Ready for My Not-So-Close-Up

It’s been over a year full of flaming suck for me.

In addition to being laid off, I have had very few interviews for all of my efforts. Two of them, including one for the position of Publications Editor at my former employer, turned out to be a bust and I’m still waiting for the word on one that I went to over two weeks ago. And it’s not like I haven’t been trying–I’ve submitted applications all over the place for positions that did and didn’t pertain to my previous positions as proofreader and writer. One of them, in fact, was for a local grocery chain that was in need of Team Leader, a position that I believed I as more than qualified.

The result? Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail I received from them:

We have considered your application carefully and unfortunately at this time we will not be progressing it any further. We will keep your application on file for one year to consider for future opportunities.

So despite my management and retail experience, I wasn’t even qualified to manage a small group of people or even stock pineapples at a grocery store. Well, fuck you and your fucking pineapples, man.

And that’s pretty much been the way things have been going all year.

As you can guess, at this point in my life I’m pretty frustrated with it all, but not to a point where I was planning to jump off of a bridge or anything. That would just be stupid, but that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling any more useful on the employment scene, although I have to admit that it sucks to be unwanted.

And just as I was about buy a bunch of oranges and start selling them at freeway exits from a Target shopping cart, a thought came to mind. I decided that if things weren’t going my way, and they damn well aren’t as of now, I was the one who had to start making things happen. My unemployment benefits are running out very soon and I’m not quite sure if I can get an extension so it is indeed desperate times for me.

In addition to still applying for jobs that I don’t seem to be qualified for in any capacity (at least in the discriminating eye of the employer), today I decided to take a step in a direction I thought I’d never go: that of an actor. Or in this case, an extra.

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Tom Hanks Filming at Local K-Mart

I had heard through the proverbial grapevine that Tom Hanks would be at our local K-Mart today, so I decided to go and check it out to see if the grapevine was right.

And right it was.

(Click on any image to embiggen):


See the man in the red shirt? As blurry as the image may be, I can assure you that that’s Tom Hanks right there, taking a sip of something between takes. (Note that security was tight and I had to sneak in this cropped-at-home shot with my phone—real spy stuff). Right after each take, Hanks ran immediately back to view what had just been shot. He is the director, according to IMDB, which also summarizes (working title) Larry Crowne as:

After losing his job, a middle-aged man reinvents himself by going back to college.

In the scene they were shooting, the crowd of U-Mart (as it is called in the movie) employees is engaged in a rousing cheer about their products and prices:

“[Fill in the blank with product name] for only [fill in the blank with price]!” and so on and so forth.

Kind of reminded me of the Wal-Mart Cheer that I was subjected to during my years working there only with real enthusiasm.

I guess the title also explains the name on the sign at the entrance (which means they can use my likeness forever and I can never ask for payment):


…and this one near the rear of the store:


And in this day and age, the movie is no real secret if you follow Twitpic or other forms of social media. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and follow a hunch that this would be happening right down the street.

I get the feeling, however, that the “commercial” (as I was told) they were filming in the toy department at that same store last week was just a preparation for what I saw today. Just a hunch but I could be wrong.

Either way, there you have my celebrity sighting for the day. Cool stuff, and the crew was a class act–even when we unknowingly almost walked into the background of the hot set! In fact, according to Anthony, this is the best day ever for the following reasons:

  • His second round of golf lessons start today
  • He got a cool Matchbox car while at U-Mart…um, K-Mart
  • He got to see (and hear) Woody 🙂

He also told the cashier that they were filming in the store today.

“I bet you didn’t know that, did you,” I said.

“No, I didn’t,” she replied. She then asked Anthony, “Do you know who’s going to be in it?”

“WOODY!” he yelled.

All the cashiers laughed–and Tom Hanks himself probably heard him all the way at the back of the store.

Well, time to go play LEGOs with Anthony for a bit then golf lessons. It’s gonna be a busy summer!

UPDATE: I ended up working at that same Kmart later in the year and they had this prop hanging in the manager’s office:

To see all of my blog entries that are related to filming in my area, click this link.


First Screening: DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon”

how_to_train_your_dragonNote: This entry may include spoilers after the break so if you don’t want to know about the movie, don’t read beyond “SPOILER ALERT!”

Sometime last week, Ann got an e-mail from about a free, pre-release screening of a DreamWorks movie “from the people who brought you Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar.” So being we had nothing to do today and it was free, we went ahead and signed up to go.

Unlike most movie screenings, this one wasn’t in Hollywood but in beautiful, downtown Brea. (I’m being facetious, folks.) Had we known there wasn’t a freeway close to the damn city so we would have taken the streets to the place, which is exactly what we did on the way home.

When we arrived, there was already a group of people waiting to get in since seating was on a first-come, first-served basis. While waiting outside the theater, people from the Nielsen survey company gave us questionnaires asking us about our movie viewing habits: what we’d seen, what we’d want to see, if we prefer 3D or traditional, etc. We also got wristbands upon entry to show the rest of the moviegoers we were more specialer than they were.

As indicated in the e-mail invitation, there were quite a few stipulations for this event, including:

  • Being accompanied by a child between 6-11 since it was an animated feature
  • You couldn’t be or appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs (?)
  • Cameras, cell phones with cameras or any type of recording devices were not permitted and those caught trying to record would be removed and subject to criminal charges
  • Attendees were subject to a physical search of their belongings and person

Remember that this was a first screening so it was serious business and as such, extensive security measures were taken, including all participants having to walk through a metal detector. There was also a guy in the theater with night vision binoculars so he could spy on the audience while the movie was showing. His stoicism and appearance reminded us of Crazy Steve from Drake and Josh, a guy that could go off at any second and for any reason.

Before the movie started, the Nielsen people scanned the crowd for potential post-movie interviewees who would have a chance to speak with the makers of the movie/studio suits and give their opinion. It kind of reminded me of the “Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie” episode of The Simpsons where the kids were taken into a room and shown potential new characters: “Would you kids like to come with me?”

Once picked, they took the names of everybody in the group and from the looks of it, they already knew who they wanted to talk to: families of four with a boy of at least 8 years of age, so unfortunately we didn’t make the cut. That’s too bad because I would have liked to give them some input.

Finally, once all the seats were filled and interviewees finalized, the title was revealed: How to Train Your Dragon, yet another movie based on a children’s book, because Lord knows we haven’t had enough of those lately.

SPOILER ALERT! If you don’t want to know more about the movie, don’t read beyond this point!

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Filming Flashback: Friday After Next

For today’s post, I’m taking a cue from IAMNOTASTALKER, a very cool site with a humorous name that lists movie locations all around southern California. And being I live in said area, I dig what I’ve seen on that site.

I was turned onto it by searching for more info about CSI: Miami shoots in Long Beach and have since e-mailed the site’s owner quite a few times and we have shared stories of what we’ve come across. So Lindsay, I hope I’m not stepping on your toes with what I’ve got tonight 🙂

Way back in 2002, I was tipped off by a friend of mine that there was some filming going on at a strip mall down the street from his home and not far from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, whose main exterior was used in the classic TV show Emergency! He said he had no idea what it was because they were pretty much done by the time he found out but that I should check out the names of the fictitious businesses in the strip mall.

So I grabbed my trusty Minolta X-370 and rolled down there. And boy, was he right. The names were downright hilarious and although I took quite a few shots of the location, the ones that follow are only a portion of what I could find; the rest are scattered amongst boxes of photographs. (I used to work in photo labs most of my life so you can imagine how many pictures I have.) And it wasn’t until I did some serious investigating that I learned the movie being shot was Friday After Next. Don’t ask me how I figured it out; I guess my Google-Fu was strong that day.

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Off the List


At one point in my life, perhaps a smidge too late, I considered a career in screenwriting. I took courses in college, bought books, did a lot of research. In fact I even arranged to speak with Keith Sharon, writer of the Showtime screenplay, who also happened to work at one of the local newspapers. I was inspired by his story and the fact that he wrote the screenplay in a small office behind a McDonald’s not too far from where I lived at the time.

We made contact. Hell, I even still have the e-mails. But despite my best efforts, the meeting never happened.

So I continued to push myself into writing “the next big screenplay” and tried to summon my muse in order to get the thing going. In the meantime I studied character arcs, spec scripts, treatments, pitches, and the business in general. I convinced myself that what I could come up with would be some of the funniest shit anybody had ever seen, and that selling my first script would change my world forever.

And for good measure, I even tried to get into the WGA’s now-defunct Writers Training Program. Out of all the inquiries I sent out (to shows like King of the Hill, The Simpsons, and The King of Queens), I got one response from the producers of MadTV telling me that, unfortunately, they were no longer part of the program. (I still have the letter somewhere.)

Years later, and not surprising to anybody, my muse has yet to arrive. And each glance out across the smoggy L.A. sky from the Green Line station to that seemingly small “HOLLYWOOD” sign in the hills is a constant reminder that no, what I planned on doing has never come to pass and, taking my age into consideration, probably never will.

So it’s with deep regret that I now mark “Writing a Screenplay” off my “Things to Do Before I Die” list. The idea is now officially dead, buried and covered with squirmy maggots.

That said, I’ll look deep into my archives to see if I can find any samples and post them here. Why care about it now, right? I wrote many scenes in college and on my own but who the hell knows where they are now.

But when I do find one or two, they’ll be here.