February 9, 2007

Friday, February 9, 2007
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Check out the poem “Ski” on Circadian.

I do appreciate your comments of concern regarding the work schedule and the stress level. What I’m trying to communicate via this blog is how, if you work in the entertainment industry, it’s not what’s shown in the magazines and gossip shows. Because of the choices I made in my career, my passion, my vocation, I’ve eliminated many of the choices that are part and parcel of most people’s routines. To make a living in this industry is darned hard work, and you don’t have the luxury of taking time when you need it. You get time between gigs. If you’re any good, there’s not a whole lot of time between the gigs.

The incompetents we all have to deal with in our work day tend to be in the admin end of this business, not backstage or on set. Incompetence will only be tolerated for short periods of time in most cases. There’s too much work, and producers rarely hire enough people to comfortably cover it. And, because it’s concentrated work – it has to happen within the hours of the show or the filming – it’s not like you can let something slide and get to it the next day. There’s no inbox where something can sit. You’ve got to get the clothes prepped, repaired, preset, and toss those actors in and out of them on time or the show doesn’t happen.

Personally, my next day off is February 19, and I don’t intend to do a whole lot that day.

Yes, actors work hard in extreme conditions, but crews work double the hours and don’t get the pampering and coddling that actors get. Theatre actors get a heck of a lot less of the coddling than film actors, and have to be pretty smart and self-sufficient if they’re going to make it on stage. Which is why so few film actors do well on stage and so many theatre actors can make the transition to film or television.

Next time you watch an hour-long drama on television, know that it took AT LEAST 200 people that you never see, working 8 days of AT LEAST 12 hour days, usually 14-18 hour days, turning around and coming right back at the crack of whenever, usually in extremes of temperature, especially if it’s on location, in order for you to sit on your couches in your safe houses and watch. A feature film shoots about two pages (approximately two minutes) per day. A television drama has to shoot around 10 pages. Basically, an hour-long drama does a mini-movie every week. Remember when I worked that series last summer? On the hottest day of the year, temperatures over 100 degrees? And we had to match shots that were originally filmed in March, so I had to put my actors in overcoats? And very often, when the actors are wearing skimpy clothes, it’s about 20 degrees. That’s the way it goes. You can’t always schedule to season. You have to schedule when the network tells you to shoot it.

And frankly, my dear, the suits that make the decisions don’t give a damn, as long as they get their advertising dollars. If something creative and wonderful comes out of it (which is why every creative team goes into a project), goody, but as long as they can sell it, they don’t care.

Which is why you have crap like “reality” television. It’s not reality. If it was reality, it would be a documentary. It’s merely exhibitionists showing their worst selves. And it’s cheaper than properly scripted, well-produced shows.

Also remember that, for film or TV, most actors aren’t scheduled every day. The crew is, though. On a one-hour drama, an actor might get to shoot all his scenes in two or three days (if he’s lucky – some weeks, he will be in every day for the whole 14 hours). The crew is there for several hours before the actors arrive, and several hours after they leave. Every day.

On a theatre show, the actor has to be there every performance. Yes, there are swings and people call out and all that, but, basically, the performer has to be there, eight times a week, with no end in sight (and none desired) unless it’s a limited run.

When you go to see a Broadway show, there are over 100 people you never see (if they’re good at their jobs) making it all happen. And they only get one day off a week. And they work nights, weekends, and holidays. And many of them are working parents, just like you, only they don’t have the luxury of a 9-5 lifestyle. A friend of mine in the theatre raised her son as a single parent, working on a Broadway schedule. I don’t know how she did it. Imagine doing all the things you have to do as a parent AND work eight shows a week, nights, weekends, and holidays. How many of you could do it? And tech people don’t have child care. Successful actors hire in nannies, but most crew people don’t.

If you’re on a regular gig, and have an understanding boss, occasionally, you MIGHT be able to take a day off for your wedding anniversary or a birthday or your kid’s play. But that’s the exception, not the norm. Most of the time, you don’t get to participate in the normal family events, or you have to reschedule celebrations around the work schedule. And holidays? One of my friends on the show hasn’t had the chance to celebrate Christmas yet with her sister.

And yet, ask most stressed out, overworked persons in the industry if they’d rather do the 9-5 gig, and they’d say no. Who wants to be stuck in a cubicle when you can be part of a creative process? There’s a high price to be paid, but most people are happy to pay it for 20 years or so, and then try to move into another career (as I’m doing).

Backstage yesterday, we discussed the un-reality show You’re the One That I Want, that’s casting the next Broadway production of Grease, and how we, as a community, are insulted by the show. Yes, we’ve all watched parts of it. And we HATE it. It does not present an accurate casting process; it does not document the creative process that goes into putting on a show. It is an insult to the integrity of everyone who busts their butts eight times a week. But the producers don’t care, because they got an amazing advance sale out of it. There are some great documentaries out there about the “making of” various shows – go watch them instead, if you really want an idea of the process.

Anyway, back to yesterday. The phone kept ringing, but I finally got out of the apartment around 11. Took the R train (also known as the “Rarely”) down to Prince Street, rather than Canal, because Pearl River Mart recently moved from Chinatown up to Soho. Their new location is HUGE, quite a difference from their space on Canal Street. Full of tourists, now, too, but, oh well. I dug around in the back and downstairs and got the stuff I need for Chinese New Year next week (yes, I know, the Token White Girl shops for Chinese New Year – what can I say, I’ve worked on many Asian shows and am often teased as the “token white girl” or the “honorary Asian”).

I passed some boutiques – in addition to the regulars like Armani, you also have places like theory and Elie Tahari, who have some excellent stuff. A couple of the television shows I worked dressed most of the women with their lines. Many of those in the real lines of work represented by the characters really can’t afford to shop at theory, but hey, it’s fantasy, right? But after all the time it took me to wrap up to be outside, there was no way I was going to go into a store, unwrap, and try on clothes.

By then, I was really hungry, so I figured I’d eat down in Soho. Well, easier said than done. I checked out a few restaurants, but they had tapas-sized portions at banquet prices; no thanks. I wanted civilized, not trendy. I ended up wandering back up into the West Village. I think I might move the house location in Token and Affections from Perry Street over to 10th and Waverly. I found some wonderful buildings, which I photographed. I thought I’d try a Vietnamese restaurant on Bleecker I’ve wanted to try for ages, but it was already something else. Restaurants change like underwear. I nearly went to my old hangout, Le Figaro Café, but they’ve changed the menu, and didn’t have anything I really wanted. So, I wandered across W. 4th and over to Sheridan Square, and then on up 7th Avenue South to Riviera Café, a place to which I’ve gone for years. They had a glassed in porch-type section, right in the sun, so that’s where I parked, for a lunch of grilled salmon on julienned vegetables and arugula-type greens. Delicious.

Then, I wandered over to Avenue of the Americas and up to 23rd Street, to a store my friend Barbara told me about yesterday, called Reminiscence. She told me they had kitschy Nancy Drew stuff there, amongst all the various jokey and vintage stuff, so I HAD to go. I got several Nancy Drew journals and notepads. One of the journals has the cover for The Secret in the Old Attic, which was my very first Nancy Drew book and still one of my favorites.

By then, I was cold, and there was a subway stop right there, so I hopped the V (Voyeur) train and came back up to midtown. I crawled through the Fashion Week madness around Bryant Park and got back to Artie’s in the early afternoon.

The only stuff I’ve liked in this Fashion Week has been Michael Kors’s lines for both men and women, and some of Betsey Johnson’s hats. The rest – I’m sorry, I do NOT want to see most of the men around here wearing leggings come fall, and these short, A-line capes for men that hit about mid-thigh look stupid on them. These guys look like they’re wearing wool replicas of ski chalets. Um, why? If they look bad on the models, how are they going to look on regular guys? Ick.

Grabbed a nap with the cats, did some project work, made a quick pasta dinner, and off to the theatre. Morale tends to be good there on Thursday nights because it’s pay day. Show was fine; relatively smooth. It’s live, so there’s always something unusual happening.

The Tin Box is a lovely book; it’s difficult to read backstage in between cues because it deserves more than just a few minutes at a time.

This morning, I’m going to get some food in to prepare a meal for Artie’s return. He gets in Sunday night, and I want to make sure all he has to do is heat it up. Most of the day will be spent quietly, writing, and then I have dinner with a friend at 4 PM. I got a late start, so I’m going to do my banking and errands first, and then have about five or six hours for the writing. I plan to work on Changeling and Tumble today, and on whatever price quotes, etc., have come in for the business writing. I also need to do a couple of ads for the Fearless Ink site, a few press releases, and get those prepped to go out next week.

I’m truly surprised at how big a difference it makes NOT to commute 3 hours each day. I knew it had some effect, but it’s astonishing. Not only am I less exhausted, but I also have more hours in which to write. However, because I’m not on the train, I have much less time to read. I can’t believe I haven’t even finished a single book this week. I usually read one every two days or so.

I managed to start the Martha Gellhorn biography last night, when I had trouble settling down after the show, and wasn’t in the mood for fiction. It’s a wonderful book, and I’m excited to read more.

The Barbaro article was passed around backstage last night, and reduced most of the people who read it to tears. I admit — I was pleased. Means my words hit home, and I did the beautiful horse justice.

Devon