
(Seriously???  I mean I DO work in Hollywood, and no Casting Agent worth his or her merit would buy that stereotypical performance.)

“Move car now, OK?” she prattled on, feigning a ridiculous inability to comprehend the English Language despite nearly aggressively beating the bejesus out of my front door with her fists.

And standing atop our parking hill ala a Hollywood Director, Mrs. Deceased Landlord proceeded to wave her arms maniacally to where she precisely wished me to temporarily park my beloved Toyota – a most bizarre scenario wherein I calmly followed her frantic movements as she attempted to guide me like a fighter pilot landing on battleship carrier. (Um, yeah; two places to the left.  Got it.  No need to break out the pinafore flags!)
(May I once again insert a “Yeesh”?)

With the gardeners long gone after an hour or so later, I once again pulled Cecilia into our proper parking spot, only to find a note from one of Mrs. Deceased Landlord’s sons on the windshield, “thoughtfully” reminding me to turn on the water and run my kitchen garbage disposal at least once a week.  (Really?)

And with one more “Yeesh” and an eye-roll to myself, I was beginning to feel a wee bit violated by my nosey neighbors. 
Oh, but of course my pea-brain had to be exaggerating, right?  After all, the life of an unemployed Actor is far from exciting.  Mostly (and I’m speaking broadly of course), from my experience, we simply hibernate until our next gig. 

Yet as a Holiday gift arrived at my security gate, I buzzed in the delivery man, only to find Mrs. Deceased Landlord trooping along in tow, peering pointedly at the package.  And unable to see what might be inside, she actually feigned her hovering presence as a pretense to let me know that I could move my car back to my spot.  
“I already did that a few hours ago” I smiled with a cheery thumbs-up, grabbing my package and bolting the door shut.  (Good grief!  Mind your own business, lady!) 

In her defense, was it so wrong of me to believe that “Samantha” had mystical powers on Bewitched when I was only six years old camped out in front of the television?  Was I not also a voyeur way back then, peeking through the window into someone else’s “everyday life”?  And had I not fell in love with Sit-Coms at such a formative age, would I’ve never even dared to dream that I might contribute my own eye of newt to the Hollywood magic cauldron?

With the understanding that I’ve been unemployed for so long, yet there is now a camera hovering over my front gate, my friend RJ recommended that I make the most of the lurking eye for whatever audience may be glued to the monitor.

“I’m just saying, limp in one day, or wear a floppy hat, or play any character that strikes your fancy!  You’ve got a camera, so you might as well play to it!” he giggled wickedly. 
But genius as his brilliant brain may be with delightful mind-fuckery, I continued to hole myself up in the apartment; an ongoing elusive maneuver to avoid any further “Gladys Kravitz” invasions.

Wonder Woman “Snuggie” wrapped once again around my torso like a toga, I lugged a bag of trash to the bin on Thanksgiving night.

I really didn’t mean to stare, but the back patio across the giant fence over the walkway was lit up most festively with red and white Christmas lights.  A small bonfire was burning; one lone soul hunched over the pyre, and as I kind of peered through the metal fence and hedges out of curiosity, I heard some rustling.
“Hi, how are you?” a sultry (possibly Transvestite?) voice asked from the dark.

“I’m fine.  How are you?” I replied, acutely aware that I was now suddenly “Gladys” and for all I could see, I might be speaking to an enchanted tree. 
“I’m good” the alto/tenor voice responded.

“I like the backyard lights!” I piped up cheerfully, reaching for my keys.

“Thank you” the throaty voice sighed as he (or she?) poked at a few forlorn burning embers with a stick.

In hindsight, I think The Universe was subtly telling me to butt out of other people’s business. 
But to be honest, I think I was feeling left out of my OWN business.  I missed the joy of reporting to a Hollywood Studio!  I missed the camaraderie of laughter and friendship with co-workers!  (And darnit, I missed the free food!)

And as I’ve come to understand that The Universe is both compassionate AND “persnickety” (if you will), I swaddled myself once again and curled up for yet another bout of hibernation.

What I hadn’t counted on however - was the “persnickety part” outright, cosmically, metaphorically punching me in the face.
Suffice it to say (in an attempt to compensate for our currently cold and windy dry weather in Los Angeles???) my very own “nosey” nose proceeded to bleed EPICALLY like something out of a Hitchcock horror film.  (Yikes!  Must The Universe make such a graphic point?!)

Sandra Gould aka "Gladys Kravitz" on Bewitched, 1966-1971

But as to the kind-hearted compassionate part of The Universe, I’m blessed to announce that I’ll be starting on a pilot this Saturday!  No details at this point other than (minus production on Sunday) I believe I’ll score four days of employment at Paramount Studios!

Oh, perhaps “Samantha” had twitched her nose; my bewitching hours were coming to a close; and my days of being Gladys Kravitz would be those of yore!
Until... (Cue the irony...)

In yet perhaps their most spectacular twist of tormenting me endlessly and poking around in my business, I’ve once AGAIN been scheduled for a telephone interview on my home phone with the Unemployment Department next week, on a day when I’ll actually be EMPLOYED.

Wishing you all a magical week,
~Forever your EDD-"Derwood"-challenged P