The thing that I heard but never really believed was that in Los Angeles, everyone is involved in the entertainment industry. I immediately was proved wrong after about half-way through my Lyft ride. The driver said that he was a producer/director and he could see why I came to LA with my look. Thanks, I guess.
When you start working in film and television, you’re under the impression that it is an artistic enterprise, and while that might be the case in the abstract, the actuality of doing it is a mammoth undertaking, and that even the smallest production requires a small army of people doing any number of tasks. All of that is unseen, but it’s absolutely essential to putting anything onscreen.
I had no idea where we were shooting, but when we pulled into the Warner Brothers lot, I was blown away. That lot is nothing short of legendary. Casablanca, Friends, The Big Sleep, Ghostbusters, they were all shot there. Of course, that moment of being awestruck kind of went away as soon as you realized that behind the gate, it’s just a bunch of hangar like buildings. And then it flips again, when you actually step into the studios themselves. You go from the ever shining Californian sun into the pitch darkness of a closed studio, and then you see the sets themselves. I managed to wander off during breaks and got to visit some of the iconic sets that they have on the lot. Seeing Central Perk, it feels way smaller when you see it in person, but still you’re struck by it being Central Perk, that place where you’ve never been to and yet seems familiar at the same time.
Being a principal means that you have a mini entourage with you at all times. Producers, wranglers, hair, make-up, etc. All of these people that basically treat you like a 5 year old that can’t do anything. I would normally hate such treatment, but then I’m reminded of much of an idiot I am on a daily basis, and being slightly awestruck combined with the jetlag means that I was one misstep from tripping and wrecking several hundred thousand dollars of equipment, so being handled by a team was appreciated. Plus, they gave me candy, so I was sold.
Going through wardrobe and getting fitted and judged for camera was definitely an experience. You realize quickly that what works in person doesn’t always work on camera, and that while you can have a look in mind, wardrobe knows the background, the stage, how cameras will capture your image. If getting your image broadcast to the country in high-definition doesn’t give you even the slightest bit of trepidation, I commend you on your incredible self-confidence and delusions of grandeur.
Getting fitted and walked around the studio lot was a surreal experience. I finally understood why people wear sunglasses obsessively on set. It wasn’t just about avoiding wayward glances, it was the adjusting from the darkness of set, to the sunlight, and then back into the black would mean that you’re blinded for a short time. This kind of meant that sunglasses were part of the wardrobe. This also meant that as the studio backlot tours went by, they saw guys in suits being surrounded by a gaggle of staff trying to get them to move from location to location. However, to the untrained eye, that looks like they were trying to keep us from being photographed, and as such, several tourists put their phones up and snapped some quick pics. I’d just like to take this opportunity to apologize to whomever took those photos, as I can guarantee you that they were probably not worth even the small amount of memory that took.
Now, of course, we waved and smiled at the backlot tours because, well, why the hell not? You’re there, you might as well have some fun. And then of course it was time for rehearsals. We’d been getting shuttled back and forth between locations doing the seemingly endless minutiae until we could start the process of actually filming. Finally, we were being taken to see the stage. We were the pilot group, the first episode being filmed, so this was going to be a surprise to nearly everyone.
You know how you have that idea of what something is going to be, and you have the low expectation as not to be underwhelmed, but really in your head you have your ideal of what you think it would be? When I got flown out to LA, I already figured I was experiencing something most people would never get to do, and when I found out that we were shooting at Warner Brothers, that needle was moved higher. Even if we ended up shooting on a stage of wooden planks, everything else that preceded it would have been a once in a lifetime experience. Then we finally arrived on set, and literally all of us were speechless.
We landed when they were going through a final tech rehearsal, and they were doing a full stage light flourish, and holy hell, we had no idea what we were in for. The group of us just stopped dead in our tracks and took it in, momentarily bewildered at what was happening in front of us. That, was kind of our last moment of being anchored to our normal, and our first step into the crazy of our next thirty-six hours.