Thursday, May 22, 2008
When I first moved to L.A. last year I could imagine a lot of possibilities. I'm not star struck very easily and I really don't care about "the scene". I came here to work. But, I never imagined that my first time going to the famous and heavily trafficked Ivy restaurant it would be in a cheap caveman costume on a busy Saturday afternoon. Good thing I was wearing that wig.
I was recently asked to help with some promotional videos by a friend of mine who directed a caveman movie that was recently picked up for distribution. In return for some organizational work on a two day shoot, I would get the equivalent of lunch money, and even more important: credit as a "producer" for an actual film studio (albeit not for a feature).
There were a handful of segments that we needed from several locations. The director/star of the movie was to do man-on-the-street interviews in full caveman costume with movie-goers outside of several theaters . We also had to shoot a segment inside of a theater with absurd jokes concerning audiences watching the movie, plus, one of the actors from the film would be jaunting around various Los Angeles locations in costume.
The actor playing the caveman was late on the first day and I had to don the costume to join the director for the man-on-the-street stuff. Though the temperature reached about 98 degrees -- not easy to bear in animal fur and wig -- it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the reactions of the people we ambushed. Many of them were great - very game, funny and clever.
The second day inside the theater was even more fun. We had several extras participating - also very game and clever - and I had to don several costumes for many of the gags. I especially enjoyed playing the luchador, but damn, I couldn't see a thing in the mask when I got to flailing around. I don't know how they do it.
After lunch we planned the rest of the day. We had hoped to get our caveman actor out in public places - the LaBrea Tarpits (haha), the beach, Santa Monica pier, a bar, etc. - "clubbing" a bunch of women, reflecting an ongoing gag from the film. No, I don't mean the "dance-til-I-puke" variety of clubbing, but the caveman courtship activity of hitting women over the head. Yep...We had one problem though: none of our extras stuck around. We had no women to club and we weren't going to go after unwitting civilians. The solution? Riffing off another gag in the film - a play on the term "homo erectus" - we would chronicle the meeting and subsequent love of two cavemen. Which meant I got to put on the costume again.
During most of the rest of the day me and my fellow Neanderthal walked hand-in-hand around West Hollywood, a renowned gay neighborhood, carrying clubs and spears, window shopping, sightseeing, arguing, going to art galleries, crashing kitchen design showrooms, and - as I mentioned - trying to get a table at the Ivy. Which was incredibly crowded.
This was guerilla filmmaking too. No permits were solicited. Needless to say, I and my fellow faux caveman were bounced from almost every location. No one was pissed about it. Most people laughed. Some were game to play along. As my partner and I browsed inside of a high-end modern furniture store, discussing the merits of post-modernism, one of the salespeople generously asked if we wanted to look at more samples. "We have that sofa in purple upstairs," she said pleasantly, "would you like to see it?"
A lot of people thought we were shooting a Geico promo. A gorgeous couple from France enthusiastically asked to take our picture and we immediately got them involved, getting footage of them snapping pics. The manager of an art gallery invited us inside to shoot us looking at art, which got us out of the heat for a bit and gave us another good gag.
At the end of the day I found myself outside of Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood with the director shooting some lead-ins for the movie theater gags. We fit in pretty well with all the costumed goofs who entertain the tourists (my god, it was crowded). People got excited however when they learned we weren't there just to pretend to be Jack Sparrow, but that we were promoting an actual movie with actual stars.
All in all, I had a blast, despite the brutal heat. I wish I was more brave though. I have to admit that I couldn't quite get myself to recline on the fur-blanketed bed in the window of that showroom, and I got cold feet for a minute before we went to the Ivy. But the director and D.P. said we got what we needed and it was fine. The director also said very nicely "It's okay. You just became a chicken-shit for a minute." He then told me how, for one of his movies, he and an actor actually sneaked into the Academy Awards. He got all the way backstage carrying an Oscar and wearing a top hat and a t-shirt with a tuxedo printed on it.
The Oscar thing took a lot of balls. And all I had to do was ask for a table...chicken-shit. No wait: that's Producer Chicken-Shit.