Tuesday, August 16, 2005

MTV Day 3: Human Jousting, A God-Awful In N' Out Experience, and Mike Ransom

This is part 3 of my ongoing series about working with MTV for their show "High School Stories."

Since MTV wasn't paying me to get up early, I decided to avoid the 9:00 call for for the principal actors to be on-set. I strolled on set around 11 (the call for extras) and greeted the crew who were setting up a Jackass like shot in which Nick Lish sat in a shopping cart, Harry, Chavez, TG and to a lesser extent Pat (who ran along side the cart and nearly killed himself by running into a poll) pushed him down a hallway, nearly hitting extras as they scrambled past.

They did this set up a few times, Biz threw me in the shot and Steve predictably kicked me out, which is ironic in a sense because I got more screentime later in the day than the rest of the extras. My lone contribution to the overall story of the segment came, as we were in between shots and I suggested to Steve that he might film some "human jousting" if he got the chance. As is usual when the words "human" and "jousting" are combined, you are compelled to ask "What the hell is that?"

Human jousting involved our group of friends grabbing someone, hoisting them horizontally and running them into another group of friends who had their own man ready to charge. Chaos inevitably ensued. It was also damn funny to watch and be a part of. So Steve immediately liked this idea. I set up one side while Chavez readied the other. Of course it just so happened that the actor who was playing our principal arrived on set at the exact moment we were supposed to start filming, so "Craig" was once again kicked out of the shot to go fetch the actor.

I came back, saw a few takes. This is a good opportunity to talk about what a professional Biz was. Steve and Ryan had covered the action from the usual places (wide shot, close up). Steve yells "I think we got it." Biz stops him, he's got an idea. He has the extras put him in the place of a jouster, gets himself horizontal and holds the camera facing the other team of jousters. And then they run straight at eachother. That's the kind of cool angle that will add a little something to an otherwise standard piece. And it's why his name is Showbiz, he's very good at what he does.

After this sequence, a quick "planning" scene was improvised where the 5 main characters sat around a table and decided who was doing what. Mike Ransom and I are in the background. This scene isn't noteworthy except for what happened in between takes. One of the extras decided he felt like directing.

Extra: Hey! Hey! How about I jump in the scene and go "And then I can go and tell the Dean"...
Steve: (look of complete disbelief)
Extra: That'll be cool right?
Steve: Umm... no.
Keith: Everyone's a fuckin director.

After this everyone was stoked because today's lunch was In N' Out Burger day. Every extra/crew member was gonna get a burger. Mike Ransom rolled in just in time for the following scene. He absolutely STOLE the scene and when I say stole, I mean like jacked a lollipop right out of an infants mouth stole.

The reason we all were getting In N' Out was because someone had heard that we had received a ton of burgers from the Dean in exchange for his lugnuts back. Here MTV got half of the story right. The entire Senior class did get hamburgers, but it was from a classmate's family (it was also Wendy's). Here, MTV just combined the two events so to make it seem that one of our demands was that the Dean buy us all burgers.

So the following scene was born: the 5 heroes walk into the cafeteria where a number of students are seated enjoying their free burgers. We see them and start a mass celebration that ends with the Dean telling us "Ya got me!"

Imagine if you will, myself and Mike Ransom sitting across from eachother in this cafeteria, we each have a cold, not good tasting burger anymore sitting in front of us, that we desperately want to bite into, but we can't because we need it for the camera. We took this pent up angst and turned it into an absolutely chaotic scene that I won't soon forget.

ACTION! I turn around look at the five guys walking in the cafeteria, everyone waits in silence for me to start. I jump up and start screaming, the cafeteria erupts with everyone raising the burgers in the air and charging the guys. Mike Ransom starts jumping on top of his table. He bites viciously into his burger screaming shaking his head left to right violently. Once I see this I can barely contain myself. Mike has the entire crew in stitches. Hamburgers and fries go flying every which way. On every take Mike improvises. On one take he steals the ketchup bottle and starts chugging ketchup. On the next he tells Chavez to chug an entire bottle of Gatorade (my Gatorade dammit).

We ended not filming a lot after that sequence. There were a few sequences with the Principal and the Dean, but for one reason or another I didn't see them. Chavez, Brian (who also showed up just in time for the In N'Out scene) and I spent a lot of time stealing Gatorades from the cafeteria. Note to cafeteria workers: when locking refrigerators, do make sure you can't fit a hand inside.

Ransom's scene saved the day for me, I was tired from constantly yelling, the In N'Out was awful, and I didn't learn a whole lot. His hysterical performance made things go a lot faster.

However, this was not to be the only scene he stole lucky for us, he had another trick up his sleeve.

But once again, that's for next time.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

MTV Day 2: Getting a Job, Losing a Job and Partying With the Crew

This part of my ongoing articles on working with an MTV crew. Part 1 can be read here.

Day 2 began much, much too early. I had crashed at my buddy Eric's house and awoke to the sound of my cell phone ringing very loudly. I looked down, saw a number I didn't recognize and went back to sleep. The same number called back again 15 minutes later, this time I picked up, with the hope that I could convince whoever it was not to call again.

I picked up and heard Ryan Miller on the other end. Immediately he asked me, "How would you like to do some production work?" Hell yes I would. I scrambled up and immediately began yelling at passed out friends to get moving.

The location was Washington High School, which looks absolutely NOTHING like Brophy. And when I say absolutely nothing I mean it's like comparing Rosanne Arnold to Heidi Klum. Brophy is an aesthetically pleasing mission style stucco campus filled with beautiful archways, scenic landscaping and huge buildings. Washington High School is a very urban looking, with lots of bricks, poles and dark hallways.

Once I arrived in the parking lot, Keith greeted me with a smile- "There's Craig. About fuckin time, now get out of here we have a job for you." I wave at Biz, who is shooting an actress pretending to be Brophy's Security Chief, Ms. K. This actress is about 70, dressed in a quasi-police uniform and looks nothing like Ms. K. Ms. K is around 45 or so, used to be a cop and could easily kick half the school's ass. She is not going to like her replacement.

I talk to Ryan who says my first job is to go to Circuit City and pick up some headphones for Keith. Back to the car.

I get the headphones (all the while, myself Eric and Nick yell as we walk through the store, "Out of the way MTV coming through. Out of the way.") and head back. The crew had moved to a new locale and was shooting a hallway scene involving a bunch of students reacting to the prank. One particularly lame shot involved a number of students saying, "They jacked the Dean's nuts."
Ugh. And you guessed it- all of this never happened. Most students were in class when the prank went down.

I had spent some time with Biz and Keith setting up all the lighting for these shots and the ones that followed. You'll never guess when you see it on TV, but we had two huge lighting rigs providing key light (i.e. front light), and back light on all the actors.

We continued in the hallway and shot both a teacher and the Dean coming down the hallway. The teacher stopped to converse with a few extras (ironically not real Brophy students, who we had a number of on-location that day) and then walked past camera. The next set up was the Dean walking past a bunch of Brophy guys (Eric, Mike, Brian) who, see if you can spot this when it airs, are chugging a bottle of Clorox. The Dean then walked down the hallway, ran into a student who was hurrying to class, and told a bunch of kids to tuck in their shirts.

All in all the Dean wasn't a bad actor, but he was about 20 years older than Gmelich and didn't really capture what Gmelich was all about. Gmelich could look at you in such a way that you immediately began looking around until you discovered what it was he was upset about. He also had an extremely dry sense of humor that wasn't touched on at all. But in a 15 minute segment what can you do?

While we are on the subject of actors and extras a few things to note- actors as a general rule are assholes. The people behind the camera are much more down to earth and fun to be around. Actors are delusional. They live in a bubble where they are the most important people on earth and to suggest otherwise is akin to treason. Luckily, on this shoot the adult actors were professionals. The extras on the other hand were oddballs.

However, there is no one, and I mean no one I have worked with who compares with the extra originally known as Lance, later labelled by the crew as "Freakboy."

Freakboy had shoulder length blonde hair, a constant scowl and said nothing to anyone. The consensus was he was on a lot of drugs (later confirmed in part by me) or hadn't slept in days (also confirmed later by me). When he did speak it was always some stupid ass question like "When's lunch?" or "When's the next closeup?" He also bitched and moaned a lot, which was annoying because everyone was working their ass off in 110 degree heat while the extras sat in air conditioned rooms for most of the day. I personally wanted to shove my foot up his ass, because I hadn't had time to change from the night before and walked around in long jeans all day. More on Freakboy later.

The day moved along, we had Domino's for lunch. Keith's quote on that: "Ah, so Domino's is shitty no matter where you go in America." My response: "Well at least you won't be surprised."

After lunch we shot more walkway scenes. I wasn't around for some of it because I was striking (taking down) lighting rigs. I also helped out the Production Coordinator Joelle with some mundane tasks I won't bore you with.

The day wrapped with me giving extras instructions as to when to walk through yet another hallway scene. MTV is honest to God going to have at least 30 minutes of walking scenes to choose from for this show.

At the end of the day Joelle asked me to come into the makeshift crew area. I apparently had some paperwork to fill out. I was officially an employee of MTV. She asked me if I was okay with the daily rate. I had no idea what she was talking about, because I was under the impression I was doing this work for free (this is somewhat standard in Hollywood, you do a lot of Production Assistant work for free in order to move up in the chain of command). So when she said, "We're paying you 150 for today is that alright?" I said "Good lord." She thought I wanted more money.

That night the crew wanted to go out, so Nick Lish had planned a little shindig at his house. The little shindig grew into a huge freaking party by 10 o'clock. The crew got there around 10:30. I left the party with Keith and Biz to take them to the local liquor store. When we got back the party had gotten broke up by Tempe cops because some idiot was out front making noise. We all felt pretty bad we couldn't have shown the guys a better time that night. However, they told me they hit the Tempe bar area, which is always fun.

I also had found out that I was getting fired in a sense that night because Joelle's production assistant who hadn't shown up that day was apparently showing up the next. But the crew liked me and wanted me to come back the next day. Which ended up being good for both me and the guys, because the PA was useless.

So I did head back to Washington High the next day and almost ended up in a fist fight with an extra.

But that's for next time.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

MTV Day 1: Becoming Craig, Meeting "Biz," Finding Out Who the Hooligans Are and Getting the Hell Out of the Shot

As promised, here is part one of my 4 or 5 part (I'm lazy, so we'll see) story about my experience as both cast and crew working for MTV's High School Stories series.


My first call with Ryan Miller (Associate Producer) happened a little over 3 weeks ago, when I was in San Diego. He called and asked if I wouldn't mind coming down to a day or two of filming for a show documenting my Senior Class's end of the year prank. (The show is High School Stories, some of you have probably heard of it) The prank, which I didn't think actually went that well (more on this later), would be completely re-enacted and they needed interview segments to complement the re-enactments. I figured they might use a couple clips from me describing the prank and then send me on my way. I was wrong.

Fast forward to last Tuesday. I'm at my boring office job, counting the number of pens on my desk, when my phone rings again. It's Ryan. He's confirming my availability- as if I would turn the chance to watch a TV project being shot- and then asks me if I know of anywhere they might be able to film with a pool. Well, I have a pool. Will I sign a release form? Damn straight I will.

Day 1

The day started about 9:30. The crew rolled up in two cars full of equipment. I finally met Ryan, and was introduced to Steve (Producer), Biz (Director of Photography) and Keith (Audio Guy). Ryan is 27, married and just looks like a friendly guy. Biz looks about 30 and looks like a New York Italian, which he is. Keith is a burly, stocky New York Italian, who looks like he played fullback, which he did. These three have a razor sharp humor and if you aren't careful, can and will rip you into pieces. But the guys all have hearts of gold and are among the best people I've met in the business. Steve on the other hand, is 37 and looks like he's maybe 21, is mild and soft spoken. He's funny, but not as outgoing as the other three.

We made our introductions and headed out to the pool, where I had a chance, in between setting up for the first interview to talk with the guys about the film and TV scene in New York, where all of them are from. I was surprised to learn that all the guys are temporary employees of MTV, who do freelance work. Ryan had just gotten done working on the TV show, Inked, which I had seen and actually enjoyed. I told Ryan I normally hated reality TV, but had found Inked to be pretty interesting. He thought this was amusing because his job on Inked was to find and create stories out of footage. Most of the time this involved creating an entirely faked series of events. For instance in the pilot episode of Inked, the main thrust of the story surrounds the two co-owners battling for full control of the tatoo parlor they own. It's made to seem as if the battle involves lawyers, bitter phone calls and a lot of anger. In reality, one co-owner had left the business well before the TV crews had arrived and the producers had to coax him back to act the sequence of events out (the lawyers and phone calls never happened).

Ryan went on to say that 99% of reality TV is scripted. The rest of the crew chimed in with their own experiences- Blind Date ("totally scripted - you think it's a coincidence they pick people with who are total opposites?") Real World ("absolute BS - they pick obnoxious people who will play along with fake drama") and the aforementioned Inked ("We had to create stories and try and match footage to those stories") A lot more work goes into reality TV than simply shooting and editing.

During this conversation I made it clear to Ryan and Steve that I was a film production, which turned out to be a real smart move on my part.

Back to my pool. Since the Brophy guys were late, Steve decides that I should be the first interviewee. He starts off with a lot of questions about Brophy, Dean Gmelich, and Phoenix in general. But then he throws me a curveball. He wants me to disassociate myself from my group of friends. I immediately know where this is headed. I'm going to be "that guy." The guy who they cut to who says things like "Boy those guys are sure wild" or "Those guys are crazy" or "I wish I were as cool as they were."

But, whatever, I'm not too worried and play along. Just to set the record straight in case the editor's make me look like an ass, I mentioned that I liked Dean Gmelich, I loved Brophy, and that I was a bit of a troublemaker. I also find out that MTV has renamed our group of friends (which we used to call the "F.U.C.K.E.R.s") to "The Hooligans." So I spent a lot of time talking about a group that never existed that I apparently wasn't a part of. That's Reality for you.

The interview lasts over 30 minutes, which would have been okay, except we were outside in the 100 degree heat. I'm going to look like a friggin tomato on TV.

We wrap up my interview and Anthony Chavez and Nick Lish arrive and they each do their respective interviews (which again last about 30 minutes each). Here's the crazy thing, the TOTAL segment is going to be about 14 minutes. Before the lunch break on the first day, they have over 90 minutes of interview material.

About this time I call my buddy John Howard and tell him to head down. I figure they may use him as an extra or something (they don't) or might ask him for an interview (they don't). At least he got to see a film crew at my house.

Lunch is fun, because the guys are from New York and have never been to In N Out burger. Needless to say they enjoyed it. Also my lunch was comp'ed by MTV and free food always tastes better. (John's lunch wasn't- he left soon after this)

The afternoon was spent filming an event that never happened: Chavez sitting by a pool cutting up a ransom note to give to the Dean. Nick Lish and I dive into the pool on occasion and swim around to make the background of the shot more interesting. And then, out of nowhere, the longest running joke of the entire shoot was born- Craig.

Unbeknownst to me, Steve had misheard my name as Craig. While we were diving he made the decision that my face couldn't be seen for the rest of the day, because in the constraints of the story I had to be "that guy" and "that guy" can't be hanging out with the cool kids. So he started saying a lot of "Craig, get out of the shot." Biz and Keith just thought this was hysterical- here they were shooting at my place, using my house, and the producer had my name wrong and was kicking me out of the shot.

I was the butt of this joke for the rest of the shoot. But it was okay, because the crew and I immediately got along and they didn't hesitate to put me to work behind the scenes, which was exactly what I had hoped for.

They filmed the one ransom note scene about 8 times from about 8 different angles. I'd estimate by the end of the day they had well over an hour's worth of footage of that one scene. This would become the standard for the rest of the shoot.

We wrapped around 5:30 or so and said our good-byes. Ryan asked me to come down and be an extra for the shoot at Washington High School the next day. Even though being an extra is shitty, I of course said yes, because:
A. the crew was awesome and this was a great opportunity to learn from pro's
B. some friends and I were planning to go out and party and then head down to the shoot anyway
C. I had nothing better to do than go sit on my ass in an office

I headed out that night with vague notions of sitting in a classroom, shooting the shit with friends all day. How very wrong I was...

Read Day 2 (coming soon)
Read Day 3 (coming soon)
Read Day 4 (coming soon)
Read Day 5 (coming soon)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Anyone But Jarrett

Update 11/20/08

3 plus years later and Jarrett is arrested. Here's my inevitable "told ya so."

For all those venturing to my site for the first time: welcome. If you're curious, nothing Jarrett has done in the last three years has changed my opinion of him or the people he associates with. 

The unedited article below.


As I've already discussed on this website, the wannabe Al Sharpton (Sharpton by the way is, in my estimation, a class A idiot), Jarrett Maupin has started his political career by campaigning for District 8 in Phoenix. I've decided to start a campaign of my own:

There is NO NO NO reason to elect this proven liar to office. In the years that I knew Jarrett at Brophy, he spent his time:

1. Ostracizing himself, spending time with only those who agreed with his skewed view of the world.

2. Leading the Teenage Republicans. THAT'S RIGHT, I said leading the Young Republicans. Maupin, the next "Rev" (by the way, anyone who thinks they can just bestow upon themselves the title of Reverend, is an insult to the dedication and years of service those in the religious life selflessly give up) spent his time participating in debates and arguing for Republican ideals. That's until he was booted off for BEING LATE and LAZY. Like any true opportunist, he didn't hesitate to flip his views 180 degrees when it offerred him a chance at fame.

3. Lying. He made up numerous accounts of racism at Brophy that not only were never verified, but were sometimes disproven by sheer idiocy of the accusations.

I encourage you to spread the word. Don't let District 8 reward Maupin's years of self-serving slandering.

P.S. Feel free to grab the image. Put it up anywhere and everywhere.