IN PLAIN SIGHT 'On Set' 23 Jan 2012
"On Location Casting" Tina Kerr sent me an email describing their requirement to update my file photo. 18 Jan 12 was good for me, so the I-25 Studio was pulled up on MapQuest. Being near the Tramway exit, south of the Sandia Casino turnoff, made it easy to find. Having been there a year ago, the back street entrance off San Antonio, was recognized as a shortcut.
Tina took the required pictures for a $3 fee and mentioned the following 23 Jan as a casting opportunity. Call' Info was passed on by my phone call to Karen on Sunday after 2pm. Parking at 239 Elm downtown, 7am call' time. MapQuest gave easy directions, parked and a van delivered us to the live Set' in the Barrio, just off South Broadway. I was now working on the set of IN PLAIN SIGHT
On most local films, I always see many of the same people that I have worked with over the years. This time was totally different, not even One of my old acquaintances were present. Not exactly sure why a tall craggy and grizzled, bearded old 'Gringo' like myself, was browsing around in this Hispanic Barrio scene, but here I am anyway. Maybe my 'look' is becoming more Hardened? May come in handy during the filming of 'The Lone Ranger' SILVER BULLET in March.
'Fiesta De La Mesa' (Party on the Mesa) was a little Mexican style vending carnival of sorts, set up with real vendors, compensated and also selling their wares. As are many sets', it almost appeared real. 'Day of the Dead' white skulls and skeletons, traditional Hispanic interest items were on display in each little vehicle tailgate' booth. 'Tio Frank's local chile was next to Dolores 'Alien' (as in space aliens) Salsa display table. Both were offering samples which had a nice tasty bite.
The stars were the few animals. Of course always supervised by a 'Livestock Bureau Humane Officer' assigned by law to every set where animals are used. This set included a Shetland Pony, 2 small Pigs, a couple of Sheep and Goats, all in secure pens accompanied by their wranglers, I'm sure they were very safe.
Alpacas were an interesting draw, not only for the kids on set, of which there were several working background with their parents (if no parents, a 'Kid Wrangler' is mandated). Alpacas are gaining in popularity over traditional livestock on small farm operations. Their wool is quite fine and marketable to weavers.
People sell breeding pairs.... somewhat like a Pyramid' enterprise, similar to the Ostrich' craze years ago (They ended up abandoned and roaming all over the countryside until they died). Alpacas are quite docile and Intelligent (far more so than Ostriches). Especially in comparison to larger, more labor and cost intensive cattle.
The Alpacas seemed curiously interested in the day's activities. We were forewarned about their unpredictable and nasty habit of spitting like their cousins the Llamas. Texas, in spite of the seasonal heat, is just one mecca for Alpaca breeders. I read in this morning's news' that the shaggy long haired YAKs are the new Fad (above 7,500 ft altitude).
The red vintage 'Popcorn and Cotton Candy Carriage' was busy all day.
The candy striped lady made lots of both. All who liked it, Really liked it. The kids all were stuffing the Free cotton candy into their mouths as fast as it kept coming. Sugar overloads? The covered, music bandstand was right in front of the vintage popcorn carriage, and the Alpacas next to that, so all three forms of entertainment were close. Seems like I spent a lot of time in that area.
'Mary Shannon' the Federal Agent (Principle Star) was at the 'Fiesta' to meet with Carlos, the pierced, heavily tattooed (his neck is actually blurred blue) Hispanic informant. The entire day was spent endlessly doing the 'meeting', with much dialog, including Carlos subsequent arrest, or was it?. As in all scenes, the Principles had Stand In's of their approximate appearance, to allow set up of the camera shots, before' Live, "Rolling, Rolling", "Background Action".
The Mario's caterer provided a meager breakfast of lower quality than usual in the South Broadway Community Center, used as Extra's Holding'. No bacon and eggs, that I really looked forward to. The coffee was very good, hot and black to make up for the cold morning and simple, breakfast fried egg sandwiches/burritos.
Lunch was somewhat better, with choice of Salmon or Chicken breast, a brown tinged day old salad and a couple of side items, including cake and lemonade. Always sweets and fresh fruit on the buffet. Later, the snack cart had additional fresh fruit and energy bars. The budget is obviously tighter on this set than in the past shoots' I have worked.
Kind of chilly, glad that I had layered over a 'base lower, to keep legs from freezing. The long sleeved Henley undershirt helped keep the upper body warm in the morning chill of 26 degrees. Lesson I learned about the winter filming long ago on the Westerns.
Many of the people did not think ahead and were shivering uncontrollably during the long periods of standing inactivity or reset', while waiting for camera setups. Production' carries tape measures for depth of field, camera perfection. Cotton does not hold in the body heat, like wool or poly. Sailors had a saying about cold wet conditions, "Dead men sure look good... in Cotton"
I watched in sympathy, as several people who wore cold cotton sweaters and jackets, with no base protection, were shaking like tree leaves in an earthquake. They looked in character... but froze. Wardrobe knew about the layers I was attired in and let me stay as dressed for scenes, clothed just as I had arrived.
If I had known it was on scene of a Hispanic Fiesta within the Bario of Albuquerque's South Broadway, my outer attire and especially the business/weather tan cloth hat I wore, would have been more in character for New Mexico, more earthy'? As it was, I looked more like an out of state tourist. Maybe that is what the wardrobe folks had in mind? Columbia logo on my sleeve of the patterned wool jacket, had to be covered over with a small tab of black cloth tape. No advertising, even small logos are spotted immediately. Whatever props' handed out, were to be carried consistently. Continuity' is watched for, and quick pics were taken often in case of a re-shoot at a later time.
As the sun rose, the set warmed substantially to 50 degrees and more, as is the nature of New Mexico. The crowds were re-arranged for camera angles to look like they were twice to four times as large in numbers. I worked several early scenes until my bearded appearance was getting too familiar. Production Assistant (Eric) then placed me in deep background with my back to the camera for the rest of the day's shoot.
I am always impressed by the Unique 'Steady Cam' and it's cameraman wearing the armored vest of polycarbonate strapped around his body, with the camera mount post suspended in front. When the time for the 'shoot' nears, he approaches the 80# camera stashed on it's tripod between shoots, and locks into the camera's support rod bracket.
As he walks, the battery powered, gyroscopic camera floats Steady' on it's counter-sprung, multi-jointed linkage, as if it were on a dolly. "Steady" was often ordered by the Director, and used extensively as the 'principles' Mary and Carlos moved through the crowds. Backing away in front of the Principles, as they walk rapidly, the cameraman is guided from behind by his assistant to prevent tripping.
Only on the deep shots, those that required zero camera movement, was the 290mm, long lens of the 70 pound Alexa camera, with it's state of the art Digital stabilizing technology used. It's $120,000 cost, kept it sheltered away from the elements between shoots. As the light blue 1963? Chevy Convertible low rider honks it's horn and moves into scene past the gazebo, the Chapman Dolly'ed Alexa picks up every detail.
Steady Cam is so steady, it rivals the Chapman Dolly mounted, big relative. Rubber tired Super Pee Wee IV Chapman Dolly, was used in tight confines. No dolly rails to be tediously installed and leveled, were necessary on this day, due to Steady Cam covering almost all of the scenes.
The Mariachi Band was 'not really'. Thrown together by casting, as the background group on stage, they had never met. Banjy Rivas uncased his little black Tex Mex 'Panther' Accordion and immediately took over as the scratch group's leader. He was holding a cup of coffee when someone asked the name of the band, so he named the scratch band, the 'Coffee Bean Brothers'. Benjy came from the Las Cruces NM school system, where he taught music to excited kids flocking to his popular classes, dreaming of becoming 'Entertainment Idols'.
High ranking officials of the Federal Govt came into the school system bringing 'CHANGE' a couple of years ago, and standardized the Govt system, no longer allowing Benjy to teach 'The Performing Arts' as in his life experience, of which he was so professional. After being forced to spend all of his time keeping records, that were so important to the layers of Bureaucrats, he became disillusioned with the now ponderous Bureaucracy and retired. Benjy now teaches music to individuals on hourly lessons.
Benjy's style of teaching the elements associated with stage performance, to his students, rather than just the notes, instantly bubbled him to the front stage. He sang and performed as if he was on American Idol. He encouraged the other players, Two guitars and a fiddle, to join in the many songs he knew by heart. One Yamaha guitar player of his age, could follow Benjy.
The younger players went along, but with noticeably less enthusiasm. Benjy also could teach and play several other instruments including piano. Picking up the fiddle, he entertained us whenever we were in 'Holding'. 'So much so', that the PA's came in and told us to "Hold it down". Most band action was silent pantomime when the cameras were 'Rolling'. The film editors, later dub in the music they want.
The afternoon following lunch was repeats of the earlier shoots. Not so much action for this Geezer, due to the earlier on camera activity, I was signed out and released 4:30pm. Many others also left with me. Only the necessary few, not easily identified or needed in remaining shots, stayed.
The van delivered us to the parking lot, several blocks away. My car was happily still there, thank you security, so I drove back home after a fun day 'On Set' of "IN PLAIN SIGHT 2012". What a great way to spend a day, meeting people in this United States of America, One Nation Under God.