Wrapping on Monday, feeling such brain fatigue that computing the hours worked just isn’t manageable.  That we clock our time in military style helps simplify the math. Simple enough for a 5 year old. I suppose it is a kind of forced amnesia. A not wanting to recall what has just occurred. It is enough that it is over. Our days elapse in an imaginary universe, creating virtual worlds. Blue screened in, insulated from all semblance of the passing of time and organic reality.  No natural light, no awareness of the passing of normal time. We move along in ‘scenes’ and ‘takes’. Each scene is broken down into subscenes (or shots) and each shot is attempted multiple times (or takes). Normally this progress thus: The master shot is called, say, Scene 23, or for short ’23’. We set lights and shoot the master which holds all of our characters and explains, visually, the geography of the scene. Later, in editing, this shot will actually appear only briefly, just enough to help the viewer understand how the actors relate to each other in the location. On this show, with this director, we shoot the master at least 10 times (Scene 23, Take 1-10). Next, we change the shot, reset the lights begin tightening the lenses to get closer to the actors faces while they talk. Once the lens or camera position changes we must change the scene (this is for editorial who must sift through the miles of footage with some formula for organization). This is done by adding a letter to the scene name. Thus ’23’ becomes ’23A’ or 23 Alpha or, commonly, “23 Apple”, which, through constant and repetitive use has brought about the colloquial phrase ‘Apple Up’ to mean adding the next letter to the scene every time the camera/lens changes. Thats all well and good and you should understand this is written on the slate that claps at the top of the scene. But how does this relate to the fatigue that so blurs the mind that we cannot compute such simple numbers?

24 hours with each hour broken down into 10 ‘clicks’ so that, say, 10:30pm = 22.5

Call time was 6am. We wrapped at 9:30pm (or 21.5).

I still cannot force my mind to accept and compute those numbers. Luckily, accounting will do it for me. As the camera moves and “covers” each actor from various angles we move on down the alphabet. 23B. So, we have commonly used words (Apple, Baker, Charlie, Denver, Edward, Franklin, Golf, Henry, Jackson (letters that could be confused with numbers are not used), Kansas, Lima, Marry, Nancy, Peter, Queen, Richard, Tom, Universe, Venus, X-ray, Yellow, Zebra). By now, perhaps you are beginning to grock the title of this post. You see, on the occasion that we make our way around the entire alphabet (certain complex scenes with lots of actors require many, many shots) we must begin again with AA, AB, AC and so on. We have been working on a long scene. Today we made it to Apple Queen. Each one of these camera setups was shot, probably 5-10 times, so:

A-Z=26 setups + A-P=17 26+17=43 x 5 (though probably more) = 215

Two hundred and fifteen times the actors performed the same dialogue (not including rehearsals). And we recorded it, each time. Thats what we do. It appears I’m more comfortable computing setups than hours. I try not to watch the clock.

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Crickets are chirping (I’m told) in a mathematical relationship to the temperature. It’s warm and May is bleeding into June. Summer is here. The laughter of children wafts through the neighborhood, an upbeat reminder of simpler times. Simpler times, indeed. As if triggered by the estival change of seasons, after many, many months of downtime (to put it mildly), I am, well, slammed.

If I have learned anything over the long stretch of downtime prehence it is the ubiquity of uncertainty. As far as the future is concerned the best we can do is hedge our bets. But, as a sailor adrift in a tempest, staying upright is my immediate concern. Long ago I acquired the habit of trying to make sense of the changes in my reality. Looking for meaning in phenomena and adjusting my actions to stay on course. The past many moons have stretched this perspective to the test. Like navigating a Mandelbrot set from within, chaos surrounds yet I am bound to end up where I started sooner or later.

On set. Day after day of simulated world building. This is big time movie making. over the past few weeks I have ramped up into employment hopping from show to show. Gets my chops up and reminds me how all the pieces fit together. One week I cable/utility two days on $200m Scifi feature, mix two days on reality TV show in prison & boom one day on a period narrative TV show. I felt a bit like scrambled eggs. Maybe the lesson is that I am just a body with skills in this field.

Weeks pass. It’s past 3am. Into our sixteenth hour. I’m holding boom on Rhea. Delirium has set in.

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Show nearly over. In fact today is the last day of the original schedule. Third attempt to begin a post. Who knows if it will ever see the light of your eyes.
And speaking of light I hear it is already around 106 degrees today. For nearly a week we have been filming in the remote and desolate Laguna pueblo, about an hour west of Abq. Ungodly hot pretty much covers it. So many details are buried under the perspiration of the past week.
Keys replaced (including my boss), changing thirds, days, nights, revised schedules, locations from (or in) Hell. Amazingly, I have remained the constant throughout the tumultuous shifting sands. One highlight was the arrival of new boom pole (the Ambient 4140) last week. Most sound mixers whom I have worked for own and carry poles on their cart so thus far I have relied on their equipment. When The excellent chap who took over after my good friend B.C. got the axe (long story there) arrived from LA bearing only one pole (though 4 sound carts unbelievably) I decided it was an opportunity force the hand of fate. As this was my first chance to boom for an LA mixer (a different caliber of being than our locals), and having worked as a boom operator for many years it seemed the perfect time to invest in myself and prove my commitment to the craft. No small investment, it boggles the mind how something as simple as a pole could cost the same as a computer. Pretty spectacular though. Truly a beautiful thing. Of course, most of the first week I had it was spent doing interior car stuff (zzzzzz) but by weeks end I had a scene worth booming.
We had moved down the road, deeper into Laguna, into Red Sands. It was windy. The lav we had attached inside the shirt of our villain (the amazing Diego Luna) was taking an insane amount of wind and was pretty much unusable. The wide (figure in a landscape) and medium shots were unboomable but when we finally(as in the next day)got in close enough I had a chance to prove why I am here. The lenses were ‘long’ meaning the cameras were not close to the action but the frames were tight and allowed only a few inches of space above the head. With multiple cameras on longish lenses it becomes a delicate maneuver staying above the shot and also avoiding laying shadows in the scene and reflections in the car windows (while occasionaly(lol) thinking of the sound and following the actor as he walks and turns his head this way and that and cueing the mic off axis as the young actress screams). Did I mention the 25mph wind? Perfect test of the new pole (and whether I deserve it). Full stick (about 18′). Almost 3pgs of dialogue. Always surprises folks how we are able to capture clean dialogue in strong winds. A lot better than the stinking lav mic. In fact, with a zeppelin blimp and a furry (‘wookie’, ‘dead wombat’ or, Mel’s favorite – ‘yeti’s cock’) the mic is totally protected from the wind. The flapping shirt, painfully loud on the lav, is nonexistent on the boom.
To my surprise, each time we cut and I turn to look at the camera operators, I find no glaring stink eye letting me know I blew the shot. This is my reward. Disinterest. With such a wide expansive vista, the crew (of which most if not all are good friends – I suppose the kind of friendships formed by POW’s) has a front row seat to my antics, bopping and weaving around around obstacles and chasing his face with every turn. A few remarks are made, which is nice. Boss even offers to buy me dinner. By take 3 my endorphins are coursing though my veins. It’s a good feeling to be pushed hard and make the shot.
The Ambient proves it’s worth. Solid at full extension (doesn’t flex as much as the K-tek) and the bushings at the knuckles hold the cable and keep it from rattling in the pole when I’m swinging and the wind is slamming against it. There really aren’t that many pole brands out there. When you limit it to those composed of carbon fiber the options are basically: Ambient, K-tek, Loom & VDB. K-tek is decent and most mixers have one on their cart. Not really a ‘boom operator’s pole’ per se but good enough. The Looms are excellent but it’s a very small company I’ve heard of customer support problems. Also, the main tube is textured and, while this may provide excellent grippage it seemed to limit the ability to slide my inside hand without friction. My other pole is an older vdb and I love it. Unfortunately it has become prone to the creaking knuckles so common with the older ones. It actually works fine for interiors. With an interior mic set up (no blimp) the weight at the end is light enough to not put pressure on the creaky knuckles. The vdb is an insanely light pole. I am glad to know it still has life in it for interior work. Outdoor work, especially in New Mexico’s “temperamental” weather requires an instrument of exacting firmness. The Ambient QP4140 is a proven workhorse and exceptionally reliable.
In the modern day world of hand held “jeejaws” and laptops it is empowering operating something as simple and elegant as a pole. Over time the devices we use daily become an extension of ourselves. The ambient and I are one.
Well by now we have gone to lunch early. The director has been take to a cooling room at base camp. Apparently his blood pressure was 180 and he was disoriented. Serious concern for his health. The heat is overpowering.

Now lunch is over. We are standing around waiting. Luckily, a rather large cloud has been hovering over us for the better part of 2 hours. There is thunder. Rain is in not likely. Far in the distance a significant amount of black smoke. Apparently some kind of car accident on the highway we drove in on. Ominous. The mood is not hopeful. We are running days behind schedule. The result of not making our day continually throughout the run. The producers have adamantly insisted we will not go past July 2nd (if we shoot on the 3rd people will have to wrap on the 5th or 7th and get paid for the holiday. Of late there has been talk of going longer but by now much of the crew has made plans, flights etc. I heard today that ‘anything could happen’ and that plans could change hour to hour. Pretty exciting. I’m just going to hold to the eye of the hurricane.
New developments. The sun sets (no surprise there but it seems as much to some and once again we scramble and, alas, fail to get our kill shot. Though it feels like a wrap it is much too early. We load back to the trucks and company move to a new location about 15 miles away. This means self drive and an entirely new landing for our mini city of semi truck trailers. Then, because it is night, we must illuminate the scene from on high with very large lights. This also takes a while. It is now 12:30 pm. 12 hours in from our call time. We have yet to shoot. After this we will move in tighter and then there are two other scenes. May see the sunrise…
Finally wrap at 5am. A mammoth 17 hour day. Greet start to the week. Unreal.

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It’s nearly 8am. I’ve been up for 4 hours. Two breakfast, two espressos and one hundred miles later the gear is fired up and so am I. Catching our stride on this one (touch wood).
First shot of the day. Last shot of the movie. Diner in a bleak New Mexican town called Belen. The young actress rides up astride a Harley. She looks a tad skittish astride the chopper. The tension in the air is palpable. We rehearse over and over and over again. And…she’s down. Did no one think to train her on this earlier? It boggles the mind.
Hey, I’ve been up for 12 hours! That’s right it’s 4pm now and we are on to something new (she laid the bike down 3 or 4 times. Eventually there was a scene of dialogue. I sucked up the sound with my sound mop). Now I am in the middle of 3 passenger vans packed with people following an open stakebed with our talent folk in the back. The actors are wired (lavaliere/radio mics). There is no place for me to be in the back of the vehicle. It sounds like crap. The wind and loose metal create a bed of cacophony. In all likelyhood this scene will be ‘looped’ in post. As long as we capture the sound on set (no matter how bad it is) we are beyond reproach.

Or so we thought…

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As I sit here the show is over. A catharsis of mixed feelings stir and roll over me in swells. Relief (assuredly) combined with the ambivalence of a newly freed prisoner.

The final days piqued in a cluster of stupid decisions that boggle the mind. An all night shoot on one of the coldest nights of the year shooting helicopter green screen that could (and should) have been on the stage. Giant fans (the kind on the back of swamp boats) called Ritters are fired up to emulate the prop wash of the chopper. Contrary to what many people presume, the wind doesn’t necessarily annihilate the possibility of capturing a decent dialogue track. The big zeppelin and it’s furry ‘wookie’ are quite affective at protecting the microphone’s sensitive diaphragm. More often powerful gusts threaten to force my boom into the frame. With manufacturedwind it is the fan itself(and it’s connected generator) at such close distance that even when the actors are screaming it is barely perceivable. At one point when the fan is panned onto to the action my headphones are blown off and I nearly lost the pole. Like a moment in battle, my senses on alert in fight or flight I wondered what part of the electric or grip rigging might be blown away. Freezing, gale force wind, wailing noise overwhelms. The fight scene on the helicopter. If the camera captures even a small part of the atmosphere of that night the scene should sell itself.

So far there is nothing on the horizon until march. That should give me time enough to forget before blindly diving into the madness again.

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Some days are better than others. Yesterday, for instance, was a sort of nightmare fiasco (from a production sound perspective). Why the mixer isn’t brought along with the other keys on production scouts I don’t understand. The scene was a hostage stand off, on one of the big long bridge that crosses the rail yard in downtown. It was sort of a big deal. The bridge was closed (cutting off one of the main routes out of downtown) and one of the local news stations did a report on it. We even used their helicopter for ariel views of the standoff. Somehow, fate had decreed that this day was also to be the day workers down below were going through the very arduous task of removing and rebuilding the railroad ties for the length of track near the depot. Now, in the middle of a city there are sounds everywhere and with an ‘open’ mic and a set of cans it amplifies this effect. The thunderous dirge of traffic noise while annoying is, at least, constant (and can probably be removed with the modern magic of noise reduction. Other, less constant noises, are more problematic. Backup beeps, truck brakes, sirens and the clanging and banging construction are all make cutting the different shots together very difficult. After an entire day feeling the futility of swing my mic around above the actors heads we tried to exercise all this lost dialogue by “getting in wild.” The actors and I all crammed into a SUV and, holding the mic in my hand like a gun, I got one decent sounding read of the entire days dialogue. Two minutes. It may be the best sound I got all day.

Today was different (almost exactly opposite). Instead of on a road are in a park. Instead of on a towering bridge we are in a little gully(? anyway a place in the park that is lower than the rest). The actors congregate in neatly packed little “puppy piles” making my job that much easier. The sound is good great even. The scenes are long (there a 2 three+ pagers). With full stick at 18′ that is quite a workout. After a while I am feeling like the hulk (in my shoulders at least…the rest of me feel disproportionally weak). Besides the residue of time (ie. continuousness of existence) which still resonates yesterday’s sonic abomination in my memory, today is one of those rare occasions when I actually enjoy my job. Every shot was boomable (frame lines right above the head). No reflections. Shadows were working in my favor. And beautiful non reflective grass, dirt and trees cupped around us like a bowl.

On my drive home the director sent me some photos he had taken of me on set. Love the one where I am actually working.

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“Sometimes it feels like everyone is working together,” I thought, “against me.” Funny, in a tragicomic way. In truth we all are working together toward the goal of manufacturing an illusion. In the build up to the moment of rolling every department scrambles in preparation. Lights are set. Cameras positioned. The set is laid out. Hair, makeup & costumers fuss about the actors. Props are positioned. Often, the actors are wired. As for the boom, a great deal is resolved just moments before we shoot. In the scrambling pace of television the call to roll is given the moment camera and lights are up. This doesn’t leave a lot of time to dig out shadows & reflections while waving the boom above the heads of “second team.” Often I am forced to pull it together in the final rehearsal with the realies just before we shoot. The subtleties of positioning get refined through subsequent takes. Hopefully I get it somewhat nailed by the time everyone else does (actors and camera primarily).
The addition of a third camera today threatens me like finding out there is another sniper whose crosshairs I must evade. Multiple camera setups are notoriously some combination of wide and tight lenses shot concurrently. It makes sense from an efficiency perspective. Cover more shots at once. editors probably love it. I understand that. As for the sound, you’ve all seen the long list of credits merely for people in the sound department. Many more folks get involved after the footage is in the can and our work on set is done. Worst case scenario the dialogue editors & ADR loopers can fix it in post (sigh). This unfortunately leaves me feeling all dressed up with no place to go. I’m ready to be bold, to get in there and hug that frame line, ducking and weaving like a ninja, hidden in the shadows. Much of the time, today’s high pressure shooting schedule just doesn’t allow for it. And, according to the powers that be, isn’t even necessary. Thats what the wires (aka body mics on actors) are there for, right? I suppose. Why even have a boom operator then anyway? It ends up making me feel like an anachronism. Now, as comfortably as this shoe fits for one who collects 8tracks and Harris Tweed, when not by choice it just makes my profession itself seem an archaic leftover from bygone days.

Every new setup brings its own acoustic dilemmas. Doors closing on lines, the clop clop clop of background (or even the actors themselves) footsteps on top of dialogue, refrigerators, air ventilation systems, fountains, traffic, airplanes, dishes and utensils and, of course, all of the crew standing nearby while we shoot, completely unaware the mic is sensitive enough to hear them shuffle their feet and turn pages in the script let alone talk while we are rolling. At times characters are supposed to be talking in the background of another character’s close up. I mention it to the director. “I’ll tell them so you can have one,” he responds as if doing me a favor. I’m only trying to get good sound for you. Such is the dilemma. Who am I serving? Primarily the actors, it would seem as it is they who will be on the sound stage looping these lines if we don’t get them. Post nags us about problems with the audio yet on set we struggle to get one solid take of good sound from each scene. Sure hope the timing of the way the lines were delivered works well for every other setup!

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Late call. Sunny fall day. Beautiful location. Men firing handguns by the pool. A boomable shot. Day starting out alright. I hear we got a call from post this morning (always ominous). Levels too low (?). Guess there will be more wiring. Figures. Oh well. String ’em up.

That was yesterday. Friday comes and another week is in the can. Flying by. Call was only 12:30 so we could actually get out at a decent hour (not too much of a “Fraturday”). We’re in downtown Abq which is always fun (if not always the best for sound). In a field whose primary focus is the manufacturing of illusion it can be nice to mingle amongst the “muggles” and put one foot in reality. As I look for our reserved lot I realize another show is working downtown today as well (actually I end up parking in their lot). As I am parking another car backs up into me asI am wailing on my horn. Good grief. I get out to check out the damage and realize it is the Gaffer, Dave “DK” Kohn. In general I try to get along with Dave. I don’t dislike him as a person. Still, his electric department is the most problematic for sound. Mostly stuff like generators, dimmers and ballasts being parked too close to set. I didn’t notice any damage on either car so I told him not to worry about it (cue ominous foreshadowing music). First up; a drive up scene nestled in the downtown area that could at this point be considered the “coffee district.” Bam! And I am caffeinated. As the sun creeps around a building the shadow of my boom is revealed on the wall behind the scene moments before we roll. Good grief. I work it out, hovering in hidden spaces. Later, for the other side of this drive up I am crammed into the back of a cargo van with way too many people (2 actors in the front, 2 cameras, 2 operators, 2 camera assistants, Director, DIrector of Photography, 1st Assist Director & me in the way back weaving my pole through the throng to reach the action. Ah, should have used the bathroom before getting in.

Eventually that scene is completed. As the trucks are moved we walk (a lovely fall day) the few blocks to our next location – the old jail. Along the walk we stumble upon the crew from the other show. Like some rare alignment of planets only meaningful because of our perspective, we observe it with similar awe and reverence. Like visiting an alternate reality, the same underlying structure as ours with different bodies and stories. The jail set is familiar. A scene in the Segal flick I worked on last year shot here. The Day Room for the cell block, a big open room two stories high with four wings of cells attached. There is a control room behind a two way glass that still has a working intercom system. Despite the insane reverb I pull off booming a 3 page scene of two people talking at a table. Sounded quite good and I eventually got the cues down. After lunch someone was playing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” on their iphone (it’s the theme for this episode). I immediately had the idea of playing it back through the old jail’s intercom into the giant reverberative day room. It was awesome and creepy. The director liked it and said we should record it. Told me it was “a good idea.”

The day sort of went downhill after that. The next scene was in another big room, though completely different structure. A morgue set was installed, with a cadaver table and large round overhead light hovering over the head. Dolly track was brought in for both cameras and laid perpendicular to one another (never a good sign when the cameras do this, let alone on moving tack). I struggle to get a spot. The actors are together, then spread, then together, spread and finally together again hovering around the cadaver. As I am working it out the DP throws in an electrician holding a pole with a long tube light attached, crammed in between the dollies in an almost tragicomic way. In fact I did feel bad for the poor guy, bumbling around with a big, heavy pole between two camera clad dollies. What I do is hard enough but a mic is nothing compared to those lights and his pole certainly wasn’t carbon fiber. I struggle around it. It created problems. When we turned the shot around it got worse. Another “floating” light was added and shoved directly around the actors faces. With that large round light above them I was completely screwed out of a position. The actors, of course were wired. The wires sound “ok”. I’m not a fan but at times they suffice. No reason for this scene to require them as much as we ended up doing. The best I can say is that there will be sound for the scene. We’ll see how post likes this..

We finished the day with a short hallway phone call (facetime actually) scene which I struggled with but got some semblance of (imagine walking backwards down a 100′ hallway with a 20′ pole sticking out over a tall steadycam operator, his spotter and cable puller and, of course, the actress herself who is the only one of us walking forwards. It’s pretty tricky to avoid hitting the ceiling or wall walking backwards fast while trying to keep her on axis with the mic. We get it wild after finishing the scene. Oh well.

Later, I get back to my car at the same time as DK. I walk around and investigate my bumper, not really caring but wanting him to notice. “Car ok?” he says.

“I’m feeling more beat up than my car right now after that scene,” I explain. He didn’t even know what I was talking about. So I go on and tell him basically how bad the floating lights affect my ability to do my job. We’re ‘brothers’ in the same union so I figure it is in both our best interest to help protect each others craftmanship. It turns out the pole idea was something he came up with himself and was obviously proud to show it off to our DP.

“Well, don’t make a habit of it,” I said, feeling like a thug. I didn’t care. It actually took me a long time to get to the point where I feel confident enough throwing my weight round on set. It can be intimidating, struggling to get the sound while is everyone working on making the shot perfect. Sometimes I just push to see how far I can take it.

He was amiable enough about it, “I’m sure we’ll work in out in an amiable fashion.”

“Oh sure, sure, sure,” I said. But he knew I was serious. I get beat up enough dealing with the regular B.S. out there without having to actually dual with the bloody juicers. I almost felt like they were crossing some union line. Only sound guys should be allowed to swing poles around on set, right?

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Here. We. Go. (again).
The long (and lovely) hiatus resolved, as children return to school I return to work. When it rains it pours and the normally dry arroyos are unseasonably flowing. So to flows the work. Choosing between this show and that is an unfamiliar dilemma. A waffler by nature, a choice such as this is not taken lightly. For starters, each gig is a commitment to spend months of my life living a somewhat regimented existence among a throng of new and familiar faces. Thus, the people I work with are a major concern. Also, there is the money. Decisions, based on instinct or gut, made in the moment, are easy. Living with the repercussions is not.

After more westerns than I can count spent eating dirt under the bristling New Mexico sun, any gig that offered the possibility of working on pavement or inside a real building is appealing. Beyond that, this one offered a long run working with some good friends. Generally, TV is something I try to keep away from. Nicknames like “sausage factory” & “meat grinder” best elucidate the experience ~ cranking out pulpy stories with up & down plot curves that leave precise moments for commercial breaks. Being as I have been away from it for a while, I figured what the heck. Still unsure of my choice.

TV has a predictably high page count relative to feature work. While on a feature we tend to cover 3-4 pages MAX a day (and sometimes less than 1) TV regularly moves at a 6-8 pages a day pace. What’s a few pages more? Ahem. My mind reels at the thought of computing pages to hours (it ain’t pretty).

So here we go. Accelerated pace. Shots are ‘good enough’. Nothing too elaborate. Pretty, but formulaic. Tight schedule though and that often means long hours. (It is 4am as I write this sentence. 12 hrs in and a whole other scene we haven’t even started yet). That this is mid-season filler meant to replace the new fall lineup that didn’t make the cut. Glamorous. It keeps me busy so I should post this before I am swept away and another week passes.

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A few days in to our exploration of the Nation’s Capital. Big O & I landed on Sunday into the welcoming arms of old friends. No better way to travel.

Today is our 3rd and final day of exploring DC. So far we have hit the huge and awesome Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. It is out in Virginia, near Dulles airport, encompasses 2 large airplane hangers and is able to hold big stuff (like the space shuttle Discovery) and many other large and small flying machines. It was an awe-inspiring first stop. After lunch and a drive back into DC we visited Arlington Cemetary. It was hot and muggy as we marched down roads past acres of white headstones. Beautiful and calm. The sound of the cicadas and weed-eaters humming a salute to those who gave their lives for their country. After more laps around the grounds we eventually land and catch the unmissable changing of the guards ceremony at the Tomb of the unknown soldier. Pretty serious business. Our curiosity was piqued by the regularity of the guard’s movement (21 steps, 21 seconds between movements) so we did some digging and found out the inside scoop about the soldiers whose duty it is to guard the tomb. Whoa.

That pretty much wound up day one (aside from getting the full experience of driving in Washington in rush hour-ugh. Apparently worst traffic in the nation). Day 2 put us on the Metro, carless. Our first stop was the International Spy MuseumAfter the Operation Spy 4D experience took us through an actual mission in Kandahar (which remains the highlight of the trip so far for O) the museum displayed all manor of real-life espionage gadgetry. Nifty and cool stuff. Quite a big museum and well worth the price of admission. Our minds thoroughly blown we walk across the mall to the Museum of Natural History. It was cool but oddly enough, it was difficult to get O engaged. Maybe the frequent experience of Cabelas has taken the novelty out of taxidermied wildlife. Well, the skeletons were still quite cool and the gem’s and minerals as well. We had made plans earlier to meet another old friend at the mysteriously named Roslynn Metro stop. Though no real connection to the “real” Roslynn this postdoes a good job of speculating on the name. As we walk closer to our destination the sound of a marching band fills the air. I had known we were planning to see the Marine Corp War Memorial but didn’t know what we were really in store for. We arrived just in time for the Sunset Parade, an incredibly spectacular display of military precision. The silent drill is unbelievable. This video gives you a glimpse of one of the best parts. From there we were driven (which I appreciated quite a bit) across the bridge and looked out at the Washington Monument – the scaffolding that encase it lit up from within transforming it completely. We walked along the tidal basin, checking out FDR’s Memorial, MLK’s and Lincoln’s. All are just so amazing and really breathtaking. Hard to put it in words. We took some pictures but they hardly do any of it justice as well. Our last stop for the night was Ben’s Chili Bowl for a famous Half Smoke Chili Dog. Wow. Wow. I’m not a big chili dog guy normally, but this was on a level all its own. What an experience.

After another night of staying up way too late, by the time we roused and rode the metro downtown it was nearly noon. O had said the Holocaust Museum was something he was truly interested in so that was our priority. Pretty heavy. Very well done of course and we learned quite a lot. I was especially interested in the section on Hitler’s rise to power and how it could have happened. After some decompression time we walked across to the National Gallery of Art and gazed upon Monet’s, Van Gogh’s & Picasso’s. Truly magical. We rounded out the day with a trip to the National Portrait Gallery and a tour of the president’s portraits.

The next day our journey took us farther up the eastern seaboard into Philadelphia. On the drive I was reminded of Gurdgieff’s familiar phrase “All must get to Philadelphia.” Here I was, fulfilling my plan, hatched 10 years previous, of taking my son to see Duchamp’s final piece when he was coming of age. I am very grateful. The Philadelphia Museum of Art houses many spectacular works of art that we enjoyed walking amongst and viewing. When we finally stumbled into the small antechamber off of the room housing Duchamp’s other works it was quite by accident. In contrast to the tall ceilings and stone floors throughout the classically built museum, this tiny room (hallway really), with it’s berber carpet and dim lighting, felt like one was in another place completely.

“We’re here,” I told him. And allowed him to have the first peek.

Later on, when I asked him about it he was unsure of which piece we had actually come to see. Ha! Regardless, in that moment I felt a wave of cogent accomplishment, as if by fulfilling this idea I had put an integral part of the universe in place. My mind felt peace.

I told O, “OK, I’m done. You’re a man now.”

I was kidding, of course but I had to say something.

Later we walked for what seemed like MILES in search of slices of pizza from what was recommended as the best in Philly. We succeeded there as well. Then, we hiked the long way back to our car and drove back to DC.

The next day was another milestone and the other significant purpose of our journey here. Through coordinated efforts of Fate, Blind Will & the Charity of Good People an interview with Leo Sarksian was performed. Truly a gem of a man, he opened up his studio to us and our gear (lights and cameras) and made us feel quite at home. He shared stories (both while rolling and otherwise) and it often felt just as if we were friends sitting around talking. I can’t wait to begin reviewing the footage.

Riding high on the buzz from the Fulfillment of Will, we mosied up the coast a wee bit to a spot outside of Baltimore. More old friends offering to host us for a few days. This morning we visited the Geppi Museum, a pop culture smorgasbord. No better place could I have gone with my old friend J and our two teenage comic obsessed boys than this. We gazed on comic books from bygone eras all the way to the present.

I even said to J, “We’ve come a long way since biking up to QT.” Amazing how time flies.

As I keep updating yet never seem to post I’m going t call this one done and leave what comes to a further post. Thanks for staying tuned.

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For the past couple weeks (or longer I suppose) upon waking I have found my right ear completely deaf. It always clears within an hour of waking and getting up. I’ve tried Q-tipping it without success but assumed it was just a build up of wax anyway. Well, the show being over I finally had some time to pay attention to my querpasito. A little googling and I was stunned to find a lot if info about about SSHL. Should be considered a medical emergency? Really? Whoa. Jeez. Uh, ok.

So here I sit, in the waiting room of the Santa Fe ENT about 24 hours after calling to make an appointment. Dani said appointments usually are booked months out so I guess they must think it is important to get me in. I didn’t even mention I need my ears for my job (though it is arguable at this point). The list of possible causes of SSHL are a little freaky but at least I’m getting it checked out. More on this later.

UPDATE

That was the biggest, nastiest wad of earwax I have ever scene. Whew!

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I

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have not left the planet. The world envelops and annihilates, devouring the identity & churning it into mulch. Brains washed, life trails on by chance & circumstance. Self-reflection lost, dissolved into a blur.

The quandary is familiar. Like the Indian tamboura, meant to represent the background sound of the universe, the sound before the sound. Emanating out of creation as a part of it (instead of apart from it). To naturally occur (or at least pretending to). There is no beginning nor end. Continuousness.

I’ve been busy. The blahg suffers. I struggle to restart my story while weaving in what has transpired. Right now it is 2am and we have been working since 8 this morning. The sixth day of a week filled with 18 hr days.Still lots to do. We are crammed to shoot out the star (N.P.) who wraps today. The director (who replaced the original dir. who quit on the first day of shooting) is getting married and must depart later this week. Though tomorrow we are off, more long days are certainly ahead. Not many more though – and that is what keeps me going. I’ve heard we must wrap by 3:30 (we shall see). Perhaps twenty hours is some kind of limit they cannot go beyond. I was betting we would stay on to cheat dawn for dusk and attempt to reshoot the big sunset ride out that the director never seemed happy with. At this point there is a significant amount of settling for what we have gotten.

Days later. Several of the 18-20+ hr variety. A day is added. We finish principal photography. Sound is wrapped. The next day I get a call. Sound is needed for second unit. 4am in Ghost Ranch. It is 6pm the night before. I need to pack, put together a ‘bag rig’ of equipment at Bayards and drive to my hotel in Espanola. I finally check in at 11pm. Now I sit watching sunrise over the alien landscape of Ghost Ranch. One more wake up.

Second unit sound is a sweet gig. For this, it means horse hooves, without exception. Besides the heat (and only 3 hours of sleep, today will be alright. Shade becomes a commodity pretty quick. At this point, nearly 9, it’s hard to believe I’ve been up for almost 6 hours.

They break us on time for lunch (10:00) and I even have time for a nap before we are back out in it. The pace is comfortable and mostly my efforts are spent navigating the dilemmas of acoustic space (ie. generator noise & crew chatter). The location is familiar – exact spots I was working a month ago on ‘The Sixth Gun’ pilot. Odd, these intersections of place. Like a crossword puzzle of spacetime.

It is now 6:30pm. 14 hours in and still going. Weird being this fatigued at such an early hour. Everyone is fading. Having trouble keeping eyes open. Micronaps prevail.I have not left the planet. The world envelops and annihilates, devouring the identity & churning it into mulch. Brains washed, life trails on by chance & circumstance. Self-reflection lost, dissolved into a blur.

The quandary is familiar. Like the Indian tamboura, meant to represent the background sound of the universe, the sound before the sound. Emanating out of creation as a part of it (instead of apart from it). To naturally occur (or at least pretending to). There is no beginning nor end. Continuousness.

I’ve been busy. The blahg suffers. I struggle to restart my story while weaving in what has transpired. Right now it is 2am and we have been working since 8 this morning. The sixth day of a week filled with 18 hr days.Still lots to do. We are crammed to shoot out the star (N.P.) who wraps today. The director (who replaced the original dir. who quit on the first day of shooting) is getting married and must depart later this week. Though tomorrow we are off, more long days are certainly ahead. Not many more though – and that is what keeps me going. I’ve heard we must wrap by 3:30 (we shall see). Perhaps twenty hours is some kind of limit they cannot go beyond. I was betting we would stay on to cheat dawn for dusk and attempt to reshoot the big sunset ride out that the director never seemed happy with. At this point there is a significant amount of settling for what we have gotten.

Days later. Several of the 18-20+ hr variety. A day is added. We finish principal photography. Sound is wrapped. The next day I get a call. Sound is needed for second unit. 4am in Ghost Ranch. It is 6pm the night before. I need to pack, put together a ‘bag rig’ of equipment at Bayards and drive to my hotel in Espanola. I finally check in at 11pm. Now I sit watching sunrise over the alien landscape of Ghost Ranch. One more wake up.

Second unit sound is a sweet gig. For this, it means horse hooves, without exception. Besides the heat (and only 3 hours of sleep, today will be alright. Shade becomes a commodity pretty quick. At this point, nearly 9, it’s hard to believe I’ve been up for almost 6 hours.

They break us on time for lunch (10:00) and I even have time for a nap before we are back out in it. The pace is comfortable and mostly my efforts are spent navigating the dilemmas of acoustic space (ie. generator noise & crew chatter). The location is familiar – exact spots I was working a month ago on ‘The Sixth Gun’ pilot. Odd, these intersections of place. Like a crossword puzzle of spacetime.

It is now 6:30pm. 14 hours in and still going. Weird being this fatigued at such an early hour. Everyone is fading. Having trouble keeping eyes open. Micronaps prevail.

Sunday is a mostly in eventful last day. The ‘Pursuit Vehicle’ is rolling for most of the day, making my job pretty pointless. In fact, several members of the crew cracked jokes about my being there at all. I rolled on everything anyway and even tried to evade the rumbling engine of the car with the crane on it. Besides the obvious comments about ‘horse power’ the most ironic moment was when the cameras were rolling on a horse drawn wagon while I stuck the mic right on the muffler, marrying the awesome sound of a state of the art v8 to the image of a 150 year old wagon trudging along the prairie.

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The movie is worse, the job is the same. It has gotten surreal. Feels like a farce, a spoof, a hoax. The star is a caricature of himself. He cannot really be this bad. Cannot really be so self absorbed, so bigoted so clueless. Couldn’t ad lib as much as he does, neglecting the script even as the cue cards flip flop  to the ground. It seems he hasn’t even read the script (neither have I) as he is utterly lost every time he arrives on set (yelling out “roll sound”). Perhaps when it gets released overseas the dubbed dialogue will go unnoticed by the Asian audiences.

Jaded? Ungrateful? Well, as I sit having breakfast before my 3pm call time on day 6 of this week, let me just say it is a little tough keeping my spirits up. It will be a late one tonight (3am if I’m lucky). Nothing like doing night work interiors on the stage. Then we are required to have 34 hours off before coming in for another 6 day / 72 hr week. Good times.

All is not aught though. In darkness there is light.

The day before this show began I called on an old friend, dB, to ask  if he had any spare parts that could help resurrect my VDB boom pole. The pole had been resting somewhat symbolically in the corner of my office ever since I acquired it. It had been Cole’s. David gladly offered up the few pieces I needed (after remarking how familiar the pole looked).  I brought it with me to work and asked RG if he wouldn’t mind fixing it up for me. It really wasn’t much ~ merely running an xlr cable through and soldering connectors on either end.  Rodney gladly obliged and by day 2 the old vdb was ready to swing around. After a couple shots though I realized the knuckles were creaking embarrassingly. At this point I wondered it if my efforts were for not.  I asked dB and googled around for tips (search: vdb boom creaky tips).  Many suggested spraying the knuckles down with wd-40 but I wasn’t sure.  It was during the brief respite of my first weekend on this show, while soaking in the glorious hot springs of ojo caliente that I had a vision. The young wipper-snapper we’d been training in the art of thirding (aka sound utility / cabling) the first week had other duties to attend to in week 2 so my good friend, ES was coming in to take over. He usually mixes and was the first person who ever hired me as a boom operator, so many shows ago. How fitting it seemed then (as I saw in my vision) that ES should be the one to put the final touches on dialing in the pole. You see, the whole process had taken on a kind of alchemic-mythic quality that resonated deeply within me. I cannot explain why but I had an uncanny feeling that the ‘redemption’ of the pole would be performed through acts of the goodwill of others (as apposed to my own). It was a kind of blessing procedure. I was excited to ask ES for his help with quieting down the pole and when I found out what he intended to use it nearly floored me. What christening would be complete without an anointment  of sweet balm?  For that is what he used. I told him later the story and how I envisioned it and informed him of how he played the part of John the Baptist.

Om. Ha.

It has been another week since my vision in the pools and I finished the week swinging the pole around quite excellently, I think.

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Hard to recall if my lack of writing is due to an excess of fun or extreme boredom on set but regardless, the focus of my attention has been split between those focused moments of actually performing my job and passing time with the fine folks I’m working with. It’s nice to end the year on a high note (mentally if not monetarily). Two boom op gigs back to back working with the fantastic NM film crew definitely renewed my spirits. Maybe it’s just fate’s way of stringing me along for another year. We shall see.

Work wise in general, this was my best year yet. I spent nearly the whole year on a film set which is rare in this business and I am grateful for the work. It wasn’t always what I wanted to be doing but I guess I am paying my dues and working my way up.

Microphone Placement Engineer
Aka
Boom Operator

Sometimes it feels like my pole is some strange hearing aid contraption. Imagine needing to hear someone better so you swing a 20′ pole around and hover it over their head. It is a strange and somewhat anachronistic art. I enjoy the challenge of it. Each new camera setup forces me to navigate around the lenses, lights, reflections (let alone actual people). One of my buddies in the camera department on this show said he thought I had the hardest job on set. Wow. It very well may be. I think I do a decent job at it. I’m getting better all the time.

Probably my last post of the year. I’ll try to keep it more regular for those who are paying attention (you know who you are ; )

Also, the following post was an old on that was laying in my drafts folder. Here it is. Also, if I can I’m going to dig up a bunch of leftover unfinished pieces and dump them up for your perusal. Better late than never, right?

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After seven months of cabling I finally get the bump up to boom. Nevermind it’s a low budget made for tv movie produced for the sole purpose of selling dolls. Booming is something I actually enjoy doing and this was nearly an all local crew. As people who know each other well and have worked together many times over the years, our NM crew knows how to get the job done. Aside from the general crew (grips, electric, camera, hair, makeup, wardrobe, craft service, script supervisor) the sound crew on this one is about as good as it gets. Working with good friends leaves behind all the political baggage that has become status quo for the past half year.
The biggest change is the step up to boom though. Great show to get my chops up to speed. This DP (director of photography – an out of towner) put up more black flags than I have ever seen on a show before. Everyone kind of agreed it seemed like amateur work and for certain it often made my job more challenging (can you find me in the black?). At one point he even asked me to take my hat off because it was causing a bounce (it was gray). His face when I removed it was priceless. Even the Key Grip remarked later how funny it was to see him stop, dumbfounded as he struggled to figure out a way to black out the top of my head.
As a sound guy I remain happily ignorant of the designing of the light in the shot. Subsequently, the whole idea of ‘negative fill’ remains an illusive concept I hear (and occasionally shudder) about. I guess it improves contrast or something.

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Filmmaking in the SW is a meeting place where creative ideas intersect with locations that match their storylines. Hence, locations scouts & producers looking for a cheap place to shoot westerns, facsimiles of Mexican drug lord compounds & otherwise desolate areas of vast bleak emptiness are drawn to New Mexico. Here it is that my life intersects fiction at specific environmental plot points.
Add to these a new nonlocation – Santa Fe Studios. We are among the first (and perhaps the first to christen its virgin stage. I’m on a different show (again), one that has come from NC to finish out the last 2 weeks of a 50 day show here filming (guess what) beauty shots of an RV driving through the desert and (no surprise) a Mexican drug lord’s compound. That’s two films in a row that have this staple. Anyway, the last two days we are on the brand spanking new SF Studios lot shooting interiors of airplanes and whatnot. It’s a nice stage and made even more appealing by its close proximity to my home. Let’s hope it is a burgeoning success. Somehow I got the idea to sign the (beautifully built) rafters.
This show has now wrapped and another is in que. As a good friend in the biz so eloquently put it, “the day you get the job is the best and worst day,” as in “Great I got that job. Damn, I have to do that job.”

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Another show begins tomorrow but today I am far away…

In conjunction with the ISEA 2012 conference happening in Albuquerque my associate, mentor and hero, David Dunn is performing with his collaboratuer, Gustavo Matamoros. Is as in still is. As i type this from a bench @ UNM’s Duck Pond, the regenerative sound organism known as Frozen Music isdeep in the midst of a 24 hour mind-bending meltdown. Aside from the ducks, I was the sole “audience” if such a term is valid in such deep time performances. If trees and performers require the same criteria for existing then I singlehandedly assured the existence of Pond, Frozen Music’s longest piece to date.

Words fail to express the experience.

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The work is done. It’s all retrospect and second-guessing does nothing to change the past.

I got a call near the end of LR offering me a gig on another movie. The decision was surprisingly easy though once decided I went through waves of uncertainty and moments of regret. From my viewpoint here on the backend I now realize the significance of my choices.

The world is filled with jobs. The price we pay for the the luxuries of modern existence is our time. We sell our time to the highest bidder. There is a fine line between how much we compromise our integrity to survive and the peace of mind that allows us to sleep at night. Sure, once asleep it can be easy to stay asleep even while awake, working and carried along by the momentum of existence.

I told my buddy it was a kind of ‘personality defect’ that caused my departure. I was being humble. Our rather, gracious in respect to society. As if to say, I know it isn’t really proper and I’m acknowledging so but the part of me that makes choices (beyond what is ‘proper’) is giving the go ahead. Not listening to this voice is the worst sin of all.

The new show was an alternate reality to me. Complete change of pace in so many ways. While it still had big stars (D.W.&M.W.) i couldn’t shrug the feeling it was a low budget student film. After LR everything may forever seem small and cheap. The biggest shift though was the sound department itself. Just about as opposite extreme to what I was used to as possible (and I’m not talking about not having to run out 100’s of feet of cable for every shot). For the first few days these guys kept having to tell me ‘just relax’. That an Oscar winning sound mixer could be so cool and low key turned my world upside down. Especially after just going 6 months with L. “Big Time” O.

Mixers come in all types. What I realized in my final days working with the coolest & nicest guys(W.B.&G.T.)I have ever worked with was a teaching I recalled from somewhere else a long time ago. Character is more important than knowledge.

Some minor gigs on the horizon nut nothing substantial. It’ll be good to spend sometime with the family and take care of things put off far too long. I’ll try not to be a stranger here.

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Hard to believe another month has almost passed. The days creep by but the months fly. Reoriented to home and sleeping in my own bed. The time between shifts is truly mine. Still, the company pulls us in every direction, commuting hours upon hours and grinding us on and on for 16+ hours. Inhuman. I suppose if we were liberating a nation or defending our own it might be easier to rouse up the chutzpah. As it is, many of the crew spend the day scratching their heads in utter amazement or bowing them in disgusted shame of being involved in such a mismanaged cluster. The emperor truly wears no clothes. I know, I know, “I should be so happy to have a job and be working on such a bigmovie.” This is the same line of crap the producers say to us to justify working us into the ground, paying us as little as possible and ripping us off at every corner. Sorry. Over it. If you falter in the face of such negativity let me reassure you that weaving these dark feelings into creative threads is a kind of alchemical work not too different from therapy. It’s not all sun and roses, you know.
anyway, they’ve decided to finish the show in L.A. for whatever reason. Someone said it was because they were tired of getting rained / clouded out late in the afternoon everyday. Guess no one told them about the monsoon. Funny part is they are leaving around Labor Day which is when the weather here gets the best (As I said, bow head and shake side to side). The end is indeed in sight. As it is now, we are back and forth between days and nights. Yesterday we commuted 1.5 hours to shoot “road rig” (fake train) in a tunnel that they quickly realized was too dangerous to shoot so was changed to blue screen (very fake train). Blue screen can be done anywhere you realize. Amazing. Here are a few pics.

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The 4th of July holiday was a welcome break from the grind. After the party so graciously thrown for us at the brewery I wandered around geocaching with a friend. Caching at night is a little bit trickier but as we were sticking to the “urban” environment (urban, for Moab anyway) it was a fun adventure anyway. The fun culminated at the moment the big fireworks display began in what I have learned to refer to as a “sonic event.”

You see, for many, many years I have documented the passing of Independence Day in aural form. The legacy of days when I recorded sounds from daily life constantly, this remains as my own regular practice. Funny, for a day that most people associate with bright lights and pretty colors (bangs generally sound the same every year). There isn’t really any reason the fourth was chosen originally other than that it began, I think, back when I was passing time while working at my dad’s fireworks stand. Over the years I have recorded parades, frogs, silence, lots of fireworks and many more people. Most of you, dear readers, unless you know me well, make be surprised to learn of my hobby (holiday soundscape phonography). Let me tell you, there is much more you do not know.

Back to my story. So my buddy Sean (pronounced “Seen”) and I are wandering around Moab searching for the “Music in the Park” geocache. As often is the case with geocaching, the location the cache resides in is often of significant interest (moreso than the cache itself). Such fortuitous serendipity was it that just as the city’s fireworks display began exploding above us we found ourselves here. I immediately hit record and as we began playing we were joined by some teenagers anxious to answer the display with their own cacophony. Hopefully I’ll get a link up for you to listen.

Back to work after the holiday and they even let us work on Saturday! Such give people. It’s all a bit of a blur as I write this on Sunday but the weather has shifted to semi-monsoon with greater cloud cover and even rain in the afternoon. I swear it feels as if the production is being punished for not giving us time off the days following the holiday. Friday I was scurried (away from my crew) high up to Dead Horse Point to assist our hero with an earwig that would allow the director to communicate with him from the helicopter. The view was unbelievable and I (with a small entourage of crew) stayed up there waiting for the golden light of near sunset. Not sure if can tell by the photos but we worked at 2 different levels beneath Dead Horse Point – on a butte below and in the actual river itself. I’m told it is 2000′ down to the river from DHP. Saturday was a “road rig” day where the train is put onto the flat beds of a semi and driven down the road. This is generally a cluster and at one point the HW191 (the main street through Moab) was blocked and the road damaged. Sure to be in the paper. Regardless, space is such a commodity that I am left behind to clean the truck. This is so long overdue and in such dire need that I am utterly thrilled. I’ve no documentation of the truck cleaning but I’ve no doubt that my work yesterday was probably more satisfying that what anyone else on the crew got done (which isn’t much).

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