Wednesday, June 29, 2011

That's Our Phone booth

 Back before cell phones, at least before cell phones were smaller than a shoebox, the landscape was dotted with glass and steel cubes known as phone booths. They were a necessary part of life and I remember many a lunch hour spent looking for the nearest one so I could return a call or check my messages (see "answering machine"). Thus, phone booths were also an often seen set in movies and tv shows. They were portable, easily dressed, corralled actors into one small 3x3 space, and you could throw one up on any corner and shoot two pages of dialogue with minimal fuss. Being the easiest scene of a movie to shoot, it was often put off multiple times. It would be scheduled and then, as the day went longer, bumped to some other later day when it could be erected in any nearby parking lot. Thus a common sight in the caravan of trucks, honeywagons and vans that make up the production transpo pool would be a stakebed with a phone booth strapped to the bed. It would follow us from location to location, just waiting for that spare couple of hours when it could get unceremoniously retired as a location and released from it's stakebed prison.

 This pretty much sums up how the last two weeks are going to be.  Anyone who has done TV sees this coming. The last two weeks of a long season are almost always drudgery. The hours are long and the schedules are insane as the studio tries to tie up all the loose ends, pick up any missing inserts, or reshoot any unsatisfactory scenes (like we did last night, five pages worth).  In the midst of this cleanup work are the actual pages from the current episode that have to be shot, giving rise to the old Hollywood saying, "Chaos breeds cash." There's always one scene that gets put off over and over until finally, it has to be shot. I call those our "phone booths." We are now into two weeks of knocking out our phone booths which makes for some long days.

 We've also gone from a month or two of relative ease (a lot of steadicam and handheld) to suddenly every shot being on the dolly. Monday night we built not one, but two exterior dance floors, made infinitely easier with the aluminum bucks, but  still more of a pain than you want to get into at the end of a seven month run. At least tonight we have a Moviebird so hopefully there won't be any need for exterior dance floor. We are beginning the first of about six splits at our ranch out toward Malibu and it promises to be the typical two week battle toward the finish line. So I may be an infrequent poster for the next few days but I'm still around. Out in Malibu. In a phone booth.

1 comment:

Nathan said...


On one of my first movies (a real no-budgeter), we hauled a phone booth around for two weeks. It was always in the way, so it would always end up on some sidewalk to get it off of the truck. One day a guy comes by and starts screaming at us that we don't have any Teamsters on the show and we're gonna regret it he's gonna call the union hall and get someone down there right away.

He started plunking quarters into the phone booth...which didn't work, of course and we just all stood there laughing at him.

Good luck with you last two weeks and hopefully, you can keep the change if anyone feeds the phonebooth!