Cue TV addiction

My mind is still spinning. I can´t believe that I didn´t find this out 6 months ago when I first arrived in Colombia.

Whilst I´m not much of a TV watcher – perhaps a product of not converting to digital TV when they turned off the analogue signal in my hometown a few years ago because I had already stopped watching due to sucky reception and didn´t think it was a priority to upgrade my antenna – television in your native language  is oh so very comforting when you live in another.

I don´t mind watching programs or movies filmed in Spanish and I do have a favourite telenovela (the Colombian soapie Amo de Casa), but I abhor anything dubbed from English into Spanish. Urrrgh! I refuse to watch dubbed movies at the cinema, only going to the sessions in English with Spanish subtitles. I cannot stand the horrible voices that don´t match the characters, the actors or the mouth movements.

So whilst it´s much easier to find English language programs in Colombia than it is to find Spanish language programs in Australia, it´s mostly dominated by the Kardashians, celebrity rehab programs or other trashy reality TV shows. When I´m desperate, they suit just fine for a fix.

The other day when refusing to watch a movie with its non-original language, I had to explain to D what doblada (dubbed) means. He was confused because in Spanish, doblada also means folded. While I was at it, I also had to explain subtitulada, which hopefully you´ve already guessed means subtitled. I told him that it is very hard for me to watch something in Spanish when it was originally filmed in English and proceeded to explain that the TV show he watches Mi niñera es una vampira (My Babysitter´s a Vampire) was filmed in English and that someone else says the words in Spanish. D then said to me something which has changed my world.

You can change the language on the TV to watch it in English.


He proceeded to casually demonstrate with an expert flick of the remote control how he could select to watch a show in Spanish or English. Oh. My. Gosh. Upon seeing my astounded but gleeful face he asked if they were speaking English, to which I practically sobbed, yes! I didn´t realise the TV cable box was so smart. Far smarter than me if it´s taken over six months to discover this functionality that the nine year old has known about forever.

He told me (and showed by way of more flicks of the remote control) that it doesn´t work on every program, which is a given if it wasn´t actually filmed in English, but I love that the original version is available as an option. I think my sanity is one step closer to being kept!

Suddenly a whole new range of entertainment options has been opened up to me. I can watch a movie in English instead of Spanish. I can watch TV shows and documentaries in English. I can vegetate in front the TV instead of in front of my computer. Only one thing stands in my way, the non-English speakers in my household who have preferences for watching telenovelas and cartoons in Spanish.

Do you prefer watching foreign language programs dubbed into your native language, or with the original sound and subtitles?

Damn you Larry Crowne

You know when you want to see a film because it sounds like it should be good but you remain unconvinced by the previews and also harbour a dislike for one of the lead actors? That was me with Larry Crowne.

With two big drawcard leads in Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, Larry Crowne was billed as a summer feel-good flick. It is the typical kind of film you see Tom Hanks shine in, and he had the added pressure of co-writing and directing it. Julia Roberts brought the same character she’s played for many years to the film and despite her boringness and shade of Cameron Diaz’s Bad Teacher, didn’t ruin it for me. However I think Bryan Cranston really stole the show with a brilliant performance.

I left the theatre with the requisite bubble of good vibes, but also with a pang of nostalgia and dash of yearning. I was romanticising.

I was thinking about how exciting it is to live in LA and wondering whether I had been too hasty in making my departure from the city and the film biz. Perhaps I should have stuck it out a bit longer. Did I really give it a chance?

It could be the hardships and solitude of the road that has caught up with me as I am also dreaming of the day of having a real job again back home and how I will take advantage of the delights of whatever new city I find myself living in. I really must be dreaming. What dedicated traveller ever fantasises about, and counts down the days until, they go back to the rat race?

So two months into my roadtrip, Larry Crowne has come in churning up feelings and thoughts I had buried deep down in the mud. I guess I need to sift through them and polish up the golden ones.

I love you Scott Pilgrim

I love the film Scott Pilgrim vs The World. It is such a cool film and an original execution. So while in Asheville, North Carolina, I was excited to see that there was a free outdoor screening.

I headed down to the cinema carpark where it was shown on the outside wall, set up my folding chair that I’ve only used once or twice, and sat back to enjoy the film.

At the drive-in

It has been so long since I’ve been to the drive-in. I think maybe it was as a child with my family, all six of us piled into the station wagon.

The drive-in is alive and well in Las Vegas, with about 4 screens showing films all night long. We managed to sneak in under the cover of a blanket to see The Hangover 2. Vegas would be a great place to see The Hangover, especially at the hostel which was the location for one of the scenes, so I guess seeing the second in the franchise there made some kind of sense.

The movie followed the same plot line and formula as the original but in my opinion it was less funny, more offensive.

Never-the-less, the experience of the drive-in with the mop-bucket sized popcorn (with free refill) and the concession stand building full of hungry movie-goers, sneaking around to watch another film for free and trying to find the best viewing position for the screen was fun. I do hope that drive-ins don’t become extinct, because the novelty factor is a goody. However that said, nothing beats the cinema experience for watching a film.

In the studio backlot

Central Perk set
Kicking back on the Friends couch.

Movie Lass and I travelled around the Warner Bros studios in an oversized golf cart today on our VIP Studio Tour. I was very excited to do something really touristy, as none of my adventures so far seem to have ticked the “you are totally a tourist” box.

We started off in the back lot, seeing all the facades that they make to be any old street in New York or Chicago or other place. Different places were pointed out as locations from scenes in movies like The Mask and Spiderman, and also Central Perk from Friends, which definitely holds a soft spot for Warner Bros as their most successful TV series.

Passing some craft services set up, I took photos of the picnic chairs and tables and the cakes on display, ostensibly to inspire my next stint at craft services on a shoot.

Then we saw a scene of The Event being filmed, it was a driving scene, so we saw the car being towed by a truck with all the lights and cameras rigged to it. That was pretty cool, although I have no idea what this TV show is.

A stop at the costume museum was fascinating as we saw costumes worn by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, by the cast of Inception and The Town as well as some older films and little props and pieces from the sets. I liked seeing Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb’s totem from Inception, the spinning top. Upstairs was a whole floor dedicated to Harry Potter and the most exciting bit, getting to sit on a stool and have the Sorting Hat put you in your house. I was delighted when it didn’t even hesitate to put me in Gryffindor! I think I would be good friends with Hermione and I would tease Ron mercilessly.

We checked out some soundstages, massive warehouses with rigging all in the roof and soundproofed walls. We were told how the pirate ship from the Goonies was built in Stage 16, as was the ship in Poseidon and that the first dream sequence of Inception had been built in there.

At the art department section we dodged trucks bringing back props to the warehouse and got to have our photo taken in Central Perk, preserved solely for the tourists on these tours.

I also went slightly shaky and excited as we got to tour the studio set for The Mentalist, one of my favourite tv shows. Whilst they were filming on location, we got to have a look around the headquarters and see Patrick’s leather couch in person. I loved that.

All up it was great to look through the studios and get a bit of an insight, but after having been on a film set myself, it would have been good to hear more about the filmmaking process rather than just bits of trivia which were interesting, but not particularly useful.

My first film set

Saturday dawned my first ever film shoot and my first day on set. It wasn’t something to be taken lightly. Here I have jumped straight out of a regular everyday career in Australia and onto a more uncertain path in a brand new industry that I know not much about.

Filled with excitement, trepidation and a whole bunch of worries about getting in the way, I packed up the muffins and quiches I’d made for the crew’s breakfast and drove to the shoot location at 7am.

I busied myself with setting up the catering table, aka craft services. I filled the urn, brewed coffee and popped up the menu for the day. Meanwhile, as crew started to arrive, so did more equipment. Boxes and boxes. There was tech equipment for the Camera Department, Lighting Department (where you will find the gaffers), Grip Department (the guys that set stuff up and do rigging) and Sound Department (home of big furry microphones and teeny tiny radio mikes).  There were props and set dressing items coming up for the Art Department props and racks of clothes for the Costume Department. It was a full blown flurry of activity as our 16 crew moved in and set up.

Our two stars, Rachael Taylor and Josh Lawson, arrived together, and after they’d been driving for a while looking for a park, one finally came available right out in front of the apartment block so I raced down two flights of stairs, out the front door and bolted across the nature strip (which was currently being watered) to stand in the space to reserve it for our cast members. As could only ever happen in the movies, when our leading lady got out of the car, the sprinklers magically switched off. So Rachael was able to step out of the car looking stunning while I stood on the footpath with wet sprinkles all over me.

I kind of milled about for a while in a nervous knot until it was time for the camera to roll. We were given instructions on where we could stand so we didn’t get in the way of the lights to cast shadows, and then quiet was called for. My eyes widened and my ears pricked up. I think I held my breath. I heard Ricky say “Roll cameras” and then “Action” and we were off. I was fascinated, watching Michele’s script come to life before me. Bits that sounded a little odd on our read throughs became natural when acted out. We did a few takes where they altered the delivery slightly, and then the same scene was shot from a different angle to provide plenty of footage for the edit.

For the second scene I watched the monitors which show what’s being captured on the cameras and that was a whole other field of ‘wow’. It blew my mind away to look at the whole scene before me, and then look at what was on the monitor. All the lighting, camera angles and close ups came together to make a stunning end product. That was super exciting. After I saw the monitor with those views, I felt so immensely proud to be part of this project and my awe of my friends’ talents swelled. Until I saw the real deal, all I could imagine was a little home camcorder video. I know it’s exceptionally silly for me to have thought that’s what it would be like, but I guess when you are presented with new and foreign concepts, you always relate it back to what you know, it’s just human nature. Now I know better. Now I know my own little videos are going to be forever pitiful.

Aside from offering snacks and drinks between scenes while gear was being set up for the next angle and putting in the lunch order for delivery, I had not much else to do. And so my boredom grew. I grew restless from having nothing to do and feeling totally useless. Sure it was fun watching the filming, but it is also watching others work while you twiddle your thumbs. That made me feel lazy. So I jumped at the chance to make some fake beers for J. Part club soda, part apple juice, part vinegar poured into an empty bottle and we had some fizzy, frothy fake beers to serve up to our cast.

After lunch I got to relieve my boredom as I had to make a trip to pick up some sound gear for the second day and that took over two hours. Whilst there was also a lot of waiting around for the equipment to be ready, I had a fabulous in-depth conversation with the receptionist. It was one of those great chats that make your day. She was awesome.

Not long after I got back from running errands it was wrap time (finish time). As much as I wanted to go home to lie down, I had to do another supermarket shop, make the breakfast again and whip up a pavlova. So after another 2 and a half hours in the kitchen I could finally go to bed for a few hours.

In a moment of utter restlessness on the Saturday I had thought “I don’t know if I’m cut out for this.” I doubted my ability to stand around and do nothing while others worked. My work ethic really kicked in and I needed to be busy, or at least doing something at 10% productivity to keep me from idleness. However Sunday dawned a completely different day. I was so much more comfortable on set, I knew what to expect, I knew the crew and kind of what their roles entailed and that I’d be standing around a lot. I was properly prepared.

In addition to some fulfilling conversations off set with people, including a guy in a car telling me I was pretty as I walked past in my red polar fleece and asking me for my number, there were more moments of seeing the film come together beautifully. So I was sad when it was called a wrap on the film (except for the fact that I didn’t want to make more breakfast quiches). We had such a great team of people involved who willingly gave up their weekends to come and volunteered to be part of our team. I have a good feeling that something amazing is going to happen and that we’ll all be working together very soon on the feature length version. But, I shan’t get ahead of ourselves. Ricky has to cut and edit it into a film first. Then you can expect Ricky, Michele, Gin, Devoir, J and I to all go nuts.

And as far as my on-set role as caterer went, it was a success. Compliments flew around. The pavlova was a smash hit with the Americans. But most of all, Rachael commented on what a great spread we had on our craft services table and how it beat what was offered on some of the other, far larger productions she’s worked on. Yay! I guess that makes all the waiting around worthwhile.



Thank you crew

Our two-day short film/teaser trailer shoot this weekend was amazing, but it couldn’t have been achieved without the massive efforts of everyone in the team.

To say thank you, I made a pavlova. I just whipped one up. It was a little Aussie treat for our American crew, and also a treat for the Australians who know how awesome they are.

I’m pleased to say that both the thank you gesture and the pavlova went down well with everyone. However, to be brutally honest I think the reception of the pav is going to be eclipsed by the reception of the short film. It is going to be AMAZING!

Thank you pavlova
With the chicks on set and the thank you pavlova

A really big day

Okay, so from the title it looks as though I’ve got lots to write today, and I do, but you’ll have to wait another day.

It was my first day on set today as we shoot our short film and I am plum tuckered out. I’ve finished off my commitments for the day, which include cooking muffins and mini quiches for breakfast and a pavlova for afternoon tea. I’ve also typed up the menu for tomorrow, so people know what to expect.

As for today, it was all interesting. There are lots of stories to tell. I learned a lot.

So until I can describe it all in detail to you, I will leave you with a photo of Michele and I in front of a fake pillar. The story behind the pillar is that it creates depth with camera angles. I think its primary purpose today was to fool everyone. I think at least 10 of the 16 people on set were tricked by it and leaned on it, or assumed it was a solid building support at some stage of the day.

Pity it’s the day after April Fools.



In front of the fake pillar
We weren't fooled by this fake set prop



I’m the caterer

Okay, so I have the far more official title of Production Coordinator for our short film, but my duties have extended to catering.

Today was the last pre-production day before we start shooting tomorrow. Which meant that everything needed to be locked down, picked up and delivered to our location. While Gin and Devoir were picking up lights, cameras and maybe some action along the way, J and I were at the supermarket. Three supermarkets actually. I was shopping for catering supplies to feed 16 people for two days and she was getting art department props, stuff like apple juice to be pretend beer and baking soda for pretend cocaine.

We went through the running order for the shoot and where things would be. All this new jargon floated around as they ‘blocked’ the scenes and called out code words to each other which maybe one day will make sense to me (just not today).

Then it was back to the ranch for me to finish on the breakfast items of little egg & spinach filo tarts, muffins and the cupcakes for afternoon tea. I ran out of time to make the pavlova, so I hope to have time tomorrow night to do that. I’m sure people could do without it, but it’s such a lovely Australian touch for our new American friends who have come on board to help us make this film.

I’ve just printed out the lunch menu, for which we are ordering food to be delivered, so I think I’m about sorted. Now I just need a good rest before I have to leave the house in 7 hours for my first day on set.

Yes, I’m nervous. Yes, I’m scared. I have no idea what to expect. But none-the-less it’s going to be exciting. And very cool to be on set with my buddies making a movie.

We want to hear you scream

That’s what Leigh Whannell and James Wan (the Saw creators) said as they introduced their new horror flick Insidious at an Australians in Film screening tonight. I needed no further encouragement.

Now, we know that I am not a fan of horror films, so how come I ended up at a horror film made by the guys whose Saw films I can barely even bring myself to look at the trailers for? Well, as we have a horror script in our arsenal, I figured I needed to go and check it out. Perhaps you could say, confront my fear, before we make something scary ourselves.

I briefed a new friend beside me as to what to expect from me; screaming, jumping, hiding behind my shawl and the like. I needn’t have bothered, because whilst she was a diehard horror fan, she was more terrified than me. Don’t get me wrong here. I screamed. Loudly. Loud and often enough to come away with a sore throat. I also jumped out of my skin, spent a good deal of time covering my face with my shawl and biting the end of it and doing little panting breaths in the scary aftermath. But in amongst the scary stuff (which was thankfully not gory stuff), there was some really nice comic relief. How can you not laugh at the comedy Angus Sampson brings?

So despite the film being out of my comfort zone, I enjoyed it. I thought it was an interesting story that came together and I think other scaredy cats like me would enjoy it too.

Perhaps the best bits for me were the introduction of the film and the follow-up q&a with Leigh and James. These Aussie guys are so down to earth and incredibly funny. They have an infectious enthusiasm and when they talk about Insidious, their other films, their creative process and each other, you can’t help but feel excited for them and inspired at the same time.