Picking up Matt at 6:30pm, we barely had enough time to iron our clothes, drink coffee and smoke bud. We managed. He climbed into my car and I told him to grab my tupperware bud kit from the back seat. He said, "You just keep it out in the open like this?"
I said, "Its the last place anyone would expect it . . . and my car is such a mess anyway, it would give anyone a headache to look back there."
We took in some Western Wind, so far my favorite medicinal blend, and headed into the tail end of rush hour traffic in Los Angeles.
The shoot was at Union Station, which I was only slightly familiar with. We maneuvered around the many inner driveways, entrances, parking lots and garages until we got to the right parking structure and were directed to the 4th floor. There we saw no signs for set or people.
It is a huge parking structure, so huge I couldn't see where it ended on the north side. On the south side there was an elevator we took up with a couple of tourists. We ended up outside on a lower roof area with no pathway off the building and a Denny's sign in the distance. So we went back down. I got the feeling the couple didn't want us to continue following them since Matt's eyes were red and I insisted on narrating the entire elevator ride as a story in real time.
I led Matt towards the other end of the garage, which was infinite black. There was no traffic. We picked up another actor on our way, a 20-something blond kid with a white hoodie. He seemed very quiet, so Matt and the Boy ended up following me as I led us into a service elevator. There was no indication this was a service elevator, although I do remember walking into a corridor that appeared to be a security desk.
The three of us walked into the elevator and I hit 2. Nothing happened. I kept tapping the numbers and the light wouldn't stick to the button. I realized you must be required to use a scan pass. I am talking, but honestly I am so stoned that it is just me speaking every thought as it is check-listed through my brain.
The elevator jumped half a step as if we were going to move, the doors sputtered a little open and then clammed shut like it was grinding its jaws. I realized we were trapped and that's when I couldn't stop laughing.
The Boy turned to Matt and said, "What if this is the devil's work?"
Matt was quiet. I hit the call button. A deep voice came on the other end announcing his station.
I pressed the button (later The Boy said that the Deep Voice couldn't hear me because I pressed my entire body, including my face, against the elevator wall to talk). Why would I do that? I remember being confused about where to put my mouth when I spoke to him. I could not see little speakers so I was standing on my toes shouting, "Yes, hello, we are trapped-"
The voice said, "Hello? HELLOOO!"
I held the button down and said, "Yes, we're here. We are trapped-"
The voice said, "Fine just stand there and don't talk." Then he hung up. I turned and laughed hysterically while both Matt and the Boy faced me with their mouths open. I could see they were more affected by the situation than myself. So I turned back and hit the bell a few times, the elevator moved and opened its doors to a security guard holding his uniform on a hanger over his back.
I said, "Hi, we were trapped."
He said, "You aren't supposed to be here. This is the security office."
I said, "We need to get to Union Station."
He guided us out to the cars again and we were suddenly caught in a stream of building employees. The security guard asked them to guide us to the correct elevator, and a pudgy man with glasses offered to walk us there. He escorted us to the elevator and we took it to P, not P1 or L but P.
We arrived on the first ground level of Union Station. The building looked like a bright apricot with the orange street lights lining the spine of the road. Again, no signs, no people.
We wandered into the front doors and climb down a long, winding staircase to end up in the front lobby of Union Station. There was a big mural with faces of different races painted across the high wall. Those people were staring at us.
Two cops and a security guard were at the bottom of the stairs. I asked them about the Ameritrade commercial shoot.
They said the shoot was going to be right there but no one set up yet. He pointed to the utility power cords (stingers) and said, "That's all they have ready. Wait here with us, nothing will happen without you if you stay."
The woman who books my audience work and background commercial jobs is named Darla. She is a shorter woman of about 60 yrs old, bleached blond hair and a little smudge of mascara below her eyes. Everyone has been yelled at by Darla. She is short tempered, particular and a workaholic.
She will send 3 emails complaining about my wording and claim she has no time to deal with clarifying instructions then drag out the argument for 15 minutes via email ping pong.
Other people have more colorful stories, but Darla never has the nerve to say anything to my face. She is simply cold to me now. She still books me. I don't care if she likes me or not, business is business and I show up (pretty much) on time.
The words of the police officer "Stay here and wait" were floating overhead. I looked up and said, "I can feel Darla in the building." If we didn't check in by call time, she would shove her feet so far up our corresponding asses we would be her new pair of loafers.
I saw another actor, a middle aged Hispanic guy with a wardrobe bag over his shoulder. I briskly walked towards him and relayed the information. He said he found a crew member and we had to go all the way down this hallway and turn left.
So I am walking faster than the Boy and Matt, but I continue to check over my shoulder to make sure they are within ear shot. I feel like Mama Bear. We wind around the building (no signs to set) and end up in a dining area where the crew is eating what looks to be delicious, warm food.
It wasn't a long shoot- but when you do all nighters, time tends to slow down. You get hungry, cold and grouchy. I also had the munchies and kept eying people's non vegan food.
Matt and I checked in on time, barely. With Darla I am cold, she reminds me too much of my bitchy bosses. I understand menopause is a difficult time for everyone- we will all turn into monsters at some point. That said, I don't engage the monster. Matt tries to be polite, thank her, ask her some questions about how she is ... she loves that shit, tosses her hair back and blows off the question. I get the same amount of work as Matt, so why bother.
I saw an actress with three changes of clothes on hangers in one hand and a muffin in the other. Amateur. I brought my clothes in a suit case and would never (chuckle) eat a muffin.
Matt brought two thermoses with him, vanilla tea in one and coffee in the other. We both hate the standards of coffee on set. One thermos was pink- so Matt would ask me to hold it while we drank from it.
Eventually, he drank all the tea out of the black one just so he could switch everything out of the pink one. He really did not want to hold a pink thermos.
At the crafty table, I saw Starburst for Matt.
Me: Do you want a Starburst?
Matt: Pink lemonade or cherry.
I handed him a red one.
Matt: They should make starburst into the size of a Rubik's cube.
Me: With different colors and flavors or just one flavor per cube.
Matt: Just one, like cherry or pink lemonade.
Me: How would you eat it?
Matt: Like an apple, biting pieces out of it.
The woman next to me was older and accessorized beautifully with her scarf and jewelry.
Me to Woman: I like the pink you've got going on. Matt's favorite color is pink. He has that pink thermos and prefers pink candy.
Matt: It's my girlfriend's thermos.
We were subway pedestrians in this commercial. I would try to liven things up by making games like rudely bumping into Matt no matter where he wandered in the scene.
On the other side of set, I was conversing with a middle aged woman. I am sure at one time she was very beautiful. She had blond, fine hair and bright blue eyes that popped out of the sun damage and worry lines. She was a divorcee with three kids, raising them on her own.
Me: It must be difficult raising three kids.
Blond Actress: Well, its expensive. Even with the alimony and the child support, its really difficult to make ends meet. We qualify for the free lunch program at my daughter's school. There are so many programs white people don't know anything about. So much is made available.
Me: Well, its hard times. I am pretty sure we are about to dunk into a depression, though no one is saying that out loud.
Blond Actress: I KNOW! I think we are. Its like they keep telling us everything is getting better when its not. Just to keep us from freaking out.
Me: Yeah. Well its good there are programs.
Blond Actress: I found out it also qualifies me for food stamps, but I would have to get out the hat and sunglasses so nobody recognizes me. I live in Newport Beach.
Me: You shouldn't worry-
Blond Actress: Oh no, I don't care what people think, that doesn't matter to me. I think I probably qualify for food stamps, but I would have to tell them what kind of car I drive and I just don't want them to know.
Me: What kind of car do you drive?
Blond Actress: A Mercedes. Look, a car is a car. It gets you from one point to the other. They shouldn't take my food stamps away because of that.
Me: They are expensive in upkeep though, right?
Blond Actress: Very expensive.
Hm. I guess we aren't in a depression quite yet. On a new scene, I was directed on the same direction of pedestrian traffic as Matt for this camera set-up.
Matt: Would you want to have sex with the wardrobe lady?
Me: If I was a middle aged lesbian in Alaska. Would you?
Matt: (silence) . . . yeah.
I looked around and said, "I don't see anyone I would fornicate with." Just as I said fornicate my eyes landed on one of the crew guys who immediately stopped smiling at me.
Me: I want to shake the hand of the man who invented the tampon.
Matt: A simple idea that stuck. Like peanut butter and jelly.
We were pretty stoned. I was delighted the high could follow me all the way to midnight. The first thing you do when you arrive to set is try to figure out how long of a day is ahead of you. No one wants to tell you because shooting is so unpredictable, so it is difficult to be patient and exist in a space without any idea of how much time you will have to spend there. The set owns you til it decides to let you go.
We were booked for 10 hours but they said they would try to get us out in 8. Once we heard that, the collective line of focus switched to how long until lunch break? A production is legally obligated to break you after 6 hours. If you are on a location you can not leave, as opposed to a "walk away lunch", the production is obligated to feed you.
After 2am, we were not broken for lunch. Then the collective line of focus moved to "MP". An MP is a Meal Penalty. If they do not feed you after 6 hours, even if you are non-union, you are compensated. With union its a big deal, but with non-union, its $8.
So at 3am, when everyone started cheering for meal penalty, I said, "Big deal, we can afford to go to a matinee, in SOME cities."
The final scenes took place using a Metro car in the tunnels. We all hope to be next to the principle actor with lines so we can see ourselves in the commercial. An older woman was switched with me so I could stand next to the principle. The old actress frowned at me.
I sat on my luggage. The actor turned to smile at me.
Me: You are the face America identifies with. They are looking to you for where to invest their money in these hard times.
Principle: Yeah, I sound like a fucking asshole.
We wrapped around 4:30am and were allowed to grab from their catered breakfast. I grabbed a bowl of oatmeal and dumped diced onions in it just for kicks. Not bad.
Matt and I agreed not to smoke anymore since we were so exhausted. Matt had call at 8:45am and I had to feed my animals in a few hours.