Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Art Brain

A couple months back I was standing in my back yard in San Antonio thinking about the ants in Once and Future King when I realized how much art has added to my life. I spend an unaccountable amount of time thinking about film, T.V., books, music. It's those stories, those moments that inform how I look at my world.

Since I finished college I hadn't been able to bring myself to watch or read almost anything new. This started at a time when a lot of who I am was up in the air - I was living in a new city, working for the first time after 18 years of school, hanging out with some crazy bastards. I didn't have any furniture, I didn't know how to do anything, and it was the first time in six, seven years that I'd had all my stuff in the same place at the same time. I had chaos aplenty.

I needed stability, and, as a result, the only stuff I read or watched was things I'd seen before. I read books I knew I could rely on - Fear and Loathing, The Crime Studio, Paul Auster's New York Trilogy, My Family and Other Animals.

I watched a lot of animated kid's movies - Miyazaki, Pixar. I still have Lilo & Stitch saved on my TiVo. I'd TiVo new movies but I couldn't bring myself to watch them. I must have read Narbonic five times. And my taste in music is definitely defined by its limits.

I love this stuff, but, come on, there's a lot I'd been missing out on. I didn't really understand how important Wes Anderson was until a roommate made me watch Life Aquatic and I finally went ahead and took a look at Royal Tenenbaums, probably the most important divorce movie of our age (with apologies to Dustin Hoffman). Shit, I barely made it to Brick, and that earned a good 1,400 words, like, twice.

So I haven't abandoned my nostalgia quest, but I've started taking a look at some new stuff. Well, new-to-me. I'm taking it pretty easy - kids' books, pilots, short fiction. But one idea, a single idea, can change my life. It's worth taking a look.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Tiny Little Update on My Career

Okay, I have to be up in 6 1/2 hours, so I'll make this quick.

I recently read this book where a woman has been having this long-time semi-relationship with this divorced man and about 3/4 of the way through the book she has a moment where she thinks, for the first time, "How long am I going to stay with this guy? Why am I doing this? How long will I indulge him?" That very night, she meets someone else.

Lately I've been having that moment with my job.

Being a PA on a small, (relatively) well-run independent feature was a lot of fun. This week, though, I'm working on a commercial for a major company with a major ad firm and a serious production company. Commercial work is supposed to be what aspiring PAs want to do in the sense that it is easier (for the most part) and it pays the bills (at least it pays better than a lot of other PA gigs.)

However, it's not as much fun. Well, I should preface by saying that I still am not the most experienced of PAs, and I still love my job and all, but, yeah, not as much fun.

A PA's time is the least valuable time in any production, but a lot of times on this particular production I feel like a leftover resource, an afterthought. Now, the power of a commercial is that it's well-funded and it can afford to let some resources idle while it focuses on more important things. Commercials are, in a way, a subsidy to the people that keep small, independent projects going.

But I never show up to a film set to get paid, I show up to work. When I'm not working, I get tired, listless and lazy. I'd like to think that I'm willing to do almost any task, but once I've been idling for awhile, I lose my edge, I stop anticipating problems.

Plus there's the fact that literally everyone outranks me and knows it (especially the guys who have been in this business as long as I've been alive). Most people are nice to PAs because they've been there and they understand our responsibilities. Some aren't because PAs are powerless and easy to fuck with. And because noone knows who to trust on the first day, I constantly have to prove I'm not a screw up until people get comfortable with me and start to understand who I am.

PAing commercials is supposed to be the peak of PAing life because it's more money for less work. However, I don't really need the money at the moment, and I like doing a bit more work. So if I'm here at what's supposed to be the top of the PAing business and finding it unsatisfying, what am I doing still being a PA?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Standing, Sitting, Lying Down

I realized yesterday that I have spent a lot of time on my current production looking for a place to sit down. This is not normal for me and certainly not a good sign for this production, but so many warning signs have gone up on this thing already that it's a wonder it hasn't ground to a halt just from the weight of them. A PA's time is supposed to be the least valuable time on set. If PAs aren't working, then no one's working, and if no one's working, you're not making a movie.

That said, I found a killer place to sit down yesterday. My assignment was to make sure pedestrian traffic kept moving on Broadway despite all the equipment we'd set up in anticipation of the arrival of the star. As his arrival turned out to be an hour coming despite, for example, the hotel being 10 minutes away, I had plenty of time to figure out where to sit.

At first I was sitting on an applebox, but I stood up for a minute and an assistant camera-type snagged it. Then the only thing I could get to without leaving my ever-important post was a USA Today newspaper box, but it was too high for me to get on top of without tipping the damn thing over and ending up on my face. So, after several minutes of planning, I opened the box for a free newspaper (something about Trump real estate), stuck a foot in there, and used it as a step to get on top of the USA Today box. Pretty badass, nacht?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

ribble's almost impossibly tired

Here's what happened to me this week: I started working for the electric department on this Bollywood film. Er, unofficially. Electric (so far) seems to involve a lot of plug-and-play equipment (as opposed to, say, the lighting department, which involves a lot of large, awkward, complicated equipment with sharp edges.)

However, it also involves a lot of power cables. Power cables are heavy - not awkward, and not so heavy as to justify the use of more than one person to move a cable, but just the right level of heavy where you feel that burn in your muscles without actually hurting yourself. So it's gratifying but, yeah, I'm tired.

Here's what I did when I got home today: 1) watched a half an hour of T.V. 2) wrote this. When you're having trouble following Project Runway, it's time to call it a night.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

If I Don't Watch Shrek Again, the Terrorists Have Won

I don't normally blog news, but here's a quote from a NYT article about the President's speech on moving Al Qaeda members to Guantanamo.

"Although the C.I.A. has faced criticism over the use of harsh techniques, one senior intelligence official said detainees had not been mistreated. They were given dental and vision care as well as the Koran, prayer rugs and clocks to schedule prayers, the official said. They were also given reading material, DVD’s and access to exercise equipment."

Here's my question: what DVD's were these guys given? Is it like in prison where you can only watch kids' movies? Is it some promerica bullshit? What do the 14 highest ranking Al Qaeda prisoners like to watch, movie-wise?

Get on it, US Weekly.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

ribble's rainy day

It rained today in New York City and it reminded me of the day we went to Dinosaur Barbecue and it rained so hard the IRT was flooded out.

It was me, My Cousin the Revolutionary, Marmo, and another friend who I haven't decided whether to codename Beta or Charlie (your vote counts!) It took a little doing, but we managed to catch a cab, and as we headed down Broadway we passed hundreds of people on the street trying to hail our car.

"I feel like I'm in a zombie movie," I said.

"Whaddaya mean,"* said Marmo (not a fan of zombie movies).

"I feel like all these people are going to run at the cab going 'Gwar!'"

Then after the girls got out we agreed to share the cab with a very nice couple from Ohio.

* I'm paraphrasing here. Marmo is actually very well-dictioned.

word's out

Just saw this.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

ribble's trying to break up this page

ribble's update

Bollywood movies are fun to work on! Yesterday there was a huge crowd on location because the star of this movie is some kind of a big deal.*

And it turned out he is a big deal! I've seen exactly one Bollywood movie (with my friend Ms. John) and this guy was the star! So I know he's a big deal because I've heard of him. Basically I'm saying I'm really arrogant.

So I was there trying to hold back this bank holiday crowd and there was this big star and it was good times.

Then today I locked up parking in the rain and my socks got wet, but that was kind of fun, too.

* Side note: the second question members of the public always ask a PA is "Who's in it?" and usually we're supposed to lie, but I found the quickest way to get rid of them was just to tell them the name of the guy.**

** Side note to side note: The first question members of the public always ask PAs is "What are you, making a movie or something?" Yes, we are making a movie. Also, just for the record, PAs do not know the answer to the third question, "When is the movie coming out?" That's a whole different can of worms.

Monday, September 04, 2006

ribble's w00t

Google "ribbles", and you get me. Take that, "Delicious black licorice hexagon sticks imported from Holland!"


The only consistent thing about the people on a film set, and I mean everyone in every department, is that they are all movie people. It's disorienting, like visiting a country where you are no longer a minority, but it's also addictive. It's getting so I've started to think of New York as my film city.

Did you see that Talk of the Town a few years back about a NY-D.C. shuttler? District residents are always talking about politics, and New Yorkers are always talking about real estate, so when he mentioned politics in New York or real estate in D.C. it was like "Whoa. Wrong city. Wrong conversation."

A few weeks ago I was sitting at the kid's table at a family friend's 60th birthday party in Boston and we were talking about Halloween costumes. One of the guys at my table said he always goes as movie characters, like Action Ford or Venkman (I got very excited because I went as him when I was 10).

This year he's going as Goose, so I suggested to his girlfriend that she go as Meg Ryan. She said she could never go as anything that required her to wear a bomber jacket. So, without thinking, I said "You should go as Porco Rosso."

Whoa. Wrong city, wrong conversation.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Here's What I'm Doing Tomorrow

Working on a Bollywood movie. Should be interesting.

Where I've Been: Sun., Aug. 27-Sat., Sept. 2

<-- Back to the previous post in this series

Sunday, August 27 (5)

Monday, August 28 (6)

Tuesday, August 29 (0)
Nothing. Nada. Zippo.

Wednesday, August 30 (43)

Thursday, August 31 (0)
Thursday I didn't go online because of that thing with the bear.

Friday, September 1 (115)

Saturday, September 2 (122)

<--Back to the previous post in this series

Friday, September 01, 2006

True-Life Adventures of Ribble, Production Assistant


A MAN is standing in the middle of a large, empty field in New Jersey wearing a realistic bear costume but holding the costume's head. It is a beautiful day. MUSIC PLAYS, but there is OTHERWISE COMPLETE SILENCE.

After a long moment, RIBBLE, 25, dressed shabbily in dirty pants and a T-shirt and wearing a walky with a hand mike, enters from screen left carrying a folding chair. He places the chair behind the man in the bear suit, who sits. Ribble sits next to him on the ground. They sit for a few minutes as if waiting for something, but not impatiently, and not speaking much.

After a few minutes, Ribble receives instructions over his walky. He and the bear stand, and he helps the bear put on his head. He throws the chair off screen right and stands next to the bear. They wait.

After a moment, more instructions come over the walky. The bear starts doing calisthenics - jumping jacks, knee bends, toe touches. Ribble walks off screen right.

After a moment, THE CAMERA PANS TO RIBBLE, revealing him sitting in the chair, watching the bear, and silently laughing his ass off.

You can't make this stuff up, folks. That was my day yesterday.