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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, December 24, 2010

Santa says "He's Just Too Into You"

MERRY CHRISTMAS!
I haven't had a chance to post much this month since I've been crazy busy. Alas, all the hours of last-minute editing before Christmas has been worth it!

We are proud to announce, "He's Just Too Into You," the latest episode of the web series, It's Always Smoggy In L.A. Now available for viewing on Funny Or Die. [ If you enjoy this episode or any others, please VOTE on Funny Or Die!]



©2010 by KLiedle/ It's Always Smoggy In L.A.

He's Just Too Into You
Starring Julianne Dowler, Mat Lageman, Bunita Tilley, and Bethany Therese.

Friday, December 3, 2010

When The Four Quadrants Fall Flat

I've never been into math or numbers or anything of the sort. The X-Y axis, the quadratic formula, the pythagorean theorem... are all terms from my past that I have subsequently avoided [rather easily] in my adult life. 'Four Quadrants' may not mean anything to you. It doesn't have much to do with mathematics, per se, but lots to do with numbers and money--lots and lots of 'box office' money.

In Hollywood, the rise of the 'Four Quadrant Picture' is most evident during the summer months and the holidays when the movie-going public is most likely to be on the prowl. To Hollywood, the four quadrants represent distinct demographic segments according to age: under 25, over 25, and gender: male, female. These are the blockbusters, the popcorn movies, the ones that bring in the bucks; Movies you can see with Grandpa as well as your little cousin. Some of them are obvious and begin with Marvel: i.e. Spiderman, Ironman... and Disney, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Pixar has had its share, too-- even though at first glance, an animated movie like Wall-E or The Incredibles doesn't appear to be a 'four quad film,' it is, and a highly successful one at that. The goldmine is to greenlight a film with such broad appeal that everyone and his mother goes to see it [more than once] and buys the merchandising associated with the film as stocking stuffers. This is great and all, but--

The problem is that not every movie is a 'four quadrant' movie. And many of them still try. I just saw one-- it had the potential to be a great film. All the elements were there, but ultimately I felt it didn't succeed because it was trying to do too much, to be everything for everyone. Instead I came away thinking of it as a bit of an unfortunate, meandering and unbalanced mishmash. It was about such-and-such and then once I'd become invested in that storyline or those characters, it became something else entirely. Sometimes [as the above example] it's the execution that doesn't jive right. Other times, the 'P&A' [publicity and advertising] is to blame. When films are misrepresented in marketing to appeal to the widest audience possible it only succeeds in pissing certain 'quadrants' off as they realize they've been duped.

Filmmakers are always making compromises: some good, some bad, some consciously, some unconsciously, in an attempt to get financing, to secure cast, and ultimately to get audiences to buy tickets so they can support themselves and continue making films.

Filmmakers: If you know your characters inside and out and you know what your story is and what you're trying to say, you will have a focus and your movie will find a connection with its intended audience. Don't throw in misfit scenes, lines, jokes, or extraneous characters that have no purpose other than to appease one segment of your audience because there's another segment of your audience that's going to notice: "That's not genuine, that's not real. He wouldn't do that or say that or be there" and deep in your heart, you know they're right.

When we pass on, we can count our films.
They will count their money.
~Hal Ashby
[on the difficulties of Hollywood politics]

©2010 by KLiedle

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Women Of Great Vitality: Hollywood

Every year I look forward to ELLE Magazine's 'Women In Hollywood' issue. I was pleased that, although they devoted attention to A-lister actresses in Hollywood, attention was also drawn to womens' contributions in acting, writing and directing. Women and womens' stories are a vital part of the Hollywood fabric, but through the years, we've missed a few stitches.

ELLE's coverage of currently successful women in Hollywood, as well as female up-and-comers on the writing/directing front inspired me to watch Searching For Debra Winger, a film by Rosanna Arquette. Although, it was released in 2002, this film is no less important today. If you haven't seen it, it's a surprisingly informal, yet moving portrait of the pressure and frustrations that women face in the entertainment industry-- especially women over the age of 40.

A wide array of actresses make appearances including, but not limited to, Jane Fonda, Laura Dern, Teri Garr, Martha Plimpton, Whoopi Goldberg, Sharon Stone, and Meg Ryan. Some of the interviews are one-on-one with Rosanna Arquette and others are staged as informal round table discussions amongst these Hollywood actresses that have survived the meat-grinder of the industry or nearly abandoned it-- like Debra Winger. These women become united in their desire to clear the pathway for themselves and other women to further their successes in Hollywood.

So much of Hollywood is cutthroat and competitive, petty and fickle, hot and cold. You're young, you're old. There is no middle age. For women in the general population, aging is difficult, yet unavoidable unless you die; for women in the entertainment industry, aging is death. You're the girlfriend, then the mom, then you...disappear...FADE OUT. Next, please.

If you're a female director, you better have a damn good reel [and even then, there's no guarantee that a studio will foot the bill so you can tell your story.] If you have a script with a female protagonist, she better be hot, dressed like Wonderwoman, or a badass that can hold her own with the men that audiences really care about. Men as the subject. Women as the object. Is that really how it is-- or is that how Hollywood thinks it is? Women can, and should, have their voices heard and their stories told.

Things are changing slowly, but well-rounded female characters and/or female oriented stories are still hard to come by. Regarding the lack of three-dimensionality in written female characters and the sexism that still exists in Hollywood, this is what Martha Plimpton had to say in Searching For Debra Winger:

Martha Plimpton: Humor. Intelligence. Talent. Imagination. Bravery. Skill. When you eliminate all those things, what have you got?
Ally Sheedy: Fuckability.
Martha Plimpton: That's it. So you can't blame these people for resorting to that kind of standard when they've annihilated all their other options. At least for men, there are options, character roles, you know what I'm saying?

People often forget that women were at the forefront of Hollywood in its early days-- until it was discovered that serious money could be made. We've been trying to catch up ever since, but we're making bigger strides all the time. I'm glad that ELLE was able to highlight some of them.

© 2010 by KLiedle
Photo: In the director's chair, Helen Twelvetrees--circa 1936, considered to be one of the top screen stars in Hollywood in the early days of sound.

Friday, October 8, 2010

"The Beautiful Truth" : I Am Not The Juiceman


There are certain moments in movies that you never forget. For instance, remember that scene in Steel Magnolias when Shelby (Julia Roberts) has a hypoglycemic attack and is forced to drink a glass of orange juice to up her blood sugar? Of course you do. It's a poignant moment in a classic film that reminds everyone of Shelby's health situation... But when I see her choking down that orange juice and I watch it dribble down her chin, I just think "Ewwww, bleck..."

See, I'm not a fan of juice-- orange juice in particular. It's so super-tart sweet and there's something about the way it feels thick and hairy as it clings its way down my throat. It's as though it's trying to escape the digestive process. Not only do I not like juices, but it's the idea of juice. Such a waste, it seems. A drink, a gulp... it's GONE. No fiber, no chewing, no real sense that you did much of anything, really.

Recently, I saw this film called Beautiful Truth which was a semi-investigation of what's called Gerson Therapy-- touted as a naturalistic alternative therapy to curing cancer. There are some truths to it. The levels of environmental toxins that we unknowingly ingest every day has to have some effect on our systems. The rise of cancer across the board is not just a coincidence. Coffee enemas aside, the main thrust (no pun intended) of Gerson therapy is daily juicing.

According to the film, consuming large (and I mean large) quantities of fruit and vegetable juices can prevent and, in some instances, reverse cancer. This is not exactly revolutionary; most of us are aware that fresh fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and the like. There is, however, a certainly a level of conspiracy to the film. Garrett, the 15-year-old kid from Alaska that is the main character, yet not its narrator, also kind of creeps me out in a Haley Joel Osment sort of way. The filmmakers, along with Charlotte Gerson, say that Gerson Therapy has been suppressed by governments and the medical community alike. As it's suggested, the cure for cancer does exist, but big business doesn't want that information to get out there. I'm not saying that is or is not true, BUT...

CANCER is a scary word and there is certainly money to be made by anyone who claims to have a cure--whether it's the Gerson Institute's alternative therapy, the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies, colonic centers and liver cleanse places, or the medical community charging up for radiation, chemo, and traditional medical cancer treatments (that only work temporarily for the most part.)

I came away from the film thinking: "OK, I see some of their point, but it's a little extreme. I'm gonna eat more fruits and vegetables in whole form and buy organic on a case-by-case basis when I can (afford to.)"

I'm no juice convert-- still not a fan. I like to chew. I like to crunch my way into an apple and use my fork to spear asparagus. I like to pop frozen grapes into my mouth and slice up bananas.

In response, however, a friend of mine bought a juicer-- not the nearly $3000 Norwalk Juicer that Gerson recommends, but a juicer nonetheless. Now, it seems like more than half of all our produce gets juiced into a foamy mess of stuff I don't want to drink. We have more trash in the way of vegetable after-products (the fiber "pulp" leftover from juicing) that we can't very well compost since we live in a townhouse with very, very little garden space. (Last time we tried to compost, we got a nasty case of roaches wandering around our patio--- not exactly the friendly earthworms and good soil bacteria I was hoping for.) I'll also mention that there is nothing more rank than the stench of juiced broccoli mixed with beets. Will it kill the cancer lurking somewhere in our cells? Who knows. I may know the 'beautiful truth,' but I think I'm just as safe eating whole, unprocessed foods that I can actually chew and enjoy. And no matter how healthy beets claim to be, I just can't hack 'em. I'd rather drink a glass of orange juice.

For a good critical assessment of The Beautiful Truth and the idea of Gerson Therapy, go to Science Based Medicine. More information about Gerson Therapy, as detailed in the documentary, The Beautiful Truth, can be found at The Gerson Institute. If you want to try your hand at juicing, check out Total Juicing by Elaine LaLanne. Even though it's still not my thing, I will say that juicing is an excellent way to get your nutrients and making your own fresh juice is way better than the sugar and corn syrup-laden juices you'd get at the grocery store.

A good selection of Juicer Recipes can be found here

© 2010 by KLiedle
Photo credit: Arlo Bates/flickr.com

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spin The Sun: Evolution Of A Painting

Not too long ago, I read about a film called The Mystery Of Picasso. In 1955, filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot got together with Pablo Picasso to capture the artistry and evolution of several of his paintings. Clouzot brilliantly placed the camera in front of Picasso as he worked. This produced a "mirror image" of each brush stroke and splash of color as the artist created.

In what is said to be one of the great art documentaries ever made-- the screen became Picasso's canvas.

I was fascinated by the idea-- I love Picasso and Clouzet also directed the original Diabolique, one of my favorite films. The Mystery Of Picasso, I haven't had a chance to see yet. Whenever I've searched for it, it's been unavailable. Today, on a lark, I tried again and (Voila!) Netflix has it! Soon, I shall finally be able to explore my curiosity of this film.

With my longstanding fascination of flip books and stop-motion animation, I leave you with a stop-motion animation experimental film that I created. It captures the evolution of a painting a friend of mine recently completed. I'm sure it's nowhere near what the Picasso film will be, but it was fun to create something with a camera while someone else was creating something with a brush on a canvas.

To see more art samples or to inquire about purchase, see Scott's Art Samples

"SUN STOP"
Short Film © 2010 by KLiedle

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pop-Up, Pop Art, and breathing new life into old headshots.

WHEN I'm not working a bazillion hours [like that 19-hour day this past Friday] I'm usually working on some sort of creative project.

One thing I particularly enjoy is making personal greeting cards. It's fun, it's relaxing, and the results make more of a statement than any commercial card ever could. I love manipulating paper and random images-- collage, making cut-outs, folding origami style.



HERE in L.A., people ask-- "Are you an actor?" all the time. I'm not. I've done some acting, I've taken classes, and at one point I thought it was something I wanted to do. I even got headshots-- a big ol' stack of 'em. Then, I quietly changed my mind. Not for me.

The big question remained:
What to do with all those headshots sitting in a box in the garage? Made of quality cardstock, I discovered that those old headshots provided a perfect base for some of my best greeting cards. Here are some of my favorites:


All of the cards highlighted on this page were made from my former headshots.

















In that regard, I can honestly say that there's a little piece of me in every card I make.

© 2010 by KLiedle
Images/cards ©2010 by KLiedle

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hollywood Food Porn and a little tribute to a blogger.

Movies likes Julie & Julia and Eat, Pray, Love are being lovingly referred to by critics as food porn. Gooey, Sumptuous, hot and heavy, melt-in-your-mouth... It's become a hybrid of the usual made-for-women movie. In fact, one thing it's proven is that there are a whole lot of foodies out there-- more than Hollywood even knew existed.

I did see Julie & Julia, but no, I have NOT seen Eat, Pray, Love. I immensely enjoyed the book by Elizabeth Gilbert, but the nearly 2 hour 1/2 hour running time of the film and the increasingly tiresome Julia Roberts have turned me off from seeing it. Of course, Javier Bardem may change my mind eventually, but I'll play hard-to-get for now.

[Roberts is in danger of becoming a caricature of herself-- too big a star to believably immerse herself in character. I feel the same about Tom Cruise, but I think it's too late for him. Julia can still save herself...]

Today, though I pay tribute to a blogger I've followed for awhile: Heidi Swanson. Like most women, I have my share of cookbooks. Not all women cook, but most of us dabble, and nearly everyone likes to eat.

I catalog and organize recipes I intend to make someday. Heidi's blog, 101 Cookbooks g0t me inspired to cook again. The recipes she features are generally healthy and mostly vegetarian. She accompanies all of them with scrumptious-looking photos and sometimes an anecdote or two about the recipe.

Long ago, I scribbled down her featured recipe Nikki's Healthy Cookies. It originally appeared on September 14, 2008 which just shows you how long it's taken me to actually make them. Today was THE DAY.

I was originally intrigued because the cookies looked so good, yet they had no flour, no butter, and no egg. What??!!! In fact, double-checking the recipe, I discovered there's really no sugar either-- save for the natural sugar from the bananas, coconut, and chocolate.

Slightly skeptical, I was amazed by how good these cookies actually are! I enjoyed rolling the little bits of dough into bite-sized morsels. It's makes me sad that it took so long for me to try the recipe. It's easy, they're really good, and no guilt here... So, if you'd like to check into some food porn that actually satisfies, check out Heidi's recipe blog.

**Above are my photos of the cookies I made today, but they don't even do justice in comparison to Heidi's photography of the same. However, I did a pretty darn good job... and I think I'll be making these cookies more often now.**

© 2010 by KLiedle
Photo credits: Coconut-Chocolate cookies by KLiedle

Friday, August 13, 2010

Directing: More Than Meets The Eye

Recently, I've been reading quite a few interviews with screenwriters and directors, many of them from My First Movie: Twenty Celebrated Directors Talk About Their First Film with interviews edited by Stephen Lowenstein. Those interviews gave me quite a bit of insight. No matter what anyone says: Filmmaking is difficult--at any, and every level. Always.

Directors don't always know everything: lots of times they're sleep-deprived, tortured by uncertainty and just downright unsure of themselves. But they have to fake it-- all eyes are on them.
Just a few short months ago, I finished The Straight Line, the short film I directed as an episode of It's Always Smoggy In L.A. Clocking in at just under 10 minutes, it's easy for one to think that it was a snappy little piece to put together. I wish I could say so-- it consumed months worth of my time, but I wanted to do it right. Next time, I'll know how to do some things better. I'll be more confident and better able to focus on the task at hand. Sure, I'll still make mistakes, but filmmaking is a constant learning process.

Someone asked me what made it so much work? Directing is more than meets the eye. I didn't even understand this until I attempted it for myself. Directing means that you're in charge of everything and you have to answer tons of questions for yourself, the story, and from other crew members. It's exhausting and anxiety-ridden because there's never enough time. It also involves lots of lists, especially at the guerrilla filmmaking level. Here's a rundown from my first directing project:

Pre-production:
*Envision, write, and finalize shooting script.
*Post casting notices in trades and online.
*Go through casting submissions. ( Of which there were many-- including rather scary 'Drag Queens.')
*Call actors to schedule auditions.
* Casting session (1 day)
*Finalize casting and call back actors.
*Set date for rehearsal (difficult when coordinating multiple actors' schedules)
*Set shoot date.
*Go wardrobe shopping with actors; Make purchases.
*Replace/re-cast a role due to actor's scheduling conflicts.
*Rehearsal: Go over blocking/script, wardrobe approval, get signed actor release forms for usage of likeness, etc.), camera/lighting test, photo shoot with principal actors.
*Line up crew (which is NEVER easy it seems.)
* Purchase props/set decoration.
*Purchase prop food.
*Purchase craft service (on-set snacks, drinks, goodies for cast/crew)
*Purchase/coordinate hot lunch for cast/crew during shoot.
*Pre-visualization: Prepare shot-list, do a few storyboards. Make notes for actors, etc.

Day Before Shoot:
*Prepare prop food.
*Check daylight: sunrise/sunset times.
*Call actors/crew to confirm call times for shoot day.
*Charge camera
*Purchase supplies, tapes, etc.
* Tame nerves with a couple shots of whiskey which sorta helped. But not enough.
* Sleep poorly.

Shoot: (2 days)
*One crew member cancels. Off to a good start.
*Begin losing the light (daylight)... stuff I shot in earlier takes no longer matches. Exasperated...
*Day #2 goes smoother. Have to re-shoot Scene 4 due to audio problem. Sets us back about an hour.

Post-production
*Upload footage.
*Edit first assembly cut of film (this takes a huge amount of time due to my own scheduling conflicts.)
*Editing sessions to re-cut final version.
*Find music for film (takes about a 1/2 day worth of scavenger-hunting)
*Convert raw file to Quicktime and appropriate codecs for web.
*Upload to various web platforms.
*Publicize on social media, with friends, etc.

*Start planning to do it all over again. Obviously, it's a little sadomasochist and a lot crazy, but it's also enjoyable, invigorating, and I will say, worth it in the end.

© 2010 by KLiedle
Photo credit: Sepia Camera ©2010/KLiedle

Monday, July 19, 2010

Answering To A Higher Power: Enlightenment


A few months ago, I worked a few weeks on a CBS pilot about the CIA, entitled "Chaos." It was an extravagant, multi-million dollar pilot-- infamous, notorious, and... dead upon arrival. Regardless of the money spent, the A-list director/executive producer and the well-received footage, Chaos collapsed like a house of cards.

In this exact moment in time, as the world economy digs itself deeper, there is a need for consciousness, a need for awakening, a need for enlightenment.
HBO, the pay cable network known for its top-notch original series and entertainment, understood this and was willing to take a chance on "Enlightened," an upcoming show starring Laura Dern as a self-destructive woman who has a spiritual awakening and hones in on living a more conscious, enlightened life.

A series about conscious living gets the greenlight. What a welcome surprise! With Mike White and Laura Dern as executive producers, I have a feeling it's a show that is near and dear to their hearts. I recently spent some time working with and observing the crew--now shooting its second and third episodes. Worth noting, this is a production that practices what it preaches.

With Mike White sporting a "Vegan Mafia" tee, and lots of gluten-free and vegan snacks on the craft service table, I knew something was different. Half-drunk and abandoned bottles of water? None to be found--not on this set. There was a filtered water station and BPA-free, completely biodegradable bottles available to refill and reuse. I picked one up, and ended up using and reusing my bottle on-set for the next three days. Not only was it biodegradable, recyclable, reusable, and BPA free, but it was also made from post-consumer recycled material right here in California.

Craft Service made sure that recycling bins were located conveniently on-set. A few real flowers and plants adorned the set, sticking out amongst the requisite fake plants. From a purely production standpoint, this was as green and as clean as a TV series could get.

Consciously observing my little biodegradable bottle, I learned about GLASS [giveaglass.org,] a nonprofit organization with high hopes to eliminate all single-use plastic bottles from "the advertising, commercial, film and post-production industries." It's a great idea and something I think every production should at least consider.

There is enormous waste in the world, especially in the entertainment industry where, according to GLASS, U.S. commercial productions use 700 plastic water bottles every single hour. So, if you're in charge of a photo shoot, a TV series, an upcoming feature film-- Think green, Give a glass, and in doing so, you'll be making the Earth smile.

Knowing other is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.
— Lao Tzu (c.604-531 B.C.).

"The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darkness." - Nikos Kazantzakis

For more:
http://www.deadline.com/2010/07/shocker-drama-chaos-left-to-die-after-cbs-and-20th-tv-cant-agree-on-order/

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/television/news/e3i82908c6716f89cd135e2df3b6bb2ce00

http://www.giveaglass.org

© 2010 by KLiedle

Monday, June 28, 2010

Red Light, Green Light: A bit about moviemaking.

My mom was a Spanish teacher at a Catholic high school. Before I had a car, I'd walk a 1/2 mile from my school to meet her at work so she could drive me home. Usually, I'd have to wait forever-- playing around on dry-erase boards, feeding students' standardized tests into the Scan-tron machine, getting snacks from the vending machine-- until she was finally ready to go.

In those days, I'd sometimes hear embarrassing stories about my mom from the other students. They'd love to mention just how tough she was or talk about little things she did in class. It was during those times I was relieved that I didn't actually attend the high school where my mom worked.

Now that I'm out in L.A. working in the film business as well as collaborating on my own projects [ i.e. writing/producing a web series], it's my mom who shares stories about me with her students. I'm still not sure how I feel about this. Luckily, I don't have to be there to hear them. Supposedly, she says, her students are fascinated by my "glamorous Hollywood life." It certainly doesn't seem all that glamorous to me... But after nearly 10 years, perhaps I've grown accustomed to the new 'normal.' Negotiating Los Angeles and working here-- It just doesn't seem like a big deal to me anymore, but at one time, it was a big deal. I took a risk and made a giant leap to pursue something that I really wanted to do.

As I was reminded of that one day, I got an e-mail from one of the students from my mom's school. She was genuinely interested in filmmaking and wanted to get a little bit of an idea of how it all worked [for a school research project she was doing.] I'm no genius, but I decided to help her by sharing some of the knowledge I've gained during my time in L.A. Below is a sort of transcript of my replies to her questions. The information was useful to her and, I hope, it will also be useful to someone else out there who is equally interested in filmmaking.

How long can a project take to get the 'green light' from a studio?

Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy answer to this. Most projects, regardless of how good they are, may never get a greenlight. The studios and executives that have the power to greenlight a film are relatively few and they are not known for their risk-taking. These days, studios are supremely stingy with finances. You need a name actor, partial financing or proof of foreign pre-sales on the film, a high-concept commercial idea, and so forth. The journey from script to screen can literally take years, and that’s the norm.

Generally, a studio or production company will ‘option’ a script for a set period of time (usually a year.) Many times, they sit on it. The movie never gets made, it eventually gets shelved, or it goes into turnaround (which basically means that the studio is not planning to renew its option. In essence, they release the project to the marketplace and other studios ‘bid’ on it.)

Lots of screenwriters make good money off scripts that are never made. There are so many factors that go into it. Even getting a ‘greenlight’ isn’t good insurance. A major studio can, and will, pull the plug at any point in time, even if shooting’s already begun. A studio could fire the director, then maybe the lead actor drops out because he only wanted to work with that director, and then the film could lose its financing from investors who put money in based on the hiring of that name actor. It’s a difficult thing, but that is why the success is so miraculous for those films that do make it to the screen.

Field Of Dreams is a classic example of a film that took forever to get made. Studios did not see commercial value in the story. Nor did they see commercial appeal in About Schmidt, which was put into turnaround. Judd Apatow went through years and years of trials, misfires, and rejections marked by cancellation of his TV shows, Freaks And Geeks and Undeclared, now cult favorites. The whole time, he stockpiled scripts—which is why he appears to be so prolific right now. After 40 Year Old Virgin hit it big, and he established some clout, he had all these earlier scripts of movies that he’d never been able to make. Studios, seeing dollar signs, have temporarily given him free rein to make those movies and being smart, he’s taking them up on it while the fire’s still hot. Juno, written by first-time scribe Diablo Cody, is a notable exception. From what I’ve heard, I think that it only took two to three years before it went into production-- which is remarkably fast in film terms.

I recommend that anyone check out: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and the follow-up book, Down And Dirty Pictures, both by Peter Biskind. The books give tremendous insight and cite examples of the Hollywood climate during two critical periods in relatively recent film history: the ‘70s and the early ‘90s (The Sundance/Miramax era.)

How does a location manager go about scouting possible locations for films?

As a locations person, I’m more on the visual/creative side of things. For me, the first thing is reading the script through and through: Understanding the story, the themes, and visualizing it for myself-- much like the director does. Surprisingly, some location managers skip that step, skim the basic story, and compile a list of locations and start the logistical process. I can’t do it that way. I’m much more successful with scouting if I’ve taken the time to visualize the aesthetics of each location for myself. After I’ve read the script, I’ll make up a script breakdown. Usually by pre-production, the script is numbered by scene. So, I’ll look at each of the scene headings and highlight as many specifics as possible that the writer may have mentioned and I’ll think about other aspects of the story, too.

For example: The house for this scene—Is it on a secluded dead-end street? How much money do the characters make? Is there a mention of the style or period? Once I have a set breakdown, I usually put the locations in order (by scene) to make thing organized. For example, the main character’s house may appear in Scenes 1, 14, 28, 32 while the doctor’s office may appear in Scenes 5 and 18. That way, I know exactly what portions of the location are seen and the action that takes place there in each particular scene. This is especially important when I physically go out scouting because I’ll know what to shoot.

After all that’s done, I’ll do some research online or use the phone book for certain businesses I might want to target. However, a lot of it involves me jumping in my car and driving around, looking for abandoned buildings or storefronts that could double for a barbershop or liquor store or literally heading door-to-door in certain neighborhoods (for private homes, in particular.)

Once I’ve scouted, I’ll compile the photos either digitally or by hand. Most of the photos are laid out in a panoramic style to allow for as many angles and views as possible. Then, the director will look them over and put aside some favorites.

Hopefully, they’ll have favorites. Otherwise, you’ll be back to scouting. I’ll have conversations with the director and other members of the creative team to fine tune the location choices and begin building a unified vision for the film. Locations are a big part of that. After most of the initial scouting is done, it’s a matter of narrowing down choices, getting the director's approval on a certain location, negotiating fees and logistics, and pounding out contracts to make it possible to actually film at a said place. There’s a lot more involved in that aspect of the job, but you asked specifically about location scouting so that’s what I’ve covered here.

When a film is in pre-production, how is the cast auditioned and the crew hired? Is there a standard, set process for doing this?

In regards to a standard process for pre-production, my answer is yes—and no. Like many things, there are rules and then there are exceptions. In Hollywood, there are nearly as many exceptions as there are rules. Generally speaking, a producer secures/options the material and is ultimately in charge of hiring the crew and overseeing everything. On most films, the producer hires the director as well as a unit production manager (UPM) who is in charge of arranging interviews and hiring the rest of the crew.

Many directors like to work with the same creative team. Depending on a director’s clout and his/her relationship with the producer and/or studio, they can request certain crew people, i.e. their DP (director of photography) or a certain editor, etc. It’s easier for a director to communicate his or her vision with those who are familiar. It can save quite a bit of time and frustration. However, some directors work with different crews each time.

In regard to casting: After a casting director is hired, they usually contact reps of star name talent they hope to attract to the film. For lesser roles, they will release a Breakdown (casting notice) that is sent to Hollywood agents and talent representatives. After going through all those submissions, casting arranges auditions with prospective talent. Those actors usually go through a pre-read, a callback, and if there is still interest in them, they read for, or are put onto tape, for producers. Ultimately, the producers, the creative team, and the financing studio have the final say on the lead cast.

© 2010 by KLiedle

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's Always Smoggy In L.A. - "The Straight Line"













"The Straight Line"

now available on Funnyordie.com and Youtube.com
Starring Samuel Weller, Mat Lageman, and John Sperry Sisk. Directed by Kendra Liedle.

Part of the indie web series, It's Always Smoggy In L.A. Please VOTE for your favorite episodes. Become a fan on Facebook!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Once Forgotten But Now I'm Found: International Film Archives

I’ve always been impressed with New Zealand. First off, their country is beautiful and they seem to recognize how precious that is. Many countries don’t. The majority of people there also seem to be good-natured human beings and full of pride for their country. Community seems to actually still exist there and so do values. Gosh, be darn—if they weren’t so far away, I’d consider moving there. Maybe someday.

I’ll never forget my trip to South Pacific Pictures in Auckland-- the only studio I know of that has a worm farm on the lot. There’s some environmental consciousness for you. So it came as no surprise when I read in The Los Angeles Times the other day that the New Zealand Film Archive is forming a partnership with the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) here in the U.S. to make a collection of 75 rare silent films available once again.

Many of these American-made films were thought to have been lost forever. Sometimes though, for a variety of reasons, old prints reappear in the most unexpected places. “Upstream,” a silent film by “Grapes Of Wrath” helmer John Ford is one such film found safely tucked away in New Zealand. Brian Meacham, who is a short film preservationist at the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, according to the Times article, happened to be on vacation when he visited the New Zealand archive. Once he started a conversation asking about the films that archive held, he made the surprising discovery that many “lost” American films were unknowingly housed in the New Zealand Archive.

Through this partnership, NFPF and the New Zealand Film Archive are demonstrating what is becoming known as “film repatriation,” whereas discovered films are returned to their country of origin. This is an effort I absolutely applaud. Although, the average moviegoer doesn’t think about it, films are very much a part of our national heritage.

During the silent era, the base of most film stock consisted of highly volatile cellulous nitrate. Nitrate is known to spontaneously combust and decay to such a degree that the emulsion bearing the image is destroyed. After about 1951, the nitrate base was replaced with cellulose acetate and sometimes, odd as it sounds, polyester. Both of these bases are considered safety film--more stable and less flammable than nitrate, yet they are not exempt from decay.

In the silent era, no one was thinking about preservation. Once a film had its theatrical run, it was done. The print was supposed to be destroyed or returned to the studio. There were times when it wasn’t worth the cost or the studio never asked for the print back. It wasn’t until the 1930s that film archives were created to preserve films for the future.

We have no way of knowing just how many silent films existed but the number is generally estimated to be at least 150,000—if not more. Only about half of the films before 1950 still exist. Even with the films archived internationally, it is difficult to catalogue them all, much less attempt to preserve them. Cost and resources are often prohibitive, but partnerships like this one, will help tremendously. And, as the New Zealand Film Archive proves—you never know what film might be hiding out just waiting to be rediscovered.

Resources: The Los Angeles Times, “Trove of silent-era films spurs cross-Pacific rally” by Susan King, The Oxford History Of World Cinema, edited by Goeffrey Nowell-Smith.

For more information go to www.filmpreservation.org and www.filmarchive.org.nz

© 2010 by Kliedle
Photo credit: U.S. National Archives-- Nitrate film stock. Photo taken August 9, 1935

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Real Or Not - L.A.'s always in full bloom

There she was again, all blond hair and breasts perfectly cupped and peering out of a shiny, black Catwoman top on the cover of GQ. I wasn't jealous so much as mesmerized. I once went to school with this girl, now very much a woman.

It was a hand and a fistful of years ago; we were both 18. I remember how self-assured and wise she was, even back then. She had a big sister quality as though she had everything figured out while the rest of us were still floundering through the last trials of adolescence. She knew exactly what she wanted in life and she went after it.

What I don't remember exactly are those breasts.

That GQ cover caused quite a stir-- not about her, but about them-- the breasts. Silicon, natural, or Photoshopped? I can't say either way. None of us had fully bloomed by then, least of all me. But I do know that I'm fuller now than I was then [ but not by much.] Really though, why does it matter if they were real or not? And the answer is, it doesn't, but the conversations continue nonetheless.

Just a few days ago, I was watching a Netflix with a friend and he spotted a girl with huge knockers. Remote point. Rewind. Ext. Zoom In. Freeze Frame.

"Think those are real?" he asks.

I take one look.

"No way," I answer. "No one has perfectly shaped disco-ball sized globes anchored to their chest like that. Plus, look at her teeny-tiny waist and lollipop head..."

Real or Fake? is a question that comes up often in L.A. Here women's breasts are always in bloom. Most of the time though, you can easily pick out the fakes. If a women is a size 0 with minimal body fat, it's nearly impossible to have 38DD boobs. Not even here in mythical L.A. does that exist naturally-- unless you're a freak of Barbie proportions. (Heidi Montag is the closest you're gonna get to Barbie and I don't think Heidi even has any of her original parts. If she were on Amazon, she'd be listed as refurbished.) Also, if a woman refers to her breasts as "the girls" or has some other pet name for them, I'm willing to bet they're fake, too.

Breasts change as we gain weight, lose weight, have babies, grow older... They are almost never identical, even to each other. As for me, I'm happy where I'm at. There are definite benefits to being lesser-chested. I'll never have to wear one of those industrial strength sports bras and as I grow older, there won't be enough material up there to sag.

And as for my former schoolmate? I offer my sincere congratulations on all fronts, not because of GQ, but because of all the other recognition she's finally getting in a career I know she's quietly been building for years.

Copyright ©2010 by KLiedle
Photo credit: " Bloom*" -- imapix/flickr

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hollywood On Horseback

For awhile now, I've been yearning to go horseback riding again. Although, I've always been an outdoorsy girl, I hadn't been on horseback since I was 12. I was at summer camp. Ranch Camp, to be exact-- a rather unfortunate experience that I recount here.

I even worked at the L.A. Equestrian Center for a summer, but nope...never went for a ride...until last week. I booked an hour-long ride through Sunset Ranch, off Beachwood Drive in the Hollywood Hills. The staff was friendly enough and after filling out what seemed to be a ridiculous amount of liability paperwork, I was off.

I enjoyed riding along with my horse-for-the-day, Mustard. Mustard, did not seem to enjoy it nearly as much. He had some sort of rivalry going with one of the other horses, Buckley, I think was his name. Every time Buckley even approached to pass, Mustard's ears would go back and he'd let out a long, deep snort of disapproval. This was widely entertaining yet I was glad that I'd only opted for the hour-long ride this time around. It was just enough time.

We rode with a small group along with a leader by the name of "Poncho." [I doubt that was his real name, but then again, this is Hollywood.] Poncho would get a little anxious if anyone went faster than a short-lived trot. Mostly, we rode at a rather slow pace which, although enjoyable, got old fast. I'd recommend Sunset Ranch if you want to get outdoors and go for an afternoon ride. Next time around though, I think I'll upgrade to a trot or maybe a gallop ride someplace else-- who knows?

© 2010 by KLiedle
Photo credit: KLiedle

For More
Wild Horses Run Free: Ranch Camp Gone Awry

Ironically, just after writing the above article, I read about the existence of a book called,
P.S. I Hate It Here: Kid's Letters From Camp. I just may have to look into that...

Sunset Ranch Hollywood

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rhino Boy And His Magic Cape Whizzes Over To YouTube



"Rhino Boy" originally aired on Funnyordie.com
All Smoggy episodes on Funnyordie.com/smoggyinla
Selected episodes now on YouTube

Created by Scott Vogel and produced by Kendra Liedle and Scott Vogel, each short episode of IT'S ALWAYS SMOGGY IN L.A. explores the unique effects the entertainment industry has on the people who live here. Our episodes can by kooky, they can be dark, and they can be twisted, but they are unquestionably L.A.

For future episodes and more information about the show, please see the official website: smoggyinla.com

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Recycled Jewelry, Fingernail Clippings, and Mother's Day gifts.

In this month's Elle Magazine Fashion Insider, I read about a couple of companies who are fashioning jewelry from recycled materials. Thrive, a company based here in L.A., makes jewelry from electrical circuit boards, old hard drives and the like. It's not exactly my style, but I applaud the efforts of a company using 'found objects'--especially computer and electrical items. With a new upgrade of something every time we turn around, I imagine they have lots of components to choose from.

Lauren Manoogian, also featured in this month's Elle, is a designer that uses anything and everything from old office supplies to used airplane parts to make jewelry for her Manu line. The resulting pieces have a very ethnic, eclectic look to them. Some necklaces look like floral leis, while others look very African-inspired. It's nice to see that flashy is out and earth-friendly, low key pieces are becoming the latest style statement.

I prefer to purchase items directly from artisans or fair trade wholesalers and online outlets like Ten Thousand Villages and World Of Good. Most items are very moderately priced and purchasing from them makes a world of difference for artisans in other countries around the world.
****
This being May, these designers also reminded me of my strangest Mother's Day gift ever. When I was about 12 [too old to make a finger-painted Mother's Day card yet too young to have money to buy much of a gift], I decided to give my mom a handmade necklace.

Weeks before Mother's Day, I started growing out my fingernails. Finally, when they were long enough, I painted each fingernail with alternating stratas of red, white, and blue. Why those colors? I really don't know. I used to be patriotic, I guess. After the polish dried, I cut my nails-- and collected the colorful, crescent-shaped clippings. Using a needle, I poked holes into each clipping and strung them onto dental floss. This, as I remember, was extremely time-consuming and harder than I was expecting. The resulting necklace did actually look kinda cool. I was impressed with myself as I handed the gift to my mom. She unwrapped it with the usual present-opening glee.

My mother held the necklace up, examined its colorful shards, and exclaimed something like, "Wow, very unique. Very colorful!"

"They're my fingernails. See!," I pointed out to her, excitedly.

"Thank you!" she said, in a flat tone that meant she had no idea what to say or how to react.

Yes, I obviously spent alot of time on it. Yes, it was uniquely me. Yes, I was her only daughter. And yes, moms are supposed to accept Mother's Day gifts no matter what. It's the thought that counts. Luckily, my mom is an artist herself, a musician-- we're all a little odd--so instead of being repelled, she was actually intrigued by the piece and shall I say, "grotesquely impressed."

She actually wore it to work and got complimented on it, even. No one knew where she would've gotten such a piece of jewelry.

"My daughter made it for me," she would say and smile, certain that no one would ever guess that she was wearing her own daughter's painted fingernails around her neck. Even now, I don't know what I was thinking, but I'm sure that somewhere, my mother still has that necklace--although I doubt she's worn it since.

Perhaps, I could've made money had the style really taken off. I'd love the idea of people the world over, celebrities included, being photographed wearing my fabulously ethnic, unique jewelry and never knowing they were wearing human fingernails around their neck. THAT would be awesome! I'd laugh to myself as I skipped all the way to the bank.

Copyright ©2010 by KLiedle
Photo credit: BrentDanley/flickr

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Action Until Completion [And The Story Of My Pillow: A Romance]


I woke up this morning at 11:30 AM with a deep pillow crease on the side of my face. I couldn't have been happier.

I've been working nonstop for the better part of a month. Last week I logged 87 hours ( 60 of which were in 4 days.) I'd forgotten what it was like to have a day in which I didn't have to go anywhere or do anything.

'Feast or famine,' as they say, especially in the entertainment industry. At least this year, there has been a pilot season.

I said goodbye to one such pilot on Friday. I'd gotten to know the crew pretty well. During production, we passed the time by taking bets on how many 'takes' the director would get to before moving on. It became laughable-- in a very expensive way. (I appreciate the efficient directors I've worked with in the past all the more.) Minutes clicked by, $ signs escalated and after awhile, all anyone wanted to hear was 'Got it!' to 'Moving On' to 'Wrap.'

[One particular day, I'd worked from 1:00 PM one day until 6:00 AM the next morning. I was walking around like a zombie, contemplating yet another cup of coffee. At that point, no amount of money meant more to me than going home to collapse and smoosh my face into the side of my pillow. ]

The amount of prep and money that went into everything was unbelievable-- especially this pilot, which I've been told, is one for the record books-- as far as budget. They hope it gets picked up. Most of them don't. I'm just glad it's not a medical drama.

A phenomenon that is quite clear this year: A-list stars and directors migrating to TV. It used to be a step down, an invisible line that no one dared cross. Dustin Hoffman, Sissy Spacek, Kathy Bates, Jon Voight, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Kline are all headed to a TV set near you, if their prospective shows gets picked up. The Laura Dern/Mike White series, "Enlightened," has already gotten a greenlight from HBO-- who ordered nine episodes.

There is no doubt that TV, especially cable, is getting better. I didn't think there was any hope once "reality" set in. I never even watched TV--considered myself more of a film person. However, series like "Mad Men," "Big Love", and my latest obsession, "Breaking Bad" have all changed my mind. Luckily, some audiences have had their fill of non-scripted programming.
****
Production days in the L.A. area are up --- due to newly passed incentives. Most of the increases were commercials and TV. Now if we can just get the features to make a comeback.

Copyright © 2010 by KLiedle
Photo credit: 8litres/flickr

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Off With My Head! [ or 3-D When Will It End? ]

I may be one of the few, but I never saw Avatar in 3-D. In fact, I never saw it at all. The worst of it all is that I could've seen it for free because of my job and yet--

I just wasn't all that interested.

Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland intrigued me. Wouldn't it be grand?!! Then, the reviews started coming in and I thought twice. Hmm...maybe not. Oh heck, I still wanted to see it. I wasn't expecting to be blown away, nor was I expecting to go running out of the theater screaming in horror. I set my expectations low and thereby asked only that it be entertaining.

Alice was my inaugural experience with 3-D technology. Indeed, it was an entertaining somersault down the rabbit hole. It was dark and twisted, yet missing some of the essence of the original story's most endearing characters-- i.e. the White Rabbit and Alice, herself. The film was in 3-D, but many of the characters still felt flat and two-dimensional. Alice skulked through most of her days and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen was horrendously miscast in my opinion [and I normally enjoy Ms. Hathaway's work.]
The jabberwocky made it all worthwhile. It's as though it flew off the cover of a heavy metal album only to be slayed by an armored Alice invigorated with female empowerment.

I didn't notice it so much then, during the movie, but apparently my brain doesn't like being tricked by 3-D technology. I exited the theatre with the mother of headaches. It was throbbing, pulsating, and no matter what I did-- it wouldn't go away. At points, I wished the Red Queen in all her 3-D glory would proclaim: "Off With Her Head!" and take me out of my misery. My headache lasted all day and well into the evening--and I NEVER get headaches which made it even worse. "Never again will I do 3-D," I thought to myself.

Now it seems that avoiding 3-D will become the newest challenge for moviegoers like me. Studios are chomping at the bit to convert their studio releases to 3-D. To me, it's irritating-- not only because of the headaches or the extra 3-D surcharge, but because it makes studios believe that technology trumps story and character. Moviegoers can be put under the spell of technology and spectacle for a time. For many, however, the novelty will wear off and they'll realize they've been duped by Hollywood's latest stunt.

Copyright © 2010 by KLiedle
For All Things Alice Illustration credit: shebrews/flickr
Shebrews does Alice-inspired illustrations on vintage paper. Visit shebrews photostream to see the full collection.

For more about emerging 3-D Technology:

Dolby -Dolby 3D Digital Cinema
XpanD Digital Cinema
Some theatres are now experimenting with XpanD Digital Cinema.

The 3-D headache was brought to me by Dolby Digital 3D. For the lucky few like me, 3-D headaches are now appearing at theatres everywhere.

The common causes of headaches are allergy, emotional stress, eye strain, high blood pressure, a hangover, infection, low blood sugar, nutritional deficiency, tension, and the presence of poisons and toxins in the body.
http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/remedy/Headaches.html

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stop The Presses; Roll The Cameras


"I hate snoops," Holly Golightly proclaims early on in Breakfast At Tiffany's. She'd taken care of herself a long time and felt no need to answer to anybody. And why should she?

I'm a snoop. That's right, I said it--er, wrote it. Given a choice, I'd prefer the term sleuth, but that implies that I'm playing detective and searching for something in particular. And I am no Nancy Drew-- that's for sure. I wouldn't even consider myself in the class of Harriet The Spy. I barely got through that little wimpy kid's diary-- I mean journal, but whatever.

This dirty little trait of mine dates back to childhood. In those days, I was an expert at unwrapping gifts and re-wrapping them to perfection with no one being the wiser. I got away with it for years of Christmases past until my little brother squealed on me. [ I could've told him that his beloved Castle Grayskull was from mom instead of that jolly red giant named Santa, but I didn't want to be mean.] Instead, I took to bugging phone lines and writing in ultra-mysterious code I thought no one could crack... [ 1=A, 2=B, 3=C.] I coiled a bunch of wires together and built a crystal radio that picked up strange signals when tapped into our rotary phone. On most days, I could be found in a tree somewhere, high above the rooftop, looking down on the world and eavesdropping on people. Naturally, these tendencies led to my interest in writing.

Later, I went to journalism school. There, I was forced to read books by the likes of Katherine Graham and Walter Cronkite. Cronkite complained that good, solid journalism was quickly being replaced by what he called infotainment. The integrity of news media and print media itself, he feared, could become something of the past. This was after AOL's annoying You've got mail, but before Kindle and ipods and TMZ took over.

Newspapers ceasing to exist? I thought Cronkite was being a bit of an alarmist. Less than a decade later, my favorite newsstand is now a Tijuana-style vendor stand of noisy, blinking electronic toys and ipod/cell phone accessories. The only magazines left on those dwindling racks are tabloids that everyone reads for infotainment sake, but no one admits to buying.

Lately, I've been spending quite a bit of time in an old newspaper building. As the newspaper moved out, the film crews moved in. This one is playing host to no less than three television pilots in the next few weeks. As the size of the newspaper shrank, so did its news staff. [They moved into a much smaller building to cut their losses.] At the old haunt, the hallways are long and narrow. The lunch room still has tables and a humming refrigerator. Circulation sits abandoned; Advertising is hauntingly quiet, and the presses have been cold now for quite some time.

If there's anywhere where the temptation to snoop beckons, it's on a film-set---especially on-location and especially in an old newspaper building. The typically brutal, long hours and sheer boredom contribute to the childish curiosity of snooping. After twelve hours, you kinda sorta wonder what might be in that desk drawer. You might want to do some sleuthing, that is detective work, to see what was left behind.

Paperclips, old business cards, and photo sensitive tape only tell part of the story. What was this so-called newspaper world like? I'm on the case. I open a drawer or two, in the name of sleuthing. I flip through a pile of papers as part of my investigative work. I am using my journalism degree after all, I tell myself. I find canisters of mints emblazoned with the logos of old sponsors and complimentary ticket vouchers for any Clippers game... during the '93-'94 season. I wonder if they'll swap them out. Probably not. I toss them aside. Then in the bottom drawer of a desk in one corner office, I find a golden nugget--a relic of the not-so-distant past. On a sheet of yellow-lined legal paper, a former newspaper executive handwrote:

"... The business graveyard is crowded with the tombstones of enterprises, including newspapers, that refused to recognize economic reality."

Even the newspaper business, with its most famous saying: All the news that's fit to print [The New York Times] was ill-advised as to how quickly technology would replace it. Turns out, I did think of Cronkite well beyond that journalism class. In those moments of ahem, investigative work, I stopped to ponder how the collapse of one enterprise [the newspaper business] could benefit the likes of another [the film/tv industry.]

Stop The Presses. Roll The Cameras and we begin again...

Every enterprise, every business must change to fit the new era. We may not know exactly what the new rules are, but one thing's for sure: Those who blink will lose the fight.

"Old anchormen, you see, don't fade away, they just keep coming back for more. And that's the way it is."
--Walter Cronkite (1981)

P.S. And that little wimpy kid's diary--I mean journal, but whatever-- apparently, it's now a major motion picture. We've definitely entered a new era and even if we're surrounded by a bunch of morons, it's time we face up to it.

Copyright © 2010 by KLiedle

Photo/illustration credit/Flickr as follows:
Harriet The Spy/Louise Fitzhugh, News Presses/Belly Button Window
Nancy Drew/Peril In Pink

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chew 'Em Up and Spit 'Em Out: Toxic Hollywood


I could see it in her eyes, things weren't the same. The bubbly, blue-eyed blonde, devoutly Christian girl from Illinois liked to sing and dance. She was a rising star in her hometown-- the one to watch. Like so many others, she loaded up her car and moved out to Los Angeles to be an actress. She got an agent and a personal manager (with a company I worked for.) Right out of the starting gate, she booked one of the first roles she'd auditioned for-- a principal role on a kids cable series.

She was the envy of all her acting friends. She thought she'd taken off. She thought her star was rising-- that her wholesome beauty and talent would fuel her to the zenith of Hollywood-- that the promise of fame would nourish her. Things sped along beautifully until-- the cable show tanked, the industry slowed down, and the auditions dwindled down to nothing.

We told her we needed new photos. She said she would, she just needed to get some money. She told me to submit her for anything-- even roles with nudity (something she'd vehemently been against before.) Bills were piling up; desperation had set in.

The last time I saw her, I couldn't ignore the changes. Her bubbly personality had flattened as she tried to force a smile. Her blonde hair had lost its luster. Her skin had lost its glow. Hollywood wasn't as easy as it started off to be. She walked out of our offices as a ghost of her former self-- or the "self" that she thought Hollywood had been looking for. She stopped returning our calls. A few weeks later, we ran out of her headshots.

There are so many like her-- the Ellie Parkers. Hollywood is harsh and shark-infested. It's a survivalist's game. Even those who succeed are only moments away from drowning. I think of this now, with the passing of Andrew Koenig last month and Corey Haim just a few short days ago. Oddly, I'd just watched License To Drive about 2 weeks ago for the first time in at least fifteen years. As I'd listened to the interview of Corey Haim on that disc, well before his untimely death this week, I felt the same as I'd had the last time I'd spoken with the blonde: Something in them had been forever altered.

Hollywood loves to crown its kings and queens and is quick to knock them flat. Hollywood can be toxic and it will poison you if you let it. Don't change yourself to what you think Hollywood wants. Be the person you want to be. Those with the surest sense of themselves-- the ones that know who they are as people, not actors, have the best chance of survival.

Acting is not everything. Success doesn't make you. Money can only do so much. And none of it will last. Keep stretching toward your dreams, but don't ever let them consume you whole. And if you feel that you are drowning, resist the urge to reach for drugs, alcohol, or other self-destructive crutches-- instead reach for help. It is out there.

© Copyright 2010 by KLiedle

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dressing The Part: Motion Picture Costume Design

The empty cloth body of a doll is placed on a sewing table. Sawdust pours into the doll's body, giving her form. Then, yarn hair is attached, button-eyes are sewn in and suddenly a little girl in a yellow raincoat we come to know as Coraline falls into the next frame. It is with this same attention-to-detail that a costume designer approaches the challenge of dressing characters for a film.

I've always been in awe of costume and fashion designs. My mother taught me to sew by hand. All it took was a needle and thread, some cloth, and a vision. Simple, yet complicated. Enriching and intoxicating. And the details... always details.

A few years back, I discovered the Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition at FIDM [Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising] in Downtown L.A. Since then, I've gone to the exhibit every year. It offers a rare chance to see some of the best motion picture costume designs up close. When I stand in front of a some of those costumes, I can see the individual stitches, the layers upon layers of fabric, the authenticity and sheer style of the designs. Only then, can I imagine the absolute enormity of a costume designer's task.

Costumes say so much about character, about the world he or she inhabits, about the story that's unfolding before us. Designers like Michael O'Connor (The Duchess), Janet Patterson (Bright Star), and Sandy Powell (The Young Victoria) had to brush up on history and pour over research before even beginning to think about how to dress the actors in their respective period films.

It was fun to see the fashions of Julie & Julia-- from Julie Powell's contemporary chic Manhattan apparel to Julia Child's tailored suits, skirts and aprons. From the exhibit, I learned that part of costume designer Ann Roth's challenge was the real Julia Child's immense height-- a factor I hadn't thought much about in relation to costuming. Roth had to create an illusion of height and thereby help "sell" the figure of Julia Child through costuming. Otherwise, the waistlines would be off or the fabric wouldn't hang correctly. With the use of experimental shoes for Meryl Streep and countless fittings to see what could be cheated, this was achieved.

Designer Colleen Atwood had a different challenge-- creating colorful, sexy costumes for the heavily female cast of Nine, while constantly being aware of how those costumes would respond to the choreography and movement required by the actor in any given moment. Wardrobe malfunctions weren't an option. The costumes had to dazzle, but they also had to fit precisely.

A change to this year's exhibit brought about the most fun for me, personally. Puppets from the stop-motion animation film, Coraline are on exhibit. When I think about animation, I don't often think of wardrobe. With Coraline, costuming went hand-in-hand with the style and intricacies of the stop-motion animation of the film. Coraline, voiced by Dakota Fanning, had to reflect the fashions of what girls her age are actually wearing. Additionally, fabrics had to be tested to see how they read on film. Some colors and textures could be interesting for distant shots, but too much for close-ups. According to the Lead Costume Design Fabricators for the film, a total of 28 different puppets were used and each of them had numerous costume changes. The challenges posed here would be enough to drive me batty!

I was surprised and excited to see a number of stars at the exhibit, too. The real Wild Things are on display from Spike Jonze's film, Where The Wild Things Are. I was dwarfed by being in the mere presence of Carol, K.W., Alexander, and Judith-- towering above me. Up close, they look just like I imagined them to be from seeing the film [ and reading the book.] When I look up and see moisture from a runny nose glistening on Carol's face, it makes me feel sad. And when I look into her friendly, glass eyes, I feel like she's real even though my adult brain tells me she's not.

Designing the Wild Things and pulling it off in live-action form, was perhaps, one of the most difficult, yet imperative tasks of the film. The costumes for the wild things had to be a perfect combination of form and function (so the actors could move around in them.) What they couldn't be were fake-looking, giant man-suit puppets. The Wild Things had to look like creatures with the capacity for real emotion and humor. Then, there was Max's wolf suit--one costume he wears throughout the film. One costume--easy! Wrong. Since so much rides on that one costume, Max had an entire wardrobe of identical suits for different appearances and actions in the film.

Each year, the FIDM exhibit gets bigger and better. And each year, I learn more and more about the specific challenges each film poses to a costumer designer. It's rather amazing to get to be an insider for a brief moment and see the artistry and detail up close. For anyone who thinks that costume design for film is just a matter of shopping or buying fabric, think again. For the rest of you, the Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition at FIDM is open to the public until April 17, 2010. The exhibit is free and open to the public Tuesdays thru Saturdays from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Fashion Institute of Design And Merchandising [FIDM Los Angeles]
919 S Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90015

2010 Exhibit -- Costumes On Display from the following films:
The Duchess, The Last Station, Bright Star, Sherlock Holmes, The Young Victoria, Amelia, Broken Embraces, Inglorious Basterds, Coraline, My One And Only, Pirate Radio, Julie & Julia, An Education, Public Enemies, Where The Wild Things Are, A Single Man, Night At The Museum, Star Trek, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, The Soloist, Watchmen, G.I. Joe, Aliens In The Attic, Nine.

Copyright © 2010 by Kliedle
Where The Wild Things Are poster/Fox Searchlight
Costume Designers Guild poster/IATSE Local 892
www.costumedesignersguild.com

Friday, February 12, 2010

Electric Youth Spurs Modern Love


The other day I saw Fabio shopping at the local mall. A day later, I saw Debbie Gibson at the movies. It was a throwback to the '80s-'90s sort of week. Toss in a little bit of valentines to top it off and voila, this post was born... Enjoy!
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IM Googled, status updated, linked, and blogged. Thumbs flying, ear-buds blasting; Match.com, here I am. Did you get my text? 'Cause I am next: I am Electric Youth. Valentine's Day may be just around the corner, but how can modern love compete with my latest tweet?

In the late '80s, Electric Youth was not an adolescent with ADD and an ipod in his hand. No, no-- it was a Debbie Gibson album and a popular perfume that teenage girls clamored for. Back then, remember? Valentine's Day was still fun and untainted. We handed out Looney Tune valentines to our classmates. We baked heart-shaped cookies. We passed notes. We left notes in lockers signed, Your Secret Admirer. And we silently prayed for that boy to send us flowers and candy.

We were all hormones and innocence and Lost In Your Eyes. Big surprise...

Now, Debbie is Deborah and we barely look up. We twitter, we text, but in many ways—we don't connect. No one seems to write letters anymore. Even a phone call takes too long. Texting is fast and gets to the point. It's quickly become the most popular way to communicate because we don't have to touch... heck, we don't even have to speak.

By February 2009, Twitter had reached 7 million unique visitors (Nielsen Wire) By 2009, 72.2% of cell phone users had a text-messaging plan on their cell phone and text usage went up by 107%. An astonishing 2.3 billion text messages are sent every day! (Paul Wise, Texting Statistics, Random Facts, and Blackberry Cell Phones)

With all these distractions, modern love is certainly complicated! And to think that online dating used to be scary and utterly taboo? Now, it's become the thing to do. Online, you never have to actually meet people or talk to them face-to-face. You can date from your living room and never leave the couch. You can pick your partner like you pick your kitchen tile. We're connected to technology, yet removed from each other.

It's become way too easy to poke fun at how technology's changed our love lives. Modern Love, the latest episode of the web series, It's Always Smoggy In L.A. did just that-- hilariously showcasing the pitfalls of modern love. This year, you may rush to make reservations and order flowers or you may wear black and scowl until the Valentine's sugar high has lifted. Whichever camp you find yourself in, unplug yourself for once, spend time with each other, and become one with the world.
Happy Valentine's Day Weekend!

Copyright ©2010 by KLiedle
Photo credit: starberryshyne/flickr.com