Sunday, November 18, 2007

THE SMOKE HOUSE OPTION

I’m sure it seems to the average reader of this blog that my life consists of nothing but an endless series of cocktail parties and glamorous premieres, punctuated by the occasional shout of “Action” or “Cut” or “I’ll be in my trailer when you bastards have remembered your damned lines!”



Normally I would have to disagree: the lot of the low budget movie director is one of constant struggle and toil in order to bring a few fleeting moments of entertainment to the masses. But even the Galleon Slave had his few moments in the sun, and thus I found myself enjoying a well deserved break from the cinematic salt mine last weekend when I returned to sunny California and my glamorous desert home.



First, may I pass on a valuable tip? When you are having your swimming pool retiled, it is a very good idea indeed to make sure you trust your pool man.



Mine, the extraordinarily gifted Senor Saenz, came to me after a long and difficult period in my life when I simply couldn’t keep the algae off my surfaces. But one day, while sitting on the patio of a local café drinking my lunch, I suddenly realized what my problem had been all along: I had been adhering to that ridiculously Protestant notion of hiring household staff based entirely on their ABILITY and not on their LOOKS.

This, of course, had NOTHING to do with the fact that a shirtless lad of the Latin persuasion walked past, flashed a smile at me that rivaled the Fourth of July, and poured his sculpted, copper hued body into a truck with the words “CLEAR AND CLEAN POOL SERVICE” emblazoned on the side. It’s just something that occurred to me as I leapt over the patio’s wrought iron railing, ran into the street, and threw myself onto the hood of the young man’s vehicle, practically begging him to come to my house and brush my walls.

Hard to believe this was over two years ago, but since then this aquatic missionary has seen me through several life altering experiences – switching from chlorination to salination, installing a remote control device so I no longer have to actually get OUT of the pool to increase the water temperature, even overseeing something as intimate and personal as choosing the size and color of my new pool tiles. Senor Saenz has become an extremely important member of the household at 801 and returning home this past weekend to view the final result of his handiwork in my backyard put me in the right mood to enjoy the rest of my brief furlough from the spiritual mud trenches of the motion picture industry.

When one is a World Traveler such as I, one discovers that the many encounters one has with foreign locals are often nothing more than pleasant diversions from the ghastly emptiness of first class lounges, five star hotels and pockets filled with “per diem”, that lovely tax free cash often referred to by my sordid acquaintances as “hooker and drug money”. But I am delighted to report that occasionally one finds someone like my brother-in-film Rainer Matsutani--



-- one of Germany’s most gifted auteurs and one of my best friends who, along with his lovely wife Noemi, joined me and the Boyfriend for My Weekend Off.

After attending the Palm Springs Gay Pride parade--











and having a champagne-soused lunch with local jazz chanteuse Diva Denise Carter -



- we made our way into Los Angeles and the world premiere screening of my “A Dennis the Menace Christmas” movie on the Warner Brothers lot in Hollywood.



As an “indie” filmmaker, I have always heard horror stories about “THE STUDIO” and how they would “RUIN YOUR VISION” but if the way Warners treated us for the Premiere Screening is standard operating procedure - turning the back lot into a Santa’s Wonderland, complete with snow cones, hot cocoa and Christmas cookies - I say RUIN ME!!



After posing for dozens of photographs with the cast and crew – my years of being a target for the paparazzi serving me in good stead as I trotted out the five different smiles I use for such occasions – I settled into my comfortable chair in the theater alongside family and friends and proceeded to watch as the audience laughed, cried and cheered in all the right places. It felt great to know people loved the film and their applause made the dreadful conditions under which we made the picture a year ago fade even further into the dim recesses of my mind.

Well, it was either that or the celebratory martinis we had after the screening at the legendary Smoke House restaurant across the street from the Burbank studio.



Home to generations of Warner Brothers movie stars past and present – G. Clooney is such a regular here that he actually named his production company after the place – this joint is seriously old school Hollywood. While the red-leather booths are padded to a level of absurd comfort and the drinks are strong enough to make even the worst script read like Proust, the real attraction here is the clientele: faded showgirls, long forgotten stars of equally forgotten B movies, and grizzled film technicians swapping war stories about directors they’d like to assassinate.



On this night, however, there was a definite chill in the air: the Writers Guild of America had just called a strike, with their chief demand being a percentage of profits from Internet downloads of their product, and the “below the line” folks – the people who physically “make” the movies and are paid not much more than the rest of the labor force in the country – were not terribly sympathetic to the cause. Granted, writers are traditionally not the most endearing human beings in the world – there must be something about spending your every waking hour IMAGINING life instead of LIVING IT which tends to make people a little bitter I guess – but this most recent event was being discussed at the Smoke House as further evidence of their disdain for their fellow craftsmen and it was not going down well at all.



As a card-carrying member of the Writers Guild I suppose I should have a strong opinion one way or the other but, to be honest, I didn’t even vote on the strike action. I might have, had I been home to get the mail the week they sent the ballots out but as usual, given the outsourcing of the American motion picture industry due to the financial demands of the various creative guilds and production unions in Hollywood, I was in Canada. Making a movie.

And that’s where I was headed back to, right after finishing up my last few bites of the delicious Smoke House garlic bread.

Would I have preferred to stay put, maybe order another martini, and then just walk back across the street to the studio, take a nap on a cot in my office, and wake up the next morning ready to start work shooting my movie in Studio D?

You bet I would. But hey, a fella’s gotta pay his Pool Boy. No matter how cute he is.

And so, back to Vancouver. And Day One of “Ice Blues: A Donald Strachey Mystery.”

2 Comments:

Blogger lynne said...

I'm glad the premiere for Dennis was a great party. It's too bad that Warner's couldn't spend some money, though, on actually producing a distributing some copies of the DVD. I don't know what it's like in the US, but in Canada, the DVD is practically impossible to find. It was stocked in very limited in numbers at some WalMart locations, but, as far as I know, no where else.

I can't understand why Warner Bros would spend the money to produce and promote a film, and then not make it available to buy in Canada.

11:18 AM  
Blogger ron oliver said...

hey lynne...yes, i heard that it wasn't too available in Canada, but unfortunately that's not really something under Warners control, it's more about the purchasing arm of the various retailers like Walmart and so on. i know it was available at HMV music and i think also at some of the larger department stores up there, but i'm not sure in what numbers exactly. Failing all that, there's always the ever reliable Amazon.ca - they've got the movie listed online for purchase. Sorry for the trouble though....i was at Target over the holidays and they were playing DTM 3 's "trailer" on an endless loop on the video screens...kinda cool! hope you had a great holiday season and all the best for the new year...R

3:47 PM  

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