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.

Preface:

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)

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:59 AM  
Blogger Jorell said...

sound like fun

1:02 AM  
Blogger chavez said...

CRAIG, "YOU FUCK 1000 GIRLS, AND YOU SUCK ONE COCK AND YOU'RE GAY?" - Keith

I fucking miss those guys asshole. I think you need some more distasteful cussing and you forgot about the constant gay jokes about each other, again started on the first day. Oh yeah, and the fact that you will be getting no ass for being THAT GUY. - Toodles, Chavez

6:27 AM  
Blogger chavez said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, greg, Ron White was correct, California changes people. Dude, if you become a director and want to make a movie for the ages, me and neil kennedy will get sloppy drunk for 2 months and you write down our ideas. Then film my life for a while, drink some of my moonshine and prepare to have diamond studded nipples. Larkin

5:21 PM  

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