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?

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.

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.



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.

Punched in the Sucker

I know it’s not that special in this hollywoodland of movies to see films before they are released in the cinema, but this country girl still thinks it is out of this world.

That is one of the reasons I’m a member of Australians in Film. You get to see many films before they are released, and if you conveniently forget that you paid a membership fee, then they are free! You also get to see the stars of the film at the event, and whilst I’ve never actually spoken to any of them, I’m quite starstruck.

Last night I took along My Friend Who Puts the A in LA to see Sucker Punch. The marketers have spent a fortune on this campaign with billboards and ads everywhere. It’s been all around me and I expected it to be a Kill Bill meets Scott Pilgrim type film – like, super cool with lots of awesome fight scenes and a video game fantasy element. It sadly didn’t live up to my expectations. It was stylised to the nth degree, which looked awesome, but didn’t draw me into it. There was minimal dialogue and I found the contrast between the action sequences and the mental asylum inmate camaraderie too extreme. I was also disappointed that the almost solely female cast were then placed in an even more demeaning situation than the mental asylum, a whorehouse (ostensibly to attract a male audience with action and chicks in minimal clothing). I really wanted to be surprised and like Sucker Punch, but it wasn’t to be.

Emily Browning who plays the lead character BabyDoll and Abbie Cornish who plays Sweet Pea introduced the film and I have to say, from a marketer’s point of view, that Abbie is PR gold. When she had the microphone, she then moved to in front of the sponsor banners so the photographer would get them in the background and she addressed the audience in the eye. She answered all the questions so well and really made us want to get suckerpunched.

So even if I didn’t really like the film, the screening still rates on my cool meter.

First read-through

I got to pretend I was an actress! At least in voice.

Yesterday we had our first read through of our feature extract/short film in the park down the road. I read the lines of the female protagonist which, strangely enough, threw me back to a Year 8 audition for a school play. I played an older woman so I sat and rocked in a chair stroking an imaginary cat while delivering the lines. Where that performance landed me a key role, this read through didn’t quite hit the same high notes. However, it’s Rachael Taylor’s job to deliver the performance in the film, so it doesn’t really matter that my read through tone was a bit off.

The read through allowed us to analyse the characters’ motives, flag bits that didn’t feel right and familiarise ourselves with the script and sequencing. Not only was it interesting and appealing to that 13 version of myself, but it was really helpful for us all to share our thoughts and gain a better understanding of how we can bring it to life in the creative process.

I’m looking forward to more read throughs, and bringing my A game to the next character…or the scene descriptions.

That’s my hometown

Last night’s screening of Summer Coda at the Australians in Film event was the first time I’d seen it (in 6 sittings) without having locals around me exclaiming over idiosyncracies in the film’s locations and pointing out extras they knew.

It was nice to not have the cinema erupt in laughter when Heidi waits for a train at the Mildura train station (where a passenger train has not been since 1993) or give an ongoing commentary as though they want to give a performance for the special features on the DVD.

The audience was appreciative and impressed with the result from a team of people on their first feature film and asked really good questions during the Q&A.

Afterwards over drinks and nibbles, I introduced myself to some people using the line “That was filmed in my hometown” as my hook. And a really good hook it was. One fellow asked me about Mildura’s population and another liked my story about the train. Another guy, an Australian actor from near Echuca who has been here for a year, said it felt good to see a little piece of home (being the Murray River) onscreen in LA.

I also met a lovely ballroom dancer, Willem, who has been a past participant on So You Think You Can Dance and has some really cool achievements to his name.

There are so many opportunities to meet people and learn new things, which is really what this move is all about for me.

A read through

The design of a film is mighty important.

It makes all those small details that the script doesn’t include visible, so a production designer has to determine all the right props to match the characters and the location. It all goes towards making the film believable and natural, which is probably why I never believe any of those over-styled rom-com or family dramas that have everything so neat and perfect. They are designed without everyday pe0ple clutter (like I am accustomed to) and really are just show-room floor. The devil is in the detail, so they say.  

So today we met with a production designer for the short film we’re making and did a run through of the script. This meant that we looked at each scene and the possible angles and what kind of furnishings need to be sourced to go with the character’s apartment. We love our production designer. She was a really cool, down-to-earth local who we think we’re going to get along with smashingly.

In the meeting we talked about couches and the type of couch, the colour of couch and the location of the couch for the shoot. We talked about what should go on the walls, is it art or photography, what style, where can we find a loan for those for free. We talked about what should go on the floor, what type of appliances should go in the kitchen and all sorts of other prop details. It was all fascinating.

I spent the meeting pencilling notes on the margin of my script and standing with my mouth agape I’m sure, as I took in all this new information, detail and lingo. Of course I had my little bits of input like “I think a plain red rather than a Persian style rug would look best”. Maybe they weren’t taken up, but I’m going with my fortune cookie reading from yesterday and using my imagination rather than my knowledge.