Sunday, April 15, 2012

d.c. part 1: the job

i like to imagine that on friday, april 6, in downtown salt lake, this was the conversation that was taking place:
in a darkly lit and powerful office, the director sits in his chair, looking thoughtfully out the window at the city below.  
"we can't do this," says the producer in his british accent. "we don't have the right people." 
"no, there is one man who can help us," says the director, still with his back turned. 
"him?" asks the producer. "but he quit the life." 
"he's the only one who can help us now," the director declares as he slowly turns around in his chair. "call our man in texas." 
"he's moved on. he's has a new life now." 
"call him." 
at any rate, that friday i had just finished a meeting with my boss at work when i got a call to go help on a shoot in washington, d.c. i asked for a moment to think about it, looked at my schedule for the coming week and realized that i didn't have anything major due in my classes that week, nor had i used any of my two free excuses absences in either weight training or judo. in short, i'd be crazy not to do this.

so, i said yes, the excitedly texted my friends that i would get to be on set again.
and then realized that i probably should've checked with my bosses first, instead of just letting them know that i'd be taking a break from my current, less-exciting yet stable job for my fun and wild ex-job.
they were ok with it.

monday afternoon, i was back living the life. checking in at the airport, basic camera gear in my carry-on, watching my edited copy of inglourious whatevers on my ipad (as excited as i was just to be back on set again, i was almost as excited to be able to watch movies on my ipad on the plane). meeting up with my old friends at the airport and checking in to my room at the hotel, i couldn't help but think: dang, i've missed this.

the next morning was almost surreal: it felt like i'd never left. setting up the camera, running cables, and joking with the director while suggesting lens options; it all came back without missing a beat. the only catch was that in the nearly two years since i'd worked with them, time had gone on and they'd bought new cameras, and i soon found myself staring at this block on technology and wondering how to operate a "red scarlet." i actually had to text a friend in texas to make sure it was all real and that it hadn't been a dream, because it felt like i would be driving back to home at the red door in a few days.

we were shooting a spot for a company called veri-sign. if you've ever used your credit card online, you may have noticed their logo, proving that the site is legit. and over the years that i've shot for them, that's pretty much what i thought they did. we were at their corporate headquarters, a large and modern building with security so tight that we were not allowed to go anywhere without an escort and i every third door we went through seemed to have another security panel on it.

my job was mostly the 2nd unit d.p. i remembered the day when i first worked as a first assistant, feeling the stress of having to make sure the camera was up and running and that i had everything ready that the director would want. and i remembered being the d.p. (on another veri-sign shoot, actually) a few years ago, where the director was telling me his shot ideas and i had to figure out the angles and lighting, and how i missed the carefree job of being a first assistant. and now i was just being handed a brief list of shot possibilities and told to go around just get some amazing shots.
growing up is hard.

my day was kind of constricted by the restriction of needing to have an escort at all times and our escort to crew ratio being woefully low. i did the best i could, with a few shots of the building and signs out front and some ok stuff in the lobby, but... meh. not my finest.

day two, however, was much finer. we shot in a room that didn't look like a place i would expect in a large i.t. corporate headquarters; it looked like how i would hope a control room in a place like that would be. in other words, it looked like the main room of the counter-terrorist unit on 24: lots of desks each with lots of monitors, with low lighting and several giant screens at the front of the room, showing all sorts of statistical information about the life of the internet around the world in really cool graphical displays.

so that was easy to get cool shots of. the rest of the day was spent out at another cooler-than-you'd-dare-to-hope place. in a little, non-descript business park, is a building that had a surprising amount of security for seeming so bland. and is also much larger than it looks from the outside. and through a few hallways and a few more access locks, is a room that looks like one of the back rooms of the matrix: rows and rows of server towers. anytime some gets online and wants to register a new .com or .net website, it goes through that room. so if you want to register a website that ends in .com, like or or, you're going to register it through them. in short, they kind of control the internet.

i think that they also do something with the traffic of getting you from your computer to the computer that has the .com website you want to visit, but i didn't quite follow that. i did hear that there were three other rooms just like that one, mirroring the information so that if one went down, another would pick up instantly. the location of the fourth room was a mystery.

needless to say, getting cool shots in here wasn't a problem. making it even easier was that i had a talented steadicam guy at my disposal, and he and i spent the afternoon walking through the room, going up and down the aisles, getting all manner of cool shots in this almost kubrickian room.

i loved it.
it was so much fun being on set again. of seeing my friends and laughing as i was changing a lens or pulling focus. and i naturally wondered if i'd made the right choice in leaving all of this. but as i talked with them and they mentioned how last year had been really dry, and i remembered the feeling of not having anything coming up after this, yeah, i'm glad that i'm working towards something better. i made the right choice.

and getting little breaks like this every now and then are enough. as we were parting ways at the d.c. airport, i told them to keep me in mind for the next one.
they said they would.


LJ said...

Your description of that seemingly-bland, bigger-on-the-inside building had me thinking of the TARDIS on Dr. Who.

Oh, and please go watch it. It's my new favorite show. Start with season 5 on Netflix, the one with Matt Smith starring as the Doctor.

Nana Layne said...

I don't care what they say. Sometimes, for just a moment in time, you CAN go home again!

And it is oh, so sweet.


Brandon said...

nice job reppin' a&m with the hat. :)
sounds like you had an awesome time!