Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best of 2009 - Movie Edition

Best movie to make me question my mortality: The Road
Best movie to make me question John Cusak's mortality: 2012

Best movie adapted from a book about physical monsters: Where the Wild Things Are
Best movie adapted from a book about emotional monsters: He's Just Not That Into You

Best movie starring Zoe Saldana as a human: Star Trek 
Best movie starring Zoe Saldana as an alien: Avatar

Best movie I didn't know I would like: District 9
Best movie I thought I would like and hated: I Love You, Beth Cooper (book was hilarious!)

Best movie to remind me why I love George Clooney: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Best movie to remind me why I love George Clooney a couple of months later: Up in the Air

Best movie to remind me why it's awesome to have best friends: I Love You, Man!
Best movie to remind me to check on camera for evidence of what my best friends do while I'm not around: The Hangover

Best heartbreaking romantic comedy: 500 Days of Summer
Best heartbreaking romantic comedy that wasn't trying to be a heartbreaking romantic comedy but the acting was so bad that it was heartbreakingly comedic: Twilight- New Moon

Best 80s TV icon cameo in a movie: Lou Ferrigno (I Love You, Man!)
Best 80s movie icon cameo in a movie: Bill Murray (Zombieland)

Best movie we wish we could have seen in 2009: Actual, non-rehearsal concert footage of This is It
Best movie we won't have to see in 2009: Tiger in the Sack- A Tiger Woods Story

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Extras.Dolly.Finale Pt 3

6:15pm- Dolly track is being constructed. My extras, consisting of some Work Jerks and some actual coworkers, lounge in the conference room. They’ve shown up for me and I’m very appreciative.
6:45pm- To hell with the dolly track!
7:15pm- I play host to the extras while their scene is being set up. Who’s up for a game of numbers?
7:25pm- They are over the numbers game.
7:45pm- Tom takes over the extras. Begins placing them around the office.
8:05pm- Extras scene begins. A lot of “Action so-and-so!” “Action so-and-so!” Being shouted. They walk. It’s a cut and wrap. They are awesome.
9:00pm- Extras part. I hug my friends and wave good bye. My night is nowhere near over.
9:30pm- Food break! My brain is telling me there’s something up with the food, my stomach is saying “to hell with it! Eat!” So I eat (and have a stomach bug the next day, but that’s another story.)
10:00pm- My stomach is starting to hurt but I try my best not to show it. A real actress hides pain, and I’m trying to be one so…
10:30pm- Camera is aimed at my computer. I’m trying to type but I can’t get a line across the screen without having to backtrack. Someone from the crew gives it a try…and fails as well. Jesse steps up; self-proclaimed typing hero. And fails. We laugh. Then he tries very slowly and makes it. We cheer.
11:45pm- This is still fun but my bed is winning the war of “places I’d love to be right now.”
12:30am- I’ve started napping between scenes. I feel a soft snap of light. Ah! Someone took a picture of me.
1:10am- Wonder if dying would be easier than staying awake. (I’ve become melodramatic, signs of a true actress!)
1:15am- Last scene begins. Although I’m clearly exhausted between scenes, I wake up for takes and I’m praised for my determination. I’m coaxed with words like “We’re almost done!”
1:25am- And then we are done.
1:45am- We all gather our belongings and head out of the building.
1:47am- I hug everyone. They are no longer strangers. They are my battle buddies. Majority have never been on such a long shoot before. Although I cannot wait to see my bed, I am sad to part with them.
2:25am- I am in a car headed home. It’s snowing. Badly. Of all nights. I just want to be home!
2:45am- I’m in bed. Almost 24 hours from the last time I felt my pillow against my head. This may have been the longest day of my life but it was also one of the most amazing. It has renewed the feeling that always lies in the pit of my stomach but that I often ignore. I shouldn’t be scared of this, because as hard as it is for me to admit, it’s what I’m meant to do.

Sidebar- the final cut of the video will be released in early January. I will be posting it then.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Madison Ave.Lights.Cameras -Part 2

December 08. We pick up right after 12:30pm when my director (Dan Beers) tells me I'm supposed to wear the doggycam in front of my work building on Madison Avenue, amidst lunch time traffic...

12:45pm- Standing in front of building with crew. People are already starting to look. You ready Lauren? I nod and lift my arms. Wiggle into the harness and smile expectantly. There's no method to my acting. I just "do."
12:55pm- We've moved across the street. Time to walk. Down a city block and around a corner. Some people stop and look, but the best part? The people that don't.
1:15pm- We stop on a corner and Dan (DP, not director) has an idea. He wants a 360 shot. I'm down for anything at this point. He clears the way and I spin a circle 5 feet wide thanks to the suspended cam. Fun.
1:25pm- Harness comes off for the last time. Phew! Done with the weird stares.
1:26pm- Find out what the next scene is. No, not done after all.
1:30pm- Adam, an older man costumed as a homeless person, makes his fake setup on the sidewalk. He's totally into his character. Asking for money from strangers. Dan sets up me. "Don't react to Adam no matter what he does," he tells me. Sure, no problem. 
1:31pm- Action! I start to walk past Adam. As soon as I pass he jumps up and starts screaming maniacally. I keep walking as if I've heard nothing. Dan's pleased. People in the street? Not so much. I think a child is crying somewhere. 
1:45pm- I receive a text from my coworker who is about 20 stories above me. "We can hear him screaming up here." I'm laughing but wondering at what point are we getting arrested for this? 
2:15pm- We don't get arrested. We're on to the next site. 
2:45pm- The two Dans and I make a quick run into Union Square station. Quick up and downs on the stairs. Starting to think this is a candid boot camp. 
2:55pm- At the Moxie office. Mike and Danny are setting up the elevator for the next scene. I take a break on the couches with Susie, Kris and Christian. We all look pretty tired already. Oh right, we've been doing this for nearly 8 hours. 
3:10pm- Elevator is ready, as is my costar in this scene. A guy named Larry. Won't give away too much by telling you how Larry was costumed. Just know that even the non-costumed version of Larry was...creepy. 
3:15pm- Light effects in the elevator. Larry is staring at me. Light effects stop. Larry is still staring at me...and asking me if I want to be in his off (way off) Broadway show (aka the subway theater.) I smile awkwardly then look pleadingly at Dan. Help!
4:00pm-Crew heads back to midtown. Two Dans, Christian, Jesse and I hit the 6 train.
4:30pm-NYC rule: no cameras on the subway. Rule? What rule? Dan takes out the cam.
4:45pm-Jesse's wearing his mask again. Most people ignore him. Except a child. Who's completely terrified.
5:15pm-By now we've swapped seats at least 5 times and we've hit 86th street.
5:35pm-Train reaches 59th street. Motion. Slow motion. Sleep motion. *Snap* oh we're here!
5:45pm-Hoof it to my office. Jokes are had. I don't know how we have energy to laugh.
5:50pm-Christian asks Dan how many shots we still have to shoot. "Something like 30." Well then, maybe I should have packed my sleeping bag.

To be continued...


Monday, December 14, 2009

Dan.Crew.Me - Part I

The main portion of the contest I won and spoke of in recent posts was a full day dedicated to the film shoot revolving around my essay. The chosen production company was Moxie Pictures and the director, Dan Beers. Dan, who usually directs and writes comedy created this hilarious short starring Bill Murray back in 2007.

I didn't need to see the short ahead of time to know that Dan was super talented and shared my sense of humor. The irony, however, was that the short he envisioned for me was not a comedy. And therein lies the blank canvas that blanketed the beginning of this project. Something new for Dan. Something new for me.

It took place on December 8th. And this is how it went down...

6:00am- Alarm. The idea of getting up this early was appealing, until I actually had to do it.
6:45am- Lay on couch. Thinking I can nap just a few- buzzzzzzz! What?! It's 7 already?
7:00am- Crew arrives. Eight people make their way through my door. Steve (producer) snaps us into attention. "Make-up, asap!" He's authoritative and sounds familiar. Oh yeah, like me! Duh. Susie Sobol gets to work on my face. It may be early, but this is becoming fun again.
7:20am- Hair. Susie's finishing up my locks while Dan snaps pics for me. He's an earthy director. Has no problem taking my picture, and then promptly making fun of me.
7:25am- Kris (production designer/wardrobe) helps me sort through my wardrobe. It's cold out but a dress would look cute I say. So much for warmth.
7:30am- Three Dans and a Mike meet me in the hallway. Steve reminds us to keep library voices. Dan directs me to walk. Easy enough.
7:40am- I’m introduced to the “doggycam” also known as a “me” cam. It’s a large contraption. I’m scared. I’m told Will Smith wore this very piece. Well in that case, strap me in! I bend and twist. Oh, I think to myself as the camera points right at my face, this is…odd.
7:45am- Lauren, smile. Oh wait, never mind. Keep with the sour puss, it's more believable for morning.
8:00am- Christian snaps pics of me in the awkward contraption. Facebook! Susie I’m sweating, help! She rushes over with make-up brushes. Dan fans me. Someone feed me grapes, now! Kidding.
8:15am- All nine of us slip downstairs, hoping not to draw attention. Bump into my super in the lobby. Doh! It’s a student film… with a director that was hired. And a fully paid crew. And. Ok, yeah, it’s not a student film.
8:30am- Pile into the rented van. Susie meets me in front seat and starts touching me up while Tom asks me how to get to Lincoln. I direct as lipstick is applied.
8:35am- Dan makes my stomach hurt. Because he keeps making me laugh, not because he sucker punched me.
9:00am- Arrive in the Bronx. 241st train station. Renegade filming. Well, this should be fun!
9:15am- Down the block, Dan yells "action!" I notice. And so does everyone else on the block.
9:17am- Between takes people stop to ask me who I am and what movie I’m filming. I just smile…and run away.
9:20am- Christian buys me water and tells me to find him if I want anything to eat or drink. It’s on production’s tab. Awesome, I’ll take lobster. Oh wait. I don’t eat fish.
9:25am- There are a lot of cops around because a woman was shot in the area the morning before. Lovely.
9:45am- Up on the platform. Jesse is to my right, wearing a mask. Dan and Dan are across the platform shouting directions between trains passing. Lauren, look left. Jesse stay there behind her. Good now---skrreeeeeccchhhhhhhhhhhhh.
10:15am- Walking to the van a passerby shouts “Ducksauce!” at me. Is that a movie? A come on line? An indigenous language from Siberia? I have no idea what he meant but we’re all laughing.
10:30am- Heading to the city. Laughing.
11:15am- Stuck in cross-town traffic. Not laughing.
11:30am- Steve jumps out of the van and makes a run for it. Tries to intercept the food delivery that is happening two blocks ahead of us, which we’re about to be late for.
11:31am- Steve makes it. Food doesn’t.
12:00pm- We’re spread out in the atrium. Food has arrived and I’m talking to Jesse and Susie about the IRS and their shenanigans.
12:30pm- Dan tells me it’s time to jump into the doggycam again. I stop eating. Here? On Madison Avenue? During lunch??? Yes.

To be continued…

Friday, December 4, 2009

California Dreamin' - Finale

Sunday (11/8)

Our last full day on the California coast. Decide to take another road trip. This time we head north to Santa Barbara. 405 to the 101 and within the next hour we are driving along the coast. The mountains take up most of our Eastern view. They rise and fall like a kiddie coaster. We exit and head towards State Street. The buildings have a Spanish feel to them. Even the movie theater blends in; unlike East coast movie theaters that stand alone like stadiums. We eat, and walk, sometimes through clouds of weed smoke. Did you know nearly anyone can legally obtain pot in California as long as your doctor gives you a medical needs card? I know, to us East Coasters it sounds as real as Monopoly money, but in California it’s legit. Blew my mind. We visit the Mission; a large Franciscan church founded in 1786. Creepy and amazing to walk through such an old piece of architecture. We rush because it’s nearly 230pm and we have one last place to visit: The Circle Bar B Ranch.

Like every other little girl in all of America, I grew up loving horses. I’m not sure why, I mean, I grew up in Brooklyn where you only see horses with police on their backs during parades. Must have been something that was whispered into my ear when I was a newborn. Anyway. I’ve rode horses several times in my life, was even thrown off one once. But what honestly brought me to the ranch was the fact that it was listed as one of the top ten things to do while in the Santa Barbara area. Simple as that. Jaime agreed because he loves me. And because he doesn’t pay attention to my itineraries. In this scenario, the latter was clearly the case. As we pulled up he asked me, “So this is a spa thing right?” Obviously, when we moseyed on up to the group of cowboys and a line of stables he did a double take. I explained to one of the horse handlers that I’m a somewhat experienced rider. Jaime offered up that he had ridden a horse once. Slowly. No surprise then that my horse was a young stallion named Rocket and Jaime’s was a gargantuan mare named Dolly. Our leader, and full blown cowboy, was named Clay and, by the lucky of the horses, we were going on a solo ride (in other words they were nice enough to separate us from the family with three whiny kids.) For the next hour we were led through the mountains with Clay telling stories about where he was from (Iowa?) and asking me about Brooklyn because his brother manages a bar there (of course!) And Jaime? Well, think about the combination here: slow horse and a guy who wouldn’t disturb a fly even if it were buzzing around his head shamelessly. Clay had shown us how to kick the horses in a way that conveyed the need for speed. Jaime would give small kicks and then, when our leader would turn away, he’d lean forward (the sweet man he is) and try to convince the horse to move faster by pleading to her. Needless to say, when my horse decided to leap over a small creek (just because) Jaime missed it because he was 100 feet behind. Regardless, we all caught up at the crest of a mountain where Clay parked our horses and told us to chill out. Breathtaking isn’t strong enough of a word to portray just what it was we saw. Green mountains rose and fell, the sun was beginning to blaze pink, and the ocean was just beyond the farthest crest. I didn’t want to leave. But we were warned the cold would come as the sun set further. Picture opp! And then we were off, back down the mountain. I recognized the final trail as we approached it and frowned knowing the end of the ride was around the corner. *Sigh?* A nature girl? Me? Who woulda thunk it? (Especially after that camping debacle. Shiver.) We were helped off our horses and became immediately aware of how much sitting in that position for an hour and a half was going to hurt in just a few hours. Again, totally worth it.

One last stop to make on this trip. We wanted to get together with Jaime’s friend Mitch, who now resides in San Diego. No, no, no. We didn’t drive down to San Diego. I’m not that crazy. We just drove to Anaheim. I was told this was about 30 minutes South of Santa Monica. What’s 30 minutes more? I said. Then I saw the red lights. The break lights. The traffic lights. And then I realized it was 30 minutes without traffic. And, considering there is rarely NOT traffic around LA, this time assumption was completely false. So we sat in traffic for over an hour instead. I thought I might die. Until we finally reached a random mini-mall in Anaheim where we met Mitch for BBQ. Food. Stress reliever. What traffic? We munched on ribs as Mitch told us about his gig as a high school teacher. An hour later we were laughed out with our bellies full. We promised to visit San Diego on our next West coast trip. I guess that’s when we first realized we’d want to return sooner than later. This trip had not rid us of the bug to discover what else this state had to offer. Before we could even give that more thought, we had to head out. Lucky for us, our return trip happened outside of rush hour so it really did only take us about 30 minutes to reach our hotel. Ah, sleep. I dreamt of horses and Dolly Parton. Weird.

Monday (11/9)

Up before the alarm clock. Gather. Pack. Go. Stop at IHop. Eat my usual breakfast. The one thing you can count on to be the same no matter where you go: chain restaurants. Return rental car. Jump the shuttle bus. There’s a funny feeling in my stomach. Ah, it’s sadness. We check in. We’re early. Why do I always book late flights? Sit around in the terminal, get some work done. Look over the pictures we’ve taken. California’s beautiful. It’s not home. May never feel that way, but beautiful nonetheless. Board the plane. Purple lights. Pussycat Dolls music surrounds us. Comedic flight attendants. Déjà vu. Not really. Just amazed at how fast six days went. Take off. California disappears below us. Four and a half hours later. City lights. A different kind of beauty. There’s a funny feeling in my stomach. Ah, it’s the feeling of familiarity. The beaches may not be nearly as pretty, the sunsets not as magnificent but we have real NY pizza, real NY bagels, real NY skyscrapers, real NY attitudes, real NY stride. I missed this. I’m home.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

California Dreamin' Part 4

Saturday (11/7)

(Short and sweet)

Why stay in LA when you have a rental car? Grab an address off the web, plug into my GPS and to Laguna we head. “No traffic!” I shout/whisper to Jaime because if I were to say it any louder, cars may suddenly creep out of thin air. We make it to Laguna beach in under an hour.

It’s a solid 70 degrees outside but we head to the beach anyway. I lay in jeans and a bikini top, determined to get some visible touch of sun. Did I mention it was hardly 70 degrees out? Soon I have my tank top back on and we give up on the tanning.

Walk over to the rocks and cliffs. Kick around in the water and marvel at some crabs stuck to the stone. Interesting to look at…as long as I am several feet away. I pretend to pose at the edge of the surf and don’t see the higher water coming my way. Splash! My jeans are soaked. Jaime smiles. He caught it on film. We sit in the setting sun as my jeans dry.

A walk around the surrounding streets brings us to a line of stores. I shop. Surprised? I exit Heavenly Couture with $100 worth of cute outfits. We dine on the beach wrapped in sweatshirts and jackets. There is something beyond amazing about the West coast sun. It can’t possibly be the same of that in NY. The ride home isn’t as lucky. We sit in traffic for more than an hour.

But it was worth it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

California Dreamin' Part 3

Friday (11/6)

Jaime accompanies me to the lot. Takes it in. Breathes it out. I leave him at Coffee Bean while I participate in a quick meeting. Afterward I make rounds. Goodbyes are said. Some with old friends, others with new. I'm sad. Two days in this new world and I'm sad. Melodramatic. Meet Jaime back at CB. Our lot tour guide meets us there. He's spiffy and quick with words. Reminds me of less attractive version of lead guy on Glee. Oh, and he's an actor. I have yet to meet a waiter/tour guide/gas attendant in LA who is not an aspiring actor. Learn about the golden years of film. He's such a good storyteller that I imagine Humphrey Bogart will exit a sound stage at any moment. Enter sound stage 27 where Wizard of Oz was filmed. Sound stage 15 is 40 feet high. I think it could take hours to climb a ladder and touch the top. Quick stop at the backdrop painting facility. So you're telling me that's not really NY landscape outside Peter Parker’s NYC apartment window? The set of upcoming "Priest" has an open door, we creep inside. Same with Green Hornet office. Real movie sets give me chills. Far cry for Side Job sets. One day Lauren, one day. No celeb sightings but enough history talk to keep us buzzed.

Time to drive. Up and through Hollywood we go. Land at Highland and Hollywood. Park. Walk. One block. One block? Yes, that's all "Hollywood" is. Kodak, Gruman, Walk of Fame, all centers around one city block. "Actors" (I use that term more loosely every day) swarm the block dressed as Superman, Michael Jackson or a beat up, homemade version on SpongeBob (yellow tights, yellow foam head with eye cut outs and brown short shorts, so horrible I can hardly look away.) Then I realize I've lost my boyfriend. Ah! There he is, being manhandled by a Cat Woman wannabe. $5 later. Quick snaps of various stars on the sidewalk. Faves: Big Bird and Tony Danza. Up and through Kodak theater mall. Hollywood sign in the distance. Snap! Enough of this, let’s drive!

Cruise West on Sunset Blvd. Make a right and now we’re in Beverly Hills. Is the altitude making things fuzzy or do these incredible homes really exist? The kind of homes you only see on film. Well, this is LA. We can only take so much, our mouths are dry from hanging open for so long. Back down to Sunset and across to the coast. Engaging scenery and then we wiggle our way through the mountains. Endless water before us. Stop at Santa Monica pier. Like a Jersey shore boardwalk but…prettier. Parrot on my shoulder. Dance breakers doing flips. Music all around. Sunset.

Quick changearoo at the hotel and back out again. Return to Santa Monica. Dinner time with Fayanne at Border Grill. Where better to have Mexican than California? A solid round of margaritas. Tales of jobs past. Laughs and tummies filled. Robert Hoffman passes by our table. Don’t know who he is? I wouldn’t know either had I not seen Step Up 2 and were he not dressed like a break dancer. Time flies. Food has been delish. Part ways with my West coast friend and head to meet another. Quick drinks with Chuck and his lady @ a lounge on Ocean Avenue. Awkward bodies dance behind me. It’s 11pm. The party pooper within me is calling. Time to call it a night. So much for showin’ ‘em how NY gets down. Unless it’s down to a pillow.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

California Dreamin' Part 2

Thursday (11/5)

Bright and early. Have to head to the lot. Not the parking kind, the movie kind. Drive past security gate and then through a production. Completely in fear that I’ve just ruined some major blockbuster on my first day. I didn’t. Make my way into the building housing my colleagues. Like the bizarro world of my office; coworkers like that on the East coast but yet not like the East coasters. Instead of drab walls there are glass walls. Instead of broken toasters there are master chef kitchens. I like this…and yet I miss the smell and feel of NY.

Hang with Laura until I link up with one of my two bosses who parades me around like a proud dad. I blush. 15 times. I’m recognized (because my photo is on the company homepage.) Completely unnatural experience. Mini-stardom. Doubt this could ever feel normal. Walk around placing faces with phone voices. Have an ordinary chat with the co-head of the studio. Discuss things like Yonkers and why they still race horses. What did you expect? A movie pitch? :-) Meet with casting group. Head shots everywhere. Big smiles and stern looks jump at me from glossy paper. So that’s what my head shot looks like when I’m not the one looking at it. Talk about the likes of new talent. Learning session. Walk out feeling more like a producer, less like an actor. Totally ok with that.

Been around for a few hours but walking around like I stomp there daily. Out the door with Couper and Steve S to grab some lunch. There may be traffic in LA, but driving out for lunch is way more doable than…well it’s NOT doable in NY. Settle at CPK. Steve asks me all about The Work Jerks. I’m flattered and honored, because he’s a funny dude. I feel like a role model, and yet I’m not. I give all the credit to the fact that I’m surrounded by very talented people who don’t ask me to pay them (yet.) We eat and chat, frequently interrupted by my ADD BFF. I laugh. Often. This LA thing is fun.

I make it a point to stop in on my fellow assistants who I book appointments with regularly. I’m called a celebrity. I am still but an earthling, not fully in the clouds. These are my trench buddies. Hellos and hugs we share. I laugh that my 15 minutes won’t last forever. I’m then pulled away with the words “So and so wants to meet you, come on!” Damn my feet hurt! Make one last meeting with Ines, who I have never met but thanks to the homepage spotlight, have made fast friends with. I’m asked to describe NY to someone who has never been there (or maybe was only there once?) I’m stumped. Suddenly know nothing of my hometown. Am I losing myself already?

Swing back to hotel to pick up Jaime who has made Venice beach his home for the day and has a tinge of tan on the tip of his nose. My pale face stains with jealousy. Redressed, we head to Santa Monica for dinner at BOA. Immediate release of my car keys to valet. No one parks their own car in LA. Join one of my three friends who we are meeting at a table in the back. Lights low. Candles lit. And all I can think about is steak. And all I can notice is the large man sitting next to us with a hat and coat on, yet he doesn’t seem like he’s leaving. Quick glance again. Ah! He’s Brad Garrett. I inconspicuously reach for my cell phone and text the friends surrounding my table. Just as inconspicuous, they find their way of responding to my message. Then we play the game of pretending he’s not there. Food arrives! Brad who?

Filet mignon falls to pieces on my tongue. Mashed potatoes rush in after them. Brad leaves. New couple arrives. Older man. Younger woman. I think they manufacture couples like these in bulk here in LA. Minding our own business. Small commotion comes from cradle-robber table. We’re human, we look left. New woman is standing beside seated man. She says: “Funny seeing you here. Who is your friend?” Look of worry comes over man’s face. Look of “we love drama!” falls on our faces. Talk gets softer then standing woman asks if the man will step away with her for a moment. Quickly, we return to the very interesting non-existent convo we were having. Except for Couper, he makes eye contact with the girl left behind. Girl says to him: “I think that was his girlfriend.” She’s brought him in, and by default, we are now all involved. Girl continues: “This is our first date.” One of us says “Then maybe it should be your last.” Girl contemplates but man returns. Straining to hear them because my brain has been affected by wine consumption. Darn! A cookie platter is placed in front of me. Ah, sweet sugary goodness! Wait, what was I talking about?

After many laughs and reenactments by Jaime and Couper the night winded down and once again I was falling asleep standing up. Said our goodbyes and headed to valet. A Saab is parked in front of me. I recognize it as my friend’s. Were this NY, I would drive away with it as a joke. Instead, I swap tickets, grab the right car, and head to the hotel once more. Sleep finds me quickly.