What a whirlwind it’s been.
Last Thursday I got a call from a strange (303) number. I was about to block it when they left a voicemail, so I listened. A production was rolling through town and needed a PA, so I called back. They needed me from Friday through Wednesday. I said I needed to run it past my supervisor, and they said they needed to know by 4:30, 5 at the latest. It was 2:30.
I e-mailed my boss and he said we could talk at 3:45. Come that time and he’s not in his office, meeting ran long. I paced around, sweating, knowing that I was about to ask for a huge fucking favor that, frankly, I have no right to ask for. We finally got to talk around 4:15, and he told me I was too excited to say no.
I thanked him profusely, called the production back and they told me to meet them at the Monterey Plaza Hotel as soon as I could. Thank god I realized it was the Monterey Plaza Hotel and not the Portola Plaza, like I thought I’d originally heard. That would have meant having to go home, let Mart out, change, and then deal with the dreaded tunnel going back out to downtown Monterey. Now, all I had to do was walk down four blocks.
I met with two cool cats in the swanky hotel bar and they explained that I’d be working on a Netflix production (that’s all I’ll say here until it premiers), running errands, picking up food and coffee, and all around general office-type stuff. I was just happy to contribute whichever way I could.
For the next five days I worked twelve hour days and then some, got paid for it (I would have done it all for free), and got to connect with people whose work I’d seen and always admired. The costume department, for example, was right next door, and the woman who ran that show, I came to learn, was a legend in the field. And here we were on the same team. Sure, she was the general manager and I was just the bat boy, but she knew me by name, asked me to deal with the sometimes-frustrating valet, and that was enough for me.
One of my first tasks was finding another PA. I sent out a text to my Thirsty Thursday night crew, and Aaron came on board. The production manager, jolly when we first met, was stressed as all hell that first day, keeping his head down, his nose to the grind. But after he met Aaron he came back down to the office smiling wide, “he was great, got any more like him?” And I did. Tomas came through later that night and they hired him. For the next four days, it was a TAT reunion of sorts.
The greatest day on production, for me, was Sunday. I started in the office, but I was out of there by 12 and on my way to pick up a putt putt genny, 43 boxed Panera lunches, and deliver the goods down to a turnout in Big Sur. I rocked the Arctic Monkeys the whole way down, singing, admiring the ocean views, all the while in disbelief that I was actually getting to live out a piece of my dream.
There were 3 different turnouts being taken up by production. You couldn’t miss it. Large white vans, huge semis with the Warner Bros. logo plastered on the side. I was in heaven. When I offered the costume department help they gave me a box of hats and I delivered them to a Starr Wagon. I was inside a Starr Wagon and the moment felt so surreal.
Then I got marching orders to bring the water and lunches up to set. Now, to get to set, I had to hop into one of the 4-wheel drive vehicles, get brought up to “base camp” where they were unloading camera gear and whatnot, transfer into a gator ATV, and get driven up to the mountaintop overlooking the Pacific as the clouds and fog rolled over. On my way up I got to meet and chat with some of the most interesting people, one gent in particular regaled me with tales from his time on Mission Impossible III, American History X, and Mafia! – a personal childhood favorite.
Eventually I was sent back down the hill and told I’d be returning to the office in Monterey. I was bummed. They were priming that spot to shoot and I was going to miss it. I got back down to the turnouts when I realized I had two sets of car keys, so I called one of my bosses on the production but apparently my call distracted him and he drove into a ditch (or something like that). I waited around for him to call me back, and when he did he told me to come back up the mountain. I’d be needed on set.
I hopped in a van and the driver was one of those battle-weary fellas – clearly, he loves what he does, but he was full of caution. And he’d impart more wisdom onto us young ones before the production wrapped. When I got back up the mountain, I got to watch them film one of the most beautiful scenes, and I was on cloud fucking nine. This was was it was all about.
After they shot, Aaron and I tore down and headed back down to the turnouts. On the van ride home we got to talk to one of the longest-employed on the production, he told us that while this shoot had been long and difficult, it was one of the best crews he’d every worked with.
It was night by the time we got back down to the turnout, followed by a lot of waiting. Finally, we got orders to head back. I called my wife, and my mom and dad. This was one of those days I’d dreamed about my whole life, something that always felt out of reach. And I couldn’t believe it.
When we got back, Aaron and Tomas got call times of 4am, I want to say. Whatever it was – it was early. They kept me around to make a food run but finally let me go a little before or a little after 8. What a day.
The next day was spent entirely in the office. It was a slow one, not much action. I took the opportunity to start storyboarding Aaron’s Cecil script and got about halfway done. I’m not going to lie, I was bummed to be the only one left back at the office, but the guys assured me that the next day – my last day – I’d get to come to set in Santa Cruz. They did not disappoint.
The next day started off in the office, running errands to Home Depot, Ace Hardware, FedEX, and other various spots around Monterey until finally we hit the road. We stopped in Capitola to pick up two cases of champagne and five magnums. It was on.
We arrived at a stretch of beach and headed towards where the crew was. At one end was craft services and the smell of lunch was amazing. On the other side of the beach were the cameras, actors, and crew. We checked in with them first then got some lunch and sat down. Eventually we were tasked with setting up a table with 150 glasses of champagne. After that, someone radio’d over that they needed plastic cups. I ran those cups over to the crew like my life depended on it, and when I got there, the producer’s assistant who had taken me under her wing told me to stay and watch them wrap.
I got to watch them shoot three or four takes before resetting. They shot two or three more and called wrap. It was an emotional experience for everyone involved – and I’d only been there five days! They had been working on this project for over 115. They were tired, they were spent, they were elated.
We headed back to the other end of the beach, poured champagne, and toasted the crew. Then we headed back. Got caught in a sea of red lights heading out of Santa Cruz, finally made it back to the hotel, and were told to go get ready for the wrap party.
I went home and picked up the mrs. for a night neither of us expected. We drank, we ate, we got to hear stories from all the cast and crew and the director himself. It was incredible. We were hanging out with the acots – genuine movie stars – just shooting the shit, talking about our favorite Arctic Monkeys records. We got to listen to first-hand accounts of working for Frank Sinatra. It was amazing. Then the hotel shut the lights off on us, so we headed to the production office for a little after-party.
The wife and I both had work in the morning, but we knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We stayed, drank champagne, danced with movie stars, and just had such a great fucking time. Aaron was the fucking music man, hyping the crowd with songs from his phone. At one point, with all the bodies on the “dance floor” in this tiny, dark little room, the production manager looked over at me, smiled, and asked “where the fuck did we find you, mate?” Monterey Film Commission is the technical answer, but really, I have no fucking idea, but I am so fucking grateful they did.