Adventures of Hollywood Jim Ch. 08byhollywoodjim©
The new studio was everything we could ask for. It became a sort of clubhouse for the growing circle of friends we'd accumulated. With the bowling alley, we had a guaranteed time-killer when things were slow. And Chris and I found an old jukebox at a flea market that an electronics whiz-kid friend restored to play CD's, giving the place even more of a retro-feel.
But business was still business. And there were several movies in production that we got photo contracts for, along with TV pilots and returning series. This usually consisted of us hanging around the set on certain days, snapping promotional photos for the studio or press kits. To me, it was always a good way to see how movies were made. And of course, there was the chance to mingle with the stars. I say "chance" because we usually had none!
"Sunshine Dreamer" was the newest film we'd be working on. It was set in late 60's San Francisco and centered on a young girl working at night as a photographer (how coincidental!) at the old Fillmore West concert hall, her friendships with local musicians, and her day job at a local coffeehouse.
For us, it would be a chance to see the city by the bay, and get paid for it.
We didn't have much of an idea what to expect on this film. The casting hadn't been confirmed when we got the gig. A few days before departure we finally got word from the studio people what our work would be like. As well as the film's star.
The "sunshine dreamer" would be Blake Lively.
The thought of Ms. Lively made me smile quite widely (terrible pun, I know!). In between my nightly viewing of Seinfeld reruns, my new guilty pleasure was her series "Gossip Girl". I knew I'd have to try and not turn into a fan looking to get insider info on the show if we met. In other words, discipline Hollywood, discipline!
The studio sprung for a decent hotel for us and they made good use of the city. Several other locations around the city were chosen for their retro-feel. The main set was a funky looking coffeehouse modeled on a real one in the Haight-Ashbury section of the city. A facsimile of the inside was built on a soundstage nearby. The old Victorian homes made for a great backdrop and one would serve as the front for Blake's character's apartment.
I was more thrilled to see the Fillmore West. We'd be doing a lot of filming there. And the CGI crew would do their magic and digitally insert Blake against footage of famous bands performing onstage. And they'd be able to make the outside look the way it did 30-odd years ago. Chris and I found ourselves speaking in reverent tones as we walked around the place, knowing the history of it. It was like being in a classic rock church. It might sound like a cliché` but we could "feel the vibes" inside. It had been extensively restored in the years since it closed in 1971.
But as I said before, discipline Hollywood! Discipline!
The director of the film was a tightly wound spring of a man named John McDonald. He ran a tight ship and I doubted we'd be able to do clever things like on our other assignments. He insisted on punctuality by everyone, and I mean everyone! I have to admit I liked his style but it took some getting used to. He didn't appreciate it when Chris tried an artistic shot of John watching a video playback with some of the actors.
"My friend," he said with a calm, professorial tone "if you're going to do that kind of a shot, DON'T!" he suddenly yelled
After that, we stuck to snapping shots of the actors, not the directors.
5 days into filming, things were running smoothly. John was turning into an easy going man who simply wanted to satisfy the demands of a studio and his vision for the film. In other words, if we stayed out of his way, he'd stay out of ours.
But oddly enough though, we had yet to see Ms. Lively.
For the most part, John had been doing a lot of exterior shots around town, so I guess you could call that our "tourist moment". And the interior scenes involved other actors on the film. Although Chris, being the lecherous one, took a shine to a hippie-type actress. And a lighting tech, as well.
And as for me? Oh, just my usual job of editing and cataloging pictures.
All that changed on a cold, cloudy morning when we prepared for an exterior shot outside the Fillmore. Mornings like this reminded of Mark Twain's observation that the coldest winter he remembered was the summer he spent in San Francisco. Boy was he right! I was checking and reloading our cameras (and hoping my coffee would stay warm) when a black Chevy Yukon pulled up nearby and several voices could be heard. I recognized one as a studio rep we'd met on our first day. She was talking into her cell phone. It was the other voice that got my attention.
"OK, yes, she's with us now. She flew in last night from New York, uh-huh."
"Wow, is this the place Jimi Hendrix played?"
"This is it, Blake, the Fillmore West."
"Oh, my god this looks incredible, can we go inside?" she said with wonderment
Oh my, is that who I think it is? I slowly looked up from my work, trying not to gawk. But it was! It was the lovely Blake Lively. She had on a casual black leather jacket, black denim jeans and boots. And her blonde hair seemed to cascade over her shoulders. It was as if Serena van der Woodson had just arrived.
I hesitantly said "Hi" to the beautiful vision that had just arrived.
"Hi! Good morning! I hope you're not too cold!" she replied with that million dollar smile as she was guided into the makeup and wardrobe trailer.
"Uh, not since you arrived." I said with a smile.
I went back to my work and headed off to check in with John and see what was on our schedule for the day.
An hour later we were in the Fillmore lobby when Blake arrived, this time in character. She had changed into a pair of vintage hip hugger Levi's with colorful needle work and a white peasant blouse. Around her neck were several thin beaded necklaces. And her hair was straighter with beaded accents hanging from it. And she was holding a vintage Minolta camera. In short, she looked like the Queen of the Fillmore.
"Hi John!" she called to our director.
He greeted her and they went into discussions for her scene.
"Discipline, Hollywood, discipline." I heard a familiar voice say over my shoulder. It was Chris, who clearly could tell what my mind was on at that moment. We both smiled at one another.
Blake did a scene taking place outside at the end of a long night at the Fillmore. As she did her dialogue with another actor, I snapped photos, trying to listen in. But from my vantage point, that was impossible. It was clearly an emotional scene that ended with her walking off into the chilly morning, alone.
"Wish I was with her, oh well." I thought.
The setup and filming of this one scene took most of the morning. It was close to 12 when John was satisfied and announced we'd be moving inside for 2 more scenes that would take place, ostensibly, during a show.
Inside the Fillmore, Chris and I decided to use a part of stage left for shots I'd take, while Chris would be up in the balcony doing long-range photos.
The movie guys were blocking out where their cameras would be while I was getting my gear together for where mine would be. And the CGI crew was putting down tape everywhere and hanging little white balls they'd use to mark places to insert "band members" digitally.
"Hey! I saw you outside earlier." I heard a voice behind me.
I was kneeling down digging through my bag when I spun around on my worn out sneaker soles and promptly fell backwards on the slick floor at the sound of the voice. I looked up and there was Ms. Blake. She had traded the peasant top for a weathered, vintage green t-shirt with the Fillmore West logo on it. It certainly showed off her curves.
"Are you OK?" she said concerned.
"Oh yeah, occupational hazard." I said with a laugh as I stood up and regained my composure.
"Um, I saw you with the cameras outside. I thought you were some paparazzi for a minute." She said
"No, I'm one of the good guys." I said reassuringly.
"I figured you might know something about shooting things like this." She said.
"Well, my buddy and I are doing the photos for the movie so I guess that would be true." I said jokingly.
She laughed in response.
"OK, seriously, how would you shoot something like what we're doing here? I want to be as realistic as I can be."
"Well, it's not too hard. I'd just try to get as good an angle as you can and fire away. I suppose down in the aisles or on the other side of the stage would be good. You'll be hitting the film advance lever a lot. It doesn't do that automatically like cameras do now."
I'd never photographed bands before, but I'd seen enough photos to know what I'd try to do to get the right shot if I was in her position. Blake listened intently to everything I said. I could tell she was really committed to her craft, like I was.
"OK, thanks! I'm gonna talk to John." And she walked away.
"Oh! I never got your name." she said over her shoulder.
"I'm Jim, my partner Chris is up in the balcony somewhere." I replied
"I'm Blake, but then you probably figured that out already." She said
"Well, now that you mention it.." I said while stroking my chin in thought.
She laughed and went off to find the director.
We started filming a band sequence. Cream's "Crossroads" blasted over the speakers. A psychedelic light show was projected, and I could see Blake crouching on the aisle floor intently snapping the shutter on her camera, and moving it around for different angles. And acting like an ace rock and roll photographer. When the movie was completed, viewers would see old footage of Cream playing, and Blake snapping her photos of Eric Clapton. Just like if she was really there in 1969 and just happened to be caught on old movie film.
Ah, the magic of Hollywood.
Courtesy of Blake Lively, with help from "Hollywood Jim".
John shot the scene from different angles, as Blake's character went through a night's worth of music and picture taking. Then he called me over,
"Uh-oh, I'm screwed!" I thought.
I had a vision of being chewed out like Chris was on the first day.
"Did you tell Blake how to play that scene?" he asked in a crisp voice.
"Well, she asked for my advice if I was shooting band photos." I replied.
"Excellent! I was afraid it would look terrible on film. The damn script tells me nothing about this. I'm not really a rock and roll guy anyway." He said relieved.
"Oh, good. I mean, I'm glad my advice helped you" I replied. I was more relieved than he was.
"Keep it up, where's your partner anyway? I haven't seen him since this morning."
"Gee, I don't know. I'll go find him."
"No need, you stay here. I've got another scene to set up." And he walked off.
"I guess you knew what you were talking about." a voice said to my right.
I turned and there was Blake in another Fillmore shirt, this one was black and turned iridescent under the still swirling light show.
"I guess so, you looked very convincing over there." I said encouragingly.
"You think so? I'm lousy with those little disposable cameras, so it's a good thing there's no film in this one!" she said with a laugh looking at the old Minolta.
"Well, this stuff isn't so tough, I learned-"
Just as I said that, Blake was called away by someone.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I'll talk to you later!" She said dashing away.
With those hip huggers on, I could see that a great ass had been hidden by all those coats and dresses on "Gossip Girl".
The next scene was similar to the first one. Blake already looked like a pro. She'd go back and forth across the front of the stage, then getting up on the stage and shooting what would be close ups in the finished film. This time, it was as Pink Floyd played "Careful with That Axe Eugene" and she had to react accordingly when, as part of the script, an explosive charge went off incorrectly and she was nearly struck by exploding bits of stage gear. Being the amateur rock and roll historian, I knew this actually did happen to the band but not at the Fillmore.
John wrapped for the day and we headed out. I finally ran into Chris coming down from the balcony.
"Hey! Where've you been! I thought we were a team on this!" I said with a bit of anger in my voice.
"Hey, it's OK buddy. I've been shooting upstairs the whole time. I saw what you were doing. It's all good, Hollywood. Look, I'll get dinner tonight." He said coolly as he walked off through the lobby.
I turned and saw the hippie girl now coming down the stairs and walking by me.
"Oh, yeah. It's all good Hollywood." I thought realizing what was really going on.
Chris was a pro all right. I sometimes wonder how he got where he is today.
Simple, he has me.
The next day's shooting would take place at the coffeehouse set. John took his time setting everything up just right in terms of lights, sound, etc. For us, we just needed a safe spot for a camera bag and that was it. A chair was a luxury.
Blake showed up for her scene. Today, she had on faded jeans and a grey Triumph motorcycles t-shirt. Damn! She looked hot!
Her scene called for her to get into an argument with her musician boyfriend. The two of them would really go at it verbally. And she swore up a storm at him as you'd expect.
"Cut!" John yelled. He rehearsed the scene again, making some subtle changes. Then they filmed 3 more takes, he called "cut" 3 more times. He was obviously not happy with the scene to begin with.
He told Blake the scene lacked something. She started to explain an idea she had. I couldn't hear what they were saying,
"OK, uh, someone like, like him." And she pointed at me.
I looked around, thinking there was someone else they were pointing to, like an actor.
John smiled and seemed happy with her suggestion. He called over the screenwriters and they huddled together. They all walked away smiling. Whatever she suggested everyone liked.
A few minutes later, John emerged with the writers and called me over.
"Blake has an idea for this scene. I need you to stand by the counter and pretend to be a customer." He explained.
"Wait a minute! Me?" I asked
"Sure, why not you." Said Chris "isn't this your life long dream?"
He was already snickering at the thought of me finally being in a movie.
"I'll call you over in a few minutes." And he walked away.
"A star is born." Chris said with his arm draped over my shoulder "do me a favor and don't forget the little people who got you where you are today."
"You're deranged." I sneered.
"Takes one to know one." He replied smiling as he walked away.
My "scene" had me standing at the counter while Blake fought with her boyfriend. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I was only told to "act like a customer".
I listened to the dialogue while holding my coffee.
"I've had it with you!" she screamed
"You don't know what you're talking about!" he replied
"I know that I don't need a junkie fuckin' up my life! I've had it!" she screamed.
(Gee, she even looked hotter talking dirty!)
"Yeah? Well you'll never find someone who puts up with your photo dream crap!"
"I will now that you're gone!" she yelled back.
"Are you breaking up with me?" he yelled back
"Damn right!" she yelled.
Her "boyfriend" stormed out of the shop as she threw a coffee cup at him that shattered as it hit the door.
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" one of the other actors said to her.
"You bet!" she replied.
And with that, she turned around, grabbed my head and planted a gigantic kiss on my lips. As if to say; "I'll show him!"
Our "kiss" lasted several minutes until the director called "Cut!"
Then again, yelled "Cut!"
Then a third time called "Uh, Blake? Cut!"
By this time the crew was laughing, and I wondered if I should do something. Her lips on mine sure felt good! Even in this situation!
Finally Blake let go, gave me a sexy smile and wink and went over to John laughing hysterically.
I'd hate to think what the look on my face was at this moment.
"Another Oscar-winning performance from Hollywood Jim!" yelled Chris as he came over to me.
"Great job everybody, that's it for today!" John said, still laughing.
Blake came over and hugged me.
"Oh my God that was so funny!" she said
"It was a thrill for me too." I said with a mix of sarcasm and humor.
"That's the idea." Blake said a little softer with a smile and a flutter of eyebrows.
As she walked away, she turned and said;
"Wait a minute. Did I hear him call you Hollywood?" she asked.
"Uh, yes. It's a long story."
"I'll bet." She replied with another smile as she walked off the set to her dressing room.
Chris and I had the next day off as John met with the screenwriters and did some rewrites and viewed dailies. The next few days would be night shoots only so I wanted to get some sleep as I knew these could be very difficult.
But sleep didn't seem to come to me easily. And the room service cuisine didn't seem all that great. So I headed outside to try my luck with the San Francisco food. I knew I'd have better luck there. After walking around town for an hour I was really getting hungry. I came upon a gourmet market called Max's that advertised meals to go. That seemed good enough to me.
I started prowling around the aisles. Places like this always fascinated me, I always saw myself as living in some loft apartment enjoying stuff like this. Just the preparations alone looked fascinating.
As I turned onto another aisle I suddenly banged into a shopping cart coming the other way. It's driver gasped in response.
"Oh my God! Are you OK?" she said
"Oh sure, it goes with the.." I started to say
It was Blake's cart.
"You?" I said
"Oh no! I made you fall over this morning! Now I'm crashing into you! I am so sorry! I'm a walking disaster today!" she apologized with a smile and a laugh.
"Ah, forget it. What are you doing here?" I asked
"Getting stuff for my dinner. I just went to Williams-Sonoma and got this pressure cooker, I love that store. I'm dying to try it out." She said excitedly.
"That store is addictive, isn't it?" I meant it. Like I said, food stores like this fascinated me, as did the gear used to make the meals.
Blake stood up straight and with a big smile said;
"Would you like to come over for dinner? I think it's only fair."
"Sure! I'd love to." I was smiling just as widely.
"Great! I just need to get a few more things here and we can go over to my place."
"Lead on my dear, I won a gold medal in the Supermarket Olympics, you know." I comically bragged.
We got the extra items needed and headed out to her car, a black Ford Mustang GT. Blake looked incredibly gorgeous behind the wheel. And she navigated the streets of San Francisco like a pro. Heck, she could've done her Steve McQueen impression on these streets. She did have the car for it.
"Man, how do you know these streets so well?" I asked
"The miracle of GPS." She coolly replied.
We both laughed as the Mustang emitted a throaty growl heading up the streets.
We pulled up to a vintage brownstone building.
"You live here?" I asked, stunned at the beauty of the place
"Ha! I wish!" she replied "I'll just be here for the movie. Then it's back to New York."
We walked up 2 flights of stairs and she unlocked the door.
Her place was exactly like I dreamed.
It was the loft I always imagined I'd live in, shiny wood floors, exposed brick walls, big windows looking out on the city, Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.
"Wow! This place is incredible!" I was at a loss for words at this moment.
"Yeah, it's really cool!" Blake replied from the kitchen.
I looked around and saw only a few trappings of her presence. There was a script here, a few magazines. But very little to show this was the (temporary) home of a Hollywood beauty.