This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Oh! The Places You'll Go ( and the people you'll meet)

He was from England, but not your typical English guy. His long, blond hair was spun into coarse dreadlocks that stretched beyond his waist. There were guitars and posters of Black Sabbath on the walls and a collection of fiercely maintained Porsches in the garage. Here I was, sitting in a white cargo van as he drove me to a crotchety, old building in East L.A. that I was interested in seeing. Odd premise? Perhaps. Yet, for me it was just another day as a location scout.

My Hollywood minutes are frequently strange. Sometimes it's like living in a Dr. Seuss mini-series: "Oh, the places you'll go...," the people you'll meet, and the things you'll (find yourself doing.)

Location scouting has brought many an experience to my already colorful life. I've descended into the basements of coffin showrooms and met a real-life Norman Bates and his 90-year-old mother. I've stopped alongside the road to watch the migration of sandhill cranes. I've knocked on the doors of trailer parks and met real river people whose sole pursuit is "living off the grid." I've met the ancient owner of a California mansion where "some Mariah singer" shot a music video. He invited me in and showed me around the gorgeous, oceanfront home that he had built with this own two hands. Now, in his old age, he was sadly contemplating whether or not to sell. I felt bad for him. I've scouted Mexican restaurants where the owners have been so excited that they've come running to my car with homemade tortillas in their hands as offerings.

I've visited the Korean Friendship Bell in Long Beach that I otherwise would've never known existed. I've actually been to Pioneer Village (in Nebraska.) I've been inside abandoned hospitals, condemned homes, and functional psychiatric facilities. I've spent days standing around in parking garages while something's being shot. I've taken long walks along winery backroads. I've scouted strip clubs in Compton and too many Qwik-ee Marts to mention.

I once met Paul Bunyan's evil twin, a lumberjack of a guy with a permanent scowl and cobwebs hanging from his beard. His expression never changed as he yelled and cursed at me and expressed that NO, we would "never, ever be allowed to shoot at his orchard" and that right now, right at this moment, "you movie people are trespassing." I trudged back to the scouting van holding my composure as long as possible so the above-the-lines wouldn't see me, the girl--the one in charge of this whole scout--cry, out of frustration and out of defeat.

For over a month during the shooting of a feature, I spent every waking moment with a slightly scary, questionably sane, former stuntman just so production could shoot at his secluded cabin. It was like living The Dangerous Book For Girls. I picked cattails, learned self-defense moves, hung out in his treehouse as he showed me how to load a gun, suffered through his vacation photos from Fiji, and endured his routine tirades. I came out of it feeling enpowered because everyone else seemed to be afraid of him...and I was not. After all, I knew he didn't keep the guns loaded. I just knew to keep my distance.

I've double-parked, made illegal U-turns, trespassed many a time, seen places I never would've seen otherwise, and embraced even the difficult times this job has had to offer because I've grown-up all the while and made myself stronger while learning not to be too hard on myself. Above all, I've learned that it's okay if they see you cry, if they see you sweat, or if you come up empty-handed. It's a tough job and at the end of the day, it really is just a movie...(or a tv show or a commercial...)

Copyright © 2008 KLiedle
Photo Credit: KLiedle

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